Thursday, December 29, 2011

Laser Cut Sign Language Scrabble Tiles

I made these ASL (American Sign Language) Scrabble tiles as a Christmas gift for my mother.  The full set was laser cut and engraved from 1/8th in birch plywood and have the sign and letter on the same side for those less familiar with finger spelling.  Now all she needs is a board to play on... maybe I can engrave that too?  Merry Christmas Mom!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Now Shipping Worldwide

With my brother handling marketing and sales, my business-which-has-yet-to-be-officially-started has been doing well.  We currently focus on custom laser cut designs.  Most of this year's work has been in coaster and ornament sales, with ornaments keeping us very busy in the weeks before Christmas.  During the Christmas rush, we saw our first shipments outside the US too!  We're looking forward to an official launch sometime in early 2012.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Eggbot Upgrades

I recently received the Ostrich Eggbot upgrade as a gift and have been enjoying printing on glass ball ornaments again this year.  The larger chassis allows for printing on larger spheroids and the spring loaded egg coupler has an improved grip over the older version.

I later purchased an engraving tool which replaces the pen, but have had difficulty getting good contrast on clear glass ornaments.  I'll continue trying slower speeds, increasing the number of passes, and try different materials for better results.  Results forthcoming!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thank you Pinterest...

Thank you Pinterest and Etsy for providing such wonderful ideas for me to copy!  Imitation IS the best form of flattery, right?  My latest lasered creation (found on Pinterest by Caralee Spafford) is a framed Walnut veneer engagement gift.  Congratulations Shannon and Broderick!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Ornaments on the Laser

The glass ball ornaments I made last Christmas using my Eggbot were well received.  This year I decided to make new designs using my laser cutter.  Above are two finished ornaments I will be selling.  The left is made from 1/8" plywood and the right from 1/8" green Acrylic.  The design I used is from the logo of Mission Hills, Boy Scout Troop 104.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rio 2011

Below are photos and video from my recent work and vacation trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  I spent a week vacationing throughout the city and a week working at Silimed, a medical device manufacturer my company, Applied Silicone, supplies raw materials to.  It was a busy week of work and a fun week of vacation!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Laser Cut Miata Visor Blanking Plates

If you're tall and drive a Miata, one of the first things you'll do is remove the sun visors.  Doing so however, leaves the mounting holes exposed.  To make for a cleaner look, I laser cut blanking plates from 1/8" black Acrylic.  E-mail me if you're interested in a pair. $5/pair blank, $15/pair with simple custom logo and/or text.  These will fit years 1999-2005 Mazda MX-5.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Laser Cutter Cross-hair Guide for under $10

What is it?
Fully adjustable laser cross-hair aiming guide for the FSE 40W laser that can be made using your laser cutter and assembled in less than an hour.

Items you'll need:
Red Line Laser Modules Item# 5928 from $3.96 each
1/8" Acrylic, 3"x3"  (scrap from another project?)
Mounting hardware (I used a pair of screws and nuts on the FSE 40W laser that aren't needed)
Electrical tape
Silicone adhesive (or other glue)
100 Grit sandpaper
Soldering iron/solder

Download and vector cut the SVG file HERE. (Go to File -> Download Original) I used 20% Speed, 100% Power (@ 15ma). You should create a bracket that looks like this:
Unplug the original red laser and unscrew its mounting bracket.  Install the Acrylic bracket as shown below and attached the original red laser mounting bracket to the channel on the right.  I used the machine screws and nuts holding the sheet metal that hides the Retina Engrave Card to mount the Acrylic bracket (any small nut and bolt should work fine).
Remove the "line forming" lens from one of the two line lasers (just unscrew the cap) and glue it to the original FSE red dot laser with the smooth side out, being careful to not obscure the path of the laser with glue.  Solder the terminals of the second line laser to those of the FSE red dot laser (red to red, black to black).  Your lasers should look like this.
To achieve a narrower line, mask each lens with electrical tape leaving a small slit in the center.  This will create a more precise cross-hair.  Position the slit perpendicular to the direction of the grooves on the lens.  Cut off the extra tape.
The hole on the bracket is undersized so that with a small amount of sanding you can press fit the line laser into the hole.  Use your 100 grit sandpaper to open the hole just enough to press in the line laser.  This should be a tight fit.  Mount the original FSE red laser (now with attached line lens) in it's original bracket.
By adjusting the four screws, you'll be able to align the X and Y axis lasers to cross where the cutting beam meets the material, regardless of the height of the material.  This performs the same job (or better) than the $300 beam combiner offered from FSE.

