What You See Is What You (Laser) Cut

WYSIWYG editors revolutionized content management systems, will WYSIWYC interfaces do the same for laser cutters? Unlikely, but we still appreciate the concepts shown here. Chalkaat uses computer vision to trace lines drawn in ink with the cutting power of a laser.

At its core, you simply draw on your work piece with a colored marker and the camera system will ensure the laser traces this line exactly. There is even a proof of concept here for different behavior based on different line color, and the technique is not limited to white paper but can also identify and cut printed materials.

This is a spin on [Anirudh’s] first version which used computer vision with a projector to create a virtual interface for a laser cutter. This time around we can think of a few different uses for this. The obvious is the ability for anyone to use a laser cutter by drawing their designs by hand. Imagine introducing grade-school children to this type of technology by having them draw paper puppets and scenery in advance and have it cut in shop class for use in art projects.

A red arrow indicates cut line, but a pink arrow is used for indicating positioning on a work piece. The example shows a design from a cellphone etched next to a positioning marker. But we could see this used to position expensive things (like a Macbook) for etching. We also think the red marker could be used to make slight adjustments to cut pieces by scribing a work piece with the marker and having the laser cut it away.

This concept is a product of [Nitesh Kadyan] and [Anirudh Sharma] at the Fluid Interfaces group at the MIT Media Lab and is something we could see being built into future laser cutter models. What do you think?

19 thoughts on “What You See Is What You (Laser) Cut

  1. “Imagine introducing grade-school children to this type of technology by having them draw paper puppets and scenery in advance and have it cut in shop class for use in art projects.” OK I just did, now what? If you are too young to use the proper tools for a lasercutter (vector drawings or 2D cad), then what exactly will you learn from it? Yes you will have an exiting art class, but any clown could have brought that entertainment. To me this is the tech version of the useless ‘think about the chilren!!1!’ argument. Technology is sure fun, but there is no need to shove it down the throats of our kids just because we can/think we have to.
    In the end a lot of these arguments (we need more x) are BS. If there is a shortage in any market, prices (salaries) will rise and more people will be attracted to the profession. More people into STEM means lower salaries.

    1. Your comments bring tablets to my mind. Schools everywhere are using them more, with some even requiring them for class. These devices didn’t exist 5 years ago! Who decided they’re a good learning tool?!?

      Back on topic, the usefulness of showing children a laser cutter producing their designs introduces them to CNC production without the CAD or restricting them to templates. Beyond that, as you say it’s mostly the ‘pew pew’ factor.

      1. “Who decided they’re a good learning tool?!?” The educational software salesman that convince the Superintendent that his company was the future.

        almost none of the management of our public schools have any ability to actually decide what is good for children’s education.

      2. Agreed. They bought a load of Ipads at my school before I left. They were pretty well useless for everything; The teachers all had to have them too, and the only use my old geography teacher had found for it was as a tray to eat his lunch off…

    2. Children all over the place are cutting things out and sticking them on things in education.
      I dont know the value of that, but I dont see why this is any worse.

      At least in this case you are showing them the (amazing) tools we have to bring concepts in our head into reality. For a few children being exposed to that at a early age might have significant payoffs.

      1. +1. And if it takes a setup like this to convince the ‘teachers’ that they won’t have to learn any tricky new software (because they will have to teach it to their students) to get them to buy into having new technology in the class room, then I guess it’s a bonus.

    3. I am sure that exposing children with potential toxin fumes when a laser cutter is used on certainly materials exposed to high heat is just what the scream parental units want to hear on the media for good ratings.

    1. Real life example of the following…
      “Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with a chalk, cut it with an axe.”
      An admonition to maintain a consistent degree of precision throughout the analysis, design, and construction phases of a project.
      – From the book “Foundation design”, by Coduto, Donald P.

  2. Just pointing out that the song is about someone trying to stop someone else from cutting themselves. I don’t know if it’s dark humor or them just searching ‘cut’ in itunes.

  3. I could see something like this in a quick print shop.

    Customer comes in with with a design for kids birthday party invite. One original for for text/art. One original for cut shape.

    A dozen copies printed and laser cut while you wait.

    Yes, I’ve worked in a print shop.

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