Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Author Archive

Final Project

For my final project I wanted to reproduce something similar to this art piece made by Ben Young using computerized machinery:

“Stead” by Ben Young

The original piece was made using cast bronze for the “positive” half and hand cut layers of glass for the “negative”. In order to reproduce this in the FabLab I decided to use the CNC machine for the positive half and layers of laser-engraved acrylic for the negative. I started off by using the laser to cut and engrave the sections of my negative half before gluing them together

Sections of the negative half fresh from the laser

Layers stacked (pre-gluing)

Layers glued

For the CNC milling I used the Manufacture tab builtin to Fusion360 to generate two passes on the model. From there I sent the tool path to the CNC machine and periodically removed sawdust that accumulated.

Result of CNC milling

CNC Toolpath

Once I completed both the negative and the positive halves of the sculpture all I had to do was glue them together and let them cure. You can see results of the final steps below.

Final Sculpture from Above

Final Sculpture from the Front

The hardest part of this process was the gluing together of the acrylic cutouts. The edges of each piece needed to be filed down with sandpaper on both sides in order to make a channel for the glue to enter and increase surface area. Then each cutout needed to cleaned with lens cleaner in order to reduce the amount of particulate stuck in the final model. Each adjacent cutout was then clamped, glued together and allowed to set for three minutes

Through out my making career in this class and prior to it I have noticed that as soon as I finish a project I always have several ideas about how to improve whatever I just made and make it better or more polished. Because of this, I decided to making one of my learning goals to make smaller prototype versions of both components of the sculpture so that I could learn from them and hopefully produce a higher quality final product.

Front View of Prototype

From this first prototype I learned several things that I implemented in the second revision. One of the things I noticed from my first prototype was that the effect was only visible for about half the depth of the model because the middle of the sphere was thicker than everything behind it. In order to address this I decided to use a cone so that the effect would be visible for the entire depth of the model from the front. Other changes included: wider surface area of each level, thinner sheets of acrylic, a new type of glue, additional tool-paths for the CNC, and a revised gluing strategy. Comparing my first prototype and my second iteration side by side I definitely think I achieved my goal of learning through prototyping.

Since this project was more artistic than my previous ones I also wanted to make one of my learning goals to get feedback from friends in order to involve them in the making progress. The majority of people’s comments were in response to the fit and finish of my first prototype. While this feedback was helpful in the sense that it lead me to make revisions before my second prototype it was not exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. I was hoping they would suggest ways I could improve the artistic component of the project rather than the process of making the project itself. Perhaps their responses would have been different if I had asked more specific questions like “what emotions does this piece bring to mind?”.

After completing all of the projects this year I have noticed that I learn best when I am free to explore topics or area of topics that are most interesting to me. The freedom within each assignment really helped me engage with the tools being used and learn meaningful skills. The simpler and smaller learning projects that we completed in lab sections were very helpful in learning the fundamentals of each tool area, but the projects we completed on our own each week let me explore the component of each tool that most interested me. For example the name tag assignment let me explore use with acrylic even though what we did in lab section was with wood, and the copper tape assignment let me incorporate electronics into origami which was quite different from what we did in lab.

At the beginning of the semester I considered myself a maker. I had worked with 3D printers quite a bit and had other experience modifying electronics in Nerf guns. Looking back though I don’t think I would consider myself a maker back then. To me being a maker is heavily reliant on engaging with some sort of community. Whether it be a physical maker-lab or an online forum, the ability to share what you are doing, help others, and get help for yourself is really at the core of the maker movement. Additionally, I think that cross discipline thinking as well as the incorporation of multiple mediums or tools is another tenet of the maker movement. Throughout this semester I have learned to use a variety of new tools and have worked with other people in the fablab to create some really interesting projects. Although I considered myself a maker at the beginning of the semester I think now more than ever that is true because of my experiences with this class.

Continue Reading

Assignment 8: Iteration Project.

For this assignment we were tasked with remaking an idea from a previous assignment in a meaningful way. I choose to re make my vinyl sticker and use different technologies in order to create a more interesting final product. Here you can see a video of my sticker.

