Production Processes: Prototyping

I’m taking a course this semester called “Production Processes.” In this class, each student designs their own piece (jewelry, toy, product) that is to be produced in multiples- it could be 3D printed, laser-cut acrylic, fabricated metals, silicon moldings, etc. At the end of the semester, these pieces will be sold at a sale which is completely organized by the students of the class.

Each student is required to incorporate the theme of LAYERS into their piece; therefore, the name of our show is Lamina Jewelry.

For my project, I am interested in produced night lights. Why night lights? you may ask. I think they’re something that everyone has (or could have) in their home. Night lights bring a new, fun feel into each room. I’m particularly interested by light penetrating different surfaces and the effects that this can create, particularly 3D printed materials (gypsum, durus white) and colored acrylic. So I’m thinking of layers in two different aspects: laers with light and layers with the material itself (am I making sense here? I’ll explain)

This past week I experimented with vulcanizing acrylic sheet, something that I’ve never done before in the M/J/C-C studio. A vulcanizer is a pressurized machine that has two heated plates. These plates “sandwich” stacked pieces of acrylic together. By applying heat and pressure to acrylic, a thermoplastic, these layers smush together into one even mass.Image

During my first experimentation, I applied too much heat and too much pressure. So I started out with something looking like this:


…and ended up with something looking like this:



So a tried another test, this time a little less heat and pressure:


Hey, that’s better!

Now I decided to take it a step further. I wanted to use more layers of acrylic stacked in a more intricate manner. I found an image of a cow in a pasture and broke down the progression of space into different layers of acrylic- different shapes, sizes, color.


I’m so pleased with the way my laser-cuts came out!

I them carefully arranged the cut acrylic and placed them between two aluminum sheets, as I do every time I vulcanize.


For every quarter-inch of acrylic, I need to apply 15 minutes of heat/pressure. I had little more than a half of an inch of stacked acrylic, so I patiently and intently sat and waited.

This is what today’s result was:


I learned a few VERY important things with this test. The first is that I was still applying just a little too much heat and pressure. This is visible by the bubbles along the top (in the blue) and the distortion of my little cow. I also learned that maybe I need to layer my acrylic differently– possibly in a different order, maybe use less acrylic, and so on. Finally, I realized that I need to get my own aluminum sheets for the vulcanizer, because the ones I was using are dirty and beat-up. This can be seen by the “fogginess” near the bottom/around the cow.

I would say that today was a very successful day! I made some mistakes which is totally okay, because now I’ll be able to get this perfect. I’ll be doing some more laser-cutting and vulcanizing to see if I can get this prototype just how I want it to be.