Another Week Gone

Jeff Powell
5 min readApr 1, 2023

Greetings everyone.

Here I am writing on a Saturday, again, because the job continues. And just like last week, it has dominated my life. At the moment I don’t even know when it will end. Another week? Two? A month? I have no idea, and I am pretty sure no one else does either. It’s a bit odd, but it will get resolved eventually.

Regardless, the work is fun. I helped a number of students make the laser cutter do the right thing, and most are thrilled when it works out. Their happiness as their projects come together is infectious. In addition, a surprisingly large bunch of students were doing 3D printing. In fact, on a couple of days those were the bulk of the work.

I am in the throes of catching up at the moment. I had plans to create and share an art piece with you, but there’s just no time. Maybe next week, if things go well. Instead, I thought I might tell you a bit more about the laser cutter and the 3D printers I am babysitting. I hope at least some of you will find this interesting. If not, skip to the end where I have included a couple of photos from the SeaBus.

The laser cutter is made by Trotec, and it’s a model Speedy 300. Their website is here:

This device has a 70 watt laser (CO2, I think) and we use it to cut paper, cardboard, wood, plexiglass, cloth, and probably other things. It can also engrave most of those materials.

Students in at least three classes are using it this term, and it turns out all of them are creating lamps of one sort or another. Though the Design Formation students are told they are creating a “luminous object” and not a lamp, in an attempt to keep them from narrowing their design decisions based on the language.

I have not seen any of the final lamps so far, but when I was a student here I took the Fine Arts advanced design class and used this same laser cutter to create my own lamp:

The first photo shows the lamp from the outside. It’s meant to be hung. The cones are made of paper, and the top is cardboard.

The second photo shows the interior of the lamp as viewed from the underside. Those various spars are made of cut cardboard and allow the outer cones to hang from the central one.

Here’s a view of all of the laser cut pieces that are assembled into the final item:

A short piece of LED tape provides the actual light source. It’s hidden under the cardboard at the top.

Eventually the current lamp projects will be on display on campus, and I hope to share a few photos of the final lamps in the coming weeks

The other items in heavy use are Ditto Pro 3D printers made by Tinkerine:

These use a plastic filament which comes off a spool. It’s melted in a tiny nozzle and applied in very thin layers to build up an object.

Most of the students this past week have been in engineering classes of one sort or another, and they’ve been building specific projects. One instructor has teams of his students designing a dog food dispenser. I’ve seen a number of oddly shaped parts for that project, though (again) I have not taken any photos or seen the final results.

I’ve also seen parts of a clock, and next week I know we are printing a cat toy. (The students brought it in on Friday afternoon to print it, but all the printers were in use and it was going to take five hours to run, so I asked them to come back on Monday morning.)

The process is a bit involved, but to get started students create a model of what they want to print using specialized 3D modelling software — Vectorworks, RhinoCAD, Fusion360, Sketchup, and others. Once their object looks right in the computer, different software converts the model into G-code, which is a very simple set of instructions that drives devices like 3D printers, CNC machines, and probably other things. Those files are loaded onto the printer using an SD memory card and the “go” button is pressed. Sometime later — how long varies with the complexity of the object, but it varies from fifteen minutes to six or seven hours — the object is done.

Well, it’s supposed to work that way. In reality 3D prints fail with some regularity. Most often the filament simply doesn’t stick to the base properly. When that happens the print head usually winds up dragging parts of the object around and spewing liquid plastic into thin air. Other times prints can fail in the middle for no obvious reason. A mess of twisted plastic filament where something solid should be is the indicator this happened.

When a print fails we stop it, remove the object, and restart the print from scratch. There is no recovering from such a failure. We save the plastic as there is a long term plan to recycle and reuse it, creating new filament from previous print failures.

If I am clever in the coming week I will take some photos of prints in progress, and of final objects, so you can see more about what this looks like in reality.

There you go. That’s my life for the last week, but I did promise a couple of photos. Since I am commuting on the SeaBus again, I took these in the morning from the Vancouver SeaBus terminal, looking towards home from across the harbour:

They were taken two days apart, but at almost exactly the same time of day. The cloudy one is much more normal for Vancouver.

Anyway, that’s all I have this time. I trust you are all well . Keep safe!

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Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.