Laser Cutting

Hey Fellas!

So on this week me and my project parter Francesca experimented a lot with materials and techniques for our Wall Map.

Our challenge is to make a 55in X 35in World Map. And you may think this is big but the truth is that there are some really tiny countries that are like less that 1/2in wide and tall. So we decided that the best way to make this was using the laser cutter.

On this post I am going to focus on the prototypes we made for the background and country shapes using the laser:

One of the first options was to use foam cor for the background because it would be easy to stitch the LEDs. So we took a white piece of it, etched with the country shapes and placed 5mm and 3mm LEDs on the borders to see how it would look like. The stitching process has proven no to be so good and we made not very precise holes. We did like the contrast of the dark wood in the white background though. One more thing to notice is that the wood was very hard to cut and ended up all burned.


Another test we made was with light wood:


which ended up even more burned. So we painted it:


So, after all these tests wood has proven to be the incorrect material for such tiny and detailed parts because they ended up carbonized before getting cut.

One more thing we did was creating tiny connections between the countries so that we could paste them in the background more easily, as a big piece:IMG_2033

So we decided to try with acrylic. We made tests with colors:


And techniques to light up the borders which has proven to be the biggest challenge so far because if the countries are tiny, the borders are even tinier. We experimented with these materials:


Our first idea was to try using the LED strip. The problem is that you can only cut 3 LEDs at least at a time, which is too big for our scenario. Also the spacing between LEDs is too wide.


The El Wire and the optic fiber have proven to have not such a strong light, which is one of our main goals. So our best option after all were the single 3mm LEDs. So using that we had 2 options: lighting from the back, through a translucent piece of acrylic, of lighting from the front. We have tested both options.

To light up from the back we  etched the countries in the background acrylic and then cut the places where the borders should be placed:


Then we pasted the translucent acrylic to these places:IMG_2097

Then we placed the countries on to of the background and lighted from the back with the single LEDs:

IMG_2079 IMG_2082

To fix the LEDs we used modeling clay:


We did not like this result so much and it has proven to be not so easy and quick as we thought it could be.

So our other options was to use the single LEDs forming a literal wall between countries:

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and to place all the LEDs we cut holes to stitch each led in the background:

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This has proven to be the best way to go, and also the one we like the most aesthetically: white acrylic background, black acrylic countries and 3mm LEDs. And yes, we have considered all the soldering process for all these LEDs, but this will be a topic for another post.

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