For the past few days, Lauren and I have been assigned the task of experimenting with samples of our donated acrylic and the laser cutter. At first we laughed at the task, writing it off as one of the easiest things we could be asked to do. Granted, we are both undergrads and have never used the laser cutter before; we assumed learning to turn it on would be the hardest part. Little did we know how much time and patience it would take to find the perfect settings to create the best possible visual image with our idea of edge-lit acrylic signage.
We learned that the smallest change in the settings for the laser cutter can make the largest difference in the product it produces for us. We experimented with countless hatches, depth settings, fonts, and sizes before we even came close to finding one we liked. Not only did the variation of settings on the same materials make profound differences, but the same settings cutting on different colors and densities of acrylic produced many different options as well.
We began the process with four types of acrylic that had been donated to us, and eventually narrowed it down to two that we hope to use. In the beginning we had a smoky white, colorless clear, green-tinted clear, and a dark (almost black) grey color (all being about .25” thick). We quickly knocked out the dark grey and smoky white from the running because neither of them were able to disperse the LED light thoroughly enough to light our etched text. Having narrowed it down to the colorless clear and the green-tinted clear acrylic, we began more in-depth experiments on the two playing with depth and hatching. After each was cut, we would head to the bathroom, flip the lights off, and try it with our strand of LED lights. If I only had a picture of everyone’s face that walked in on the two of us huddled in our little dark corner in the bathroom experimenting… now that would make this blog worth reading. After countless experiments, we came to find that a really deep cut with a solid hatch would be our best bet for catching our LED lighting. Now we just need to decide on the placement of the signage, a definite font, and what to include on each sign.