Tag Archives: magnet

89: More Laserable Magnet

I’ve talked about this particular kind of laserable magnet before, but for this week’s project, I took the same magnet material and determined whether I could use it as a replacement for the strip of magnet material I normally use for my set of dialog boxes.

The current strip solution (top) and the proposed replacement.
The current strip solution (top) and the proposed replacement.

I currently use a 1/2″ strip magnet stored in rolls for this type of product, and while it does the job well, I appreciated the reduced overall thickness and cleaner lines I discovered during the shaped magnets project.  But there were three other things to consider before I could revamp the Earthbound and Final Fantasy dialog boxes with the new magnet type: efficacy, material cost, and processing time.

The reduced thickness of the new magnet material (bottom) looked great.
The reduced thickness of the new magnet material (bottom) looked great.

Since we’re talking about magnets, it’s important to make sure they can hold themselves (and hopefully several other things) securely against the surface you’ve stuck them to. One example of a magnet that doesn’t hold up is the inkjet magnet material I used for some full color Megaman Robot Master icons I made a while back. While they looked great, just one of those magnets couldn’t hold a single thing beyond itself—the magnet simply wasn’t powerful enough. (Thankfully, those magnets were at least strong enough to hold themselves up.) In this case, the laser cut magnet material, when cut to the full size of the Earthbound dialog box, was able to match the two inches of strip magnet I use in holding power, so I was glad not to have to worry about that.

While the laserable magnet ended up costing more per magnet than the strip magnets I use, I wasn’t interested in adjusting prices to accommodate this change. Because of this, the convenience of laser cutting perfectly shaped magnets would have to outweigh that additional cost.

Unfortunately, while it was certainly more convenient to tell the laser to cut hundreds of magnets rather than doing it by hand with a precision blade, the introduced clean-up step was so time consuming and unpleasant that there was no way this was going to be a viable upgrade without significantly increasing the price of the product, which wasn’t on the table.

This magnet soot, appropriately, stuck to everything.
This magnet soot, appropriately, stuck to everything.

The problem lies in the way this magnet material dissolves when cut away with the laser. It leaves a fine gritty dust of magnet material that was easy enough to clean off of the black acrylic used in the aforementioned shaped magnet project. With the white base acrylic used in both the Earthbound and Final Fantasy dialog boxes, though, this grainy magnet soot was almost impossible to clean away without damaging the surface of the dialog box. Even with isopropyl (and perhaps in part because of isopropyl) I was unable to clean the finished pieces without either staining the white exposed acrylic or seriously scuffing the black cap layer.

My first cut tests were done with the magnet already affixed to the acrylic, but I even considered cutting the magnets separately and then affixing them to the acrylic pieces after both were clean. This added yet another step to the process and, sadly, didn’t mitigate the unreal amount of time spent trying to wash away all of the grime produced when processing the material.

This laserable adhesive magnet sheet really neat product, and it allows me to create some really neat special magnetic pieces, but the time and care that goes into making sure the clean-up process doesn’t damage the final piece means that I just can’t consider them for the standard line of dialog box magnets at Pixelaser. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more laserable magnet options in the future (and if you know of any, please do share!) but for now, our stalwart magnet strips will continue to do the heavy lifting. Sweet fresh feel!

 

69: Shaped Magnets

The back magnet does the job, but it's hardly an optimal solution. Ignore the irrelevant pin.
The back magnet does the job, but it’s hardly an optimal solution. Ignore the irrelevant pin.

For most of the magnets I make for Pixelaser, I use a 1/2″ or 1″ wide roll of magnet cut down to a size that will fit easily on the back of the piece in question. The end result is a magnet that looks pretty awesome from the front but suffers from a significant lip on the back. It can also make preparing magnets for acrylic pieces of more complicated shapes pretty difficult.

The acrylic and the adhesive magnet layer before they're sealed together.
The acrylic and the adhesive magnet layer before they’re sealed together.

One of my laser material suppliers offers a magnet with a cap layer that you can engrave away, and since it’s laser safe you can cut whatever shape you’d like out of it. Unfortunately, the only color options offered are a brushed silver and brushed aluminum—great for some uses, but not great for the icons and dialog boxes I enjoy. But then I found some laser-safe, pre-adhesive magnet sheets that I could stick to the back of any of my acrylics. I knew I wanted to find a better magnet solution for one product I’ve been working on, and this seemed like the right direction, so I ordered some material and got to work!

The total thickness ends up being 2 mm.
The total thickness ends up being 2 mm.

Adhering the magnet to the back of the acrylic was no trouble, but I did have to pay attention to air bubbles and made use of Jennifer’s brayer to flatten the magnet down. In a few spots where air bubbles persisted, I used a razor to cut a tiny incision into the magnet, which made it much easier to squeeze the air out.

A stack of icons from Super Metroid. That's a Super Missile you see!
A stack of icons from Super Metroid. That’s a Super Missile you see!

I had a few different designs I wanted to test with this new magnet backing. One, a selection cursor from Final Fantasy VI, featured a varied edge and would be a good test of how well the magnet can deal with more complicated shapes. Another, a custom magnet design based on a user’s Miiverse posts, is a much simpler rounded rectangle but is much more of an eye-catcher, featuring example Miiverse posts by super artist Drew Wise! For fun’s sake, I also created icon magnets featuring weapons and tools from Super Metroid.

The magnet covers the entire back regardless of the shape.
The magnet covers the entire back regardless of the shape.

Engraving the material worked exactly as it always has, since the top layer is the same acrylic I’m used to working with.  I did have to adjust the depth to account for the new layer of magnet, though, and I had to increase the laser cutting power just a little to power through the magnet. The finished pieces come out pretty messy (nowhere near as dirty as laser rubber) but some isopropyl alcohol fixes that right up.

A new product featuring this new style of magnet is available at Pixelaser's Etsy shop!
A new product featuring this new style of magnet is available at Pixelaser’s Etsy shop!

Because this week’s project went so well, I’ve gone ahead and made a listing for the custom Miiverse post magnets. If you’ve made some kick-ass pixel art on the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U Miiverse, you can have it made into a physical magnet for only $12! Got a friend with that artistic knack? Send me their NNID instead and I’ll engrave a magnet you can present to them as an awesome personalized gift. Check the listing for more details.