Saturday, December 28, 2019

From Google Drawing to Glowforge laser cutter Part 2


Earlier this week,  I shared my workflow for using  Google Draw to design ornaments, badges, or suncatchers to cut on our GlowForge Laser Cutter. 

You can read more about my search to find workflows that increase access to maker tools for students who use Chromebooks in last week's post where I talk about WHY Glowforge and WHY Google Drawing.


My first tutorial used primitive shapes from Google Drawings and Stencil fonts to keep things as simple as possible. But what if you want to use a font that is not a Stencil font or expand your choice of images?   Here is a cardboard prototype of an ornament for my grand-daughter, Rosie, along with a poplar wood version.



Today's tutorial is the second in the following series, where I'd like to share my next steps in learning how to design in tools that work on Chromebooks for  the GlowForge.

3) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Gravit -- a Cloud based Vector App - Getting Started
4) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Gravit -- Next Steps
5) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Inkscape - Getting Started
6) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Inkscape - Next Steps





From Google Drawing to  Lasercut Design for the Glowforge -  Next Steps


For this project, I wanted to find a simple silhouette that would lend itself to be 'cut' out of wood.   There are several places to find great icons, including Flat Icon and IconFinder.  My favorite place to look for icon's that might work well is THE NOUN PROJECT.   It has over a million icons. These are free to use with attribution.  






I love this site so much that I subscribe to the Noun PRO version for  less than $20 per year.  This allows me to use any icon on the site without attribution and also adds features such as SVG download  and a few other apps  for easy integration with tools such as Google Slides, Adobe products, etc.



The trick is to look for a shape that will work well for your project.  The shape below could work well if you are trying to cut out a rose out of a round circular disk. But if you wanted to insert it inside a hollow circle, you would have to make sure that each part overlaps with the circular rim, so that the piece doesn't just fall out. 




After some consideration about my design, I selected the following icon from the Noun Project. 



I downloaded the PNG version to upload to Google Drawing.  The ability to download the SVG version comes with my subscription to NOUN Pro. This will come in handy in future tutorials, but when working with Google Draw, the PNG download works well.   You can use the handles to resize your icon, or you can type in a width and height that will work well for your project in the format options. 





I decided to use two roses in my design.  With a little resizing and nudging, I was able to create a design where the icon would overlap with the circle and rectangle shapes of the  ornament, leaving only the negative space to fall out. 

NOTE:  If you would like to import SVG images into Google Drawing, you  can do so but will have to convert them to *EMF files using a tool like Cloud Convert.   



From the first tutorial, you might remember how important it was to have contrasting colors, and to make sure that the borders of all parts are set to zero.  This will make it easier for the SVG converter to convert the file.  Check out my first tutorial   for a refresher on how to use the PICSVG site to convert your PNG design to an SVG file that will work within GlowForge. 




Experiment with the best conversion setting when using PICSVG.com 
Note that the first setting I tried left double lines when imported into GlowForge.
My second attempt to convert the SVG file created a nice clean line that cut as expected with my Glowforge laser cutter.  I used GREAT for Details and FILTER Ready#3. 





Next, I uploaded the ORNAMENT template (SVG file)  into  the GlowForge  software and selected the correct settings to cut  the material.  I usually cut my first prototype in cardboard.  Please see last week's tutorial  for important safety information about cutting cardboard on your Glowforge.  





The next step will be to find a font that works well with your design.  The trick with fonts other than Stencil fonts is that the inside of your letters are likely to fall out if you are looking to cut out your words on a laser cutter.  Luckily Tiffany Tseng has created a fantastic tool called Stencilfy that can help with this problem.  

To use Stencilfy,  I  first searched https://fonts.google.com/ for a font that worked with my design.  I decided that the Pacifico font would look nice. 

I selected my desired font, and then clicked on the RED down arrow to download and unzip the *.TTF font file. 


Once you have the font file downloaded, navigate to https://stencilfy.glitch.me/
and upload that font file using the Choose a file option.  Type in the Text you would like cut out of your design. 


Notice that Stencilfy sliced the text in just the right places so that the the center of your letters would not fall out when cut.  You'll also notice that there are cut lines in places where the letters overlap.  This will work just fine in my design since the letters will be cut out.   EXPORT the text as an SVG file.





Proceed to your Glowforge software to upload the Stencilfied text SVG file.

Select the right settings to cut your text out using the material you are working with.  Resize and align your font so it fits inside your design.   Leave ample room around your text so that your design is not too delicate.  It's easy to accidentally break your piece while peeling off the masking if the design is too fragile (she says from experience).  I would cut the text first, then cut the ornament by dragging the cut files in the order they would like them cut.


and Voila!  A cardboard prototype followed by a design cut out of Proofgrade Poplar.



