High-Power, Highly-Flexible Laser Cutter for CBE/UW Students
MACHINERY AND RESEARCH. As digital fabrication assumes a central role in the creation of models, prototypes, and finished products both here at the UW and in industry, students need access to such equipment to gain experience that will help them to be successful in their professions. The College of Built Environments has provided laser cutter access to the roughly 750 students in the College - as well as to appropriately-trained UW students generally - for over a decade, and currently operates three medium-format units (two in CBE studios, one generally available to any UW student who has been trained by fabrication lab staff). We seek to add a high-power, highly flexible laser cutter - both to address very strong demand (our current generally-accessible laser cutter is often scheduled 24/7) and to add new capabilities that will be very useful to students.
The proposed laser cutter would become part of CBE's existing fabrication facility, augmenting a substantial infrastructure of digital and conventional tools for design and making. It would be used by students to create models, prototypes, and actual elements of furniture, buildings, and hardscapes.
Digital fabrication is becoming increasingly important to professional practice in the disciplines of the College of Built Environments (Architecture, Construction Management, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design & Planning). Modeling, prototyping, and creating actual elements of products, buildings, landscapes and infrastructure are tasks integral to student learning through direct experience, allowing students to experiment with formal, functional, and tactile design considerations. The College has a long-standing tradition of making and craft at all levels, and has helped students develop skills that enable them to produce outstanding work and research.
In recent years, the College has invested heavily in up-to-date digital design and fabrication technologies to augment an outstanding infrastructure of conventional tools for design and making. At the same time, efforts have been made to contact and work with other units on campus to establish working relationships, share digital tools, and promulgate standard procedures to make it easy for students from different units to successfully access and engage digital fabrication technologies across departments.
The College would like to purchase a larger, more powerful and flexible laser cutter to enhance the work that is being done across the College and University. We currently have three medium-format 60-watt laser cutters that see very heavy use throughout the year, including over breaks and holidays. Two of these laser cutters are located in studios that are accessible only to CBE students, and one is located in a location that is accessible to all users. It is in this latter location that we propose to install the new laser cutter.
The medium-format laser cutter that is currently in this generally accessible location would be moved to a new accessible location on the third floor of Gould Hall, where it will address the burgeoning needs of the roughly 100 students in the nearby Landscape Architecture studio, while also being available to other trained students.
Benefits to Students and the University
Laser cutters are used for etching and cutting a wide variety of materials, from paper and card stock to rubber, acrylic, leather and wood products. The products made using a laser cutter are used within the College to build site and topographic models, building models, furniture and building component prototypes, jigs and templates for working with other machines and/or techniques, signage and publicity materials. The laser cutters have become an integral part of introductory courses in the College in digital design, in studio courses, and in all courses engaged with making activities, from Furniture Design Studios to Design/Build studios and seminars, Materials courses, Responsive Environments courses, and more. They are also frequently used for projects outside the College ranging from making full-scale mockups of proposed Boeing cockpit parts in the School of Art to proposed medical devices being developed by Medical research units. The accessible laser cutter in Gould Hall is frequently reserved 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
A larger, more powerful, and flexible laser cutter will provide a dramatic improvement for students by providing an easily-accessed tool with increased capabilities. The proposed machine will have a significantly larger format than any other on campus, providing enhanced capabilities for trained students in all departments. In addition, the combination of both 35-watt and 70-watt laser tubes will allow finer cutting (in the 35-watt mode) of regular materials, and successful cutting of thin, delicate materials that often do not cut well with our current 60-watt lasers. In combined mode the 105 total wattage will cut thicker materials, and will also cut typical materials significantly more quickly. This will allow more realistic building components to be produced, and will also cut down the cycle time between prototyping.
An additional, indirect benefit is that we would move the existing 60-watt, medium-format laser cutter at this location to another location in Gould Hall. It would remain available to all laser cutter users, thus adding to our overall capacity to serve student demand.
