Our Makerspace Makes Laser Cut Snowflakes

Creating vector files is necessary for using many of the digital tools in our workshop, including our Laser Cutters. There are a wide range of ways to produce these files, and I wanted to make some snowflakes to show off one of the simplest ways I know, and use often; Adobe Capture. Once I got going this spiraled into a December-long activity with all of our members here at Makers Workshop. Give it a watch and check out what we did! The Laser Cut Snowflakes came out just how I hoped they would.

Happy New Year!

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Tools

Glowforge Pro Laser Cutter
Scissors
Adobe Capture
Adobe Illustrator

Materials

Paper
Glowforge Medium Proofgrade Plywood; Cherry, Walnut, and Maple

There’s a billion ways to make a paper snowflake, but this is the way that I’ve always known how to make one. I started by trimming a standard piece of paper into a square. Then, keeping it folded in a triangle, I folded it in half two more times. Next, to keep the finished snowflake from looking too square, I trimmed off the pointy edge. 

Then I just cut out shapes and went for it! It’s probably nearly impossible to do this wrong… Although I’m sure that somewhere, someone could probably prove me wrong. 

Now I had a standard, run-of-the-mill paper snowflake, which is great and all. But the plan was to turn this into a vector file that I could then send to the laser cutter. There’s a really wide range of ways that you can make vector files. Oftentimes those ways are going to give you a really precise, really measured file.

But the particular method that I used maintained a little bit more of that hand done quality, which is part of the charm of the paper snowflake in the first place. I used Adobe Capture for this, which is an iPad app that I like.

High contrast is the key to getting good results with this. I used a dark laptop as the backdrop for the white snowflake. Then you just photograph it! There are lots of different settings within the app. I used the contrast setting, which is within the shape category.

Next, you can save the vector file as an SVG right in the app, and in theory send it directly to the laser. But I prefer to pop the vector file into Adobe Illustrator to get it as a red stroke with no fill. I find it’s just a cleaner file that way, with absolutely no room for errors when this gets translated to a laser cutter.

Then I signed my name and repeated the same process to get my signature as an engraving on the finished snowflake. For engravings, you’ll just want a black fill with no stroke in Illustrator. Then I positioned the signature on my snowflake. I actually use this method all the time as a cool, kind of different way to sign my work and make it personal.

Next, I cut the snowflake using our Glowforge laser cutter with some proof-grade medium cherry plywood. Proof-grade is a more expensive material option, but in my opinion it’s worth it in some cases. This is because when you peel the masking off, you get a perfectly finished piece–no extra steps are needed. 

At this point, I had an awesome idea! Since we’re a makerspace and have members that come in all the time, I decided I was going to have everybody cut out a snowflake. Each person would get one shot, and then we’d hang them in the front window for the holidays. Next, I’d make a nice laser-cut version of everybody’s snowflakes, and then hang them around the front window of the shop for all of winter. I called this project my Special Snowflakes!

Once all the snowflakes were cut, the real work began. I scanned each one of them in, along with the corresponding signatures, and then started laser-cutting them. Peeling the masking off was honestly the most time-consuming part… But I didn’t need to finish them after, so I really can’t complain.

Then I strung the snowflakes onto fishing line and hung them on hooks in our ceiling. 

Laser cutting aside, this was actually a really fun activity that got everyone smiling. Everyone also started checking the front window every few days to just see the collection grow! I like to think the people on the streets liked it too.

Thinking about buying a glowforge? We love ours, here is a copy of our referral link if you are thinking of getting one this will save you some money and we will get us a materials credit if you use our link to purchase it.

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