From the video you can see that the majority of the sticker came out well, the only major fault was that the letters were not cut out well. The inner section of the “B” and the “R” were missing and one of the “E’s” was crooked. If I were to try and remake this lettering using the vinyl cutter the result would most likely be very similar unless I dramatically increased the size of the font. Instead, I decided to use the laser cutter and layers of clear acrylic to replicate the effect of the vinyl sticker. I also wanted to integrate an arduino and some neopixels in order to make the project more interesting. 

I started by modeling the acyrlic inserts as well as the bottom container in Fusion360. Each of the acrylic inserts has tabs on the bottom that help it line up with the base as well as serve as a path way for the lights of the neopixels to pass through. All together there will be three acrylic inserts in order to make all of the layers.

After I had modeled everything in Fusion360 I was able to start fabrication. For the lower base I used 3D printing to replicate the complex shapes.

Top part of base to hold acrylic

Bottom part of base to encase the arduino

There was some layer separation issues on these prints that didn’t look so great but functionally they worked. For the acrylic inserts I was able to import the sketch from Fusion360 into InkScape where I then made duplicates and merged it with the original SVG file I had from the sticker project. Because the neopixels are slightly offset in order to reduce light bleeding between the layers, two of the acrylic inserts needed to have the tabs on mirrored. In order to achieve this I simply mirrored the svg in InkScape. Unfortunately when I did this I mirrored the vectored content and the rastered content separately. This caused the raster art to be mirrored on it.s own axis as opposed to the axis of the vector shape. This meant that the rastered art did not line up through all of the layers.

Middle insert not lining up with the other two

I was able to modify my vector files so that the middle insert would be lined up with the other two.

After the inserts were completed I was able to work on attaching the neopixels to the base of the stand. Because I was had three rows of LEDs I needed to cut the strand into three sections and then wire them back together in order to make a new strand. This step was simple enough with a soldering iron but I did end up wiring the extensions on the wrong side initially and had to redo them. Once I had my new stand I was able to hot glue it to the top of my base.

From here I just connected the assembly to my arduino and found come code online that cycled all of the lights in a neopixel strand through the rainbow. A video of it cycling though all of the colors can be seen here.

Although this was the second iteration of the project, that does not mean that this is a final product or that there is nothing that could be improved. When designing the enclosure for the arduino I did not take into account the fact that the arduino itself would need power through a battery bank and or an external cable. This means that the base can not contain all of the electronics itself which is a bit disappointing. The holes in the top component of the base also are a bit loose with the inserts in. Additionally I noticed near the end of my project that my acrylic inserts acquired a lot of micro scratches through the process that are sadly visible because of the lighting effects. If I were to iterate through this project again I think I would make some major changes to the base of the piece and be more careful when handling and storing the acrylic. 

Despite these flaws I was very pleased with how this came out. The lighting effects are very cool looking and are even clearly visible during the day! I was also pleased to see that the base I modeled in Fusion360 worked so well the first time.


Continue Reading

Assignment 7: Locomoting Bots

For our second assignment involving Arduinos we were tasked with making a robot capable of moving using two or more 180 degree servos. We started in lab by making a sketch of how we wanted our robot to move.

My initial idea was to have a platform with wheels that had a two segmented arm attached. The arm would have a high friction material on the end that would be used to pull the platform forward by expanding and contracting. I then built the first iteration of my robot in class. I focused on getting the arm right because I figured the wheels would be helpful but not crucial to making the robot move.

I used popsicle sticks to make the frame and the arm. Pipe-cleaners were used on the bottom to decrease friction on the platform and a pencil eraser was used on the end of the arm to increase friction when pushing. I then tackled programming the arm. I found that moving both segments of the arm at the same time was quite complex so I decided to move one section and then the other in both the “expand” and “contract” phases. A video of this prototype can be seen here.

Ultimately this prototype did not move very well, but it did help influence my ideas for the second prototype. If you notice in the video the first iteration did move slightly, just in the opposite direction of what I intended. This led me to the idea of using the arm to push the robot instead of pulling it for the second iteration. I also added a wider section to the end of the arm in order to help it push and used felt instead of pipe-cleaners to reduce friction.

Once I had finished constructing the second prototype I began coding it. I started off by trying to move the upper arm segment through each angle in a range like we had done in lab but I found that setting the position to the end of the range and then waiting made the arm move much quicker and moved the robot a further distance each step. A video of this second prototype can be seen here.

