Need to prepare a wooden box quick? Look no further!
by Nikolett Sulyok
Imagine yourself in the following situation...
You are about to prepare packagings for your new incoming orders, but you don't want to use a standard cardboard box. You also own or have access to a laser cutter, but don't have the time to spend hours and hours on designing the layout for the box file from scratch. The solution: a handy open source file generator!
Florian Festi has been developiong a tool that can save you all those hours, namely boxes.py. Who wouldn’t want to have a platform to easily cut useful boxes of a hundred kinds?!
In this article we are going to show how the tool works with a basic Two Pieces box, generated via the boxes.py platform. We added the logo to the file after it was generated; this can be done with any vector graphics software of your choice. Make sure that your graphics are oriented properly and have been added to the correct side, otherwise you might get an upside-down logo, and will need to cut and engrave that single piece again.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles of this series, in which we introduce different smart solutions of easy-made boxes, tips and tricks!
Before you get started with generating the files, get familiar with the settings. It is important that you set everything in a way that it makes sense with the materials and tools you have available, otherwise you might end up with something that simply does not close well, it has gaps or is being too tight.
Things we LEARNED from making this box...
1.) MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE!
Important: Make sure you measure the thickness of your materials. To do this DO NOT RELY on what the seller told you, use a CALIPER and preferably a digital one, such as the Digital Caliper we offer in our shop.
The parametric calculations do all the hard work for you as long as you use the right thickness! Parametric equations define a group of quantities as functions of one or more independent variables called parameters - so in our case, the different values we input to the platform interface will generate the structure of the desired box in a chosen file format.
All human-made or cut materials have a +/- variance. Never go with what it says on the website you got it from, or even with what it says on the material itself. Always make your own measurements to avoid scratching your head. Measure twice, cut once!
If you are looking for a shop that sells materials, we get our stuff from Kitronik. They offer a wide range of technical sheet materials, most are laser compatible. The range includes acrylic, polypropylene, plywood, MDF, HIPS and more. Most products are available in a variety of colours, sheet sizes, thicknesses and finishes as well.
Write down the name of the material that you used (and the serial number if available, so you can always find it again in the supplier of your choice), the thickness of it, and the settings that have worked well in the end. This will save you a lot of time in the future. Be nice to future You!
When using LIGHTBURN for the scan/etching/engraving, we used "line and fill" but had the line setting too high and we blasted out the centres of our & and R and some of the Chinese letters during sanding. This can be avoided at the final product if you patiently go through the testing process!
Do some test pieces first! if your laser cutter is well aligned and is in focus, you'll find that these boxes are very tightly made, perfect for push fitting, but you might need to compensate and experiment. The picture below shows that our settings were set too high compared to the material's tolerance.
4.) BURN THICKNESS
Most CO2 laser cutters have a burn thickness of around 0.2mm, however if you are working with thicker materials or you've some alignment or focusing problems, you might find that your burn thickness (also known as kerf) is thicker as well! Take notes of your settings, keep a journal about your research and findings.
You can use sandpaper or a sanding tool to remove the surface discoloration off of your laser cut pieces. It gives a really neat finish, with the engraved parts popping more than before.
On the 2 part box, the fit between the base and the lid is very close. On this project, that is the "Play" setting in the interface. Ideally you want this to be just a little bit offset, so the lid is easy to pull off without having to lift the box much, but this is entirely up to you and your needs. If you want to improve a tight design in another way, you could try adding a semi-circle to the bottom of the lid to allow the fingers to get a comfortable grip around the base of the box.
We used an off-cut block of wood (basically a 2x4) as a 'gentle' mallet to help the push fit stay together. You could use a wooden or rubber mallet to do the same, make sure you evenly and carefully spread the force you exert on the box as not to damage it.
We hope that you found this little introduction to Boxes.py helpful. In the end, we learned a lot just by generating a simple box, and this knowledge comes with more freedom to improve the out-of-the-box files generated via the platform later on.
The source files are available on Github. Check out Florian Festi's project page on Hackaday!
We have made a video to accompany this blog post which you will find here: