The latest addition to the Learning Studio growing arsenal of fabrication tools is a desktop vinyl cutter, the adorable Craft Robo. One of the first projects I decided to embark on (after playing around with some geeky papercraft toys, of course), was how to use adhesive-backed vinyl to modify and decorate my laptop.
The initial inspiration came, once again, from Adam Somlai-Fischer, who has a black sticker covering the glowing apple in his laptop that lets light shine through in the shape of his company's logo. I thought it was a brilliant idea to repurpose one corporate identity into another.
So my first attempt was, of course, to make an Exploratorium sticker:
There were a few problems with that, though. Mostly, it seemed unsatisfying, to lack oomph in a sense. Mostly this was due to the fact that only a thin line of light came through the outline of the big "O", and that seemed a waste of a perfectly good light source!
Coincidentally, I also became aware of a neat software called LiveBrush, which allows the user to draw smoothly using the mouse, and with very interesting and artistically pleasing brushes. For example, this took about 20 seconds to draw:
The problem was how to turn the raster image that LiveBrush produces into a vector outline in Illustrator, which the vinyl cutter needs in order to know how to cut. After a bit of fiddling with both programs, I devised a series of tracing settings that do the job automatically quite nicely. Here are a couple of my most successful efforts:
Next step: figure out a way to streamline the process so that it can become an activity to do with the public, possibly in conjunction with the upcoming Rods and Mods event in February. The idea is for people to bring in their own computers, design a decoration in an easy and intuitive way using LiveBrush, and then cut it out of vinyl: voilà, instant laptop mod!