Fabrication Lab

The Fabrication Lab serves as a practical laboratory extension of classroom theory. The Lab is equipped for all phases of woodworking, metalworking, and machining, as well as digital fabrication with CNC routing, laser cutting, and 3D printing. The lab is available to all School of Design students and to all students enrolled in ancillary School of Design courses.

The lab is managed by Dennis Pierattini, who can be contacted in person at the lab. He and his staff welcome your design and fabrication related inquiries.

Shop Hours
Mon–Thurs: 8 am—7 pm
Fri: 8 am—4 pm
Sat–Sun: 11 am—6 pm

CNC Milling/3DPrinting Hours
Mon 8 am—6:30 pm
Tues 8 am—6:30 pm
Wed 8:30 am—6:30 pm
Thurs 10 am—6:30 pm
Fri 8:30 am—3:30 pm
Sat 1 pm—5:30 pm
Sun TBA

Please review the schedule posted in the Lab for any changes.

You must have completed the Lab Safety Course before you may use the Lab. Please contact Dennis Pierattini for Lab Safety Course schedules. Safety Courses are held in the Lab at the beginning of each semester and last for two and a half hours. Representations of previous experience will not be accepted in lieu of completion of this safety course.

Contact

Dennis Pierattini
Fabrication Lab Manager
Room 409 Meyerson Hall
dennis2@design.upenn.edu

General Laser Cutting Guidelines

  • The use of the laser cutters is restricted to the academic work of PennDesign students only. You may not use it for personal projects, work for professional firms, or for academic work outside of PennDesign.
  • Faculty may not use the laser cutters unless they are working under the Praxis program.
  • Students may not operate the laser cutters. Only trained personnel may operate these machines. Any student who attempts to operate these machines will lose laser cutting privileges for the remainder of the semester.
  • In order to budget time efficiently and reduce errors and re-cuts, students must be present while their files are being cut in order to answer any questions that may arise, or to be advised of any remedial CAD work that may be required.
  • The laser operators cannot correct or draw your files for you. You may not use the computers in the laser rooms to correct or draw your files.
  • All work must be completed within your scheduled time slot. Corrupt files, unsuitable materials, experimentation, etc. all count against your time.
  • Only materials posted on the “Laser Suitable Materials” handout may be cut on the lasers.
  • Students must supply all materials. PennDesign does not supply any materials.
  • Students must remove all cut-off, waste and garbage from the laser rooms and clean up after themselves when finished.
  • Come prepared to your appointment.
  • You may not bring work to the laser cutters until you have read and understood all notices and guidelines posted in the laser rooms.
  • Students are required to maintain a high level of respect for the laser operators. Disrespect will result in immediate suspension of laser cutter privileges.

Online Laser Scheduling

SCHEDULE LOCATION

PERMISSIBLE NUMBER OF TIME SLOTS

  • Students may sign up for a maximum of TWO thirty-minute time slots per week (one hour in total per week).
  • All other unused time slots are available on a first-come first-served walk-in basis.
  • If you sign up for more than two timeslots per week, ALL of your timeslots for that week will be deleted and your laser scheduling login will be suspended for a week.  Logins may be reinstated only after an interview with the Lab manager.

WEEKLY SCHEDULE ACTIVATION

  • The laser week runs from Saturday to Friday.  The schedule for the new week will become available at 11:00 AM on preceding Fridays.
  • For example, at 11:00 AM on Friday, October 9, the sign-up for Saturday, October 10 through Friday, October 16, will become active.

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • You must sign up under your own name only, using your own log-in.  You may not sign up using any other person’s name or under anyone else’s log-in.
    When you are caught trying to sign up for someone else or under a name other than your own, all of your timeslots will be deleted and your laser cutting privileges may be suspended for the entire semester.
  • You yourself must show up for your appointment.  You may not send a proxy.
  • Show up promptly for your scheduled time.  If you are more that five minutes late, you will forfeit your time to the first available student.
  • Cancel your appointment online if you no longer need it.  
  • Report to the laser for which you signed up!  If you show up at a different laser it will be interpreted and processed as a missed appointment.
  • Three incidences of failure to show up for your scheduled time in one semester will result in suspension of your laser cutting privileges for the remainder of the semester. 
  • Dennis Pierattini will resolve all scheduling conflicts.  Do not approach the laser operators or faculty members to resolve conflicts.  Students are reminded that disrespect to the laser operator will result in an indefinite suspension of laser cutting privileges.  