If you prefer to engrave your text, you can skip the Stencilfy steps.  With the Glowforge it's quite easy to flip your material over and engrave both sides of your ornament or badge. 




In my next  tutorial in this series, I'll share my early journey into Gravit.io - a cloud based tool that allows you to create vector designs on a Chromebook.  This tool will add even more options for your designs.  Here is a sneak preview of what we will be able to do with Gravit.io













Friday, December 27, 2019

Google Drawing to GlowForge Laser Cutter Workflow



How might we make designing with maker tools more accessible to all students?  

Use tools that work on their Chromebooks, of course! 

This series of blog posts will feature accessible tools and workflows  that increase equitable access to learning through  creating and making for all students. 

Get started with this Part 1 tutorial or dig deeper with the why's and how's below. 






While I was a teacher and a technology and equity specialist in Vermont schools,  I always insisted on using the same tools my students had access to.  During that time,  I stayed away from a MacBook, because my students were using Windows based computers. At one point, I turned my laptop  into a dual boot (Windows/Linux) platform so I could improve my fluency with Linux and open source software. Open source software helped us  make more computers available to students.   In today's schools, Chromebooks have replaced Linux and open source software as the tool that makes it  possible to create 1:1 student:computer environments.   



The increase in access is great news, but provides some challenges as Chromebooks limit the tools students have access to. Not only do the tools have to be cloud-based, they also have to be free (or close to free) and have to meet student data privacy standards of the district.  Unfortunately, this is a presents a barrier for schools who are introducing laser cutters in their school's makerspace.

I've spent quite a bit of time recently looking for workflows that might help students and teachers work within those constraints.   (I've also spent quite a bit of time thinking how we might make changes that would reduce the number of constraints -- but that's for another blog post).  


The following is the first in a series of posts that I'm planning which increase possibilities for students and teachers using makerspaces in their schools.   The first few  blog posts in this series will include:



From Google Drawing to  Laser cut Designs for the Glowforge - Getting Started


Why Glowforge? 


I've had my Glowforge Lasercutter for over a year now. It was one of the first consumer grade laser cutter to enter the market. This made it accessible to schools in both 'price' and 'ease of use".   I purchased the basic model at about $2000 during it's kickstarter phase. After using it for a year and watching other schools adopt the Glowforge, I can say that it definitely has a place in our schools.  I don't feel it eliminates the needs for some of the the higher costs lasercutters to meet certain needs in our educational landscape.   (more about that in a future blog post) 


The Glowforge has shortened the learning curve necessary to be able create using a laser cutter. The satisfaction and excitement of seeing your first product cut out of the laser cutter increases engagement and increases your motivation to learn more!  Once a student's motivation is at play, perseverance and grit kicks in and the learning process reaches places beyond expectation.  Some of the features of the Glowforge (especially its dual cameras has made it possible to get from point A (idea) to point B (product) much more quickly.   With other laser cutters, there is a lot more front loading that needs to happen.  Sometimes those skills are the goals (i.e. preparing for careers, and learning advanced design skills), but other times, the the amount of time and skills needed detract from your goals.  The Glowforge is the right tool for so many learning goals.  It is an accessible tool for younger learners.  It is an accessible tool for those just getting started.  It's an accessible tool for educators who don't have a background in design and tech.  And it's accessible  for those with a smaller budget. 



Why Google Drawing? 


Honestly, the right tools for the job when it comes to designing for a laser cutter include vector programs like Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. However, these program require quite a few hours to master and are not accessible to many students due to the cost or to the fact that most schools use Chromebooks as student devices.  There are few choices for creating with vectors that work with Chromebooks.  Gravit.io is one of the few tool that works on Chromebooks for creating vector designs; it also has a free and Pro version.  However, it is not available in all schools.  

One tool that many students have access to is Google Drawing.  Many students have some degree of familiarity with Google Drawing already since it is part of the Google Apps environment that comes with their Chromebook.  Therefore Google Drawing it is an accessible tool in both price, platform, and ease of use.  

So let's give this a try. Here's what we are going to make.  In my case it's an ornament for my grandson, Cedar.  But this project could be used for creating suncatchers or badges.  This project was designed as a skill-builder that will lay the foundation for future laser cut projects. It also allows for personalization - which is a great motivator in any learning experience. 

That being said, Google Drawing is not the perfect tools for the job, and it does require some work arounds.  So in this tutorial I'm going to share what I learned when I challenged myself to create a laser cut design for my GlowForge using Google Drawing. 

We'll use primitive shapes available in Google Drawing and manipulate color in a way that will make it easier for an SVG picture converter to successfully create a file that can be cut on a laser cutter.  We  will also use the WordArt feature of Google Drawing and a Stencil font to cutout text in a laser safe way - so the centers of letters do not fall out. 

