Low-tech design

Maybe there is some conversation on this other places on the forums, but I haven’t happen to have come across it. I may be, at times, working with quite young children with the Glowforge. Maybe preschool. It would be advantageous to not have to add the layer of abstraction that designing in a computer adds. Developmentally, this doesn’t work too well for them.

2d design is made extremely easy by the cameras and software, but I would like to be able to show them that a flat board can be sort of “folded” like a sheet of paper or changed in other ways to modify the third dimension. Hopefully that makes sense.

My first idea was a set of t-square-like tools with, rather than a straight edge, notches the size of common thicknesses of materials. The size of the notches might have to be off a little to compensate for the marking or something, but the idea would be that a kid could take something like a super-fine sharpie and follow it to “fold” a piece of wood or whatever. This is the idea behind the laser cut tabbed boxes and such.

This might also be useful for adults that are more fond of working in the real world.

What do you guys think? Any other ideas? Living hinge stencils?


I think living hinges in this application would be amazing! I bet it would be so cool to a kid to see this stiff, unbending piece of wood turn into a floppy, curving surface just from cutting slits into it.


Having a tabbed “straight” edge for tracing would work fairly well. As long as the students will be attaching the sides directly to the neighbor as cut. Aligning tabs not mutually cut will be tricky though.

So in your linked image, while you could get the bottom piece aligned on all 4 sides easily, the side walls would not always line up nicely, and the top piece would almost certainly be mis-aligned with all but the one wall it was cut beside.

So at the least, you will also need guides to ensure that the tabs align properly in reference to the corners. At that point you are practically just having them trace the object entirely, so I am not sure how much they will personally learn about the process.

Going with scored paper to create fold lines is likely a better initial call. Figure out some common tricks in pepakura, or to start more simple still look at paper airplane folding or basic origami rules.

Do an engrave of about half paper thickness and you will create very nice fold lines in cardstock paper.


Making a topless and bottomless box is what I mean. A little raised bed garden-type-thing would work fine pretty easily, I think. You’d just have to alight the “T” on the same edge and same side each time, right? It wouldn’t necessarily be about making a THING for the age of kids that I am thinking about. Just about going through the process and seeing the possibility of making something like wood change. Adults using hand-drawn tabbed edges might want to do more, I suppose. There might be some young kids that could work through something more complicated than that and I would certainly try to take them there, but that wouldn’t be the main point. Paper, as you point out, is a good place to start them seeing a flat thing change. They’ll be able to experience that readily. Then they might be better prepared to understand “folding” wood.

Exactly. Beyond cool! That makes room for POSSIBILITIES in their thinking about the world around them!


Any other techniques that might be drawable? How about other people that will be designing low-tech? I love computers and can do stuff in Inkscape and what have you. I’m just wondering if the superpowers that these cameras and cloud computers are supposed to give us is enabling people that would be laserless otherwise. That could be a question that has to wait until after the units are in full production and being sold retail. People that are more comfortable with technology are likely to be the ones interested enough to shell out the money right now.

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For a top and bottom missing box, if the “T” is precisely the height of the intended box, then everything lines up flawlessly every time. So that will work well. If the T doesn’t correlate to the height of the box in a direct manner, then you still have one joining which was drawn separately. And for that one they could have a significant offset and mess the whole thing up.

But, this should not interfere with the conceptual shift you are looking to make.

Living hinge and other techniques to make the rigid become malleable will certainly be a great next step, as just making a little box does little beyond what playing with Lincoln Logs or KEVA blocks would accomplish. Knowing that “it can be done” is already there, knowing that “I personally can do it” is the real element I feel you are trying to instill in these people. So you need something miraculous (living hinge), or something completely self driven (ummm… no good examples… /em distraction monkey activate!). Possibly having them use 123D Capture and 123D Make to do some simple stacked cardboard sculptures will be all you need.

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Jumping off @jacobturner’s mention of 123D Capture and 123D Make…what if you gave kids some sort of building material, be it play dough or even legos or blocks- let them build their own shape, then show them how you can scan it into a computer and use technology to make a stacked cardboard version? Then it really becomes a personalized “I made this!” feeling :slight_smile:


That’s such a great idea! I will definitely have to try some method of doing this with my kids.


Thanks!! You could take it even further and give each profile shape a bounding box, so when they’re all lasered you’d have both the solid cardboard pancake model, and the stacked boxes with a void of where the model would be- an exciting (and messy lol) opportunity to plaster cast! :smile:


I like where this is going. I’d still want to try to have a way to work without a computer. Maybe make it in a real firm play dough or in clay and then physically slice it. Then, trace each slice on cardboard and cut 20 copies or something. It’d be tricky to slice and it would have to be fairly simple shape, but would remove the computer step.

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You could use a bread slicer approach. Large set of parallel bars that you just press the shape through… though that will likely mangle the thing they created… nevermind :frowning:

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Again, It’s not so much about actually making a “product,” but going through processes and thinking and creating connections in their developing brains. One thing we talk about as preschool teachers sometimes is about having children come up with answers, but they don’t have to be right. We ask them to explain or diagram or act out their thinking behind the answer. This explaining requires using deeper thinking skills, which are much more important than having right answers at 5. So, I guess what I’m getting at is that they don’t have to be building skills here. They might, though, and that’s great. They don’t NEED to be doing all this with a laser cutter, but I’d bet anything that something like this would light up some new neuropathway connections in their brains. Creativity is good for that, too.


Heated bread slicer?

That could work.

While reading your other reply and thinking back over the thread, I just remembered that my 6 year old loves to play with those foam letter square interlocking tiles. He tends to make cubes (and fill them) rather often, and then runs around either handing out presents, or smashing his pinata on the ground.

Focusing on using the glowforge and simple steps into the 3D, you can do little “feet” additions to their drawn people or other artwork. I remember in the livestream GlowForge open house someone had done such a thing. An adult may have to fudge the end product a little bit to get the connecting gap appropriately sized for the material being used, but otherwise it seems like something easy enough for a kid to start using in their own designs.


That age is when the “scaffolding” of the brain is being constructed.
So much of how our minds will work is being established. Just introducing them to the potential of their abilities can be a life changing catalyst. That neural wiring diversifies.
A magical thing to ignite an intellect and watch it soar.

So many uses in the educational field for lasers. I saw this online and thought how simple to create with a laser.

You could use acrylic,wood, even just corrugated cardboard pieces so kids could take em home - almost disposable yet educational. ( It’s sad how many kids- and adults- today have problems with fractions and percentages - I suppose it’s because my father was a 6th grade teacher for decades that we learned in and out of school).)


And now I feel compelled to go and make a large batch of those.

I believe first grade is where fractions start. But seem to recall a little bit of it shows up in Kindergarten. And I know people as far out as 7th grade who still don’t get it.


Unfortunately there are a lot of adults as well. My sister was a Sales Mgr for a radio station and some people she interviewed (adults) still think ¼ is larger than 1/3 since 4 is larger than 3… Or couldn’t figure out what 10% off of an amount was… :expressionless: Let’s make 2017 an official LFL year !!! " Lasers For Learning" ( hey that’s catchy…):grinning: