Laser Cutting - Rhythm

Feel the rhythm and rock!

In this blog, I mainly talk about how I made the exterior of this light & rhythm installation. For the whole processing, especially the programming and circuit part, go to my Physical Computing Blog.

Play With Plastics & Laser Cutter

Since it was my first time to do the laser cutting, I tried to cut and etch different plastics which have various thickness and finishing surface. Also I tried different settings for speed, power, and frequency to get familiar with the laser cutter. My "first pancake" was a disaster due to the laser cutter having an error, which definitely broke my dream to fall in love with the laser cutter.

In my first demo, the pattern had more surface etched than my final demo. After I tried to put lights under the plastic, I found out that more surface being etched didn't make a good light reflection. So I redrew the pattern.

Go and Find My Plastics

I went to Canal Plastics Center to look for plastics. It was a nice trip because it was my first time to see so many different kinds of plastics in various colors and shapes. The staff there recommended me the color fluorescent plastics for my installation. It came out that fluorescent plastics did do a little better job in light reflection, but they also had the problem that the pattern etched on the surface can be seen clearly in daylight. So my installation only has a good visual effect in total dark.

I also went to a light store where I was able to test how different lights reflect through my plastics. The result shows that it is much better to use a series of LEDs ( like a LED strip) than a bar lamp.

Test Lights Reflection In The Dark

The fluorescent plastics I used is pink and blue. So I have to find out the prefect light color for each plastic. It came out that the pink fluorescent plastic went well with yellow LEDs and the blue one went well with blue LEDs.

Time To Do Laser Cut

I first cut my pattern on a waste plastic to test the settings. The settings were fine but the lines being etched were too thin, so I added more pixels. I etched the pattern first and then cut the shape.

The problem came out that I forgot to use tapes to protect the surface, so the surface was burned a little bit by the laser.

Add LEDs And The Circuit

Finally, I made a box to hold all the LEDs and the circuit. I wrote the rhythm with GarageBand APP and the program in Arduino. When the button is pushed, the rhythm and light show start.

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© 2019 Mengzhen Xiao