Laser cutting with less waste | MIT News


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Laser cutting is an essential part of many industries, from automotive manufacturing to construction. However, the process is not always easy or efficient: cutting huge sheets of metal takes time and expertise, and even the most careful users can still produce huge amounts of leftover material that goes to waste. The underlying technologies that use lasers to cut edges aren’t exactly state of the art: their users are often unaware of how much of each material they have used or whether a design they have in mind can even be. be manufactured.

With that in mind, researchers at MIT’s Computer and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created a new tool called Fabricaide that provides live feedback on how different parts of the design should be placed on their sheets. – and can even analyze exactly how much material is used.

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Fabricaide: a tool for cheaper laser cutting

“By giving feedback on the feasibility of a design as it is created, Fabricaide allows users to better plan their designs within the context of the available materials,” says Ticha Sethapakdi, PhD student, who led the development of the system alongside MIT professor Stefanie Mueller, Adrian Reginald Chua Sy and Carnegie Mellon University doctoral student Daniel Anderson.

Fabricaide has a workflow that the team says dramatically shortens the feedback loop between design and manufacturing. The tool keeps an archive of what the user has done, tracking how much of each material they have left. It also allows the user to assign multiple materials to different parts of the design to be cut, which simplifies the process so that it is less of a headache for multi-material designs.

Another important element of Fabricaide is a custom 2D wrapping algorithm that can organize parts on sheets optimally and efficiently, in real time. The team showed that their algorithm was faster than existing open source tools, while producing comparable quality. (The algorithm can also be disabled if the user already knows how they want to organize the materials.)

“A lot of these materials are very scarce resources, and a problem that often arises is that a designer only realizes they have no material left until after they’ve already cut the design,” Sethapakdi explains. “With Fabricaide, they would be able to know sooner to proactively determine the best way to allocate materials. “

As the user creates their design, the tool optimizes the placement of parts on existing sheets and provides warnings of insufficient material, along with suggestions for material substitutes (for example, using yellow acrylic one millimeter thick instead of red acrylic 1 mm thick). Fabricaide acts as an interface that integrates with existing design tools and is compatible with 2D and 3D CAD software like AutoCAD, SolidWorks and even Adobe Illustrator.

In the future, the team hopes to incorporate more sophisticated properties of the materials, such as strength or flexibility. The team says they might consider using Fabricaide in shared manufacturing spaces as a way to reduce waste. A user can see that, say, 10 people are trying to use a particular material, and then can switch to a different material for their design in order to conserve resources.

The project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

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