Visit to Fab Cafe in Shibuya
Fab Cafe is a cafe in Shibuya, Tokyo where you can rent access to a laser cutter or a 3D printer.
We don't have our own laser cutter yet (the enclosures we sell are produced by Emerge plus), so in order to get a bit more hands on with the actual laser cutting process, we decided to take a trip to Fab Cafe.
They have recently changed their reservation system, so that Thursdays to Sundays are "Open Fab Time" only. This means that you just show up on the day, write your name on a sheet of paper to reserve a slot on the laser cutter or 3D printer. The maximum time you can reserve is 30 minutes, but this is the raw cutting time, and does not include the setup.
When we arrived on Sunday it was pretty crowded, so we had to wait almost two hours for a slot, but we had anticipated that and spent the two hours finalizing the designs to cut. We usually use Sketchup (in conjunction with EagleUP) as well as Inkscape to produce the cutting templates as SVG files. Fab Cafe recommend that Illustrator format be used, which turned out to be a bit clunky: Illustrator didn't like all the SVGs that Inkscape produced. In the end, we managed to work that out though.
Another issue was that since Inkscape and Illustrator use different DPI settings, the Illustrator files ended up too big and had to be scaled to 80 % size to be correct.
After that it was smooth sailing though. The staff was very helpful and showed us through the whole process. The laser had some small issues that day, so some of the cuts had to be run in two passes, but once that was done the results were perfect. (the extra pass did not count into our cutting time).
Here's a picture of the laser cutter in action:
We cut prototypes for lots of different cases, including a case for the IV-22
null. We're happy with the design, but we accidentally made the whole case 2mm too low, so it will need one more iteration:
We also cut a case for the Diet nixie (our new nixie clock which we promised to release a while ago). We're still not 100 % satisfied with the legs (they are a bit too loose), so we'll have to do one more version.
Some pictures of the prototype cases are below. The final one is a case for the VFD Modular Clock: Raspberry PI edition board we're working on.
Fab Cafe has an English webpage:http://tokyo.fabcafe.com/en
It is often a bit crowded, but be patient and your visit will be very worthwhile! Since it is a cafe, you can enjoy coffee and cakes while you wait for your time slot. There are tables with power outlets for your laptop as well!