Laser Schedule Access Registration

ONLINE REGISTRATION

  • Log in to http://penndesign.calendarhost.com.
  • Navigate to the login screen.
  • Click on “I am a new user”.
  • Fill out the “Add User” form.
  • At “User ID” enter your PennKey.  Your PennKey is the username at the beginning of your Penn email address.  For example, Mary Smith, whose email address is smithm@design.upenn.edu, would enter “smithm”.  Bill Jones, whose email address is jonesb@sas.upenn.edu, would enter “jonesb”
  • At “Password” enter a password that is strong but easy to remember.  DO NOT use your Pennkey password.  The login website is NOT secure.
  • Enter your name as it appears on your PennID.
  • Enter your Penn email address.
  • Click the “Submit” button.

Please note that “Your request for EDIT permission was not automatically granted” and that your request to use the calendar must be processed before you will be able to make laser appointments.

EMAIL REQUEST

You must email a request for laser access to “Laser Access” (laseracc@design.upenn.edu).  You MUST send this request from your Penn email address.  Please include your full name and your PennKey name.  Do not include ANY passwords.  For example, format the email as follows:

“I am requesting access to the PennDesign Online Laser Schedule.  I have already completed the online registration.  My full name is Mary Smith and my PennKey is smithm.”

This request MUST be sent from your Penn email address.  Requests sent from any other email address will not be considered.

Requests will be processed as quickly as possible, Monday through Friday, during normal business hours.  Please note that NO requests will be processed during the weekends or evenings. 

AutoCAD Guidelines

LASER TEMPLATE

  • Please read the “Working with the AutoCAD Laser Cutter File” for complete information.
  • All parts to be cut in AutoCAD must be drawn in the Laser Cutting Template available on the JUNO server at \\JUNO\Public\LaserCutter\LaserCutter File.
  • Please use the Laser Cutting Template to ensure your file is properly formatted. If your file is not properly formatted the laser operator will not cut your file.

DRAWING

  • Draw everything in AutoCAD. Files drawn in other programs that are then imported or pasted into AutoCAD will cause problems.
  • Use only the six standard “index” colors: red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and white. No “true color”.
  • For smoother cuts, all continuous line segments should be joined using the PEDIT/JOIN command.
  • All line widths should remain at “0.00” thickness. Line Thickness settings for all layers are accessible in the “Layer Properties Manager” window. If you want scored lines to be thicker, do multiple .004” offsets. If this is unacceptable, the laser system is capable of engraving virtually any thickness line. However, this involves raster engraving rather than vector scoring and requires considerably more time.

BEFORE YOUR APPOINTMENT

  • Erase all stray lines.
  • Remove all overlapping and duplicate lines. The laser will double cut overlapping lines with very negative results. Use the OVERKILL command.
  • When importing files from RHINO, please refer to the “If you Must draw in Rhino” sheet posted in the laser room.
  • In AutoCad, it is possible to have multiple cut templates in a single file. Please ensure that any file you bring strictly follows the Laser Cutting Template format, is well organized and is ready to cut.
  • Delete all unnecessary information from your file.

ABOUT THE LASER

  • The laser’s kerf is approximately .008” centered on the drawn line. This will cause the parts that are cut to be slightly smaller than what is drawn. This fact is normally insignificant, but if it is critical to your work, please make a note of it.
  • The rule of thumb for spacing between discrete parts is to allow at least half of the thickness of the material between relatively parallel cuts, particularly on acrylics. For example, if you are using ¼” acrylic, allow 1/8” spacing between individual parts

Working with the Laser Cutter Template

DOWNLOAD

  • 
Download the laser cutting file template from the Juno server. 
  • Go to \\Juno\Public\DigitalFabrication\LaserCutter-Template\
  • Open or download the file named “Laser Cutter File.dwg”.

