View Full Version : laser cut aluminum
12-06-2004, 03:27 PM
I am an artist working exclusively in cut paper. (check out http://www.chrisnatrop.com) My work gets quite large (+8 feet). A fancy art collector wants me to do what I do except in aluminum. I'm thinking that I should create the design and then have a machine laser cut the sheet of aluminum. The dimensions for this project is 78 x 54 inches. Is it possible to simply make a 100% scale cut paper mockup and have professionals handle the rest? I have never done anything like this before and do not know where to start or how it works. Any feedback or guidance would be very much appreciated. thank you, chris
12-06-2004, 07:06 PM
I looked at your site. Really interesting work.
I know about the laser cutting process and can say that it would be no problem for them to do what you want.
Also, water-jet cutting would be an option.
I did a quick search in your area and came up with http://alternativecuttingmethods.com/ for water-jet cutting.
If laser cutting is the way you want to go, search for Laser Cutting Services. I'm sure there are some out there.
If I come across any I'll link them here.
12-06-2004, 07:21 PM
I agree with oddist - This should be no problem with a laser or water-jet cutter, but finding the right person, and dealing with the cost probably will be the central issues.
BTW, I took a quick look at your site, viewing only "fern space burst", but I find the work excellent. This piece casts really interesting shadows.
As a separate issue, do you have problems with the paper curling, or how do you prevent this?
Your work enlivens space, light and shadow in intriguing ways. The installations would be wonderful to see in aluminum, though the use of paper itself adds tension because we know how delicate it is, and you have made the forms so intricate and seemingly fragile, yet there they are suspended in space.
I have a small aluminum horse cut from a sheet of aluminum with a waterjet that was given to me by a fabricator that used to be next door to my studio. It has the fineness you would want. The catch, though, for that type of waterjet (perhaps there are other technologies) is that the input was digital and I believe it's similar to CAD. A similar method of cutting a sheet of metal is with a CNC machine equipped with a plasma cutter (some people think of this as a laser, but it's not the same), which also relies on CAD-based input. I believe that this CAD input would be analogous to taking your freehand drawing and making a digital mechanical drawing of it. someone who is versant in CAD would have to do it for you. One strength of this method is that once the hurdle of the input has been dealt with, many exact copies can be made and the sheets are cut rapidly.
Another consideration is that the standard sheet size for many metals is 4' x 8'. You would need to design your components to fit within that size or you would also need to have someone weld the segments together. It seems that the biggest limitation of your plan will be the cost.
Please keep us updated on your progress with this. It is an interesting process.
12-06-2004, 08:57 PM
thank you oddist and fritchie! I appreciate your input and your compliments re my work. I will look into your suggestions. I'm mainly hoping that I can find someone how can use with my full scale cut paper mockup! Would they just scan it in or what? I guess I will find out.
fritchie, to answer your question: No I do not have a problem with my paper curling. I use heavy-weight acid-free rag-content drawing paper. Although it comes in a roll, the paper does not retain its memory for long, and especially after I cut thousands of holes into it!
12-06-2004, 09:09 PM
Great, thank you JAZ! The 4x8 size is a limitation I hadn't considered. Hmmmm, I will have to think about that one. welding to pieces together doesn't actually seem that eligant. And thanks for your other input regarding CAD. Fortunatly the collector I am working with is pretty mega and I think I can get a healthy budget out of them.Lots of stuff to think about...
12-07-2004, 06:09 AM
Scanning is probably the way they would go.
I found http://www.aqua-jet.com/capabilities/ that has both water jet and laser cutting capabilities up to 120 x 144.
As JAZ commented, sheet size may be the problem.
12-07-2004, 09:49 AM
Beautiful work, Chris. Maybe with this commission behind you, you'll find a whole 'nother world opened up for you. I agree the delicacy of the paper adds to their appeal, but I think they would look good outdoors as well.
And JAZ's point about the standard sheet size is a good observation.
12-07-2004, 11:40 AM
Did a little research...can get aluminum up to 60 x 144. All sorts of thicknesses...
