Laser-cut Punch Cards for Jacquard Looms


Richard Jeryan of Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford specializes in weaving. There’s a working Jacquard loom in the village. He is now using a laser cutter at TechShop to create new punch cards for the looms. The traditional way to create a card is to use a custom key puncher. The key puncher is designed for the specific loom, and you can’t use a key puncher from one manufacturer to create cards for a different loom. I didn’t realize that the punch cards were not interchangeable among looms of different manufacture.

“If you had an old loom, but couldn’t find its key puncher, you couldn’t create we designs,” Richard told me. “Now that we can create these cards on a laser cutter, we make them for any loom.” Using a laser cutter is not necessarily faster than having a skilled key puncher do it, he added. He said that setting up a design in a CAD program takes a good amount of time.

Richard’s wife, Chris, also works at Greenfield Village and she can create designs using an eight-key puncher. There are eight columns across a card and fifty rows, in the example below, created mechanically. (The size of cards varies.) Each hole punch represents a thread.

Here is a photo from Richard’s presentation showing the creation of a card with a laser cutter.


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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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