Aside from the high quality and the economic advantages, one of the greatest benefits of laser cutting is the incredible accuracy this method can achieve. Laser cutting tolerances are typically around 2.5% of material thickness but can be as tiny as 0.025mm.
Being able to cut and engrave to such fine tolerances gives artists and designers more freedom to create intricate patterns. From the purely decorative to the experimental, here are a few of our favourites:
This beautiful coaster shows what can be done with a little creativity and a laser cutter. The line of the stems follow the curve of the perfectly circular mat exactly and the leaves taper to a fine point. This level of detail would be difficult to achieve by hand, but the designers of these coasters use a laser cutter to achieve the low tolerance their designs require.
Laser cutting is perfect for achieving exact cuts, but to achieve a softer finish, these coasters have been sanded and oiled. Together with the laser cut design, this hand finish results in a high quality, beautiful product.
As a method for adding small details to a material, laser cutting is quick, simple to programme using CAD and accurate. The laser cutter is ideal for wood coasters like this because the computer will direct the laser to avoid overheating and burning the material but will also be significantly faster than traditional carving. This combination of high quality and speed mean that intricacy of this level can be replicated over and over and mass produced relatively cheaply using a large variety of different materials.
Eric Standley’s Laser Cut Art
While CAD has the capability of bringing all sorts of off the wall ideas to life, Eric Standley was quite happy figure his designs out with sketches and then build up layers of laser cut paper to create his artworks.
With each piece, Eric considered the empty spaces as important as the 0.01” lines the laser cutter defined. As the detail was so delicate, and each layer was building on the previous layer, the precision of the cut for each line was vital to create the overall effect. While there is a pleasing sense that the design has simply fallen into place, Eric put a lot of work into the logic of every layer, giving the impression that the lines are woven together.
Eric’s fascination with laser cutting and his gothic influence meet with the idea of the infinite. Instead of using the technology to be more efficient, he is using it to push the boundaries of what it is possible to create.
The Infinity Puzzle
Most of us would tackle a jigsaw puzzle by joining all the edge pieces together and then filling in the middle. With this puzzle, the rules haven’t just been bent, the designers have torn them up and thrown them out.
Instead of creating a puzzle with one solution, the Nervous System team used their mathematical know-how and a bit of smart computer software to design a puzzle where every piece could be the middle or the edge. To achieve this, they used a simulation of a torus (the shape of a ring donut) and wrapped their design around it. When opened out into flat square, pieces can be moved from top to bottom or left to right endlessly.
In a moment of madness, the team decided to go a step further than their edge-less puzzle and design a puzzle with infinite solutions. Their genius design was based on ‘a 3D embedding of the Klein Bottle and its fundamental polygon’. So, instead of the torus/ donut, they used a theoretical shape where the inside is indistinguishable from the outside. This is easier to see than it is to describe!
With this design, the puzzle pieces can move left to right and top to bottom as before, but now the pieces flip as well. Awesome.
The fine tolerance of the laser cutter was vital to get the unique shapes of the jigsaw and computer aided design brought their theoretical idea to life. Without this combination, this puzzle would have been substantially harder to design, never mind manufacture. Hats off to Nervous System for putting the technology to the test!
Laser Cutting Tolerance
For each of these examples, the tiny laser cutting tolerance was vital for creating intricate and exact engraved patterns and cuts. Without laser technology, these designs would be nigh on impossible to create but thanks to the ingenuity of the designers and their use of CAD, new ideas can be explored.
The coasters used the laser cutter to taper the leaf cuts to fine detail but then was sanded down to soften the precise edges of the circle. Eric Standley relied on the precision of the laser cutter to accurately cut his 0.01” lines of paper in order to build up the woven effect of his artwork. Nervous System tore apart the traditional jigsaw puzzle and introduced their new design for their infinity puzzle.
And these experiments are just the start.