Laser-cut Raspberry Pi Case

Today I finally got to laser cut the raspberry pi case I’ve been eyeing on thingiverse! (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:29456). I took a bunch of photos of the whole thing, so I’m going to let them do most of the talking. But first some slight problems we ran into:

Before we were able to actually start cutting the thing, we kept running into some really strange problems with the vectors. I’m on a Mac running Parallels to be able to access the retinaengrave software needed to communicate with the particular laser cutter that we have. The strange way that the retinaengrave software works is that you “print” to the software from whatever image manipulation / vector manipulation program of your choice. In a normal circumstance I’d be using Illustrator, but since retinaengrave is on the parallels side and I only have Illustrator on the Mac side, I actually have to use Inkscape.

So I have these files that I’ve downloaded from thingiverse, but they are constantly being strange in various parts of the pipeline. Either they are opening up in Inkscape strangely (with many of the lines not at all where they are supposed to be) or they are being printed to retinaengrave in duplicates, which is BAD because you then you don’t have as fine of a control over really important parts of the whole laser cutting process, like how many times it actually runs over a certain vector. Because of these duplicate lines, one of the first estimates of how long this whole project would take was saying that it would be somewhere around 3.5 hours! It turns out, after deleting the duplicate lines and much fidgeting, that it was really only around 45 minutes total cutting time. At Bloominglabs members only pay 10 cents a minute, so this thing only cost me 4.5 dollars. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me ;)

I want to do another blog post on this whole experience when I’ve had time to reflect on it more. But for now I’ll say that the most interesting things I encountered through laser cutting this case involved how I experienced the process. At one point I said to another member that I’d be happy with it as long as it ended up costing less to cut it out overall than it would have to just buy one from something like Etsy. But I know that’s not true because I value this more than I would something I bought simply because I made it. So why did that thought even go through my head?

More interesting than that, though, is how I feel about the end product. Why am I so proud of it? I’m almost as proud of it as I am of some of the things I’ve knit, and I feel just as strongly that this is “mine.” But I didn’t design this. All I did, in the end, was provide the materials and fiddle with some settings and the process for a little bit to make sure the laser cutter could cut it out. The guy who designed the thing on thingiverse should get all the credit, but for some reason I feel like I deserve credit too. But I know that’s silly, because if I printed out an image I found online through a color printer, I wouldn’t really feel attached to it at all, because I know I just printed it. This is almost exactly like that! I wonder if some of the earliest adopters of color printers felt this way about the first time they printed out a famous painting and posted it on their refrigerator.

Favorites pulled out so you don’t have to scroll through the whole Flickr set to see the really good ones:
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Posted in Blog, Making

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about me

Portrait of Austin holding a scarf and wearing a Free Hugs shirt

Austin Toombs is a PhD student in Human Computer Interaction Design in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, with a minor in Inquiry Methodology. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from Ball State University and a M.S. in Human Computer Interaction Design from Indiana University.

Austin's research centers on maker cultures. He is particularly interested in the formation of maker identities in specific contexts (hackerspaces, makerspaces, Fab Labs, and other co-working spaces), and how these contexts intersect with the politics of making, gendered practices, urban vs. rural geographies, and creative hardware and software developments. Austin's research involves an ongoing ethnography of a hackerspace, investigating the ecological relationships among self-made tools, maker identity, and the hackerspace as a locus of a particular kind of creative practice.

Austin’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Intel ISTC Social Computing program. He is a member of the Cultural Research In Technology (CRIT) Group at Indiana University.