Sol Diego, the San Diego regional art collective for the Burning Man community, has been gifted a laser cutter and engraver! The laser is being installed at Colab, our collaborative workspace east of Mission Valley. It’s a large unit with a 36×48-inch bed and a relatively high laser power of 150 watts, so it can handle just about any job. It can cut wood and most plastics, up to about half an inch thick, and it can engrave on or mark most surfaces.
The laser is intended to be a community resource. Its priority mission is to support construction of Sol Diego art projects. With full access to its own laser, our projects will be able to use many more laser-cut and laser-engraved design components, without relying on those few members who have limited access to laser cutters elsewhere. To maximize that capability, we’ll need lots of people who are familiar with the laser. Artists and designers will need to know the capabilities and limitations of the machine, including the complete workflow from original idea through computer modeling and actual cutting and engraving on the laser. For bigger projects, we can also use trained operators who are able to run existing designs through the machine.
The best way to become familiar with the laser is to do projects on it, so we encourage all community members to use the laser for personal projects. These may be for art, for gifts, or just for experimentation. You provide the materials and do the work, and Sol Diego provides the laser. Access to the laser for personal projects will be free of charge, at least for now. We hope to cover the ongoing maintenance costs through donations.
Larger non-commercial projects not affiliated with Sol Diego, and any commercial projects, are invited to submit proposals to Sol Diego for access to the laser.
The laser is quite safe to use, as long as a few simple rules are understood and followed, but it is still a powerful tool that works with extreme heat and fire. If you try, you can damage the machine, hurt yourself, or even burn down the building (just as you could do with any power tool). We will insist that every laser user be trained and signed off on basic safe operation of the machine before they are allowed any access to the laser. A series of scheduled group training classes will be announced to get people trained quickly, and then additional basic training classes will be scheduled as needed. We also hope to offer a variety of more advanced classes.
Classes are also available at MakerPlace. Their laser setup is not identical to ours, but most of the skills will be transferrable. MakerPlace does charge a fee for their training classes. You don’t need to be a MakerPlace member to take classes.
Don’t let all this talk about training and classes discourage you. The laser is really quite simple to use. It works very much like an ordinary printer connected to your computer, and you can work the laser from any program that can print. There are only a few extra settings to worry about. We’ll provide you with a starting point for those settings, and you’ll learn how to adjust them to get the results you want.