DRAWING

  • The “0” layer represents the laser’s maximum bed size of 32” x 18”.   The laser operators use this for targeting alignment when plotting.  If you change this size, your parts will not cut correctly.
  • You must either draw your parts to be cut in this drawing, or cut and paste parts from another AutoCAD file into this file.
  • Parts pasted into the drawing will retain their original layer names.  You must place these parts onto their new appropriate layers and delete the old layers.
  • Delete all unnecessary information from your file.
  • All parts must be placed within the dotted lines of the “Bleed_Boundary” layer.  The effective cutting area is  31 ½” x 17 ½”

ALTERING THE TEMPLATE FILE

  • You may not alter the size of the rectangle in the “0” layer.
  • You must use the layers provided (i.e., all parts to be cut must be placed on the magenta cut layer, all parts to be scored must be placed on the blue vector score layer).
  • You may make additional layers named “innercut03”, innercut04”, etc. as needed.
  • You may make copies of the 32” x 18” box in the “0” layer for larger files or for files with multiple materials.

THOU SHALL NOTS . . .

  • Thou shall not use this file for anything but laser cutting.  (Plotting from this file will embed information that conflicts with the laser drivers.)
  • Thou shall not scale the original page layout.
  • Thou shall not come to the laser cutter with any AutoCAD file formatted in any way other than described above.  You will be turned away.   

Illustrator Guidelines

BEFORE YOU DRAW

  • In “Document Setup”, set Artboard Width to 32” and Height to 18”. All parts to be cut or scored must be ¼” inside this perimeter to avoid bleed problems. Effectively, this makes the cutting area 31-1/2” x 17-1/2”.
  • Do NOT set up multiple artboards. Set up multiple files instead.
  • All drawings must be expressed in inches.

DRAWING

  • Draw everything in Illustrator. Files drawn in other programs that are then imported or pasted into Illustrator will cause problems.
  • All lines on all layers must be set to black for laser cutting.
  • Lines to be cut or scored (rather than engraved) must be expressed as vectors. Select the lines, and in the “Window”, “Stroke”, drop-down menu assign these elements a stroke of .001. You must type this in; it is not an option to be selected.
  • Elements to be engraved, such as wider lines and filled artwork, must be expressed in raster mode—that is, they have a stroke and fill. Stroke weight should be set to .025 pt or higher. Fill must be set to black.
  • Separate layers must be used for parts to be cut, scored, or engraved. Name the layers “cut”, “score” and “engrave” respectively.
  • If you must transfer from Rhino, ensure that all line work is set to the solid black line setting. Beware of gray “ghost” line color, a gradient line color, or question marks in the line color box.
  • If you are unable to set your vector line work to the proper solid color and weight of “.001” after transferring from Rhino, check your Rhino drawing and export it again.

BEFORE YOUR APPOINTMENT

  • Erase all stray lines.
  • Remove all overlapping and duplicate lines. The laser will double-cut overlapping lines, with very negative results.
  • Delete all unnecessary information from your file.

ABOUT THE LASER

  • The laser’s kerf is approximately .008” centered on the drawn line. This will cause the parts that are cut to be slightly smaller than what is drawn. This fact is normally insignificant, but if it is critical to your work, please make a note of it.
  • The rule of thumb for spacing between discrete parts is to allow at least half of the thickness of the material between relatively parallel cuts, particularly on acrylics. For example, if you are using ¼” acrylic, allow 1/8” spacing between individual parts

Laser Suitable Materials

Cutting and Etching

  • Acrylic
  • Wood-Consult laser room charts for species-specific thicknesses.
  • Paper
  • Leather
  • Mylar
  • Matte Board
  • MDF (1/8” thick only)

Etching Only

  • Glass
  • Stone
  • Anodized Metals
  • Corian

Banned Materials

  • Rubber (All Forms)
  • Casting Resins
  • Polypropylene
  • Polycarbonate
  • Any material in the chloride/chlorine family (e.g. PVC-polyvinylchloride)
  • Felt
  • FoamCore
  • Polystyrene

Using the CNC Router

1. General Guidelines

  • The use of this CNC router is restricted to academic work only.  You may not use it for personal projects, work for professional firms, or for academic work outside of Penn Design.
  • Students may not operate the CNC router.  Only trained personnel may operate the CNC router.
  • Unauthorized use of the router will result in immediate suspension of routing privileges.
  • Students may not bring files to the CNC router until they have read and agreed to all notices and guidelines in this document.
  • Students are expected to maintain a high level of respect for the CNC router operator.  Disrespect to the operator will result in immediate suspension of routing privileges.