The new location would be near the Landscape Architecture studio, which would allow us to address a longstanding need to provide a laser cutter close to where Landscape Architecture students are working, enabling them to more rapidly iterate their design ideas. The vast majority of Landscape students now use laser cutters throughout the academic quarter and extensively as each quarter draws to a close. At the same time, enrollment in the Landscape Architecture department has grown significantly in recent years. These factors have led to a steep increase in laser cutter use by Landscape Architecture students, a demand which we would effectively address by placing a laser cutter near the Landscape studio.
In sum, the benefits to students of adding a larger, more powerful, more flexible laser cutter to CBE’s digital fabrication facility include:
Greater access to tools that have proven to be the workhorses of many departments
Increased safety as more users move from cutting with blades (knives and saws) to cutting with lasers
Greater precision, greater speed, increased abilities to cut both thicker and more delicate materials
Potential for overlap of students from different areas of campus as they come to use a universally-accessible tool
Support for the growth of the digital-design/fabrication culture on campus.
Closer alignment of laser cutter resources with student demand, improving the quality of student work and learning
Increased access to laser cutter time, so students will be more likely to be able to get time on a laser cutter when they need it
1. Student Access
a. How many students will utilize this technology? All of the roughly 750 students in the College of Built Environments - plus any UW student who has been trained by CBE Fabrication Lab personnel - are eligible to use the equipment.
b. How will students hear about, and locate, this technology? Through CBE student orientations, announcements in CBE studio classes, college web site, presentations, emails to students, word-of-mouth. Non-CBE students find out about the technology via announcements in their studio classes (e.g. Art), and by participation in CBE's CAD/CAM/CAFE, a weekly open forum for people involved in digital fabrication across campus.
2. Departmental Support and Responsibility
a. Will the project have necessary access to UW or departmental infrastructure (including security, maintenance, power, water, sewer, Internet/WiFi, insurance, or other needs for full operation)? Yes. The equipment will be housed in Gould Hall, which has an extensive physical infrastructure. Insurance coverage will be provided by UW Equipment Insurance, and will be funded by the College.
b. Does the project have the necessary support, maintenance, and administrative staff to effectively serve users? Yes. Training for and maintenance of the laser cutter would be provided by roughly 2 FTE of CBE Fabrication Lab personnel, who currently provide support and training for the Lab's equipment. Computing-wise, the project would be supported by CBE's Computing organization. Student computing in CBE is supported by 2 FTE of technical staff plus approximately 2 FTE of student help desk staff. Other College technical staff members are available to provide additional and/or specialized support as needed.
c. How accessible will support staff be to the students utilizing the technology (i.e. by email, phone, onsite, etc.)? By email, phone, and onsite. Staff are on duty roughly 8am - 7pm weekdays, and are frequently in Gould Hall on weekends. The email help address is monitored nearly 24/7, so critical issues can be addressed even if no-one is on duty.
a. Are there broader impacts to funding this technology beyond the proposal's primary use? Yes. CBE students will use this technology to support their design and fabrication work. This work frequently takes the form of collaborative projects among students, often involving project stakeholders and community members. So the impacts are actually quite broad, encompassing students' individual and group work as well as reputation-enhancing work with the wider community.
b. Is the money in the budget apportioned in a sensible way that will satisfy the intended needs for the target population? Yes. The proposed laser cutter uses a technology with which we are quite familiar. Its features extend significantly the range of operations students will be able to perform, in ways that address specific student needs.
c. Will the successful execution of this project significantly benefit UW students in the long-term? Yes. Work in our disciplines involves collaborative design and frequent prototyping. It is extremely important for CBE students to develop great facility with this mode of working. A highly-capable laser cutter is an invaluable tool for prototyping and developing designs, learning to incorporate such tools effectively into the design/prototype/production workflow will be of significant benefit to UW students.
