There’s a workshop in the middle of Brooklyn where strange geniuses meet. It’s a hackerspace, filled with tools and equipment and materials for its members to design and construct bizarre, clever new devices. It’s also open to the public a few nights a week, and I took a class there on how to use a laser to cut things.
NYC ResistorÂ is a hacker collective and hackerspace, and it’s a place to behold. It’s a workshop on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, tucked in a large, industrial brick building a few blocks away from Atlantic Terminal. It holds 3D printers, soldering stations, computers, and lots of gadgets. It also has a 60-watt Epilog laser that can cut or etch wood, acrylic, glass, metal, and other materials.
Basically, it’s a place for clever people to build clever things. NYC Resistor is semi-public, with a few dozen full members at a time who can work on projects at the space. It’s not a cloistered workshop, though; it holds regular classes on using the Epilog laser, using Arduino, and various other electronic, robotic, and craft technologies. It also is open to the public Monday and Thursday evenings, so anyone can work on their own projects.
I attended the Epilog laser class on Saturday, taught by NYC Resistor contributing member Olivia Barr. It was a $76, four-hour session that walked me (and several other people in the class; this is one of the most popular classes at NYC Resistor, and sells out weeks in advance) through formatting image files for use with the Epilog laser, loading those files on the computer connected to the laser, and safely using the laser with various materials.
It was an informative class that showed me that using a 60-watt laser for cutting and engraving things is both easier and trickier than I would have expected. You basically feed a vector image file (or combination vector/raster, for engraving and cutting) into the computer, tell the laser what material you’re using, and “print” the picture onto the material. You also have to be careful to align your material properly, focus the laser, keep everything ventilated and clear, and tweak your settings as you go to make sure what you want cut gets cut, and what you want etched gets etched. My first few tries resulted in acrylic that didn’t quite get cut properly, and etchings that didn’t consistently leave a mark.
On the bright side, now that I took the class, I can return to NYC Resistor on public nights and use the laser when it’s available for future projects. And hopefully, become more proficient at using it without wasting precious acrylic and time. People who took the class can use the laser on craft nights for $0.75 per minute, which means you can cut nearly anything for very cheap. Etching takes significantly longer than cutting, however, and so is more expensive.
And what did I make at the class?
Well, we’ll see.