Interactive laser-cutter

Constructable is an experimental laser-cutter from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam. It uses a light-pen to direct the cutting beam, so that you can draw the cuts freehand, in realtime, rather than designing a pattern that is fed to the cutter. Basically, it transforms the cutter into a hand tool, rather than a programmable plotter.

Personal fabrication tools, such as laser cutters and 3D printers allow users to create precise objects quickly. However, working through a CAD system removes users from the workpiece. Recent interactive fabrication tools reintroduce this directness, but at the expense of precision.

Constructable is an interactive drafting table that produces precise physical output in every step. Users interact by drafting directly on the workpiece using a hand-held laser pointer. The system tracks the pointer, beautifies its path, and implements its effect by cutting the workpiece using a fast high-powered laser cutter.

Hasso-Plattner-Institut: constructable (via Kottke)


  1. I have made a lot of stuff in my days, and I have watched lots of academic presentations in the realm of media arts. I can’t believe anyone actually designs and builds anything like the paradigm they are positing. It is a project driven by a need to explore technology without the faith to just go for it. Shoe horning some idea of practical application when no one on the team has any real experience. I have seen it before. Toward the end is the “let us off the hook” moment when she says the process is not right for every sort of problem. This statement was added to the presentation because, during committee meetings on the project, it seemed to answer the skeptics. The skeptics were too polite to press the point. It doesn’t solve any real problem. You want undo? you can make the part again! Norm Abrams could tell you that on the first day and you would have learned something.

    Why does it bother me? Because these people are taking up resources and positions that could be used/filled by worthy people. Instead we have a happy circle jerk of no one looking too closely at anyone else’s work and relying on their colleagues to do the same. I have seen it before.

  2. Very cool, the video here is hard to see and incomprehensible audio to me but the beautiful video on their site showed excellent examples of what it is. Great and satisfying! But.. 1) I have a major fear of staring into laser cutters. Call me a neanderthal but I hate it. And 2) it would be nice to have feedback showing where the line you drew is, without etching it. So personally I would prefer working on a table top with a simulation projected from above and this allowing me to interact, get feedback, place shapes, animate, etc. and then render it to wood. But very cool. Perhaps it would be very useful for doing simple modifications based on printed symbols. Mountain fold here, etc.

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