d. Are the requested technologies appropriate for the project's intended uses? Yes. The goal of the project is to provide both expanded laser cutter capacity and capability to CBE and other trained UW students. The proposed laser cutter exactly meets this goal.
e. Are there other resources on campus that fulfill this need? No. Highly-capable laser cutters are specialized tools, and aren't generally available on campus.
a. Does the project bring significant attention to the UW and/or your department in some way? Yes, in two major ways: First, it is an expression of CBE's commitment to providing students with the tools they need to make the best possible use of their time here. Access to sophisticated tools with which students need to become familiar is part of this. A reputation for concern about students and commitment to their success is one of the distinguishing features of the College of Built Environments, relative to other such schools in the US. Second, the work produced by students, some of which would be done with this tool, is displayed in public reviews and presentations, and furniture produced by students here is entered into regional and national competitions. The additional capabilities provided by this laser cutter would allow new kinds of work to be created, thus enhancing the UW's and CBE's reputation.
b. Does the project provide students with the tools necessary to achieve academic success in their classes and coursework? Yes. More access and more capability - both of which would be provided by this laser cutter - would translate directly into more student success in classes and coursework.
c. Does the technology provide students with the tools necessary to conduct independent research, research for in-class projects, design projects, competitions, and graduate level research? Yes. This laser cutter would be used for all of these purposes. Students in CBE have a long history of doing research, projects, and competitions involving the creation of objects from award winning furniture to site models. With its greater power, material handling capacity, and flexibility, this laser cutter would substantially enhance our students work.
5. Machinery and Research Category Metrics:
a. Will the project enable new forms of innovation and research? Yes. Many features of the laser cutter we propose to purchase are not available on any other equipment in the College, and are not readily accessible elsewhere on campus. Examples include dual lasers (offering a variety of beam characteristics), rotary table (making it possible to process cylindrical objects), pass-through module (allowing processing of objects of arbitrary length), and the camera registration module (making it easy to move from hand-drawn ideas to fabricated parts). All of these features would expand the range of innovation and research available to students.
b. Are there domain specific reasons to fund this project above and beyond those listed on this rubric? Yes. Digital fabrication is becoming increasingly important in the disciplines of CBE - for modeling and prototype creation as well as the development and production of finished objects. To help our students acquire the skills and experience they need to be competitive in the professions, we need to provide access to modern, highly-capable fabrication tools.
c. Is this machinery typically unavailable to students? Yes, this equipment is typically unavailable to students. CBE currently has medium-format laser cutters available to CBE students (one of which is also available to UW students generally who have been trained by CBE Fabrication Lab staff). But our current equipment doesn't have any of the advanced features, power, or flexibility of the laser cutter we propose to purchase.
I have carefully read all three proposals and strongly support all three. Providing access to state-of-the-art equipment is critical to our ability to provide a quality educational experience to our students. Upgrading and expanding our existing equipment loaner set of equipment is needed to support our increased enrollment within the college. The laser cutter and robot arm system represent significant enhancement to our digital fabrication capabilities.
Dean, College of Built Environments
I highly endorse the proposal for a High-Power Laser Cutter. The Department of Architecture has a very urgent need for a more powerful and larger laser cutter. The laser cutters are in high demand and we would benefit greatly from a more powerful laser cutting tool.
Chair, Department of Architecture
It is my great pleasure to endorse the proposal "High-Power, Highly-Flexible Laser Cutter for CBE/UW Students" to acquire a new larger and more flexible laser cutter for the use of students in the CBE and across the university and to move an existing laser cutter to a space adjacent to the Landscape Architecture studios. As the proposal points out, digital fabrication is becoming an increasingly important aspect of design education. At the same time, there is also growing technological capacity amongst students that supports the innovative processes of digital fabrication. The acquisition of a new laser cutter and the relocation of the existing laser cutter will benefit our students significantly and contribute greatly to their learning experience at UW. It will inspire and facilitate innovations and creativity in ways we haven't seen before in our design studios. This proposal has the Landscape Architecture Department's full endorsement.
