I decided to make a functional, life-size, flat-pack chair using a laser cutter. As laser cutting and materials are expensive and the process can be time-consuming I wanted to make a small-scale model first in order to make sure that there is minimal wastage.
· laser cutter
· Adobe Illustrator CS4
Step 1: Designing
I started by making sketches of possible designs. While designing the chair I had to keep in mind the size limitations of the pieces as the laser cutter I would be using can only cut material up to 2” x 3”. Once I chose the sketch that I would use for my final design I took a quick photo of the sketch so that I could trace it in Adobe Illustrator.
Step 2: Creating Design in Illustrator
I opened up the design in Adobe Illustrator by opening up a new print document and choosing File>Place. I made this a “Template” by double-clicking on the layer and ticking the Template box. This makes the layer slightly transparent so that it acts more as a guide. Next I used the pen tool to recreate my sketch on Illustrator. With the help of this I developed the various pieces of the design that layer together to create the chair. The stroke size of the pen tool has to be 0.001 inches and the color has to be RGB black in order for the laser cutter to make the appropriate cut. I laid out the various pieces of the chair next to each other on a document. Also I had to make little circles on the pieces for where the wire would go through so that the laser cutter would cut a hole there. These have to line up for the chair to be able to be put together. I also made little donut-shaped pieces that have the same hole-size and were the same diameter as the pieces of the chair so that these would go in between the larger pieces to create the slotted wood aesthetic.
Step 3: Arranging the Pieces
I arranged the images of the various pieces of the chair on a document so that they were as close to each other as possible so that there wouldn’t be excess wastage of the materials. I also had to make sure that the proper number of each piece was on the document, but I wasn't sure exactly how the chair would turn out as this is just a model so I put extra pieces in my document. But if I were to create this full size I would have to count the specific amount of each piece so that I wouldn't be wasting materials and tooling time.
Step 4: Laser Cutting
I saved the Illustrator file as a .pdf and submitted it to be cut on the laser cutting machine. The wood was put in place inside the machine and it was started up. The laser cutter cut my pieces out within about 20 minutes.
Step 5: Putting It Together
This resulted in lots of little pieces of the chair that had black charred edges from the laser. Then I just had to put all the pieces together. I used wire to do so.
First, I bent the end of the piece of wire with small pliers so that the piece wouldn't fall off the end of the wire and so that I would not poke myself. Between each large piece of the chair I put one of the donut shaped pieces that I cut out so that it would create slots.
Step 6: Finishing It Up
The pieces of the chair could be arranged in numerous ways but I decided to use the pieces with arm rests at the sides (x2) with the donuts in between the arm rest pieces at every point except the bottom one where you can see I put the base. After that I used the donuts in between and then the piece that has the seat and base support (which is pictured in step 5). Then I used the donuts and the base pieces on the bottom and used 4 pieces that just have the back rest and seat with donuts in between. Once the wire reached the other end and my chair was put together I just bent the end of the wire.
From making the model I've realized that the 4 base pieces need to be attached with another piece of wood the the back of the chair somehow because it will clearly tip over otherwise. Also the chair appears to be very wide so I would change the side pieces slightly. This model helped though to realize my design so that the full scale chair will be appropriate and safe.