We're making Pioneers Platforms for Raspberry Pi Pico this week in The Factory - The Pioneers Platform is a simple enough kit, but it has a lot of learning baked in. We explore how different colours are used in illustration software to sequence different lasing profiles on our Trotec Speedy 400.


We are making Pioneer's Platforms this week on the factory. So the Pioneer's Platform is this laser-cut piece of acrylic that we use to secure various pieces of electronics in place. Really nice to be able to have all your modules mounted on the board, make sure they're not going to go anywhere. And that's great for educators because you can create like a baked experience that you want students to go through.

Also good for just the maker at home because you can put your thing in a drawer, get it back out and everything's where you left it. So this is what we're making today on the factory. This is the design file for the Pioneer's Platform and you can see that we're using Illustrator because a laser cutter is basically a printer. Instead of printing with different colours, it moves that head around and prints using different lasing profiles, different movement speeds and power intensities.

By mixing the two together, you can create either a laser cut or you can do an engrave. So obviously where we have features like holes for these standoffs and screws, that's a cut, the edges are cut. Then we have this text here which is engraved. So there's a couple of things going on here.

Looking at the design file, we have a couple of hairlines and you might not be able to see that one of these, maybe I can increase the stroke. Here we go. One of these is blue and the other is red. Those are two different types of cut lines and we also have an engraving profile which is this green here. So that's a way that we can control when the laser cutter should do what.

Our engraving happens first because everything's still locked together on the one big build plate. So we can engrave this text and you'll see that it's backwards here.That's because we engrave on the reverse side and it creates like a nice effect when you read the text through the acrylic. So first up is the green profile to engrave this text.

Then we do this special blue cut and that doesn't cut all the way through. It's like, we call it like a scratch or an etch. It might be a bit hard to see. I might need to get another shot of this, but that's just a kind of like an outline that's etched into the acrylic so that you can see like a nice engraved line. Much faster to do that than to do an engraving where the head would have to raster back and forth all the way down to create that etch because this is a scratch pass. It just quickly zips around as if it were cutting, just doesn't cut all the way through and leaves that nice outline.

So we're just finishing up one of the Pioneer's platforms on this plate and we're moving to the next one. And you can see that we always cut the inner geometries first. So we have all the screw holes, all the engraving is done before the final outline cut. And that just helps to make sure that everything stays locked in place until the final cut where we cut the outline and the plate might move a little bit after that.

So lasers fire through lenses and lenses of course need to be focused. For that we have this little focus gauge and you sit that on the side of the laser head and raise the laser bed up until it just touches that gauge and then a little bit further until the gauge falls off. And it's that point that you know you are at the right focal distance for that lens.

And here's the action of that scratch pass that I was talking about before. You can see here the laser head is just flying around because the speed is set so high. It's only reallyJust putting, it's basically just discoloring the acrylic, putting this tiny little engraved line in but it's quite a nice feature to be able to include those outlines.

Once the laser cutting is finished, we lift the panels out of the laser cutter and tape on these bags of fasteners. We also bag these here, not really much to show there, it's just counting fasteners into a bag. We tape it on and that's that.

And this is how we'll ship it in our Core Electronics boxes. We leave the paper on both for protection so the acrylic doesn't get scuffed in transit and also because it's quite nice to peel that off. We wouldn't want to rob you of that experience.

So there's a little behind-the-scenes peek into how we make the Pioneers platform for the Raspberry Pi Pico and the process is basically the same for the other Pioneers platforms we have. A very simple product but proudly made in Newcastle.

Thanks for joining me.



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