3D Printering: Laser Cutting 3D Objects

3D printing can create just about any shape imaginable, but ask anyone who has babysat a printer for several hours, and they’ll tell you 3D printing’s biggest problem: it takes forever to produce a print. The HCI lab at Potsdam University has some up with a solution to this problem using the second most common tool found in a hackerspace. They’re using a laser cutter to speed up part production by a factor of twenty or more.

Instead of printing a 3D file directly, this system, Platener, breaks a model down into its component parts. These parts can then be laser cut out of acrylic or plywood, assembled, and iterated on much more quickly.

You might think laser-cut parts would only be good for flat surfaces, but with techniques like kerf bending, and stacking layer upon layer of material on top of each other, just about anything that can be produced with a 3D printer is also possible with Platener.

To test their theory that Platener is faster than 3D printing, the team behind Platener downloaded over two thousand objects from Thingiverse. The print time for these objects can be easily calculated for both traditional 3D printing and the Platener system, and it turns out Platener is more than 20 times faster than printing more than thirty percent of the time.

You can check out the team’s video presentation below, with links to a PDF and slides on the project’s site.

Thanks [Olivier] for the tip.

21 thoughts on “3D Printering: Laser Cutting 3D Objects

  1. yeah 3d printing is horribly slow. The best case is you turn your time , into money . The worst case is you turn your money , into a ton of time spent , and balls of spaghetti

  2. What kind of price range is typical for a consumer grade laser cutter? I just built the rostock max v2 and love everything about it except for the dreadfully slow print times :(

    1. 600-800 eur/usd for a china model with crappy controller (K40, ebay) and software; 2.5-3.5k for better supported stuff (Full Spectrum laser); 8k+ for the larger players (zing/epilog).
      The cheapest option that works is a eBay China model with alternative controller (LaOS/Smoothieboard). A laser is not that compicated; it’s basically a X/Y+enable system, like a pen plotter.

  3. “anyone who has babysat a printer for several hours, and they’ll tell you 3D printing’s biggest problem: it takes forever to produce a print.”

    Nope. I’ve done that and yet I disagree. I think 3d printing’s biggest problem is the fact that you even HAVE to babysit it. If printers were reliable enough to be left alone plus had a good automated build platform then the hours would add up easily.

    I would however grant you that the long time spent printing is a pretty big problem, even big enough to be number two on my list.

  4. Neat, but not seeing how this has anything to do with 3d printing though, its just a laser cutter, but agreed, those are awesome if you know what your doing.
    They could get even nicer results from a lasercutter with a pan/tilt head in it, that way it can make diagonal cuts from top to bottom of a sheet of material, making it much nicer to build some 3d object out of sheets of lasercut material.

  5. One of the reasons I opted for a CNC machine rather than a 3D printer is because as someone who does industrial applications, I always thought that subtractive machining was superior to additive machining. My thought process was that if you used a 3D print for anything it should be used to make a larger form for a mold, where the tougher material can be melted and poured into, then that larger form is machined with CNC to produce a finished product.

    Neat stuff. Wish I could get a laser head for my CNC….

  6. We don’t need to think in terms of 3D printing *or* laser cutting. The right tool is needed for each job. I’d like to see a laser cut version of this Julia vase: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:28052
    There are also a lot of settings to tweak with printing that can speed up times. Increase your layer height, go down to 1 perimeter, use minimal infill and supports, and get your printer to its highest speed. If you’re just trying to iterate designs to get to a final shape, you don’t always need the same strength and quality for prototypes as you do for the finished part.

    Anyway, I love how laser cutting is evolving and how the tools for all this stuff just keep getting better and better!

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