2. File Creation (Design, Modeling & Formats)

  • Students must prep their files correctly, using the CNC Template, prior to submitting their work to the operators. \\juno\Public\DigitalFabrication\CNC-Template
  • Files can be created in either Rhinoceros or Maya.  Rhinoceros is preferred.
  • Files size is limited to 64MB. No files lager than 64MB will be accepted.    
  • No extra layers. Files with layers that do not pertain to the CNC routing process will not be accepted.
  • Please use NURBS modeling when possible, as this format easily exports using the IGES format. Mesh files are allowed with the following requirement: mesh settings must be set no finer than .01 precision. Exporting mesh files at a higher level makes them unworkable.
  • All files must be expressed in inches at a 1:1 scale
  • Models must be limited to 2000 cubic inches (e.g.:  20” x 25” x 4”). The 2000 cubic inches refers to the blank material prior to being machined, not the finished model size.
  • Group or class projects must be sub-divided into 2000 cubic inch modules and submitted by individuals.
  • Students must submit and review their file with the CNC operator in order to be placed into the router queue.
  • Students may be required to modify their models to accommodate the cutting limitations of the CNC router. The limits of router cutters and model complexity affect the size and detail available to any model.
  • Delete all unnecessary information.

3. Materials (Choice, Routing & Finish)

  • Students must supply all materials to be routed. 
  • Choices of materials are restricted to various types of foam, HDPE and wood.  Metal and acrylic routing is unavailable.
  • Students must prepare their material prior to routing, but after their file review with the CNC operator. Students must supply the CNC operator with the appropriate size blank to mill their project.
  • Finish levels will be determined by the CNC operator, based on queue size, model complexity and CNC limitations.

4. Scheduling your project.

  • The CNC scheduling queue is posted on the door in the Digital Fabrication area of the lab. You may place your name, contact info (Phone & email) and class info in the queue on the next available slot, only if your file is ready, reviewed with an operator and you have supplied materials to be routed.
  • Due to the nature of the routing process, once a project is begun, it must be completed in its entirety.
  • Projects will be completed on a first-come, first-served basisThere will be no exceptions.  Please plan accordingly.
  • No design changes can be made once you have reviewed your file with the CNC operator and the file is being routed. Additional files cannot be added to your routing time.
  • Students will be allowed to submit additional files for routing only after their name has been “worked off” the list. The only exception to this rule is that if the routing queue is totally empty, a student may sign up for one additional project.
  • Students will be notified by email when their project has been finished. Students will then have 48 hrs to pick-up their work. Lab staff does not take any responsibility for projects not retrieved within the allotted time.

All scheduling conflicts will be resolved by Dennis Pierattini, not the faculty member or the CNC operator.

Q&A CNC Router

Q:) What is the largest piece I can have milled out?
A:) The largest piece you can have milled is 2000 cubic inches. Note that this is the size of the blank material before it is machined, not the size of the finished model. Measure the blank by multiplying the width x the breadth x the height. Ex: a 12” x 12” x 2” foam blank equals 288 cubic inches.  

Q:) What is the longest and widest run I can make on the CNC table?
A:) The working area of the CNC table is 26 ½”x 24”. Remember you cannot exceed the 2000 cubic inch limit.

Q:) What is the maximum depth I can have routed?
A:) Typical models have a maximum relief of 2 ½”. Under special circumstances we can cut as much as 4 ½” with a loss of detail and resolution. The operator will make the final determination of what can and cannot be machined. 

Q:) Can I laminate material to increase the size of my blank?
A:) Yes, however, oversize the pieces being joined, so the staff can square the material to the appropriate finish size. Lamination for the CNC is limited to face joining. No edge joining. Also, you must use a urethane glue to adhere the foam together. Please ask the staff to aid you in laminating your material together. 

