Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Public Laser Map

There are at least 395 publicly available lasers around the world at hackerspaces, makerspaces and fab labs. And about 78% of them have lasers big enough to cut my published 24"x12" panels of parts.

I've spent the last week researching this, trying to convince myself that you've got a fair chance at making your own cardboard surfboard core kit in your own city, country or continent.

If you're in Europe you've got it real good. Fab Labs everywhere.

Australia's laser tally is a bit low, but hopefully some of the hackerspaces there can get the job done. I noticed one of the Sydney hackerspaces, RoboDojo, is pretty well endowed, laser-wise, and has a likely source of sheet cardboard very close by.

The brown icons here are possible corrugated cardboard sources. I'd like to have those on the map elsewhere too, but I've only researched it a bit for OZ, NZ, Hawaii, and California.

In the US, laser coverage is decent for the coastal areas that have actually ordered kits in the past.

Durban and Cape Town? You have lasers.

Japan? A couple places around Tokyo have machines big enough to do my kits.

Machine bed sizes appear on the map for most coastal locations, so you can quickly rule out places that can't cut my kits. I've used millimeter dimensions everywhere, so note that 24" x 12" is about 610mm x 305mm.

I've scoured thousands of web pages for this info. Often it's easy to find. Other times I've gone deep into forums or Facebook photo feeds to find that one mention, or one photo with part of the laser visible in the background, that tipped me off to make and model, so I could look up the specs.

If the dimensions are missing for a place near you, you'll have to click through to its website and do your own research. If it's a place near the coast, you should just call them - I probably already searched deeper than you'll want to online.

If you know of other open-to-the-public laser cutters that should be on the map, send me the info. Thanks.

(The public lasers map is built using Google Maps, and the images above are also derived from Google Maps.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Laser Cutter Map - Make Your Own Core Kits

When I started the cardboard surfboard project, it seemed pretty hard to find a local, publicly available laser cutter. I wanted to find a place where I could just show up with my files, pay a fee, maybe get a little training on the laser, and then cut my own kit, like I might make my own magazine at a copy shop.

Those places now exist. The global rise of hackerspaces, Fab Labs and the Maker Movement have done a pretty good job of bringing lasers and other great tools out into the community.

One reason I got into selling the cardboard surfboard core kits - and kept selling even after I started releasing cut pattern files - was that I thought it might be too hard for people to find local lasers. It's no longer hard. I made a map. At the very least, you have a public laser on your continent. Likely there's one in your nearest big city.

public laser cutter map

(Four millimeter thick cardboard should be way easier to find. Just google "packaging supplies your town name" and you'll likely get a mix of stores catering to businesses and people moving house. Or scout out some rubbish bins.)

If I can find as many public lasers as I have just by poking around a few websites, you can probably turn up even more in your own locale. While public laser cutters aren't yet as ubiquitous as copy machines, they're spread out enough that I don't need to be the sole global supplier of core kits anymore. So I'm getting out of that business.

In fact I've shut down the business part of the surfboard project altogether. It served a good purpose there for a while. It let me ship a bunch of kits and stay right with the tax man. The business served the greater project, and not the other way around. Success. But glad to put that tool away when it's no longer needed.

I'm still filling out the laser map. I focused on Australia first, because the Smorgasboarder Magazine coming out in December has a feature on this project. Hope you guys can hook up with your hackerspaces there and get some kits made. Also got several California lasers on the map, but there are probably more to be discovered. Europe, East Coast, South Africa get attention next. If you know of a public laser cutter or good cardboard supplier that should be on there, send me the info.