Laser cutting objects that don't exist

You may remember last week, the sun still wafted around in the sky,the light evenings  felt like they would go on forever.  Or you may remember  last weeks blog post  about 3D Printing an object discovered  via @museumbot .

That last project was all about turning a photo of a real object back from its digital representation into a real object again and looking at the transformation it went through.

I knew I wouldn't have time to do the next part of that project adding the detail of the face and changing the thicknesses to match the original more closely this week, but it did get me thinking about the idea of taking things that don't really exist and turning them into physical objects.

Rather than 3D print objects I wanted to laser cut something with the laser on Laser Level Advisor, mostly this was because of wanting to put into practise the training I had, had on the laser cutter at Machinesroom.  Its ok being taught how to use something, but you don't really learn until you have a go. The two photographs that came to mind also leant themselves to being laser cut rather than a 3D print.

The first photograph is  of a leaf,but not really a leaf.  I''m not sure exactly what the process is that happened but recently as I set off for work to the Science museum I noticed several 'imprints' of leaves on the pavement. There was nothing left of the leaf except for a brown mark where it had once been.

leaf mark on pavement
leaf mark on pavement

The second was a photograph from twitter taken by Katy Barrett @SpoonsOnTrays of a shadow taken on a sunny day at the coast in Norfolk.


Photograph of a Shadow by Katy Barrett
Photograph of a Shadow by Katy Barrett

I found this photograph really interesting, the pattern of holes in whatever object that is casting the shadow, the sand and pebbles, the sea that can only be seen in the shade of the object.

For both photographs although it is possible laser etch straight from photographs I chose to draw outlines in the same way I had done for the 3D printing of the Pendant.  I knew I couldn't draw the items exactly but I wasn't trying.  Zooming into the photograph of the leaf showed on oddly digital texture as the imprint had become defined by the dimples on the paving slab.  The edges are a lot harder to follow than when looking at the image from further away. Trying to decide what constitutes the outline of the leaf and what is just the dirt on the pavement was difficult

The shadow on the beach was similar. The lines of the shadow seem really well defined when first looking at the photograph but again when zooming in, they are much softer and difficult to follow,being broken up by the contours of the sand,pebbles and the ripples of the water.

For each of the photographs I realised that if I repeated the process of tracing the outlines they would come out differently for each one, I would never end up with the same outline twice. That was ok, it was never about creating an exact copy of the photograph but looking carefully at the lines and choosing what I wanted the shapes to be and being happy with whatever the result was.


Memory of a leaf. Lasercut in 3mm Birch plywood
Memory of a leaf. Lasercut in 3mm Birch plywood


Lasercut of Shadow. 3mm Birch plywood
Laser cut of Shadow. 3mm Birch plywood

As with the 3D printing the Laser cutting was done at Machines Room Limewharf  .  If you are wanting to learn about 3D Printing,Lasercutting it is a great place to go.


I won't be making anything solid for a few weeks.  Will be busy at Technopop London volunteering mostly on the Vex Robotics workshops, so bring you kids and lets build robots together, because building robots are cool.





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