We installed our STx-72 “Studio” plotter/cutter at Parsons The New School for design. While Parson’s may be called “The New School”, they have been one of the most innovative schools in the world for “artists, designers, scholars, businesspeople, and community leaders for more than a century”. Located in the heart of New York City, they have class rooms and departments spread throughout one of the world’s most densely populated metropolitan areas. To meet the needs of their diverse course offerings and urban campus, they needed a versatile plotting/cutting system that had a small footprint, light weight and easy to transport gantry, simple to operate interface, easy to assemble and maintain hardware, and still be robust enough and safe enough for student use.
Here’s a quick, uncut video of the Studio plotting and cutting chipboard and then cutting muslin: https://vimeo.com/44249067 (If video is slow, please give it a second to load or sign into vimeo.com –free– to download the video).
This large table can be even more versatile with the addition of our T-Bar Pattern Digitizer. This is great for tracing physical patterns that would be difficult to draw on the computer. Does your latest design finally fit your model? Lay it flat, digitize, and now you have a computer model ready to scale, modify, or repeatably cut.
When asked why he chose the Carlson, the Director for Modeling Facilities and assistant professor at The School of Constructed Environments, Mark Bechtel said, “At an art and design school, there is a very high demand for laser cutters for a wide variety of different cutting applications from architectural model making to experimental fine arts work to fashion design. I wanted to find a comparable alternative for the majority of demand that could be easily relocated to support changing curricular needs. Aside from the benefit of new types of cutting processes such as creasing, this machine is also a cost effective solution since it does not require a dedicated exhaust system.”
Small foot print? Light Weight?
Our Track comes in short sections and can mount to almost any table top and/or even the floor. If you can secure your material without vacuum, then any 6′ wide flat surface can become your work area. Since the plotter/cutter only weighs 16lbs, it’s easy to move to different locations. Some might think a “light weight” gantry means “light duty” performance. Our captive track and vertically oriented motors secure the plotter to the table and the job. This makes the studio as industrial as it is practical.
At Parson’s the Studio is riding on a two section, Phillocraft vacuum table – 6’x8′. These endless, steel frame tables can easily be reconfigured with more sections or into a single section. In the Fall, they plan to turn this 6’x8′ table into two 6’x4′ tables. The modular foot print allows the Studio to operate in different sized classrooms.
Simple to maintain, operate, and service?
Carlson Design software and hardware is designed to be very simple, and therefore reliable. The NEW Studio’s hardware is a study in simplicity and providing high reliability and easy service and maintenance. It uses plug-and-play, off-the-shelf components that hang from easily removable holders, “snapped” on to the back rail. Because these are off-the-shelf consumer components and not obscure, industry specific motors and drives, they are extremely durable and affordable to replace.
The light weight frame has several other advantages — in addition to reducing component wear-and-tear, if something cannot be repaired, the Studio is small enough to be shipped UPS or Fedex back to Carlson for repair.
Our software is very intuitive and can be “preset” with optimum settings for different materials. Once configured, a student can select their material (ie. “.030 chipboard”), select their file, and hit “Plot”!
Our Plotmaster software will run on any WindowsXP or 7 PC. This means students can download Plotmaster, prep their pattern on their own laptop, on their own time, and simply network the cut file or “plug” directly into the Studio’s USB cable when they are ready to plot.
Better than a laser? Safe to use?
The Studio has several advantages over traditional laser cutters used in model making. Lasers produce fumes and need to be vented. Implementing venting in a large city, in old buildings, were students are working can be expensive. Think unions, inspectors, city code, OSHA, the works! It also greatly reduces the system’s mobility. This also means the laser “bed” needs to be enclosed which significantly reduces working area.
Those are some pretty good reasons to pick the Carlson Studio. Let’s now see how we setup their system:
Usually here we would say, “attach your cutting surface”. We like to use 1/16″ polyethylene or polypropylene for most applications. These surface are inexpensive, hard enough for most textiles, but not too hard to quickly dull rotary blades. You can read more about which cutting surface to choose here: https://carlsondesign.com/blog/choosing-a-cutting-suface/. If you purchase a table from Carlson Design, we usually include cutting surface pre-drilled. Unfortunately the shipper thought OUR plastic sheets on the pallet were for shipping protection and they never made it to the room.
DON’T WORRY! You have a plotter and finding cutting surface locally is never very difficult– even in NYC. At the local hardware store we were able to find sheets of acrylic. Acrylic is not our first choice because it is brittle and a harder on blade life. After a few funny looks on the subway we were ready to plot and drill our own plastic cutting surface.
Here is a quick video of the Stuido plotting it’s own cutting surface: https://vimeo.com/44249068
Now that our system is installed, let’s look at a few “beauty shots”.
Thank you Parson’s and Mark Bechtel for making this a great install. We cannot wait to see what the New School Students make with the Studio in the fall. Stay tuned.