Lara Grant

TechShop in SF! Laser Cutting Conductive Fabric

I’ve been living in SF since Feb. 1st and have been spending some time at TechShop, in SOMA. Their first location was in Menlo Park, I had many friends who would travel down there to use their tools and take their classes. They have been opening locations over the past year and it is something that the SF maker world needs.

They are membership based and you need to take classes to use every piece of equipment, I wish they had tests out of some of the smaller pieces of equipment, because the classes can be pricey, when piled up into one month. However, once you are done with them, the equipment is yours to use and they have some really impressive equipment.

The textile department includes:
Juki industrial straight stitch
Juki industrial serger
domestic machines
Brother PE770 embroidery machine
industrial iron
a walking-foot machine!
and a “textile only” table (so your fabrics keep clean)

They have many other impressive tools and equipment for you to use:
laser cutters
vinyl cutters
screen printing supplies
plasma cutter

I immediately made eyes for the laser cutter and asked if they had cut any conductive fabrics on them. They are not made to cut metal, so I asked, no one had tried it yet. I emailed the Epilogue company, who make the laser cutters, the specs of the fabrics I wanted to test. They gave me the green light with testing them.

Here are the fabrics I lasered with the Epilog Helix:

Here is a simple test project I made as a project for students to put together in a soft circuits class.

My first laser cut project!
A simple color mixer RGB LED bracelet.
Designed as a simple build for students in a soft circuity class.

My problem was what happened to the smaller pieces of fabric when I cut them. As soon as the small pieces were free, they flew away. This is due to the compressed air that is pointed at the point of which the laser is cutting at all times, combined with the exhaust pull. I would lose some of them or they would move and get bifurcated for getting in the way of the laser trajectory. A cruel fate indeed.

More emails to the epilog crew gave me responses on how to lessen the exhaust pull and the compressed air. I have also purchased some contact paper, which boasts non-toxicity and is the only temporary adhesive that will evenly coat a surface that does not say “Vapors May Cause Flash Fires”
So, hopefully in a couple weeks I can try one of these options out.