Caveats! 

  • I'm not a design teacher and this worfkflow may not work with other laser cutters. 
  • This was not meant to suggest Google Drawing as the ideal tool for the job, but simply an accessible tool.
  • Lasercutting cardboard requires care and supervision as to prevent fires. You can complete this lesson by skipping the cardboard prototype and moving directly to cutting wood or acrylic. 
  • Glowforge does not have a cardboard cutting setting, but with a little digging you can find them online.

For this first tutorial, I will strongly suggest that you stay within the constraints of using fonts and shapes found within Google Drawing.  In the next tutorial, we'll learn how to find and use other shapes and fonts. It was my goal to help you build confidence with some basic entry level skills and end up with a fun project that you could be proud of.

So let's get started. 


The following is a lesson I recorded for those of you who would prefer a step by step walkthrough followed some highlights of the workflow. 





Workflow highlights


Use primitive shapes to create your design. (Do NOT import images. Yet!) 
Feel free to also use symbols!  We'll play with in Tutorial 2.


Feature Request to Google:  Please add the ability to merge shapes.




Use Word Art to add text! 
Change the font, but for this tutorial- Limit your text to STENCIL fonts so the 'holes' in your letters don't fall out when cut. 
We'll learn how to work around that in the next tutorial.




Use color to create a design that has two contrasting colors (silhouette look)
Make the borders or all shapes and Word Art TRANSPARENT. 





Download your Google Drawing as a PNG. 
(Note: even though it looks like you can download in the SVG format, this will most likely NOT work for many designs such as this one because of overlapping cut lines and the inability to perform a true merge of shapes. I explain this more in the video tutorial)







Using a site like  Picsvg  to convert your PNG to an SVG

Import your PNG file into PicSVG and play around with different settings until you find a setting that will create a clean look that will import into your GlowForge.  Export the file as an SVG.  I demonstrate some settings that will and won't work well with explanations of why they won't work at this in the video tutorial.


Upload the SVG file into your Glowforge software. 
Play with size and placement of your design. 
Add the right CUT  settings for your material. 





I use cardboard to prototype with then cut the final project in Glowforge's 1/8 inch poplar.
Take necessary caution when using cardboard.





And voila!
You know have a fun artifact that is evidence that you have the gained the foundational skills necessary to create a basic design in Google Drawing that can be cut on a Glowforge laser cutter. 






In the next tutorial,  I'll show you how to personalize your project with images and fonts outside those available in Google Drawing!  Here's a sneak preview of my second ornament personalized for my grand daughter.  


Ready for Part 2?  Here you go!








Monday, December 23, 2019

From Google Drawing to Lasercut Designs for the Glowforge



While I was a teacher and a technology and equity specialist in Vermont schools,  I always insisted on using the same tools my students had access to.  During that time,  I stayed away from a MacBook, because my students were using Windows based computers. At one point, I turned my laptop  into a dual boot (Windows/Linux) platform so I could improve my fluency with Linux and open source software. Open source software helped us  make more computers available to students.   In today's schools, Chromebooks have replaced Linux and open source software as the tool that makes it  possible to create 1:1 student:computer environments.   



The increase in access is great news, but provides some challenges as Chromebooks limit the tools students have access to. Not only do the tools have to be cloud-based, they also have to be free (or close to free) and have to meet student data privacy standards of the district.  Unfortunately, this is a presents a barrier for schools who are introducing laser cutters in their school's makerspace.

I've spent quite a bit of time recently looking for workflows that might help students and teachers work within those constraints.   (I've also spent quite a bit of time thinking how we might make changes that would reduce the number of constraints -- but that's for another blog post).  


The following is the first in a series of posts that I'm planning which increase possibilities for students and teachers using makerspaces in their schools.   The first few  blog posts in this series will include:

3) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Gravit -- a Cloud based Vector App - Getting Started
4) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Gravit -- Next Steps
5) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Inkscape - Getting Started
6) Creating Laser Cut Designs using Inkscape - Next Steps

Let's get started


From Google Drawing to  Laser cut Designs for the Glowforge - Getting Started


Why Glowforge? 


