All posts by Mick Byrne

Laser Cutter Update

Do you love the laser cutter as much as we do?

If it’s one of your favourite pieces of equipment to use at The Edge, keep reading to find out about new materials and changes to procedures, bookings, and machine settings.


 

New settings

A couple of weeks ago, Mark, our Trotec technician gave the laser its regular six-monthly service. One of the first things Mark does when he arrives is measure the output of the CO2 tube that the laser is producing. Our model is rated to produce (at least) 80 watts of power. However, it’s not uncommon (apparently), for the tube to produce more than the rated output, especially when the machine is new. As the machine begins to wear, it’s fair to expect that the power output will decline and produce closer to the rated wattage. After two years of fairly solid use by The Edge’s communities and development staff, our machine is still consistently producing 100 watts.

Reliably getting 100 watts for the price of 80 is a great problem to have. With these consistently higher output measurements though, Mark suggested we adjust all of our settings to reflect the higher energies that the machine is producing. Using the adjusted settings means the machine cuts cleaner and more efficiently. It will make bigger jobs faster to cut, and we’ll see less scorch marks on the material, and less of those flashes and pops that you see when you are cutting – the pops and flashes are actually debris being ignited in the pocket of air in the honeycomb under the material. Adjusting the power settings allows the machine to actually vaporise the material and make a clean cut , rather than heating up the general area and eventually burning through which creates a lot of smoke and mess in the machine.

So, next time you’re using the laser, take note of the new settings and enjoy the 1 to 2% extra speed. Vroom Vroom!

 

New materials

Over the last couple of months we’ve started keeping new material in stock, and communities have been trialing others. We thought it might be handy for you to know about the new materials – especially for planning your projects – and hope it inspires you to try something new!

As well as the A3 acrylic in black, white, and clear 3mm and 6 mms, we now stock primary colours in the A3 3mm. We are also stocking A2 sheets in black, white, and clear in the 3mm and 6mm, plus clear in 1. 5mm in A3 & A2. Check out the new price list here.

 

Exotic Materials

The majority of designs that community would like to cut on the laser, the materials we keep in stock do the trick nicely. But, we love to see people experiment with our resources, so we don’t want to get in the way of people trying new things.

To facilitate community members experimenting with new uses of the laser, or cutting exotic materials, we have a process for you to submit a request to use a new material. Community members need to drop in a sample (70 x 100mm is enough) and email us, providing as much information as possible. Include information like: what you think the material is, where it came from, and what you would like to do with it. The more information you can provide, the more likely you are to get permission. Mostly, we’re concerned with whether the material is safe to cut in our machine, so we are looking for Safety Data Sheets (SDS or MSDS), what the supplier called the material (photos of the tag at Bunnings are handy), or a link to the material on a website. These things help track down exactly what it is so we can tell if it’s safe.

Once we’ve established it’s safe to cut, a team member will do some testing on your sample to determine the optimum speed and power settings and get in contact to let you know. However, all this takes time, so make sure you are communicating with us well in advance about your plans (at least 14 days before your laser booking).

READ MORE ABOUT USING EXOTIC MATERIALS

 

Tuesday

Tuesdays are Drop in day for the laser. We recognise that sometimes it’s difficult to get a booking on the laser, so you can now come in on a Tuesday and reserve a 20 minute slot on the machine. Just come in with a job ready to go and put your name up on the whiteboard. Make sure it’s ready to go when it’s your turn, because if you’re not ready you’ll miss your spot in the cue.


Hack the Evening

Two of the best things about my job as Program Officer at The Edge are:

  1. Working with a variety of talented and interesting people and
  2. Finding solutions to technical problems using some of the great tools the Edge has on hand here.

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And this is why I look forward to, “Hack the Evening” every week. Hack the Evening is The Edge’s informal maker meetup. Every Thursday night from 5.30pm in The Edge basement, tinkerers, hackers, hobbyists, artists, makers and programmers meet up to chat and work on their own and collaborative projects. HtE punters show off new toys gadgets, come to get assistance with a project that’s got them stumped or to try out one of The Edge’s new tools or workshop prototypes that is in development.

