The Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) is an establishment that has been set up by the 'Promotional Project of Global Human Resource Development' committee. It is the only private science and engineering institution that has been turned into a Top Global University by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology.
Today, SIT has more than 800 overseas exchange students studying at its various campuses in Japan. In 2013, its Toyosu campus obtained a small, compact Trotec laser cutter to be part of the School of Architecture & Design. Then, in 2017, a mid-sized Trotec Speedy 400 was introduced to the university for wider use across all faculties. Both units are now seeing extensive use, mostly for fabricating models for the architecture students, as well as the conducting of research projects. And sometimes, SIT hosts a range of hands-on workshops for the local children, as part of its program of 'giving back' to the community.
This fun workshop is part of the 'Open Tech Kids' program, run by SIT. It's driving force has been Assistant Professor Keita Aoshima of the School of Architecture. Using the leading-edge high-quality laser cutting machines from Trotec, teams of children as well as foreign exchange students get the chance to fabricate their very own tiny model 'room'. Each individual finished room is then combined to help build a large, innovative 'home for everyone'.
Through this fun, collaborative exercise, the participating children can learn about communications skills, architectural flows as well as the general profession of an architect. Exchange students are also able to attempt collaborating in Japanese and will slowly become more confident in this new style of working. Each year, the workshop is held four times. And it always proves to be a great, popular success!
Upon joining SIT back in 2013, Professor Aoshima very quickly expressed the desired to purchase a laser cutter for the university. While still somewhat of a rarity at Japanese universities, laser cutting machines are very much a part of the expected landscape at other educational establishments around the world. Due to this uncommon request, Professor Aoshima worked very hard to acquire enough funding to support this request. On approaching the numerous affiliated research laboratories, finally the money was raised! The Trotec laser cutter was swiftly purchased, and students immediately began utilising it for many fabrication and architectural assignments.
Once the children's workshops began running, and the cutter was being used even more, another machine was purchased in 2017. It was obvious that they required a larger laser machine, thus discovering the Speedy 400. It was installed as a shared piece of equipment at the SIT research laboratories. So, instead of only being used by faculty-specific teachers and students, it was now available to the entire university! Many other students jumped at the opportunity to use such a cutting-edge piece of technology, including a lot of mechanical and electrical engineering students.
The operability of Trotec products is very good. Furthermore, I have been very impressed by the processing speed of the new Speedy 400 that the university has just installed. Its speed in itself really helps us out. I should also mention that these days more and more of our classes are adopting a problem-based learning approach. One element of that is that we need to quickly and reliably produce accurate products there and then. What is more, in my own “Project Design” research laboratory, it is necessary to be able to create different things as a form of communications tool. At such times, what is most convincing is the ability to produce something rather specialized rather quickly. Under such circumstances, I find the ability to use a laser cutter to be very valuable.
Standard Graphics Program
Trotec laser machines can be operated with standard graphics programs, including Adobe Illustrator. This is great for the students and teachers of SIT as it is a very straightforward operational interface that is generally known by all. Using the standardised configuration of the laser machine, students can create and generate their very own designs. The user-friendliness of Adobe Illustrator then means they can take their proposals all the way from the designing process to the fabricating process.
Trotec laser machines offer high levels of safety
In looking to purchase a laser cutter, SIT felt that the Interlock-secured cover offered by Trotec was a necessity in that it was very important to be able to stop operation of the machinery if the cover happened to be open. Although some consideration was also given to certain cheaper options that are only equipped with open exhaust systems, an emphasis was instead placed on ensuring student safety. Moreover, in that such equipment was also to be used in workshops conducted with children, it was also important that any cutter was equipped with a cover that would allow them to safely see it operating.
Speed and toughness were also important selection criteria for SIT
As Professor Aoshima puts it, “I think of lasers as being a form of high-function pencil. By picking up a pen directly in the hand, what I think is ideal is the idea of being able to sketch a picture and then have the cutter reproduce it exactly. What is more, compared to 3D printers, the speed of laser cutters feels much faster. Additionally, I had heard that the machines of certain manufacturers were prone to frequent breakdowns. As such, in that our Rayjet Trotec laser unit hasn’t failed us yet, I get the impression that Trotec products can be used long-term.”
Available Machines at SIT
- CO2 laser (30W) + Atmos Compact Exhaust System (115V)
- CO2 laser (80W) + Atmos Duo Plus Exhaust System (230V)
These two machines tend to operate for about 5 - 10hrs a week. However, from late December and into January, operation peaks and everyday usage by students usually skyrockets. To make waiting times shorter and double the amount of work being done, there are plans to install a second Speedy 400 laser machine soon.
- Timber & wood (larch plywood, basswood)
- Cardboard (kent paper, block copy paper, chipboard)
The Trotec Selling-Point
Professor Aoshima mentioned that it was a Trotec salesperson that convinced him to decide on Trotec as the perfect laser supplier. The salesperson and he were talking, and the salesperson began relaying a story about a female designer who had a Trotec laser machine installed inside her home. On hearing that, Aoshima suddenly felt that one day, everyone would have a laser machine in their living rooms - just like a television or a refrigerator! So, designers will be able to have their own factories right there next to them. Talking and laughing with the salesperson about such crazy future developments is what Aoshima believes led him to officially recommending Trotec Japan to his superiors over at SIT, "Friendliness paired with professionalism is very important to me, and having this fun conversation convinced me that Trotec were the best" - Professor Keita Aoshima.