As you can see in the video this method kind of makes my robot “hop” instead of pushing itself but I found it to work pretty reliably. After completing this project I realized how difficult it is to get a robot to move using only 180 degree servos from both a physical and software perspective. If we had used 360 degree servos we could have made a wheel of some sort. That being said it was a fun and challenging engineering problem to only use 180 degree servos. If I were to build a third prototype of this robot I think I would spend a bit more time working on the exact values used for the arm position in order to reduce the rocking that happens when the arm fully extends. I would also look into using some sort of battery instead of the usb cable because I noticed that the cable acted like a leash and didn’t let the robot move freely. 


Continue Reading

Assignment 6: Arduino Intro

For this week we began working with Arduino. In lab we made a led blink in morse code and used aluminum foil to make a touch sensor.  For this week’s assignment we were supposed to come up with an idea, story board it, and then make a prototype using Arduino. Below you’ll find my storyboard.


In the first panel you’ll see someone at their computer when someone knocks on the door. Because they are wearing headphones they don’t hear the knock and continue with their computer session. My idea is to have a sensor outside the door connected to a display on the user’s desk that alerts them when someone is at the door. 

To get started I collected all of the components I though I would need: An Arduino, a LCD, a breadboard, and an ultrasonic sensor.


I then tried to started to work on getting the LCD to display information. When I first started looking for guides they showed how to wire all of the pins on the display to the Arduino so I pushed the pins into the breadboard and started wiring it together. The wiring guide called for a resistor and a potentiometer, since neither of these were in the kit I figured I was doing something wrong. A little searching revealed that I could interface with the display through the 4 pins on the I2C daughterboard (much easier!).

Pins on the LCD board

Pins on the I2C daughterboard












Once I got the LCD wired correctly I followed some code online to get a simple “Hello World!” program working with the display. The next step was to integrate the ultrasonic sensor into my circuit. Because both the ultrasonic sensor and the LCD required 5V I needed to take apart what I had done so far and use a breadboard in order to supply 5V to both the LCD and the sensor. I wired everything up and plugged back in the usb to the computer and… my Arduino didn’t stay on. I unplugged the USB and plugged it back in and still nothing. The green LED on the Arduino board itself would light up green and then slowly turn off. I began trouble shooting by removing everything from the breadboard. I then added back the LCD and got that working. Then I added the ultrasonic sensor back and it worked (it must have been something wrong with my wiring). Once I had the Arduino powered on I began integrated code examples for the sensor and the LCD.

Arduino and LCD connected

Arduino, LCD, sensor, and breadboard wired together














My final version of the system displays the distance away from the ultrasonic sensor you are on the bottom line of the LCD and a warning message on the top line of the LCD if you are too close. 

Message when nothing is front of sensor

Message when something is in front of sensor













All in all I think this system is a good prototype of what I had intended in my storyboard. If I were to make this a more functional prototype I would have included longer wires so that the sensor could be above your door and the display at your desk. I also probably would’ve also included a LED to get the attention of the user because the change in the first line of LCD may be hard to notice.

If I were to redo this project I think I would’ve been more disciplined in the color wires I used to wire up power. If I had been using red/black cables I think I could have avoided the issue where my Arduino slowly turned off.

Continue Reading

Assignment 5: Sewing & Digital Embroidery

For this assignment I chose to make a Red Panda plushie for my girlfriend embroidered with her sorority’s logo on it.

I found the logo online and converted it to a vector image using inkscape. It took some time to get the file to be formatted such that PE Studio loaded it correctly but I got it to work after awhile. After I got the program loaded into PE Studio I loaded fleece and backing paper into the fabric hoop. The first time I tried to embroider the design the first color of thread worked well but it got stuck on the second. 

Photo of the jammed second color

After removing the jammed thread I decided to start over with a new piece of fabric. This time all the threads worked as expected and I was pleased with the outcome.

Successful embroidery

After I successfully embroidered the logo, I started working on the sewing aspect of this project. The guide I followed provided the patterns for all of the pieces of fabric I needed to cut out. I cut out the shapes and began sewing together two sides for each of the arms and each of the legs of the plushie. After sewing together both pieces i needed to flip the piece inside out and fill it with stuffing.

Photo of two arms flipped inside out

After I finished the arms and legs I sewed the ears and flipped them inside out as well.

