While browsing a recent issue of Make magazine, I found a list of CNC projects that caught my eye. In particular, the wood and aluminum bottle opener appeared to be ripe for customization with a bit of laser etching. The first step was to determine what art to use for the laser etching. With the approaching departure of a longtime colleague, I decided to go for a bit of robot art to make the opener into a personalized going away gift.
I wanted to turn the robot arm picture into a line art drawing to be laser etched onto the wood, however I wasn’t sure where to look for an artist that could do this kind of work. After a bit of Googling, I discovered a site called Fiverr where you can have various jobs done online for $5. In particular, I found a group of artists from the Philippines that would turn a photo into a line drawing for $5. Within a few hours of submitting a request, I had the line art drawing that I was looking for.
The next step was to order the materials needed from Inventables. Inventables made this process quite easy by having a project page which included an option to purchase all the necessary items. Once the materials arrived, it was time to cut the wood side panels out to prepare them for laser etching. The Inventables project page had the necessary SVG design files which could then be loaded into Easel to generate the g-code to drive the CNC machine. Easel is designed to drive the Inventables Shapeoko 2 CNC machine, but as luck would have it, the g-code that Easel exports for the Shapeoko 2 worked right out of the box on the Tormach CNC I was using once the file extension was changed to “.tap”. Note: if you’re planning to make your own parts from the Inventables SVG files, check that the holes for the chicago screws are properly aligned. In the version of files that I downloaded, the holes were offset and required adjustment in Inkscape before importing into Easel. As an extra step, I also used OpenSCAM to preview the g-code exported from Easel to verify the planned milling operations before loading the files onto the CNC machine.
With the wood pieces cut, I found a local laser engraving service (Sylvan’s Engraving), where the line art was engraved onto the wood pieces. If this process is repeated in the future, I’ll have the laser engraver cut the wood pieces out after engraving them all in one shot. Other than that, the laser engraving process worked quite well with the line art and took just less than 2 minutes per panel once the art was setup on the engraving computer.
In addition to the light wood, some dark wood pieces were engraved with an adhesive protective paper mask over the top. This mask allowed the engraved areas to be filled with an acrylic paint before the mask was removed.
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