CNC and Machining, Creative, Engineering

Engraving Aluminum

I wanted to see if it was a good idea to engrave soft metals. Turns out, it’s a great idea. Not only is it easy, but also incredibly fast.

Even better is creating gcodes. In fusion 360, even though there is an option for engraving, it is not possible to use this with an engraving tool, because engraving is still considered milling by the software.

An easy way to get around that is by using the Trace option. And since I was using a simple sketches, it was extremely convenient to select the tool-paths. It is actually easy to engrave 2D sketches by using the trace option, rather than the engrave option. Engrave option is good only if you need a bit of a depth.

My choice of material was aluminum, and yes, they are dog tags.

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I had to trace twice on the othermill because of the uneven arrangement of the material, yet it still took only about 25 seconds for each trace, i.e. both the sides were engraved in less than 2 minutes!

No, I did not speed up the video.

CNC and Machining, Creative

Tree puns

When I milled the piece of plywood and the sheet of aluminum, it was all to make this. I call it ‘Symmetree’, mostly because I like puns. You can see it etched on both the wood and aluminum. Almost everything in this design has something to do with trees.

The outer edge is a piece of laser cut acrylic in which the design is tightly fit. The reason why it looks glossy is because it has a few coats of polyurethane.

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CNC and Machining, Creative, Engineering

Aluminum Tree

As shown previously, Aluminum is a relatively soft metal, and it can be milled easily. This time, it is  a 4 in. x 4 in. sheet of aluminum. I simply used a previous dxf file created for milling plywood, and reused the same gcode.

The process took only about 30 minuted to mill, and the output was clean, even though I had used a 1/16 in. ball end mill tool. Had I used a smaller sized tool, it would have been much more precise, but it would have definitely taken hours to finish the job.

Here is the time lapse video of the process. There is a bit of engraving at the end, but it is not very satisfying. I will make another one showcasing the engraving soon.

2D designs, Creative


Laser cutters have lenses which are responsible for focusing the laser onto the surface of the material to be engraved. Unfortunately, someone did not use the Epilog Fusion M2, and broke its lens.

Oddly, the lens is a yellow and has a shiny coating on it. When the lens broke, it looked like a spider trapped inside some kind of a crystal.

It looked like amber, but not fossilized. Copal is a resin from different trees, and just like amber, it can have small insects or objects trapped inside it. However, the difference is that copal is not fossilized, and hence cheaper. I made  a simple design using illustrator so that the clear acrylic only melts instead of getting engraved and leaving a residue after the engraving. I also made vector cut circles, so that I can used nuts and bolts to keep the entire thing within the two pieces of acrylic.

And thus, a “copal” was encased.

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CNC and Machining, Creative

Milling and surface finishing wood

Wood is a beautiful material for milling. It is possible to mill any type of wood because of its relative softness when compared with the milling tools.

This time, I tried working with plywood. The unfortunate thing about working with a desktop CNC machine is the size of the spoilboard. Because of the thickness of the material, it is not possible to mill without using brackets, and this reduces the size of spoilboard significantly.

After laser cutting a 1/4th of an inch thick plywood sheet to a size of 4″x4″, I placed it on the spoilboard with a bracket. However, I did not use any double sided tape to see if the bracket would hold. And yes, it did hold the material in its place without causing trouble. Another reason for not using tape is because I did not want any sticky residue on the wood, as I was planning to mill both sides.

By this time, it is obvious that I’m still continuing to use OtherMill and Autodesk Fusion 360. I decided to get a DXF image of a tree and created a GCODE. The primary difference is the the tool. For the first time, I decided to use a 1/16th of an inch ball end mill tool (I also tried the same with a 1/16th of an inch flat end mill).

The ball end mill gave a better finish than the flat end mill. I have some place plans for this piece of milled wood.

3D Objects, Creative

3D Printing Springs

Springs are elastic objects made of metals, most times, spring steel. A project that my team was working on needed a spring to create a compression and extension action. 

Unfortunately, when a cylindrical part meant to be used with the spring was designed, it had dimensions larger than the standard spring sizes available. We had already begun printing the cylindrical part, so there was no going back (as we were using a high-end 3D printer). So we decided to print a spring!

The spring design was made using Rhino, as it has a simple function that can make helical shapes and make them into solid pipes. And, if you think about it, a spring, is actually a solid helix shaped pipe.

Printing a spring would mean taking into account for its flexibility. Using regular materials like PLA or ABS will make the spring rigid. So we used a non-standard material which was flexible and strong: Thermoplastic Polyurethane, commonly known as TPU. A completely solid infill print on TPU with support structure will make the spring looks like this when it has finished printing:

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The only annoying thing about using this is the removal of the support material. Otherwise, the print comes out pretty good. It might look a bit messy, but it is good enough to be a low fidelity spring for rapid prototyping. The final prototype kind of reminds me of a slinky 🙂

The black one was a test and the transparent one was the improved version.

