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News Link • Technology: Software

Whittling With Lasers: Constructable Brings Handheld ‘Pew Pew’ Power to your Workshop

•, By Tim Maly

Here’s the thing about contemporary rapid prototyping tools — while they’re rapid compared to sending your designs off to a factory, they still aren’t all that rapid. You design in software, then you fabricate it on a machine, then you examine the results, then you go back to the software to make changes, then back to the machine, then back to the software, until you get it right.

It’s a model of interaction that anyone who uses computers is used to, but it can be a very frustrating way to work with tools. “It kind of follows a 1970s paradigm of graphical user interfaces where there is a very strong distinction between my interaction and what I am producing,” says Ph.D. student Stefanie Mueller. With co-author Pedro Lopes and adviser Patrick Baudisch at the Hasso Plattner Institute, Mueller is looking to change that.

They’ve created a system called Constructable. It’s a suite of tools that allows people to interact much more directly with the high-powered machines of the modern workshop. Using laser pointers, users draw their designs directly on the material. The software then corrects and interprets those paths into lines, converting a laser-pointer sketch into a precisely cut pattern.

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