On Thursday I began making some progress with laser etching. I tested two different power/speed strength combinations and wasn’t fully happy with either one but now I have the chance to work with underglaze inlay. In the photo below you can see some grey lines where I quickly rubbed in underglaze and wiped it off with a dry rag. I like the clarity that it brings to the etchings but I foresee a little complication with the addition of moisture to the surface of my clay. I will have to work quickly, wiping off the wet underglaze to prevent the sheets of clay from buckling and warping.
This summer I primarily focused on cutting completely through my clay with the laser cutter and I landed on a good combination of Power: 100, Speed: 6 which allows the laser to cleanly cut through the clay with minimal burning. Pictured above, the first sample on the left was etched with Power: 100, Speed: 20. I thought that by speeding up the laser I would etch deep enough into the surface to get a good depth for inlay without cutting completely through. I was slightly wrong. Due to the nature of the Rhino file the laser cut completely through in certain points – especially corners and areas where lines intersected. Due to the nature of the laser cutter, points of intersection often get hit multiple times because although the laser jumps around the pattern to avoid overheating any given section, when it returns to an intersection or a corner it gets burned twice and often goes all the way through. For the second attempt on the right, I used Power: 100, Speed: 75. I had less holes in this test but the laser was still too strong. For my next round of tests I intend to lighten the Power and keep the Speed between 50 and 75.
Also, while working with my Rhino file I realized two very critical things. The first is that when you open an Adobe Illustrator file in Rhino after expanding the lines to curves, every curve is duplicated. This means that two identical curves are layered on top of one another. I thought that there was an efficient way to delete duplicate curves in Rhino but I was wrong. Going forward I will need to carefully delete duplicate curves before I start rearranging my patterns to avoid a lot of messy, time-consuming clean-up. Mind you, the duplicate curves are not a huge issue when you are working with the file on the computer. The real problem lies in the laser cutting. If there are duplicate curves the laser will pass over that curve twice – doubling the cutting time and over-working the material, causing scorching and a thick cut line. The second issue I came to realize is that the curves I generated in Adobe based off of my drawings are often given what I refer to as a “double-line feature”. This means that although in my hand drawings the lines are singular, sometimes arbitrarily, Adobe decides to draw around my lines. It’s as if the program is circling the line instead of just tracing it, in turn overcomplicating the pattern for the laser cutter. You can see this effect especially clear in the close-up above.
aka Daniel Aktas
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