12-08-2004, 09:44 AM
Thank you everybody for all your help! I will let you know if I have any other questions, and will keep you up to date on my progress. chris
I'm glad I'm wrong about the size! Ten points for you, Oddist.
Saw your work at SCOPE MIAMI. Very cool. Great possibilities for metal. The major technical issue is translating some of your more delicate pieces into a metal form that is structurally sound enough to support its own weight. If your using a heavy aluminum sheet 1/8" or more you'll probably be fine and will help reduce the sharp edge problem (think paper cuts are bad?). Of the cutting processes I would vote for water jet. It won't produce the heat that other ways might thereby softening the metal. The right facility can work with your full size mock-up, or if need be, scan it in sections (might need to cut it). Of course they could also scan a small mock up and blow up the size via comptuer. Don't rule out welding, spot welding or a mechanical attachment (rivet, tie, pin). Making smaller sections can help in transport, shipping and installation.
If it works for you, try experimenting with metal foils. The kitchen variety is very thin but you can get virtually any thickness from a metal supplier in a variety of alloys. Avoid the lead. There is also something called "shim stock" available at better hardware stores and industrial suppliers. Shim stock is typically comes in hardend and annealed forms and is available in various alloys: steel, stainless steel, brass, etc. and comes often in narrow rolls. Working with these might yield some clues as to what you might be in for when working with metal.
12-10-2004, 09:30 AM
That's cool, i'm glad you were at scope miami. (I sold all my stuff in the first day and a half!) One of those collectors wants me to do this aluminum project. Let me ask you this: what is the largest cut-paper mock-up you think I can have scanned? I had prefer to go 100%, but that probably is not feasable. Thank for your help!
Size limitation will depend on the capacity of available equipment of the company doing this for you. Hanks' laser cutting down the street will probably have less capacity than say, Boeing Aircraft. With enough cash most anything is possible. I would start making a few calls and find out what is available in your area and who would be willing to work with you. Many industrial service providers cringe when an artist comes waltzing through the door with "a fabulous idea". Sometimes it takes a few phone calls or visits to get to the right person you can communicate with. It is important to be precise and concise about what you want them to do for you so that you can successfully realize your vision and they can quickly get back to the important task of betting on the football pool and making widgets.
01-28-2005, 10:34 AM
Sorry for the late reply but I just got here. I do CNC plasma cutting so I work with the same type of files as a laser cutter does. It would be very difficult to work with a full size mock up since it simply won't fit in a normal size scanner. If you can do it in a small size that will fit on a typical flat bed scanner then your next and most important step is to find someone proficient in CAD drawing. The finished product will be only as good as the person who does the drawing. If you get that far and have them output it in a DXF file then when you go to a laser, waterjet or plasma cutting outfit they can simply open up the DXF file and see exactly what the job is.
(How many seperate cuts, total inches of cut and what size sheet.) The reason many cutting shops don't want to deal with artwork is that in this type of case it takes far more time to prepare the drawing than it does to do the actual cutting.
01-28-2006, 03:33 PM
Try Hanson steel services in Los Angeles. They have a great cad person in house. They will ship as well. I have worked for two sculptors and one that used hanson steel. The pattern that you would scan does not need to be to scale, they will scale it up to your final dimenstions.They have worked on many large and small projects all over the country and the world...very friendly people to work with....good luck.....they are in Santa fe Springs in Los Angeles area.
01-29-2006, 08:16 AM
"CO2 Laser CNC Laser Cutter/Engraver Kits"
(Not for cutting metal)
Price range around for full kits:
Wish I had some disposable income to burn :)
01-29-2006, 09:06 AM
One of my local steel fabrication shops use an abrasive water blaster to cut all thick aluminum (glass and stone too) and not their CNC Laser or CNC Plasma cutters.
78 x 54 inches is a size that most fabricators should be able to accomodate easily. The same local shop mentioned above has been taking those slotted wood dinosaur kits and upping the scale using 3/4" steel to 3', 6' and 12' tall.
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