In the Chicago Public Library Maker Lab, your ideas are made real with free software, lasers, electronic cutting tools, plastic and drill bits. Since we opened last Monday, we have held four laser-cut keychain workshops, three workshops for YOUmedia teens, a jewelry making workshop, and a no-tech make and take for little makers. We’ve had visitors from Chicago and beyond with great questions, so we’ll tackle some here post by post.
What’s in the Maker Lab?
The lab is equipped with 12 laptops and four types of computer controlled equipment to make your designs: the Makerbot Replicator 2, the Full Spectrum Hobby Laser, the Silhouette CAMEO and the Shapeoko milling machine.
What happens in a Maker Lab workshop?
You’ll follow a guided workshop from start to finish. Keychains are a great introduction to Inkscape, a vector graphics editor, and the Full Spectrum Hobby Laser. Instruction time is between 30 and 45 minutes, and all designs are previewed and cut in another 30 to 45 minutes.
- In Inkscape, we use the circle, square and text tool to lay out a keychain, then head over to the laser cutter to etch and cut it. We preview your file in Inkscape and RetinaEngrave, the laser cutter’s software, to make sure the keychain is etched and cut the way you intended, and we figure out what went wrong if the preview shows something different.
- The actual engraving and cutting happens in under five minutes, and you can watch the laser beam fill in a design line by line, then trace the outline. This is called rastering or etching and vectoring or cutting.
- After you’ve cut your keychain, we’ll direct you to a survey that will help us determine the value of the space and workshops. Your opinion matters!
At the moment workshops are full through August. We’ll soon be adding more workshops for vinyl cutting and 3D printing. If you’re nearby, stop by this Saturday during Open Shop to ask questions, preview software and meet your future collaborators.