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Freehand laser cutting with Constructable

Created at the Hasso Platner Institut, the Constructable is an interactive laser cutting device developed by Stephanie Mueller, Pedro Lopes and Patrick Baudisch.

The tool essentially allows users to cut out the drafting step when creating. Typically, a person would have to design in software then fabricate on a machine to see results. This process is repeated until your product is right. However, with Constructable’s interactive laser, users “draw” with a laser pointer on the material that they want to cut. Using an assortment of laser pointers, different results can be achieved such as rounded corners. Once drawn, the Constructable system tracks the pointer, cleans up its path, and cuts the workpiece with a fast, high-powered laser cutter.

This tool could prove as important to rapid prototyping as 3D printing and may be just as revolutionary. It allows people who think physically to see their ideas form before their eyes. Mueller told Wired, “As people nowadays lean towards using touch interfaces instead of using a mouse, we are trying to get rid of the indirection of a CAD system and instead work directly on the data.”

Mueller describes in greater detail how the Constructable works in a comment on the YouTube video below:

The user draws using a regular laser pointer. We then track the laser pointer using an overhead camera. When the user turns the laser pointer off, we beautify the user’s draw path, then send the sketch to the laser cutter. As you can see in the video we have 15 different laser pointers that all have a specific purpose (e.g. one for drawing straight lines, one for making gears etc.). We detect which laser pointer is currently used and based on that decide which geometry needs to be created.


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