Last year we talked a lot about 3D printing and wearable electronics. Activities in those areas continue. For example, the middle school musical will have some pretty cool costume and prop enhancements that we will report on in a future post.
However, around here we are always changing it up, and maker technologies are no exception. Windward now has a laser cutter and three Othermills. We have been helping faculty leads Dorothy Lee and Cindy Beals figure out how to integrate these new resources into teaching. If you want to get trained on one of the new tools, let them know.
There is now an Epilog Helix laser cutter installed in room 810. A laser cutter works by using a laser beam to cut through material. It’s often said to be useful for making things that are “two and a half dimensional.” In other words, you can cut out sheets of material that you can then put together in various interesting ways. The laser is computer-controlled; you need to make a file in Illustrator or similar software, which is then cut out. Here is the laser cutter set up to cut fabric and some fabric results:
If you want to go a little more into the third dimension, the software package 123D Make allows you to take the same kind of file you start with for 3D printing and create objects several ways. This octopus below was downloaded from the Thingiverse site (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:7900), run through 123D Make, and then assembled from pieces the software creates.
Alternatively 123D Make can create a file that will cover a surface, like the dodecahedron from Thingiverse ( http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:198) below. You can also use this software to create patterns for fabric to cover an object, allowing for seams.
Finally, instead of cutting, laser cutters can etch designs onto materials, for example onto acrylic to make awards or art pieces.
If that’s not enough for you, down in the Robotics Lab there are now three Othermills. These are small CNC (computer numerically controlled) mills, that can create circuit boards or small milled objects by shaving off material with tiny computer-controlled drill bits.
Othermills can be controlled by software intended to create circuit boards, or by programs that can use files intended for 3D printers. They are complementary to the 3D printers and laser cutter in that they can mill out shapes in 3D and can cut some materials that cannot be used in 3D printing. Windward is one of the first K-12 schools to have the devices, so we are working closely with the manufacturer to see wha the best applications will be. Most users seem to be using them to create prototype circuit boards, which may be an interesting capability to allow some advanced student electronics or robotics projects.
Rounding out the new materials, there also electronic and craft components in Room 810 available for classes to use, as well as tools like a vinyl cutter (useful for making stickers and things like cut-out vinyl letters).
Speaking of resources, we are experimenting with a new way of making ourselves available to the Windward community. There’s a scheduling form you can use to request an appointment with us – check it out the details at http://goo.gl/forms/L3ct7IXKFp or talk to us when we’re around. Let’s see what kind of cool stuff the Windward community can learn to make!
-Joan Horvath is a recovering rocket scientist, and Rich “Whosawhatsis” Cameron is a 3D printing and electronics hacker. Together they have founded Nonscriptum LLC, a consultancy to help educators and scientists use low-cost prototyping technologies. Their latest book from Apress is “3D Printing With Matter Control.”