This project was inspired by Rich Olson's work at Nothing Labs:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Inkscape for CNC: Part 1

I was introduced to Inkscape when I first began using my Eggbot.  Inkscape is "an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format."  What's so important about this, you may ask?  Two reasons.  First, Inkscape creates vector graphics in a format many CNC (computer numerical control) devices like the Eggbot or laser cutters can interpret to cut, engrave, or draw your designs.  Secondly, because Inkscape is Open Source it's free and available for anyone to download and work with!

Unlike your typical paint and pencil graphics programs (think MS Paint), vector graphics programs can be somewhat challenging to use as they're not entirely intuitive.  Quite a few excellent tutorials can already be found on the Inkscape Tutorials Page. The tutorial I'll be presenting here is specifically geared towards creating or preparing graphics to be used with cnc devices.  As with any relatively complex program, it will take time before you can become proficient, but this tutorial should help with the first steps.

You can watch the first part below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

QR Codes with Embedded Images

Inspired by this Hack-A-Day article, I  created my own QR code (Quick Response code) with embedded image for my blog.  Because these codes use the Reed–Solomon error correction algorithm, a percentage of the code can purposefully be obscured and the correct data will still be generated when the image is scanned. The article is worth reading even if you don't plan to make QR codes as it explains how the alpha-numeric data is stored.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A bit about my work

Since starting at Applied Silicone, I have yet to post about what it is I do.  While a good portion of my work varies from day to day, I'll share the responsibilities I've been tasked with and projects I'm working on.
The first project I worked on is pictured above, and is currently at Silimed in Brazil along with two other machines just like it.  The machines inject silicone into an envelope to form a breast implant.  They begin by drawing a very precise amount of silicone from each of the two drums, then mix and inject the silicone into an implant.  When I began, the concept and basic design of the machine had been completed and I was responsible for taking it from a prototype to a commercial product.  This required a fair amount of cad modeling, followed by work in the machine shop or with our fabricators to create parts from the models, and finally assembling everything and writing the software to control it.  I learned such a great deal working on this project not just in regards to engineering, but business operations as well.
With the alpha models completed and shipped, I began work on new projects while continuing work on the next model of implant "gel dispenser".  Some new projects were simply engineering support to build or modify manufacturing equipment to use at our facility.  I might design a vacuum seal, framework for mounting hydraulics or order parts needed from a distributor.  Above you can see my computer screen with a set of drawings I was working on for a large mixer similar to the one picture below.  When completed these machines are integrated into our silicone manufacturing processes.
Other projects I'm working on will be sold for use outside our facility.  This machinery will mix, inject, dispense, mold, or otherwise form or process silicone according to our clients needs.  Below are some assemblies that will be incorporated into the new gel dispensers we will be selling. 
While I do mechanical design for products to be sold, the majority of business at Applied is from the sale of medical grade silicone materials.  The gels, or rubber like products leave the facility in tubes, buckets, and 55 gallon drums (pictured below) and are shipped all around the world.
I'm given the opportunity to problem solve and design everyday, which is why I enjoy my work so much.  Discovering solutions and creating from your imagination are very rewarding.  These challenges also encourage me to expand my knowledge base and experience in the field of mechanical engineering.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

First Production Run with the Laser Cutter

I gave my brother a few sample coasters for the Boy Scout camp Emerald Bay to see if anyone there would be interested in purchasing them.  Later that day, he sent me a text message:

