Inside Adam Savage’s Cave: The New Laser Cutter!

Adam equips his workshop with an old friend and powerful tool: the laser cutter. We learn how Adam used laser cutters in his model-making days and see a demonstration of the process of designing and cutting a simple object. Always be cutting!

Comments (25)

25 thoughts on “Inside Adam Savage’s Cave: The New Laser Cutter!

  1. Those things are so much cooler when you’re only watching them and not the one having to repair or install them.

  2. It works the way I think.

    I totally sympathize with this. I have access to an Epilog Helix 60W laser where I work and I am (very graciously) allowed to play with it for personal projects. I immediately picked up on how to design things in sections, because that’s how I visualize things, and I’m now one of the “laser wizards” around here.

    I thought you might get a kick out of these, hearing you talk about “The world at your feet,” They’re chipboard kits that started as “just screwing around” and have turned into a kit I’m developing for work, lol.

    Good luck with your laser loaner, I’d love a 120W table. I’m sure you’ll end up purchasing it.

    Oh, for anyone who’s interested, InkScape is a wonderful free, open-source, vector drawing program and I use it for laser cut design almost exclusively. So check that out. Also, if you’re making “real” gears, don’t get out that old Mech-E textbook on involute geometry! There’s a sweet piece of software out there called “Gear Generator 3,” it costs a couple bucks but it’s well worth it!

  3. They have these Trotec cutters at Techshop SF now, same model (Speedy 300). Unlike the Epilog lasers they have always had, there is a per/hour fee ($20), but you can also rent them for the entire day. They are intended as a “production” machine, so that people who need to make 2000 of something can rent them for a day instead of having to book the Epilogs for 4 hour slots over several days, two weeks in advance.

    To be clear, you can definitely use Illustrator (or other vector drawing software) to design on this one as well, the main practical difference between the drivers is the use of color mapping to do various cut/etch settings (the Trotec driver requires specific color mapping, the Epilogs can use color mapping, but it isn’t required).

  4. Fantastic. I’ve been using a lasercutter for typography, signs n’ stuff. Looking forward to seeing Adams creative laser-projects! 🙂

  5. Another insanely fascinating video! While watching this, in my head I was constantly coming up with new ways I could use a laser cutter. I can’t wait to see what Adam uses this thing for.

  6. God i love laser cutters. I was the first one to use our schools when i got it, and also the first to break it, and the first to fix it. I learned so much playing with that.

  7. Oh what I would give to have a laser cutter to play with. I’ll have to look into getting access to the ones in my school’s design labs.

    On the subject of cool uses of laser cutters, I direct your attention to the work of Robert J Lang, he uses a fairly large laser cutter to score crease patterns onto paper to form the base of his origami sculptures.

    I can’t imagine doing serious design work on a laggy computer and less-than-gigantic monitor. I’m sure there are plenty of people around to design and assemble a new system for Adam’s shop (if not I’d love to say I designed a computer for Adam Savage), and I highly suggest picking up a korean 27″ IPS monitor off of monoprice

  8. For some reason while they were at the computer I paid more attention to that nixie tube clock ticking away in the background……

  9. Fantastic to see this again. My first job was a laser operator in a steel factory, I cut up to 4mm cold rolled steel. Such a buzz being at the very front of the production line and watching a drawing come into being. Always be cutting.

  10. There are some really nice laser cutters out on the market, which doesn’t cost that much money (still a bit more expensive than a makerbot though). However, I would choose one which has an auto focus feature so you don’t have to manually focus it. Notice when cutting the gear how fairly wide the actual cut becomes? If you dial in the focus even better you will get a slimmer cut (less kerf) which in turn makes making things which fit together easier. I’ve been lasercutting (mainly cutting, not much etching) on a daily basis for almost four years now, there are plenty of small tricks you pick up along the way. As a maker tool it’s invaluable, and as opposed to a makerbot, or 3d printers in general, it’s an investment which more easily can pay for itself if you start doing stuff for other people.

  11. Wow, those are amazing! The style you’re going for is fabulous; the simplicity combined with the two tone effect is great. I’ll keep an ear out for when a kit becomes available.

    I’d also like to compliment you on the rest of your comment. That’s some great advice for budding laser cutters.

    Good show.

  12. I have been meaning to buy one of these but I can only find systems that cost around 4000…does anyone know of any cheaper alternatives?

  13. does anyone know why the cutter choose to cut the gear in the segment order that it did instead of a single continuous line?

    Also he said Fon runs Fon Creative it’s actually called Fonco Creative 🙂

  14. Most of the printer drivers for these machines cut the vectors in the order in which they’re drawn unless you specify some kind of optimization.

    my guess is that his software either drew or saved the gear segments in the order that we watched it cut.

  15. Indeed, generally it draws it in the order it was made, however with Rhino I’m unsure how it works. If you’re going from a vector drawing program, such as Illustrator, it generally cuts either from top to bottom or from bottom to top in the order the vector lines are stacked in the file. You can utilize this to for instance cut all inner holes before you cut the outside circumference of something, this helps in case the piece drops down a little bit once the cut has been made, throwing the focus off (which is often the case).

  16. I knew I wasn’t the only person who uses Rhino! I’ve been using Rhino for 7 years and absolutely love it. It’s the most user friendly CAD program I’ve used. I really want a laser cutter now.


  17. One question to Adam and also to the rest of you model makers: Isn’t it a problem in modelmaking when you have burn marks on your lasercut parts? Acrylic works fine, but especially wood always gets black edges. And if you have lots and lots of tiny details sanding that off must be a pain in the …

    There is one quite fascinating machine that doesn’t use a laser but a really very tiny saw. It was originally invented to be used for Intarsia, but is now also used at companies like Mercedes-Benz for some of their more complex wood trim. The difference opposed to a laser cutter is that you can cut sharp corners very precisely (0.05 mm) which a Laser usually can’t because it always burns a (tiny) circular hole into whatever you are cutting and so there always is some rounding. One drawback of the saw-based machine is that you can only cut a few millimetres deep. This can be remedied a bit by cutting the same path several times, but you won’t cut through 10 cm of material.

    Full disclosure: I know the guy who builds these things and am not neutral. I just wondered whether this might be interesting for modelmakers. The machine is called datacut. Their homepage isn’t pretty, but some of the results are qute astonishing if you consider that they are basically printed.

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