Jeff Hou, PhD, ASLA
Chair, Landscape Architecture
I endorse these proposals, I particularly like how the proposals put technology into students' hands. This enables our students to learn by doing.
Chair, Construction Management
The equipment would be ordered as soon as funds became available in July, and would be processed and deployed upon arrival,
so would be in place for the start of Autumn Quarter, 2015.
Resources Provided by Department
The CBE Fabrication Lab has roughly two FTE of technical staff available to provide training, support, and maintenance of laser cutters and other fabrication tools in CBE. The computing equipment associated with this proposal would be supported by the CBE Computing organization, which has 2 FTE of technical staff and roughly 2 FTE of student help desk staff dedicated to the support of student computing in the College.
Ongoing maintenance, operations, and support costs associated with this proposal would be covered by the CBE Fabrication Lab and CBE Computing operations budgets, as appropriate. These budgets are sufficient to cover ongoing costs associated with this proposal.
Access Restrictions (if any)
Use of the laser cutter would be restricted to those who have been trained by CBE Fabrication Lab personnel. Training sessions are typically offered several times per quarter. The laser cutter would be accessible to CBE students 24/7, and to trained UW students outside of CBE during regular building hours for Gould Hall (currently Mon-Thu 8am-9pm, Fri 8am-5pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-5pm).
Great idea! I like that the old laser cutter would be moved to the third floor.
Master of Urban Planning (MUP) Candidate | Class of 2015
Although I believe that all of these proposals for bringing new technology and equipment to the College of Built Environments are well thought (and are all much needed!), I am especially excited about the proposal for bringing a new laser cutter to the school. I have seen the use and excitement around the CBE laser cutters really blossom during my time here, and it seems that with our current means, the cutters we have are barely able to keep up with the demand for them. Also, I think that at the moment, with all of the re-certification going on, there is no better time to bring a new piece of equipment into use. Everyone with access to the machines has an updated understanding of safety and usage policies, and since the beginning of the year it has been noticeable how well they have been treated by the student body. Everyone in the school respects them as investments, and is grateful for having the privilege to get to use them. Finally, having the added ability of higher power, new material options, and an open format where larger pieces could be cut would make this machine even more valuable to the school and would only enhance the possibilities of the various projects students could use the cutter for. We would all love to see this proposal become a reality!
I support the expansion and update of laser cutting technology in the proposal for a High-Power, Highly-Flexible Laser Cutter for CBE/UW Students
I strongly support the need for another laser cutter. It would reduce stress for students tremendously by providing another source for cutting. During finals, laser time is hard to come by and this would greatly improve student life.
Undergraduate Landscape Architecture
I fully support all of these proposals. With technology being increasingly used more and more, it is useful that the students of the CBE college have the resources available to perform at the best of their ability. I am specifically interested in funding for the new laser cutter. Being in the landscape architecture major, it will be extremely useful for creating our 3-d models. These can be really large because we include context and therefore time consuming to cut, but with the new laser cutter it seems the task would be done more efficiently.
As a landscape student the laser cutter is essential for building design models that are exact, clean, and professional. The laser cutter also allows us to produce models in a rapid manner. It's so well used and liked that during the last few weeks of class it is close to impossible to book a time with the current cutter. Adding another cutter could greatly alleviate this congestion thus making our education less stressful.
I support the laser cutter upgrade and relocation. This would be a great asset to our studio and would encourage us to learn explore the technology with more ease. Thanks!
The College of Built Environments has outgrown the current equipment for laser cutting, and a new machine will equip students learning fabrication in architecture for the inevitable growth of that sector for the following few years.
Thank you for all your work on figuring this out and drafting the proposals. It would be great if this gets approved. I fully support this proposal.
