Prototyping – laser cutting acrylic

Last week I used the laser cutter to cut the net from cardboard. Although the cardboard worked well and gave a clear indication of how it would look (scale 1.2) I want the prototype to feel polished and finished. I decided to use black acrylic, this material has many beneficial properties and it is much more user friendly than cardboard. Initially, I had anticipated this project would be situated with in the University, that means potentially lots of people will be touching it. Therefore, it needs to be durable, strong, wipe proof, and water proof

The largest laser cutter is 1000×600 mm so I had to dissect my net and cut the pieces individually, this allowed me to make it true to size. In my previous post ??? I explained how I had to re-draw the shape in Corel after exporting it from Illustrator. After having a conversation with a technician I realised I was exporting it out of Illustrator wrong .pdf. I should have preferably used either .eps or .dwg. I choose .dwg, this saves it as an autoCAD file, so when I imported it into Corel Draw I was able to change the line colour and weight easily. Once the pattern had been cut I took it out the machine, this is when I realised the settings were not right. The cut lines had not penetrated all the way through the acrylic resulting in some edges been broken edges.

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I was unable to remove two toggle slots on the base piece. 

I was unsure how best to assemble the pieces, I’ve not worked with acyrlic before, so I asked for some guidance from a technician. He advised using a solvent glue, I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t want to make a mess and re-cut it as sheets of acrylic are expensive so I decided I would use tape to hold it together. This is less than ideal.

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If I had time to create another prototype I would print it as a net and bend the edges using a strip heater. I found the edges didn’t fit together perfectly in this prototype and the sharp edge cut me, this would be extremely problematic around the nose and eye slots. Perhaps foam would be useful to help prevent injury. Furthermore, I would drill the hole for the headphone lead rather than cut it using the laser because, it would be easier to calculate the size and position. In the future, if I choose to continue working with acrylic I’m going to need to do more testing.

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