Q:) Can we cut plywood on the CNC?
A:) Yes and you can also cut solid wood and HDPE (NO MDF! ).

Q:) Can I cut 3 dimensional topos into the wood or HDPE?
A:) No, we are only allowing “edge cutting” pocket passes, contour passes and drilling.

Q:) What is edge cutting?
A:) Edge cutting is following the exterior contour of an object. We can also rout out dados, laps and rabbets into your material

Q:) But what is the largest blank I can work with that will fit on the CNC table? 
A:) The CNC working envelope is 26 ½” x 24” but you need a 2” border on all four sides for clamping purposes. So, the biggest cutting area would be 22 ½” x 20.  

Q:) How thick of a piece can I cut?
A:) The thickest dimension we will cut is ¾” and the thinnest is ½”.

Q:) Do I have to have a three dimensional drawing for this type of cutting?
A:) Yes and no, please see the staff to aid you in setting up more complicated files. 

Using the FDM 3D Printer

1. General Guidelines

  • The use of this 3D Printer is restricted to academic work only. You may not use it for personal projects, work for professional firms, or for academic work outside of Penn Design.
  • Students may not operate the 3D Printer. Only trained personnel may operate the 3D Printer.
  • Unauthorized use of the 3D Printer will result in immediate suspension of 3D printing privileges.
  • Students may not bring files to the 3D Printer until they have read and agreed to all notices and guidelines in this document.
  • Students are expected to maintain a high level of respect for the 3D Printer operator.
  • Disrespect to the operator will result in immediate suspension of 3D printing privileges.

2. File Creation (Design, Modeling & Format)

  • Students must prep their files correctly, using the FDMTemplate, prior to submitting their work to the operators. \\juno\Public\DigitalFabrication\3D-Printing-Templates\FDM-Template
  • No extra layers. Files with layers that do not pertain to the 3D Printing process will not be accepted.
  • Files size is limited to 64MB. No files lager than 64MB will be accepted.
  • Files can be created in Rhino, Maya, 3d Studio Max or SolidWorks.
  • ALL FILES MUST BE EXPORTABLE AS CLOSED STL FILES. The 3D Printer only recognizes model files in STL format that have no open edges.
  • All files must be expressed in inches at a 1:1 scale
  • Models are limited to a working envelope of 8” x 8” x 12”.
  • Students must submit and review their file with the operator prior to printing. All students who have submitted their file to the 3D Printer queue must supply their PennDesign Login as your Login ID will be used to charge your bursars’ account for your 3D print.
  • The 3D Printer operator will supply each student with an estimate of the time and cost to print the file.
  • Delete all unnecessary information.

3. Scheduling your project.

  • The 3D Printing queue is posted on the door in the Digital Fabrication area of the lab. You will be entered into the queue once your file is ready and you have supplied your name, Penn Design Login ID (phone and email).
  • Due to the nature of the 3D Printing process, once a project is begun, it must be completed in its entirety.
  • Projects will be completed on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be no exceptions. Please plan accordingly.
  • No design changes will be considered once you have reviewed your file with the 3D Printer operator and the file is being printed. Additional files cannot be added to your printing time.
  • Students will be allowed to submit additional files for printing only after their name has been “worked off” the list. The only exception to this rule is that if the printer queue is totally empty, a student may sign up for one additional project.

All scheduling conflicts will be resolved by Dennis Pierattini, not the faculty member or the 3D Printer operator.

Using the 3D Powder Printer

1. General Guidelines

  • The use of this 3D Powder Printer is restricted to academic work only. You may not use it for personal projects, work for professional firms, or for academic work outside of Penn Design.
  • Students may not operate the 3D Powder Printer. Only trained personnel may operate the 3D Powder Printer.
  • Unauthorized use of the 3D Powder Printer will result in immediate suspension of all 3D printing privileges.
  • Students may not bring files to the 3D Powder Printer until they have read and agreed to all notices and guidelines in this document.
  • Students are expected to maintain a high level of respect for the 3D Printer operator. Disrespect to the operator will result in immediate suspension of all 3D printing privileges.

