LaserStacker: Fabricating 3D Objects by Laser Cutting and Welding

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
UIST 2015 - Proceedings of the 28th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, 2015, pp. 575 - 582
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Laser cutters are useful for rapid prototyping because they are fast. However, they only produce planar 2D geometry. One approach to creating non-planar objects is to cut the object in horizontal slices and to stack and glue them. This approach, however, requires manual effort for the assembly and time for the glue to set, defeating the purpose of using a fast fabrication tool. We propose eliminating the assembly step with our system LaserStacker. The key idea is to use the laser cutter to not only cut but also to weld. Users place not one acrylic sheet, but a stack of acrylic sheets into their cutter. In a single process, LaserStacker cuts each individual layer to shape (through all layers above it), welds layers by melting material at their interface, and heals undesired cuts in higher layers. When users take out the object from the laser cutter, it is already assembled. To allow users to model stacked objects efficiently, we built an extension to a commercial 3D editor (SketchUp) that provides tools for defining which parts should be connected and which remain loose. When users hit the export button, LaserStacker converts the 3D model into cutting, welding, and healing instructions for the laser cutter. We show how LaserStacker not only allow making static objects, such as architectural models, but also objects with moving parts and simple mechanisms, such as scissors, a simple pinball machine, and a mechanical toy with gears.
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