I am writing to extend my support of these proposals, and to affirm the necessity of such investments for our education. Our ability to use emerging technologies, to explore and create using these tools, is central to our progress and preparation for modern architectural practice. Our limited time in school is our primary opportunity to push boundaries, to research and discover, and we cannot accomplish this without tools that are also pushing the boundaries of building and modeling technology. I hope this can be seen as one of many small steps towards making the CBE at UW a powerful source of contemporary architectural innovation in the Pacific Northwest.
Having access to high quality equipment is essential to the success of students in the College of Built Environments. I'm excited to work with the laser cutter, go-pros and the robot arm!
Master of Urban Planning 2016
I believe these upgrades are vital to the department. As students and young designers exposure to new resources (and the necessary upgrading of existing ones) are essential for helping us push ourselves and our disciplines. I also think of it as important to the College itself so that it can continue to sustain its reputation as a first class institution.
Keeping pace with technology is not just an exercise in technological vanity, but a necessary part of today's world. This is particularly true to the CBE where design and the worlds it creates operate at the intersection of the humanities and technology.
I'm writing to express my support for the CBE Student Tech Fee grant proposals. One of the highlights of UW CBE is the access students have to all the digital tools. Improving student access to digital tools and expanding the palette of digital tools can only make the CBE a better place to study. It will also make the CBE more attractive to potential applicants.
Mark Baratta has shown great initiative in his proposals for upgrading student technology resources at the College of Built Environments.
The most exciting proposals include a new laser cutter, drastically improving the capabilities of the CBE's current device.
I support the 3 proposals outlined by Mr. Baratta. I believe it is in the CBE's, and the students who use our facilities, best interest to see these projects come to life. Please extend support to these 3 proposals.
As a concurrent MLA and MUP student, I fully this request. The college desperately needs upgraded tech equipment. The loaner computers are painfully slow and weaken our education. An upgraded laser cutter would be very useful, as well as having a laser cutter for the LArch studio.
Thanks so much,
Master of Landscape Architecture / Master of Urban Planning
I think that our expectations of the UW is to have high quality functional equipment and the cameras, laptops, and other resources that do not meet that standard should be addressed. Part of why I chose UW over other schools I got into was the college's commitment to being on the cutting edge of technology and therefore I support investment to support that culture.
I am particularly supportive of the addition of cameras for student use and the addition of a laser cutter to the school's equipment. Enabling students to make multi-media presentations and easing the backup of laser cutter use will do wonders!
Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate
Master of Urban Planning 2015, University of Washington
I want to show my emphatic support of the following proposals to improve aspects of technology throughout the College of Built Environments. Specifically the proposals for equipment loaner upgrades and expansion, as well as for a high power laser cutter. These are technologies that are well used, in high demand and key to the success of myself and other students in the college.
Kenna Patrick, MLA
I am writing in strong support of the proposals put forth to advance the competitiveness of the College of Built Environments. All of these technology upgrades are vital in order for students to have continued success learning new cutting edge skills that are expected in the job market today.
I am most supportive of the second proposal which provides funds to buy and house a new laser cutter. This should be a first priority for the college as it is high on students. The current laser cutter is over worked and is tough to find open times, a second laser cutter would solidify us as a technologically proficient program.
I whole heartedly support these proposals and think they are very necessary for the CBE.
I apologize for not being able to write at length, but I want to express my support for these proposals. All three would be wonderful additions to the College's digital curriculum, and I fully endorse student technology funds being used to do so.
Technology in the College of Built Environments is fundamental to what we do, and having the best possible resources on hand is a must. Even those of us who don't use many of the machines as often as others can appreciate the value of having efficient and fully functional equipment in our libraries, labs and workshops. The vitality and creativity of the College as a whole depends on our ability to remain on the cutting edge, and we all benefit from that, no matter what or how we study.
Daniel Coslett, BE Ph.D. Candidate
I would like to agree with this proposal for new tools within the college.
I support all the proposals.
You have my whole-hearted approval on all three proposals. The notion of accommodating a laser cutter in the LA studio to afford those students more equitable access to the machine currently shared with Arch is also an excellent idea.
