Continuing the discussion from Fabric etching!:
Christmas day always gets me in a project mood, whether because I got a new tool or just have the time to devote to something creative (besides cooking, that’s a given.) I have been wanting to test fabric so @bwente, @jamesdhatch and @mspricethelibrarian’s interest coincided with my own plans.
First a test pattern in Inkscape. Making the 1/2 squares different colors allows me to choose 10 different dots per inch resolutions available in the custom engrave list. The text is converted to vectors and scored/cut rather than engraved to save time but keep a visual reference.
I have a big box of denim clothes that I have been collecting through the years. One of these days it’s going to be a jean quilt. Until then it is a bottomless supply of material to process. I cut off one pant leg and opened it up flat on the bed and used magnets to keep the fabric somewhat tight and flat.
And with the text pattern overlay-ed. You can see how I designated DPI.
It doesn’t take too long to go through all the options. I kept the power on 1 and I kept it on the fastest speed of 335 in/min and one pass. Too bad at this time you can’t save it as a project, so get it right before you exit out of that particular workspace. But it’s not that big of a deal. A digital calipers is handy for getting the material thickness correct. I did these with a correct focus, but that would be another way of etching, defocusing the beam.
After the burninating is done, it’s pretty clear that the Glowforge has power to spare. Note the honeycomb in the holes by the highest DPI, 1355. Another way to do this is keep the DPI low and add more power, butiat seems that I want to keep power at 1 and DPI to 125 for a medium to light weight denim, .015" thick. Note the scoring of the numbers does cut. I forgot to take a pic of the ready screen to show what time the engraving would take but I think it was around 18 minutes.
Here is a photo after I lightly brushed away the char. You definitely can get some distressed looking jeans here.
Here is a closeup of the lower DPI effect. 35 does affect it but 75 seems to be the way to go to get that upper blue layer etched without cutting the threads.
Higher DPI definitely distresses more and starts making holes.
Next process is to do a text pattern using the cutting, vector settings. Circles, squares, straight lines horizontal, vertical, diagonal, closely spaced and further apart. Once again, doing different colors allows me to designated different operations in the workspace.
Pattern overlayed on material. Note the settings on the left panel for power level: 5%, 25%, 35% 50% all at the max vector speed of 192 in/min and with one pass.
What is really neat is that it cuts it perfectly, very small kerf and cuts it easily. With the char you really can’t tell what the effect was.
One of the things with denim or any kind of woven material is that depending upon the weave and how the threads intersect with where the laser it hitting, you might get a stray thread not cut through even though it all is good. So the diagonals all cut very well on all settings. The squares didn’t quite cut through, The circles cut through even at 5% put there were tiny places of attachment. In the end 50% power at max speed does pretty good and 40% will get it all totally cut, any shape. Higher than fifty works well too, but is seems it’s a good idea to use the lowest power setting possible for any job.
Here is an overview of the text and you can see on the left side the vectors are more or less cut through.
And finally the result of the 55, 60 and 65% tests.
If you want to cut very precise circles and squares or any odd shape into material, the laser cutter will just do it perfectly and quickly. I think these were around a minute long or so. A single 1 inch circle at fastest speed will do 11 seconds. Also: depending on how the object is cut, the air assist can blow the cutting out onto the rest of the fabric. It might get in the way!. Something to consider as you do this. Having flat and tight fabric would help keep it level and not have some part pop up to get blown away.
Observations: lack of bigger Z height will limit what you can process, but you can still do lots of amazing things with a decent amount of material. I think I could cut all the squares to make that jean quilt in no time, especially since denim is a bit of a bear to cut with a roller cutter. (Which makes me realize I didn’t try to go over seams and double thicknesses of material. That would be follow up.)
Heavier weight fabrics, especially something like a heavy duck twill that Carhartts are made of will give a good etching without blowing through the fabric, but that’s another test.
So after the denim, I got pretty excited and thought I would try some beautiful Christmas fabric and see how a light weight cotton would work. I used this fabric color and pattern in a few log cabin Christmas tree skirts I made through the years.
I had my eye on the poinsettia in the middle and wondering what the trace function would do with that.
I placed the fabric in the center and used the magnets to keep it taut.
So, I don’t know what I was thinking, that this would magically scan and trace the multi-color item and then pick up the gold outline around the poinsettias. Yeah, right. The Glowforge does get some contrast though and you can try to pick up an outline and do some cut work of the dark spots. Certainly something to be investigated further.
Whoops. Obviously 40% power is too much for lightweight cotton. I kept a pretty close eye on this. Lots of continued burn in this fabric. Wondering if there is something in there a little more flammable in the dye or coloring. Air assist blew out the burning edges perfectly.
So then it was plan B: I thought I could trace a black line around the poinsettia that I wanted to cut out, but that wouldn’t work because of the black in the pattern already and nothing to differentiate. Then I thought maybe I could trace the poinsettia with an overlay of tracing paper or lightweight white paper and then cut to the dark line tracing scanned in from the Sharpie. That might have worked just fine, but I let that go.
Then I thought I could get my little hand held scanner and upload the fabric image and try to trace it with Inkscape. Played with that for a while. Definitely need to work on my tracing skills and image processing to do it efficiently. In the end it was easier for me to do a manual trace of the outline I wanted and upload that and overlay that over the material.
And then I cut the fabric, this time on a much lower power setting.
I cut some squares while I was at it. Very easy since I have a few vector shapes ready to bring in and use.
The Glowforge will be of great assistance if you are making fussy cuts for applique work or other special shapes.
I am sure that it could even process some bigger patterns once that pass through is calibrated and you have the right kind of jig.
One thing that it will be perfect for is making frayed edge linen or cotton napkins. It is very easy to get nice cotton in different patterns or colors, especially holiday themes. You can cut perfect squares on the Glowforge very easily. Then you fray the edges just a little. They work very well.
I would have made some with the Christmas fabric, but the gold that is in the fabric is a bit rough and not quite soft enough for napkins.