2. File Creation (Design, Modeling & Format)

  • Students must prep their files correctly, using the Powder Template, prior to submitting their work to the operators. \\juno\Public\DigitalFabrication\3D-Printing-Templates\Power-Template
  • No extra layers. Files with layers that do not pertain to the 3D Printing process will not be accepted.
  • Files size is limited to 64MB. No files lager than 64MB will be accepted.
  • Files can be created in Rhino, Maya, 3d Studio Max or SolidWorks.
  • ALL FILES MUST BE EXPORTABLE AS CLOSED zbd, zpr, stl, vrml or ply FILES. The 3D Powder Printer only recognizes model files in these formats.
  • Files must have no open edges.
  • All files must be expressed in inches at a 1:1 scale
  • Models are limited to a working envelope of 10”width x15”length x8 height”.
  • Students must submit and review their file with the operator prior to printing. All students who have submitted their file to the Powder Printer queue must supply their Penn Key as your Penn Key will be used to charge your bursars’ account for your 3D print.
  • The 3D Printer operator will supply each student with an estimate of the time and cost to print the file.
  • Delete all unnecessary information.

3. Scheduling your project.

  • The Powder Printing queue is posted on the wall in the 3D Printing area of the lab. You will be entered into the queue once your file is ready and you have supplied your name, Penn Design Login ID (phone and email).
  • Due to the nature of the Powder Printing process, once a project is begun, it must be completed in its entirety.
  • Projects will be completed on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be no exceptions. Please plan accordingly.
  • No design changes will be considered after you have reviewed your file with the 3D Printer operator and the file is being printed. Additional files cannot be added to your current printing time.
  • Students will be allowed to submit additional files for printing only after their name has been “worked off” the queue. The only exception to this rule is that if the printer queue is totally empty, a student may sign up for one additional project.

​All scheduling conflicts will be resolved by Dennis Pierattini, not the faculty member or the 3D Printer operator.

Q&A 3D Powder Printing

Q: ) How thin of a wall can I print if that wall is not supported (free wall)?
A: ) 1/8” is the thinnest wall that can be printed with no supports.

Q: ) What is the thinnest wall I can print that is supported?
A: ) If your wall is supported you can successfully print a wall that is 3/32” thick.

Q: ) What is the thinnest wire form I can print?
A: ) Whether you wire is supported or free the thinnest you can print is 1/8”.

Q: ) If I want to emboss or engrave on my part, how small of a detail can I print successfully?
A: ) 1/64” is the smallest detail you can emboss or engrave, however embossing this size is still subject to breaking during the clean-up stage.

Here are some examples of how you should approach designing your models.

Sandcastle Rule: Ask yourself, “If this structure was made of wet sand, would it break?”
There is a phase in the printing process when the model is fragile and brittle. It's basically like wet sand. When you design, ask yourself this question: “If I made this out of wet sand or brittle clay, could I lift the design without it breaking?” If the answer is "no," then your design might break in production.

Hanging structures are not printable
Any structure that has a hanging component is likely to break. This includes the end piece in an unsupported, heavy object, as pictured. Another example of something that would break is a miniature of a person with an arm sticking straight out. The arm would break off.

Exposure to water will fade colors
The colors we use are similar to Inkjet Printer coloring, which fades when wet. The same principle applies to 3D printed colors. In this photo, the original color was a sky blue (as represented in the lower right of the photo), and after we dipped the model in water the blue faded and whitened. This model should not be designed for applications that requires the model to touch water.

The more supported, the thinner the structure (& vice versa)
Supported structures are structures that connect to other structures. As an example, think of an empty box. The bottom of the box is supported by the side walls, and can therefore be thinner. On the other hand, something like a fan blade is not supported except at the end. This kind of unsupported structure should be made thicker to avoid breakage during production.

Points to Remember

  • Finished models should be formatted into the correct template
  • Create manifold design from the start.
  • Make sure all surfaces connect on all edges.
  • No intersecting geometry.
  • Combine your geometry so the outer surface is continuous (water tight).
  • Delete all unnecessary information from your file.
  • Scale everything in inches at 1:1 scale.
  • Files must be less than 64mb

Please keep all of this in mind when prepping files to be 3D printed. And always come by and see the staff early and often with additional questions.