Thank you for the thought and time you put into these proposals on behalf of CBE students -- it is very much appreciated!
Catherine M.C. Silva
MUP/MPA Candidate, 2015
As a graduate student of CBE, UW, I think those proposals of new equipment will definitely help the students in many ways. They are also important to help CBE, UW keep pace with other architecture schools around the nation and to take the college's education into a new level.
Universal Laser Systems ILS 12.75 platform
This is the base system for the laser cutter, including electronic and mechanical subsystems, enclosure, and control units.
ULS Focusing Lens Kit 2.0" for ILS Platform
This lens kit provides part of the optical train for the laser cutter. Lens kits are sold separately from the base platform, since there are several lens options. This one is a general-purpose lens kit, useful for a variety of materials and operations.
ULS 75 Watt CO2 Laser
This is one of two lasers used in the laser cutter. The combination of this higher-power laser with the second lower-power laser provides great flexibility in power and beam characteristics. (These lasers are binary devices - they're either on or off. Varying power levels are achieved by changing a given laser's duty cycle, so for example a 75 watt laser run at a 2/3 duty cycle would have an average power over time of 50 watts. However, whenever it's on, it's on at a full 75 watts, with the relatively broad beam characteristic of a 75 watt laser.)
ULS 30 Watt CO2 Laser
This is one of two lasers used in the laser cutter. The combination of this medium-power laser with the second higher-power laser provides great flexibility in power and beam characteristics. (These lasers are binary devices - they're either on or off. Varying power levels are achieved by changing a given laser's duty cycle, so for example a 30 watt laser run at a 50% duty cycle would have an average power over time of 15 watts. However, whenever it's on, it puts out 30 watts.)
ULS ILS Dual Laser Kit
The dual laser kit provides the additional mechanism and electronics to merge the beams from the two lasers in this system.
ULS Downdraft Cutting Table for ILS 12.75
The downdraft table draws air from above and around the part being cut, through the honeycomb table, and out the exhaust system. This quickly removes smoke from the cutting area, providing a smoother cut and reducing the risk of smoke fogging the lenses and mirrors in the optical train.
ULS Air Assist Cone for ILS 2.0 Lens
The air assist cone directs air at the cutting site, improving exhaust system performance and beam clarity, and reducing the risk of smoke fogging the optical elements.
ULS Class 4 Pass-Through Module for ILS (allows processing of long objects)
The class 4 pass-through module provides interlocks and material handling machinery to allow parts larger than the laser cutter to be safely processed.
ULS Traveling Exhaust for ILS 12
The traveling exhaust module works in conjunction with other exhaust systems (downdraft table, air assist cone) to keep the optical path clear of smoke, thus improving cut quality and reducing risk of damage to the optical train's mirrors and lenses.
ULS Rotary Fixture for ILS 12
The rotary fixture makes it possible for the cutter to work on cylindrical objects. This significantly increases the usefulness of the cutter in our disciplines, since students often want to build models and parts that are most easily decomposed into cylindrical (rather than planar) shapes.
ULS Camera Registration Module for ILS 12
The camera registration module makes it easy for students to develop a design on paper, which can be directly used by the laser cutter to develop cut paths for creating parts. It thus provides a conceptually clear bridge between analog (hand-drawn) and digital (computer controlled cutter) worlds. This is not only useful on its own, being a very quick way to get from concept to part, but is also very useful in helping students develop their intuition about how such processes work.
ULS ILS High Power Density Focusing Optics
The high power density focusing optics module provides a higher-precision optical path, yielding better quality cuts even at higher laser power.
On-site installation of ULS ILS 12.75 system and accessories
Installation and initial configuration of this laser cutter is complex, so needs to be done by an expert technician from the manufacturer.
Shipping for ULS ILS 12.75 system and accessories
Shipping for the laser cutter and all accessories.
Total requested: $82,451.58
Total funded: $82,451.58
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