Some time last week, while I was at Eagle Engraving, Laurie handed me a single letter-sized sheet of thick paper. I thought it was paper, anyway. It turned out to be a sheet of inkjet-printable flexible magnet that could be laser cut cleanly. It was a sample given to her by a supplier on his recent visit to the shop, but she thought I’d get more use out of it than they would so I inherited this new material. I was genuinely curious about how it would process, so I knew it’d be this week’s project here!
Later on, Will helped me focus the project. He’s “that guy that does stuff” at Eagle, and he’s every bit as much a prisoner to video game nostalgia as I am.
“What should I cut out of this stuff?” I asked.
“You really can’t guess what my answer to that is?” he replied. I glanced at his monitor, absolutely riddled with little blue pixel robots.
“I don’t know!” came out instinctively, but my brain caught up to what I was looking at and I added, “Mega Man?”
“There you go.”
It didn’t take me long to settle on Robot Master faces, as seen on the stage select screens of, in particular, Mega Man 1–6. I ran an initial test on just the first game, but it was successful enough that I filled the rest of the sheet with all 46 classic NES robot masters. For a short while I thought about adding Mega Man 9 and 10, retro-style sequels that came out only a few years ago, and I briefly flirted with using fan-made 8-bit recreations of the portraits from Mega Man 7 and 8. Unfortunately, I only had one sheet!
Design was mostly simple, isolating the individual portrait frames from their respective games’ stage selection screens and then tracing them with a cut line. Each game has a different look to the frames, and I wanted to make sure that the laser cut matched the style of the frame. I even made sure to account for the one single robot whose head sticks outside of his frame: Quick Man’s boomerang head piece. It added four pixels that I’ve cut faithfully!
Laser cutting the printed page was relatively pain free for two reasons: the minimal thickness of the material meant I didn’t have to spend too much time dialing in power and speed settings, and I employed a registration mark system to help align the printed graphics to the laser cut lines. Black outline targets are printed on the four corners of the sheet, and I enable a red dot pointer that matches where the (otherwise invisible) laser would cut so that I could watch it trace a vector engraving path on those targets. If you look closely, you can see that the registration wasn’t perfect, but it was far better than I could have achieved without using those marks.
The final result sure looks good! Unfortunately, the material is so incredibly thin that the magnets won’t hold anything up except themselves; don’t expect to leave a grocery list on your fridge with one of these. They also suffer from an issue any inkjet print will: they’re not waterproof. The print didn’t run at all, which was a shock to me, but when Fire Man was doused with a few drops of water, his papery surface blistered up a bit and discolored. He’s never been a fan of cold stuff.
By the way, if you ever want to know which Robot Master to take out first in your game, I highlighted each one with the selection graphics from their respective games. Thanks to Miranda Paugh and her site, The Mega Man Home Page, for boss order tips!