Site Model – CNC Routing and Laser Cutting

The process of making these models was engaging and I was able to explore new machinery and tools.  I found I really enjoy building and making things, and that my motivation towards other classes suffered as they couldn’t possibly compete with the excitement and creativity of model making.

I think this was especially enjoyable because of the time we spent up in Ely at the start of the semester.  There’s something really cool about working on a site model in which you have an intimate connection.  I can point out exactly where on the foam I got stuck in the mud as we measured the site this last fall.

Quick Thanks…

I will be forever grateful for our time up in Ely in which we bonded as a class and got to experience an incredible week in the wilderness.  Thank you Will!  

A big shout out to my group members – Chris, Nick and Jake – for many laughs and memorable adventures (mostly to The Home Depot).  Also, to those who helped during crunch time – Adam, Devyn, Sam and Megan.


Learning the CNC Router was one of the most difficult parts of the model making process.  I had never used one before, or any of the software it uses.

The laser cutter may not have been new, but I used it extensively and learned the ins and the outs (which is what you get when you stop to clean it for 90 minutes).

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Final Models

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Want to see more of the CNC router and the laser cutter?  Check out these videos!

CNC Routing 2″ Rigid Foam Insulation (Topographic Site Model)

While the CNC had a few headaches with learning a few different new softwares and the router physically getting off track, we persevered and produced a topographic site model! 

Early on during the roughing pass-

Roughing pass continued-

Roughing pass begins to define topography-

Laser Cutting Trees

I was familiar with the laser cutter from another class but learned a lot more about adjusting the settings.  Each material cuts a bit differently and the laser cutter doesn’t always cut the same job with the same quality.  For me, this meant that towards the end of the job, the laser cutter wasn’t cutting all the way through the 1/8″ cardboard.  This is especially common when the laser cutter is dirty.

Prior to the video showing the laser cutting, I took a time out from using the machine and cleaned it for about 1.5 hours.  After the mirrors were sparkling clean, the laser was much sharper and cutting through the card board without any problems.


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