Just spoke with the camp director and showed him some product. He is very impressed and said as soon as I get to camp I should have a chat with the business director. His first question was, "How fast can you produce these?"
So for the next two weeks I worked on a limited run of coasters, wall hangings, and ornaments as my schedule permitted. My bedroom has a lingering smell of bonfire because the exhaust fan I'm using is slightly less than adequate. While it's unlikely I'll make back the cost of the laser cutter for quite some time, I'm excited to see how well these items sell. It's fun to have your designs purchased, even if you aren't turning much of a profit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unfinished gifts and items for purchase

    I recently finished lasering a set of wood coasters (as a gift) as well as my first coasters for resale.  After lasering, wood requires a bit of sanding to remove the smoke stains caused from the burning material and it also needs to be varnished to protect the surface.  There are products such as LiquaMask that prevent stains from depositing on the working material during cutting and engraving, but for wood that could use a bit of sanding anyways, it's really not cost effective.  If I begin to work with more costly or delicate materials, preventing these stains from forming will become more important.   I was originally having some trouble preventing burn marks on the underside of the coasters (caused from a reflection of the laser after cutting through the material), but this was easily prevented by placing card stock beneath the wood.  I also happened to discover that colder wood cuts easier and engraves better than room temperature wood.  I'll be exploring this further on future projects.

Set of four unfinished Red Oak coasters
Oak and Poplar unfinished coasters to be sold

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Laser Cutter Settings and Experimentation

     When a boy gets a new toy it's a guarantee he'll push it to it's limits.  He'll build the tallest Lego tower possible, race his RC car through the deepest puddle, ride his bike off the highest curb, it's just what young boys do.  When he grows up this doesn't change much.  Really, the only difference is his toys.
     Similar to Tom at Will it Blend?, I've been seeing what cuts and what doesn't with my laser. I've been cutting and engrave anything I can get my hands on, with mixed success.  To keep track of the materials and settings I've tried, I put together a Google Docs spreadsheet.  This should serve as a good reference for future projects and a way to share my work with others.

Failed attempt to engrave a Lightscribe CD with a CO2 laser
     One recent test I performed was to try engraving on a Lightscribe CD.  In the proper computer CD drive, these special CDs can be flipped over to their backside and "printed" on using the drive's very own laser.  Great idea, but as it turns out an incredibly slow process.  Why not use the laser cutter to speed things up?  I prepared a CD alignment guide cut from a piece of cardboard and set the cutter to 100% speed, 1% power (the weakest setting).  The 40W laser easily burned through the data layer of the CD even at these low settings.  I thought about further reducing the power by manually limiting power to the machine, but it's probably better to stick with the original method of using these CDs.  Lesson learned.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good, but not too good...

The Virgin Mary (carbon on taco-sized flour tortilla)
    Having begun to get acquainted with vector cutting and engraving on my FSE 40W laser, I branched into using the raster mode today.  For lack of better materials, I decided to print on a tortilla and later a slice of bread.  What better image to print than that of the Holy Virgin?  After all, I might even sell it for $28,000.  Here's a video of the laser in action.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ushering in the Era of Home Manufacturing

Vector Engrave on 1/4" plywood at 80% Power / 20% Speed (15ma limit on FSE 40W laser)
    If one were to glace around my 11'x11' bedroom in Santa Paula, it might seem more like a workshop than a living space.  My recently acquired laser cutter takes up a good portion of my room alongside the sewing machine, eggbot, and soldering station to name a few other tools laying about.  I'm still learning how to manipulate power and speed for the best results with the cutter and hope to post my findings/examples here for other laser users or anybody curious to see what I've been putting together.

    Here's an excerpt from a report to the White House regarding the emergence of home manufacturing.

Personal manufacturing is where personal computing was in the 1970s, before the advent of home-scale computers and consumer software. Recent rapid technological advances in personal manufacturing technology, combined with shrinking costs of machines, increasingly available design software and raw manufacturing materials, plus most peoples’ tendency to conduct more daily activities online, are tipping personal fabrication from the realm of hobbyists and pioneers to the mainstream.

