Tag Archives: Gotham

78: X-COM Shield

Owing partial thanks to the awesomeness of fluorescent green material, I put together a custom piece for a client this week that blended appreciation for two things: the X-COM series of science fiction video games and the real world United States Army Special Forces. We decided on a parody of the X-COM shield design, cast in green in reference to the green berets, and featuring a popular Special Forces motto in place of the shield’s original vigilo confido.

The first prototype made it clear that glue on the front acrylic was unacceptable.
The first prototype made it clear that glue on the front acrylic was unacceptable.

Because the design was made with two pieces of acrylic in mind, I had to determine the best way to attach the pieces.  On my first small prototype, I tried simply putting a few dabs of super glue in the corners of the piece, hoping that it would dry clear. Unfortunately, the uneven splotches of glue were readily visible from most angles and killed the fluorescent green effect in many cases.  It wasn’t going to work out.

The "pokes" are most visible in this prototype.
The “pokes” are most visible in this prototype.

I made a second prototype, again only a couple of inches tall, to test out a post solution. I would cut small holes into the layers, and then cut matching posts out of 1/4″ black acrylic. The uneven laser width when cutting thicker materials meant that the posts acted kind of like nails, with a slightly larger diameter on one side. I also played around with using single-point laser bursts—I called them pokes—to create a neat depth effect on the spherical grid design. Because imperfections of any kind glow in the fluorescent material, these “pokes” became connecting posts that met with the grid and traveled through the thickness of the material. It produced a pretty cool, albeit slightly messy result on the prototype.

You can barely make out the top of each poke, but the lines beneath are invisible.
You can barely make out the top of each poke, but the lines beneath are invisible.

Once I had the post thickness figured out, I laid out the final 9″ by 12″ piece. I included the poke technique, which didn’t turn out very visible due to how large the surface engraving was in comparison to the tiny lines the pokes produced. I also used repeated inset paths to create a depth effect on the typography and the three stars featured in the design. While the posts fit snugly in to the front surface, they were too small for the black acrylic in the back. A little glue there, where it wouldn’t be visible through green acrylic in the front, was just fine.

The engraved portions cast a shadow on the back layer.
The engraved portions cast a shadow on the back layer.

While the poke technique didn’t really come into its own with the finished, piece, it’s something I will be experimenting with more in the future. Every other facet, especially the awesome shadow the engraving casts on the back acrylic, turned out great!

The full piece, cut from two layers of acrylic.
The full piece, cut from two layers of acrylic.
The bottom post, one of five that hold the acrylic layers together.
The bottom post, one of five that hold the acrylic layers together.
The stars were engraved via repeated inset paths, creating an illusion of depth.
The stars were engraved via repeated inset paths, creating an illusion of depth.
A close-up shows the "rotary-style" engraving process used on the text.
A close-up shows the “rotary-style” engraving process used on the text.

48: Simple Wallet

This wallet is comprised of two pieces of acrylic and a thick rubber band.
This wallet is comprised of two pieces of acrylic and a thick rubber band.

Recently, an old friend got in touch and said he wanted to get a new wallet.  Brenn wasn’t interested in the same flap of leather or cloth that we’ve all been using for a few decades. Instead, he was interested in a simple flat wallet similar to something seen online. Simple and flat are things I regularly enjoy making with the laser, so we took his existing design ideas and iterated quite a few times to determine how best to make a wallet out of two pieces of material and a rubber band nicked from Etsy credit card reader promotional material.

We went through several prototypes.
We went through several prototypes.

We started with 1/8″ thick bamboo and later 1/16″ bamboo. The thicker bamboo was just a little too much overall thickness for the style Brenn was looking for.  We adjusted the upper “manila folder tab” several times to make it easier for fingers to reach the credit cards nested inside.  We knew there would be a rubber band holding the two sides together, so we added some engraved text that would go underneath the rubber band with extra details about the owner in case the wallet got lost and his ID wasn’t present.

Small circuitry design by request: Brenn loves his PCB!
Small circuitry design by request: Brenn loves his PCB!

The biggest change while iterating happened when he on a whim asked if the design would change much if made from acrylic rather than bamboo.  We immediately recognized the functional value of the change: his credit cards had much less friction against their container and were easier to remove from the acrylic version.  While it didn’t have the same renewable appeal that bamboo brings, the easier use sealed the deal.

The wallet isn't very thick, at least relative to the leather block I'm hauling!
The wallet isn’t very thick, at least relative to the leather block I’m hauling!

I’m giving him a few weeks to play with his new wallet.  If things work out for him, I could see myself ditching the giant leather wallet that has been denting my right cheek for years.  Sorry for making you a guinea pig, Brenn!

Four cards fit nicely, but a fifth would add some appreciated snugness.
Four cards fit nicely, but a fifth would add some appreciated snugness.