For the spring in action, check this video:

3D Objects, CNC and Machining, Creative

A maze of ABS

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a widely available thermoplastic. You can usually find them in legos.

While continuing my test of materials on OtherMill, this time, I decided to try ABS. The material is pretty soft, and can be milled easily. Unfortunately I could not find a block of ABS, so I printed one on a Mojo (much to the dismay of many).

I created a design for a Maze on Adobe illustrator, exported it into a DXF file, and extruded it into a 3D model, and made a GCODE file out of it.

Fixturing an object on the OtherMill can become tedious of the surfaces are not flat. Since my block of ABS was printed, it was quite flat and, only using double sided tape and a bracket with some fastners did the trick. The entire milling process took about 29 minutes (OtherPlan has a tendency to lie when it displays the milling time, because it said about 42 minutes).

I only have the video of how the milling ended (because a 30 minutes long video is what we want but not what we need)

Clearly, the machine can be very messy. But that’s why it needs to be closed while using.

Above is the final ABS maze. Below are images of the finished product.


CNC and Machining, Creative

More Clear Acrylic – Same things made using two kinds of machines

Got another chance to mill clear acrylic into a few  key chains. This time they are less bluer, but thinner than the previous ones (about 3.175 mm or 0.125 in thick). Milling gives away really clear surfaces rather than burnt ones.

On Laser cutters, the texts are engraved by, again,  burning the surface. The flat end mill can make the surface look more transparent than laser engraving. It is true that milling will make a transparent acrylic surface into translucent. But the finish is cleaner than the laser cut surface.

These images shows that it is not possible to deeply engrave acrylic using a laser cutter, but a CNC machine can do the job just fine! The key-chain on the top is made using the CNC macine, and the other two using the laser cutter.

3D Objects, CNC and Machining, Creative, Engineering

Jansen Linkage

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to use a laser cutter to cut acrylic rather than using a small desktop CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine to tediously mill it to a desired shape?

Well, the answer is not obvious to sometime who doesn’t care about having unfinished edges.

The difference becomes more obvious when using transparent acrylic. Using a laser cutter, melts the acrylic, leading to the “cut” sides to look more or less like melted plastic, and opaque. Using a CNC machine, on the other hand, gives it a smooth and nearly transparent (usually it’s translucent). Check the image below and you can see the finish.


I decided to make a Jansen linkage model using clear acrylic, a piece of cardboard and some 3D printed parts.

I used Autodesk Fusion 360 to design the shapes and linkages, and also create a gcode file thought is CAM component. Finally, I used an OtherMill to mill them using a 1/16 inch flat end mill. The results were spectacular. The milled surfaces were smoother than any any piece of acrylic cut using a laser cutter.

The brown cardboard was etched and cut using a laser cutter. And the silver pins were 3D printed on an Ultimaker, using an STL file created using SolidWorks. The image of the final prototype is below:


It doesn’t make sense to have a fixed Jansen Linkage model. The whole purpose of having it is to make it look like it is walking. Connecting two or more of these models can make it look like it is walking with more legs.

Here, check it out in the video:


Creative, Engineering, Interactive Design

Graveyard Escape- The Game controlled using Wearable Tech

The term project of my Costumes as Game Controllers class had an awesome team of 4. There were two more teams. My team mates were Olivia, Samvid, and Yuan (White)

While our instructor had given us a task of watching a movie among a few choices (Our team chose The Fifth Element) to learn about how costumes impact emotions. After watching the movie, we were asked to write down a list of emotions. All students wrote down the emotions. We had to pick one emotion, based on which we had to build an entire game that used costumes as it’s game controllers. The emotion we got was:


Yes, we were upset the we got that as our topic. We then had to do mind mapping, a way of generating words that somehow connect with “upset”

We came up with so many words that had even the slightest of connection with the word: sad, crying, suicide, murder, death, graveyards etc. There were also words that had nothing to do with the word: education, college, crows, gambling etc. The most tangential word we got was


How about making a game that begins sad and ends happy? No! That is too much of a cliche. Well, then there could be a factor of choice, begin with sad and end with sad or happy, deepening on the choice. That is what we did with our game:

 Graveyard Escape

 The entire game was made as a choice for one man who had to get out of the graveyard where he was trapped.

The story is pretty long and had to be divided into three acts. In the first act, the man was transformed into a cat, in the second, a crow.

The game began with a simple ritual of placing flowers in front of a gravestone, as in the image below. Conductive fabric was used to make this mechanism.

The game was played using a cat paw glove on one hand, and a black crow wing on another. The claw was used to attack the enemies on the ground, and the wing was used to fly. Below is an image of our instructor trying out the costume game controller.


Finally, the images of a user testing the game while wearing the costume (the game was made using unity):