    The full document can be found here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Santa Paula Dead Drops

Today I placed Santa Paula on the Dead Drop map with two 4GB USB drives, bringing the total number of recorded drops in California to twelve.  A sort of digital Geocache, Dead Drops are an "anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space."  It's a means of sharing files with people simply by connecting to a USB drive embedded in a wall!  Links to my drops can be found here and here.  If you visit any of them, share about it by writing a comment below!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Over rapture weekend I visited the Bay Area Maker Faire and saw some pretty incredible (and uber-geeky) projects.  Amazingly, most of the art, technology, and fun to be experienced there was home built without any sort of corporate funding or monetary goals in mind.  Attending a Maker Faire is well worth your time, even if you're not technologically inclined.  Here are a few of my photos and video clips from the weekend.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Hundred Dollar Beach Hot Tub

After reading about a wood-fired ocean hot tub made by False Profit Labs, I was inspired to create my own. With $100 and the help of a couple friends' minds and muscles, we constructed a working hot tub in a few hours of manly fire building, ditch digging, and water hauling. Below you'll find our construction details and a few points on how we hope to improve on our design.

Things you'll need to buy (all can be obtained at your local hardware store):

20ft. 3/8 in. ID copper tube $37
hose clamp x2 $2
7/8 in. OD x 5/8 in. ID x 20 ft. plastic tubing $16
5 gallon paint bucket x4 $20
10x12 ft. heavy duty tarp $24

It goes without saying that you'll also need plenty of wood to keep the fire going as you heat and use the hot tub. We also brought along a few bricks laying around the yard that turned out to be pretty useful suspending the heating coil over the fire.


Carefully bend the copper tubing starting about 18 inches from one end and spiraling outward. Make sure NOT to kink the tubing as this will constrict the flow of water through the tube. You should end up with a pancake shaped coil and the two ends of the tubing coming away from the spiral. These ends should be far enough away from the coil so they will be clear of the fire.

Attach 10 ft. of plastic tubing to each end of the copper tubing using hose clamps. Make sure to tighten them down well to create a good seal. That's it! Now grab your firewood and head off to the beach!

 You'll want to begin by excavating your tub next to where your fire will be. The 5 gallon buckets come in handy for hauling out loads of sand. Given the size of heating coil and tarp, your tub should be relatively small (we're brainstorming a larger design). A two person size worked well for us, but I'm confident we could have dug it to fit at least four given the amount of excess tarp and more than sufficient heating.

Line your tub with the heavy duty tarp and begin adding water, making trips to the ocean with the 5 gallon buckets. Before the tub is full, or as your help is filling the tub, you'll want to begin to heat the water. Heating the water can take quite awhile so it's best to start even if the tub is not all the way full.

Begin by elevating one of the 5 gallon buckets about 5 feet above the water level of the hot tub. This can be done by stacking buckets/milk crates/ice chests etc. Fill the top bucket most of the way with water. Submerge one of the free ends of plastic tubing in the filled bucket.

 Place the other free end of plastic tube into the hot tub. Start a siphon of water out of the top bucket and into the hot tub. This can be done by sucking on the free end of the tube in the hot tub until the flow of water has started. Careful you don't get a mouthful of salt water! Every minute or so you will need to refill this top bucket to maintain the flow of water. It is IMPERATIVE that this water continue flowing once you place the copper coil in the fire. Failure to maintain the flow of water will allow the copper to overheat and melt.

Start your fire and place the copper coil within the flames. We found bricks useful to keep the coil supported over the fire. Be sure to keep the plastic tubing away from the flames. It will not be able to withstand direct exposure.

Continue filling the tub from the ocean and allow the water to heat. Our roughly 100+ gallon tub took an hour and a half before it was steaming (we'll bring a thermometer next time for better temperature comparison). As the tub heats, the heated water coming from the fire will reach steaming hot temperatures, much hotter than what is fed into a normal hot tub. Though it quickly dissipates to heat the tub, be careful not to burn yourself on the incoming water feed.


  • Manual bilge pump for easier circulation of water
  • Line outside of tub (between tarp and sand) with cardboard to improve insulation/heating time
  • Increase the size of tub and include a bench along the outer edge
  • Bring lots of food and beer next time
 Props to Brian Poon and Will Shields for all their help!