Mario Klingemann is a white coat wearing mad scientist, coder, creator and maker from Munich, Germany. In 'Making Love' he talks about his relationship with one particular maker tool – the laser cutter.
A laser cutter uses a 30w laser to cut through a vast array of materials. It can cut straight through wood, cardboard, MDF, acrylic, rubber, lino and more, as well as engrave patterns in glass, prepared metal and stone. The beauty of this machine is that it cuts a pattern pre-determined by a computer – no steady hand required. Each material has its own setting based on parameters of power, speed, frequency and focus. It is also possible to create three-dimensional cuts using greyscale.
Klingemann was overjoyed when he discovered how simple the laser was to use. What pleased him less, though, was the price tag of around $15,000. He joined newly formed non-profit maker movement FabLab, found a space to set up a workshop and began trying to secure a laser cutter. Luckily, it wasn’t long before they found an organization able to donate one to them!
His journey of experimentation began with some pre-existing digital sketches, which he repurposed and combined with a cheap scanner to create a cool lightbox. He also used the cutter’s engraving feature to create a wooden stamp before moving into screen-printing – he was able to create the prints themselves and the tools required using the laser.
Later projects grew in scale and complexity. One example was a project called ‘Typographic Gears’. For this, Klingemann wrote a program that would create the ‘counter gears’ to exactly match a series of letters before using the laser to cut out the gears.
He began to add other components to his projects that would allow them to have even more moving parts. He built an ink-splatter machine with an x/y axis to create greyscale images, and a moving platform for jelly that gets it to wobble in different directions. Not everything always worked exactly as he hoped, but he continues to experiment and push the boundaries of what is possible using this single awesome machine.
Klingemann also communicated three key learnings that came from his experiences with the laser cutter:
- We are not in copy paste land any more. (Everything you build, has to be built from scratch.)
- Undo? Try again. (In an analogue world, if you make a mistake you might have to start again from the beginning).
- It takes longer than it feels like. (It’s easy to lose five hours and miss dinner when you’re working in the basement with a laser cutter.)