First – a big thank you to everyone who voted for me in the sparkfun / ponoko / Geekdad contest – I won!
From here on out I will be documenting my process as I go from rough prototype to finished laser cut beer vending machine!
There will be an upcoming longer piece on how to design for laser cutting. I have been amazed as to how many variables you need to keep in your head, and I haven’t even gotten the pieces yet! It seems like once you get it all figured out it is very systematic, but my design wasn’t nearly as tight as it needed to be in order to be laser cut.
This post is all about prep work. I have been talking with Josh at ponoko, and he suggested that I cut a few test pieces to figure some things out. I am planning on using t-bolt assembly. The good thing about that is that it ought to withstand both the thermal rigors of being refrigerated and the physical stress of having 12 oz cans banging around in the machine. The bad thing is that it adds another unknown to the design. I decided to test a bunch of different slot and tab widths to find one that fits as close to perfect as possible.
One interesting thing about designing for laser cutting is that you can easily control the cut dimensions within 0.1mm, but you don’t have any control over the thickness of the acrylic. Due to variances in manufacturing, the 3mm sheet could be +_ 15%! On a 3mm sheet your thickness could be off by up to 0.4mm. This means that for a tab and a slot, you have to make the short sides precise, and the wide sides a bit sloppy. Definitely an interesting twist.
hit the jump for more laser-cut plastic action!