Introduction: Laser Cut Shirt

About: I like building things, and teaching people to build things [although more of the latter than the former. This came up at the hackerspace the other night. Helping people with their projects just means I get …
My sister and I headed down to heatsync labs in Mesa, AZ this morning to try out the laser cutter on some t-shirts!

(By the way?  Do you think this is cool?  Do you think huge LASERS are cool?  Check out this contest that instructables is running right now:  -- Grand prize is a laser exactly like the one we used on this project!  My favorite machine in the lab!  <3  Enter that contest!)

The effect is really cool, like a lace, except part of the shirt itself.  We found that a 5% polyester/95% cotton blend worked best.  The polyester seems to melt at the edges of the cuts, sealing them against fraying.

Cotton works as well, but care has to be taken not to fray the edges of the cuts.

See: lace.dxf if you want to cut one of these for yourself!


Step 1: Gather Your Materials

As usual, first gather up all of your materials.  For this we're using a 5% polyester/95% cotton blend t-shirt.

We also grabbed a piece of cardboard out of the scrap heap to keep the shirt rigid while we cut it.

Step 2: Cover the Collar With Something

My sister's pattern would transit her shirt's collar with the laser on, which is a problem.  Rather than try to custom fit the pattern to the shirt, we decided to just cover the collar with something that the laser wouldn't cut through.  (Cover the collar with something so the laser couldn't touch it)

Our first thought was plywood.  The problem with this was that our laser has a "whisker" for zeroing the z-axis.  Unfortunately, the whisker travels really close to the material while cutting, and this meant that it would catch on the plywood.  NO GOOD!

Instead we decided to cover it with LOTS of tape (5 layers) and hope it worked.

It did.  If your laser has room for it, do plywood, otherwise tape will work.

(You can see the tape in step 4.  We forgot to take a photo of it, OOPS!  In it's place, please enjoy this photo of me operating a bandsaw.  This was for the piece of plywood we didn't end up using.)

Step 3: Tape the Edges of the Shirt

Stretch the shirt so that it is tight against the cardboard, and tape the edges back.

Step 4: Load the Laser Cutter

We taped the cardboard/shirt down so that it wouldn't jostle around, and set the laser to work!

Our settings were:

Speed: 50mm/s
Power: 16watts

This seemed to work really well!  Our 5 layers of tape also protected the collar!  Hooray!

Step 5: The Result

The result was really nice.  Towards the top right, unfortunately, we cut the collar a bit :(.

Oops!  This was because we started the cut at much too high of a power!

Step 6: Try It On!

Here's the final result!
Fashion Contest

Second Prize in the
Fashion Contest