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If you’re curious about The Edge’s makerspace but not sure where to start, come along to a free Hack the Evening meetup. It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and start your journey in The Edge’s Fabrication Lab. You can also join the Hack the Evening Facebook group, and get involved in the conversation.

No registration or pre-booking is required.

For more information on the Fabrication Lab or to book your induction, visit edgeqld.org.au/fabricationlab.

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Five Years On

It’s a cliché but The Edge proves “time does fly when you are having fun”. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since The Edge opened in February 2010. Sure, there have been some tough weeks, and of course there has been the occasional setback… like, you know that time the Brisbane River came inside… but when you look back over the five years it’s been a fantastic initiative to be part of.

The Edge's 5th Birthday

The Edge crew celebrating 5 years

When I was asked to write this post for The Edge’s fifth birthday I was secretly a bit embarrassed. I think I have some baggage about being identified as “the guy who’s worked here forever” (5 years is like 50 in arts-worker years). You feel a little like the sad old embarrassing dude who won’t leave the party at the end of the night. I love a party.

Anyway, after putting my baggage aside I had a think about what it is I’ve enjoyed about being part of this place. I thought about what my highlights have been and have tried to put my finger on what’s made the place tick. After working somewhere for five years, sometimes you can start to take things for granted, so its been a nice excuse reflect and think about why I keep coming back for more.

Now if you’d asked me five years ago how I thought it was all going to pan out for The Edge I certainly wouldn’t have predicted our success. The initial scheme of establishing a “digital culture centre for young people” was a bold initiative for an institution like the State Library. Few other organisations would consider investing in a project of this nature or scale. The idea of securing a piece of prime real estate in the heart of the cultural precinct, to be developed as space for young people to learn about computers and art and stuff was a fairly radical proposal. No one knew how long we’d be allowed to run with the experiment. But, I think a lot of people the saw potential in the project and were drawn to engage with it. With this kind of support The Edge found its feet pretty quickly and has consistently grown its capacity for making exciting things happen, and has consistently extended the scope of its offering to the public.

How’s The Edge done this? I’ll try articulating just one of my many theories.

Like I said, before we even opened the doors of our newly refurbished building, we attracted a steady stream of talented and inspired people who started eagerly engaging with The Edge. But it wasn’t just the sweet access to a mac lab or the river views from the window bays. People seemed genuinely excited at the opportunity to get involved, to share something of themselves with the other people in our community, people enjoyed contributing to The Edge as a community. There was an enthusiasm from people.

Enthusiastic people were prepared to commit to the uncertain process of trying to make something cool. Enthusiastic people, trying out something they’d never done before. It’s the enthusiastic people who were prepared to risk embarrassment and/or failure that have made The Edge a success. I’d say all my favorite highlights of the last five years at The Edge have come from this dynamic.

You’ve got the regular faces in the lab who’ll excitedly share with you their ideas for their next project. Highlight.

The committed members of the staff team who consistently go out of their way to find a solution but who aren’t always going to be able to…. But they try. Highlight.

The serial workshop attendees who’ll give anything a go, and even risk disappointment. Highlight.
The people who share their passion and experience unreservedly and who often jump in and herd the cats at our meet-ups like Hack the Evening and Producers Club. Highlight

There’s the engaged participants who animated (and reanimated) projects like our Halloween party and those three crazy zombie apocalypses that live, eat and sleep projects for weeks at a time to make cool stuff happen. Highlight.

And, our excellent workshop facilitators and techs whose rare professionalism, commitment to quality and high production values are always on show, even in the midst of a man made or natural disaster. Highlight.

These are the things that have made it a pretty inspiring place to work (and play!). And, if The Edge continues to attract enthusiastic people willing to take risks by trying something different, this dynamic will continue to make it the place that it is.