Picture with arms, legs, and ears sewed

Fabric stacked vertically

I then worked on the tail of the panda. This involved sewing together six pieces of fabric together stacked top to bottom and then folding the assembly in half and sewing a “C” shape in order to seal it.

Fabric stacked vertically before it was sewn closed

Photo of fail folded before sewn

The tail was then sewn closed and flipped inside out in order to filled with stuffing.

Tail flipped inside out

The next step was to cut out the face pieces and fuse them to the body. The guide suggested applique fabric but I used some iron on glue instead that worked fairly well. I then attached the arms, legs, and ears to the main body. This step was quite difficult because in order to hide the seams this step had to be done with the plushie inside out. The resulting fabric was quite thick and hard to feed through the sewing machine. I also had to redo the stitches several times in order to get the seams hidden correctly. After all the appendages were attached I flipped the plushie inside out and filled the main body with stuffing. The hole that was used to turn the plushie inside out was then sewn shut by hand. Finally the tail was sen onto the back of the plushie by hand.

Section hand sewn

Final plushie

If I were to do this project again there are several things I would do differently. When I cut out the pieces for the arms and legs and then sewed them it was quite difficult to feed through the machine because there was not much additional fabric to hold onto while the machine was running. In order to make this process easier I started using pieces of fabric with generous amounts of extra material so that I could maneuver it through the machine easier, and then cut off the excess material.

Photo of generous cutout being sewn together

A similar process could be applied to the embroidery step. For this plushie I cut out the body first and then put it in the fabric hoop and embroidered it. This meant I had to worry about placement in the hoop which was difficult to get right. 

All in all I am pleased with the result of my efforts. There are definitely some ugly parts that I think could be better, but I think I did a decent job for my first large project that involved a sewing machine.

Continue Reading

Assignment 4: 3D Printing & Scanning

Part 1

In order to learn the tools and software used in 3D printing we started off making models in TinkerCad. I made a castle and a character to go in the castle:

We then imported the character model into MeshMixer in order to learn how to sculpt and modify .stl files:

(I added tentacles and a camel head to my model and then applied a blocky filter, unfortunately there was an error with the boolean union so there are some weird lines)

We then were introduced to two scanning techniques and used MeshMixer to fix errors.

This bust was made using a handheld scanner attached to an iPad

Part 2

For the second part of this assignment we were instructed to follow one of several prompts in order to design and print some model(s). The prompt I chose involved modeling plate ware with a twist. I chose to make plate ware for my enemy. Because I already had experience in it I used Fusion 360 in order to design my models. I created a plate with holes in it:

A knife that you had to hold in the middle:

And a fork that had chains for a handle:

For printing these models I used the MakerLab for the plate and knife and the FabLab for the fork. The plate and knife both printed successfully the first time:

The fork however failed the first time and required modifications to the support in order to print correctly:

After I finished printing all three models I needed to remove the brim and support material. The material from the knife came off easily, however the fork and plate were a different story. The fork was a very fragile model and I ended up breaking off the last chain in handle:

While removing the brims from the plate model I ended up slicing my finger slightly but the print came out alright. The finished models can be seen below:


I have a couple of 3D printers at home and I have used design tools extensively in the past but I still did learn some things from this assignment. This was the first time I designed a model with chains in it. Removing supports from this model was quite difficult and I think if I were to do it again I would make modifications to the model to make printing it easy. I also got to use 3D scanners for the first time and learned the limitations of them. Finally I learned to be careful when removing brim material with knives.

Continue Reading

Assignment 3: Copper Tape Circuits

For this assignment we were tasked with making a 3D sculpture that incorporated three LEDs of at least two colors as well as a switch of some sort.

Because I had done a lot of origami when I was younger I thought it would be a good place to start. My main concern about origami was being able to fit the circuitry on such a small model. I looked online for different models and decided to make a box using these instructions:

I chose this model because I thought there would be a good amount of space in the inside of the cube that I could use to hide the circuitry. Partway through folding the paper I decided it would be easier to create the circuitry if I only made half a cube, so I modified the steps accordingly.

Once I had assembled my half-cube I used a sharpie to draw out the circuitry on the inside of the model. I then went to the lab and integrated the LEDs, battery, and single resistor I needed in order to make the project work. Planning out the wiring beforehand worked very well for me because my circuit worked as soon as I put all of the LEDs in place.

