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Laser Cut: Slim Thicc

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Prompt: Make something with the laser cutting that isn't just 2D

Materials: cardboard

Disclaimer! I am traveling from Thursday-Monday, so I started a day early and rushed quite a bit. I ordered some wood to make a wood version so that is soon to come!

Concept/Design (Day 1):

I immediately knew I wanted to take on the challenge of creating a topographical 3D object because I've always wanted to do it. I've always wanted to do this style of project, but I thought it would be perfect for laser cutter since it requires precision. However, I didn't just want to make a topographical map because BORING. So, I had seen a vase at Urban Outfitters that was the female body. I am very into fun decorations for my room so I thought a small little sculpture of the female body would be fun.

I thought drawing these topographical layers would be simple. I started a simply drawing on paper and realized it would take forever approaching the design this way and probably not look very good. So I started digging around online for some references on how to start one of these projects.

I found this boy on youtube who had created a 3D Trex head with laser cut cardboard. In the comments they said they had used 123 Make (from Autodesk). I searched it up and problem: Autodesk discontinued this particular program. So, I went searching for an alternative. Another designer, Product Designer Online, found another program "Slicer for Fusion 360", also by Autodesk. He showed a quick and dirty tutorial and it seemed very simple. I just needed 3D model of the human body.

I just did a quick google search and found this free 3D model.

When I opened this .obj file, it opened in photoshop. At this point it wasn't important... but it will be later.

So my first step in coming up with the design, I just imported this model in "Slicer for Fusion 360". The steps after were very simple. Below is the menu on the left side of the program. I started by establishing the overall height of my final product, and the rest of the dimensions adjust to be proportional. I then selected "stacked slices" under "construction technique". The last function I had to change was "Slice Direction". I rotated the slides to be vertical as I had planned. Lastly (not shown in this menu), I entered the size of my "printing sheets" as 24x12 inches (size of laser printing bed).

After these few simple steps, I was left with this design and the piece layout on my 24"x12" sheet. I put the PDF into Illustrator and changed the lines to 0.1pt and pressed PRINT on the laser cutter. I quickly realized however, the pieces were extremely small and I didn't want the full body cutout. I would the torso to the butt. So my next issue was how to cut down the 3D model I had found.

Redesign & Prototype (Day 2):

Before, I said that the 3D model file opened in Photoshop. Before I found the Slicer program, I tried to manually slice my model within Photoshop and discovered the "Cross Section" tool that could divide the model (but deleted the sliced portion). So I chopped off some limbs until I achieved this model (to the left).

In the "3D" menu in photoshop, I exported this file as a ".obj file" and repeated the same process in "Slicer for Fusion 360". The final model (bottom left) would be the final product.

With stencil provided by the program and some 24x12 sheets of cardboard I found in the trash.

After puzzling this model together (in 10 minutes) following the poor numbered instructions provided by the program, I had this prototype model.

Prototype Model!!!!!

Changes I wanted to make: I actually really wanted to make the final model with corrugated cardboard because I love the optical illusion from the head-on view. If I had time and money, maybe wood, but for now I really would just want to make the final model with nice cardboard. And increase the size!

Full size! (Day 3):

I had found 14 pieces of perfectly cut 6x12 pieces of nice cardboard the scrap pile, but according the file (that I updated so that the model was 11.8 inches tall), I needed 26 6x12 pieces to complete my model. So I went to WC Drafting and purchased 2 20x30 pieces of cardboard to cut the remaining 12 pieces.

Then, came the worst part. I had to make 26 different AI files for the 26 templates and print set up the print preferences 26 different times! So yes, the process was not efficient. And at the end of cutting, I realized with a few new pieces of cardboard, I probably could've have made enough 12x24 pieces so that I only would have had to do 5-6 printing jobs.

Last issue... I cut the cardboard I bought in a different direction than the precut ones, so the pattern on some sides of the model would not line up, and I was sad, but it still turned out well.

Assembly (Day 4):

After assembling the first mini model, I figured out the program's assembly instructions and was able to assemble pretty quickly. I used a combination of hot glue and tacky glue, but a glue stick would have been better. And here's the final product! I still love her and her imperfections. Here are all her angles:

UPDATE 3/10: Wood Version

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