I've had my Glowforge Lasercutter for over a year now. It was one of the first consumer grade laser cutter to enter the market. This made it accessible to schools in both 'price' and 'ease of use".   I purchased the basic model at about $2000 during it's kickstarter phase. After using it for a year and watching other schools adopt the Glowforge, I can say that it definitely has a place in our schools.  I don't feel it eliminates the needs for some of the the higher costs lasercutters to meet certain needs in our educational landscape.   (more about that in a future blog post) 


The Glowforge has shortened the learning curve necessary to be able create using a laser cutter. The satisfaction and excitement of seeing your first product cut out of the laser cutter increases engagement and increases your motivation to learn more!  Once a student's motivation is at play, perseverance and grit kicks in and the learning process reaches places beyond expectation.  Some of the features of the Glowforge (especially its dual cameras has made it possible to get from point A (idea) to point B (product) much more quickly.   With other laser cutters, there is a lot more front loading that needs to happen.  Sometimes those skills are the goals (i.e. preparing for careers, and learning advanced design skills), but other times, the the amount of time and skills needed detract from your goals.  The Glowforge is the right tool for so many learning goals.  It is an accessible tool for younger learners.  It is an accessible tool for those just getting started.  It's an accessible tool for educators who don't have a background in design and tech.  And it's accessible  for those with a smaller budget. 



Why Google Drawing? 


Honestly, the right tools for the job when it comes to designing for a laser cutter include vector programs like Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. However, these program require quite a few hours to master and are not accessible to many students due to the cost or to the fact that most schools use Chromebooks as student devices.  There are few choices for creating with vectors that work with Chromebooks.  Gravit.io is one of the few tool that works on Chromebooks for creating vector designs; it also has a free and Pro version.  However, it is not available in all schools.  

One tool that many students have access to is Google Drawing.  Many students have some degree of familiarity with Google Drawing already since it is part of the Google Apps environment that comes with their Chromebook.  Therefore Google Drawing it is an accessible tool in both price, platform, and ease of use.  

So let's give this a try. Here's what we are going to make.  In my case it's an ornament for my grandson, Cedar.  But this project could be used for creating suncatchers or badges.  This project was designed as a skill-builder that will lay the foundation for future laser cut projects. It also allows for personalization - which is a great motivator in any learning experience. 

That being said, Google Drawing is not the perfect tools for the job, and it does require some work arounds.  So in this tutorial I'm going to share what I learned when I challenged myself to create a laser cut design for my GlowForge using Google Drawing. 

We'll use primitive shapes available in Google Drawing and manipulate color in a way that will make it easier for an SVG picture converter to successfully create a file that can be cut on a laser cutter.  We  will also use the WordArt feature of Google Drawing and a Stencil font to cutout text in a laser safe way - so the centers of letters do not fall out. 

Caveats! 

  • I'm not a design teacher and this worfkflow may not work with other laser cutters. 
  • This was not meant to suggest Google Drawing as the ideal tool for the job, but simply an accessible tool.
  • Lasercutting cardboard requires care and supervision as to prevent fires. You can complete this lesson by skipping the cardboard prototype and moving directly to cutting wood or acrylic. 
  • Glowforge does not have a cardboard cutting setting, but with a little digging you can find them online.

For this first tutorial, I will strongly suggest that you stay within the constraints of using fonts and shapes found within Google Drawing.  In the next tutorial, we'll learn how to find and use other shapes and fonts. It was my goal to help you build confidence with some basic entry level skills and end up with a fun project that you could be proud of.

So let's get started. 


The following is a lesson I recorded for those of you who would prefer a step by step walkthrough followed some highlights of the workflow. 





Workflow highlights


Use primitive shapes to create your design. (Do NOT import images. Yet!) 
Feel free to also use symbols!  We'll play with in Tutorial 2.


Feature Request to Google:  Please add the ability to merge shapes.




Use Word Art to add text! 
Change the font, but for this tutorial- Limit your text to STENCIL fonts so the 'holes' in your letters don't fall out when cut. 
We'll learn how to work around that in the next tutorial.




Use color to create a design that has two contrasting colors (silhouette look)
Make the borders or all shapes and Word Art TRANSPARENT. 





Download your Google Drawing as a PNG. 
(Note: even though it looks like you can download in the SVG format, this will most likely NOT work for many designs such as this one because of overlapping cut lines and the inability to perform a true merge of shapes. I explain this more in the video tutorial)







Using a site like  Picsvg  to convert your PNG to an SVG

Import your PNG file into PicSVG and play around with different settings until you find a setting that will create a clean look that will import into your GlowForge.  Export the file as an SVG.  I demonstrate some settings that will and won't work well with explanations of why they won't work at this in the video tutorial.


Upload the SVG file into your Glowforge software. 
Play with size and placement of your design. 
Add the right CUT  settings for your material. 





I use cardboard to prototype with then cut the final project in Glowforge's 1/8 inch poplar.
Take necessary caution when using cardboard.





And voila!
You know have a fun artifact that is evidence that you have the gained the foundational skills necessary to create a basic design in Google Drawing that can be cut on a Glowforge laser cutter. 






In the next tutorial,  I'll show you how to personalize your project with images and fonts outside those available in Google Drawing!  Here's a sneak preview of my second ornament personalized for my grand daughter.  


Ready for Part 2?  Here you go!