Working circuit

Unfortunately, the LEDs do not shine very well through the paper. If you are in a very dark environment you can see a slight glow but otherwise it is quite difficult to see.

Model in a dark room

All in all I’m happy with how the project turned out. If I were to do this project again I think I would try to make the lights more visible through the paper. I could maybe poke holes, use thinner paper, or maybe use stronger LEDs.

Continue Reading

Assignment 2: Layered Sticker

For this assignment I wanted to make something to represent an inside joke I have with some of my friends. We like to play super smash bros and the phrase “yeet or be yeeted” gets thrown around a lot. In order to commemorate this I decided to make a sticker with the super smash bros logo as well as the phrase on it.

Inkscape screenshot

I used Inkscape to create the vector file for this project. Because the original image I used was all one color I was able to just use trace bitmap to generate the vector of the “fire ball”. I then made a duplicate of the fire and enlarged the borders a bit to give a sense of depth. I then found a warning sign image to make the background. I decided to make the black the bottom layer in order to avoid having to line up all of the letters by hand. This also let me line up the fire ball layers easier.

Cut stickers

Except for the top layer everything printed out correctly the first time.

Finished sticker

Getting the centers out the fireballs when reasonably well, the only real hiccup at this stage was getting the letters out of the yellow layer. I started off using my fingernails and tweezers, but then found a razor blade worked very well. Unfortunately some of the letters didn’t turn out great (the second “E” in yeet is the worst). Additionally when removing the inside of the letters I lost the inner part of the “R”, “B”, and “D”. This wasn’t a huge deal because I feel like the phrase is still legible in its current state. If I were to do this project again I think I would either make a design without words, or I would have made the letters much larger so that it wasn’t as hard to get them out.

Continue Reading


For my story board I chose to imagine what a table in a restaurant would look like if the table itself was a display full of sensors. My core idea was that the table itself could replace the need for waiters if the business was especially busy.

My storyboard shows several possible uses. The first is the fact that the entire menu could be in the table itself so customers could seat themselves and order without having to wait for waiter. The second idea was that if the table had pressure sensors it could detect when a beverage was running low and prompt the customer to order a refill, again without having to interact with a waiter. Finally the customers could pay from the table once they were finished eating.

Continue Reading

Assignment 1: Laser Name Tag

I started off the lab section with a relatively simple nametag design. I used the silhouette of a corgi to make cut path and then added my name using a font. I really liked having the outside of the name tag be something unique. I then saw someone doing etching in clear acrylic and I knew that was what I wanted to do my second version in.

My first vector file of the final version

After messing around in inkscape for awhile I came up with this revision of my final name tag. I decided to include a QR code that redirects to a website so that I can change it to whatever I want, right now it points to my github website. I also really like memphis patterns so I used one for the background.

Originally I had intended for the entire nametag to be on once piece of acrylic with different levels of frosting for each color. Unfortunately I learned that frosting acrylic is a all or nothing situation so I had to come up with an alternative.

My TA Emilie suggested that I use different color paints to outline the separate parts of my name tag because acrylic paint sticks well to frosted acrylic. In order to have multiple colors however I would need to have a layer of clear acrylic for each level. This meant that I had to split my vector into three identical levels.

The vector file split into three levels

This is the revised vector file that prints three rectangles of the same dimensions with different designs.

The first set cut out of acrylic

This method of printing out separate levels worked pretty well. The only problem was that because the frosting was on top of the acrylic when I stacked one level of the QR code onto the other they didn’t line up because of the thickness of the acrylic itself.

Flipped Middle Layer

In order to correct this issue I printed a flipped version of the level with my name so that when the two levels of the QR code were closer.

Painted Levels

Painting the frosted sections with acrylic and then scratching off the extra paint worked very well with the black paint, but the white painted section got some grey marks. I think it was because I was using a coin to scratch off the acrylic and the paint ended up getting stained.

Layers stacked, no glue

In order to join the three levels together I help them together with a clamp and used super glue on all of the edges. From a stability standpoint this worked very well, the layers aren’t going anywhere. However the superglue cause some fogging on the acrylic that makes it a bit harder to read.

All in all I am pretty pleased with how it came out. If I were to do anything different I would be more careful not to stain any white paint, and I would use some other method to join the layers together.

Continue Reading