Lid to be lifted on high-tech world of laser cutting as UWE studio throws open doors

Issue date: 21 October 2015

Laser cutting machine

The doors of a university studio filled with cutting-edge technology used by top designers will be swung open for a unique event showcasing the work of craftspeople in the digital age.

Members of the public are being invited to laser cutting demonstrations to witness technicians shaping designs into fabric, wood and plastic on state-of-the-art machines as part of national open day Make:Shift:Do.

For the free event on Saturday October 24, visitors will be welcomed into the Laser Studio at the University of the West of England's world-renowned Centre for Fine Print Research at Bower Ashton.

The studio specialises in working one-to-one with artists, designers and companies to laser cut their design ideas on five powerful machines.

The second annual Make:Shift:Do, organised by the Crafts Council, is aimed at giving people an opportunity to meet the next generation of makers and try their hand at an emerging craft.

Some 30 institutions across Britain, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, will open to the public to highlight new crafts such as 3D printing and computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling.

Dr Carinna Parraman, acting director of the Centre for Fine Print Research, said, “By taking part in Make:Shift:Do we hope to attract more companies, artists, makers and designers to the Centre for Fine Print Research, strengthening the two-way flow of information and ideas, helping businesses to successfully promote and drive creativity and innovation.”

Laser cutting uses a computer aided design (CAD) file to precisely cut a design into a variety of flat materials. A powerful laser beam moves over the bed of the machine, using the CAD file to guide it, and cuts by melting, burning, or vaporising the material. A laser cutter can be used to cut, etch or engrave into woods, plastics, textiles and papers.

The laser-cutting studio at the university works with architects, product designers, theatre companies, book artists, printmakers, fashion designers, carpenters, design companies, fine artists, sculptors and jewellery designers. Among the high-profile talent to have worked with the studio are artists Su Blackwell and Gillian Taylor, jewellery maker Sue Gregor and designer Mette-Sofie D Ambeck.

Sue Gregor worked with the laser bureau to develop a range of brooches and necklaces with interlocking pieces and surface engraving. The designs were drawn in Adobe Illustrator then transferred to a laser cutter. Gillian Taylor used the technology to create 1,000 poppies from copies of wartime love letters. The paper poppies formed a 2.7m-highart installation in Exeter.

The studio will be open to the public for the drop-in event between 10am and 1pm. Guests should enter via the gate on Park Farm Road and follow signs to the Laser Studio.

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