Tag Archives: green acrylic

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.

25: Fluorescent Badges

I can’t believe how long it took me to realize how awesome fluorescent materials are. I’ve cut plenty of things out of transparent acrylic, but I completely ignored its glowing sibling until a group of Ingress players asked me to make them some badges.

A stack of badges; the top badge is the same color as the rest, I swear!
A stack of badges; the top badge is the same color as the rest, I swear!

Have you played Ingress? If you haven’t and you’re using a somewhat recent Android phone, you should give it a shot; it’s a well-polished geolocation game that has a fairly engaging progression system ostensibly designed to get you to go out walking/biking/what-have-you. I was absorbed into this game, rarely playing anything else during my run from level 1 to level 8, and I’m not the only one. That group of Ingress players mentioned earlier is called the Chicago Enlightened, because they’re in the Chicagoland area and are a bunch of frogs.

Check out how much these babies glow!
Check out how much these babies glow!

The fluorescent acrylic just soaks up light and fires it right back at you, especially where you’ve etched or cut it, making just about any art you etch amazingly, fantastically visible. Pardon my enthusiasm; I’ve been disappointed in the past with how difficult it was to make clear, high-contrast etches on transparent acrylic in the past, and this material solves the issue with bright glowy aplomb.  Like other transparent acrylic, it also cleans up very easily, without the sticky edges I’ve come to dread on most opaque acrylics. It was a joy to work with and generally a joy to photograph.

The old badge looks black mostly on account of the background surface.
The old badge looks black mostly on account of the background surface.

The awesome badge design seen here was provided by the group, and they’ve worked with this material before, so thankfully I didn’t have very many trial-and-error moments to deal with there. I did do some prototyping on a medallion-style badge similar to one I cut long ago, and I’ve taken some pictures of those too to show the contrast between the transparent green acrylic I typically use and the fluorescent material for this project. While the designs vary wildly—a raster etch focus on one and a vector etch focus on the other—the materials’ differing transmission of light is clear.

Here you can see the green tint of the original badge more easily.
Here you can see the green tint of the original badge more easily.

I think I’m going to have to revisit the tetriminos in this new material. In the meantime, I’m just thrilled that I’ll never again forget how to spell fluorescent.

More stacked badges.
More stacked badges.