Introduction: 3D Miniature Chess Pieces Made With a Laser Cutter

I'll show you step by step how I made minature chess pieces (~3 cm tall) by laser cutting acrylic. For this project I used an Epilog 40W Mini 18 laser cutter. Most cuts were done at 100% power and 3% speed. I attached the PDF files of the vector profiles I used.

Epilog contest: If I won the Zing laser I would put it to good use! I make a lot of videos with small mechanical objects (e.g., pens, toy guns) as the subject. The laser cutter would be super useful for making custom stands and jigs to hold parts together. I would also use it to replace opaque pieces or housings with clear acrylic so mechanical movements can be made obvious.

Step 1: Start With an Acrylic Bar 3/8" Thick

Step 2: Cut the Profile of the Piece.

Step 3: Cut Out a Box That Completely Surrounds the Piece.

Step 4: Remove Everything Within the Box.

Step 5: Examine the Part You Just Cut.

Step 6: Lay the Piece on Its Side.

Step 7: Remove the Top "padding".

The bottom padding holds the piece level. The top padding is not useful and only add more material for the laser to cut through.

Step 8: Place the Piece Back Into the Cut Out Box

Step 9: Cut the Profile Again.

Step 10: Remove the Piece Out of the Box Again.

Step 11: Enjoy Your New Miniature Pawn.

Step 12: Use the Same Procedure to Make the Other Pieces.

Step 13: The Front and Side Profiles Can Be the Same or Different.

Step 14: Several Views of the First Cutting Step of the Pawn.

Step 15: Several Views After the Second Cutting Step of the Pawn.

Step 16: Bishop // 1st Cut

Step 17: Bishop // 2nd Cut

Step 18: Queen // 1st Cut

Step 19: Queen // 2nd Cut

Step 20: King // 1st Cut

Step 21: King // 2nd Cut

Step 22: Rook // 1st Cut

For some reason I did not remove the padding before taking these photos.

Step 23: Rook // 2nd Cut

Step 24: Knight // 1st Cut

Step 25: Knight // 2nd Cut

Step 26: Etch the Surface of the Pieces to Create a Frosted Look.

I made these pieces in 2012 when I was a grad student in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Many thanks to my then-advisor Prof. Jennifer Lewis who always let me explore my creativity even it clearly had nothing to do with my graduate research.

Epilog Contest VII

First Prize in the
Epilog Contest VII

First Time Author Contest

Second Prize in the
First Time Author Contest