Shibaura Institute of Technology

Laser cutters for model-fabrication and research projects

Published on: 06/26/2018 Author: Trotec Laser Japan

About Shibaura Institute of Technology

Given the singular title of Top Global University by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) has over 800 overseas exchange students at their multiple campuses thanks to the "Project for Promotion of Global Human Resource Development". In 2013, the School of Architecture located at SIT's Toyosu campus obtained a compact Trotec laser cutter. Later, in 2017, a medium sized Trotec Speedy 400 was added to their collection for wider, general purpose use around the school. Now, each unit sees extensive traffic. Sometimes they are used for model making or for research projects, and other times they are cutting edge digital technology used when SIT hosts hands-on workshops for kids, a program created to give back to the community.

Children’s Workshop: “Let’s Get Together & Create a Futuristic House!”

This workshop was an event held by SIT as part of their "Open Tech Kids" program, driven by Assistant Professor Keita Aoshima from the School of Architecture. In the workshop, teams of individual children and foreign exchange students would make their own "room" with the help of a cutting-edge laser cutter. At the end, each individual room is then joined together to create a bigger "home for everybody". Thanks to the workshop, the participant children can learn a variety of things such as communication skills, architectural workflow and the architect's profession, all inside of a natural environment. Run for the fourth time this year, every year the workshop is extremely popular, with the number of applicants going for two or three times more than the amount of children that can participate.

Application and Challenge

After he joined SIT in 2013, Professor Aoshima quickly expressed his desire to acquire a laser cutter. The reason for this was because, while not very common at Japanese universities, laser machines and related equipment were a large part of many overseas institutions. As such, working from within what was then called the School of Architectural Engineering, Professor Aoshima worked very hard to gain enough funding from their many affiliated research laboratories. After acquiring the necessary funding, the department purchased a small Trotec laser cutter, primarily meant to be used by students to create architectural models.

Then, as a result of using the laser cutter in the workshops that were being run for children, in 2017 a decision was made to make an additional purchase of a bigger laser, the Speedy 400. This later unit has been installed as a common piece of equipment at the SIT Research Laboratories. Thus, rather than being used just for the purpose of architectural research, the new unit has been situated to help develop a range of university-wide research topics involving subjects such as mechanical and electrical engineering.

"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.” "
- Assistant Professor Keita Aoshima - School of Architecture, Shibaura Institute of Technology -

The Trotec solutions

The standard graphics program can be used

Trotec laser cutters pair up well with Adobe Illustrator thanks to the many benefits of their easy-to-use operational interface. With the standardized configuration of the SIT School of Architecture's Trotec laser, students can quickly and easily have their designs made from inside the familiar environment of Adobe Illustrator.

Trotec laser machines offer high levels of safety.

When deciding on a laser cutter to purchase, SIT felt that the Interlock-secured cover that Trotec lasers provided was necessary as it was crucial that the machinery should stop working if the cover was open. Although they did consider some cheaper options that only came with open exhaust systems, it was more important to ensure students' safety. Additionally, since the machine was planned to be involved in workshops with children, it was also important that the machine they bought had a cover that would let them safely see it work.

Speed and toughness were also heavily considered criteria for SIT

As Professor Aoshima says, “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.”

laser engraver speedy

Installed Laser Machines at Shibaura Institute of Technology

  • CO2 laser cutter with 30W and a Atmos Compact exhaust system (115V)
  • CO2 laser cutter with 80W and a Atmos Duo Plus exhaust system (230V)

The machines are typically in use for 5 to 10 hours a week. However, from around late December to January, operation time hits its peak at daily usage while students work on their graduation portfolios. To lower waiting times during peak period and double the amount of student use, there are some plans to install a second Speedy 400 at SIT.

Materials mainly processed by the laser cutters at SIT

  • Timber and wood (larch plywood, basswood)
  • Cardboard (Kent paper, block copy paper, chipboard)
  • Acrylic etc.

In addition, Professor Aoshima recounted that a Trotec salesperson had told him the story of a “female designer who installed a laser unit in her home.” After hearing this, he believed that in the future, having a personal laser cutter in your own home will become the norm. It would be as if the designers have factories placed right beside them! Discussing and empathizing with the salesperson about these matters is what Professor Aoshima believes made him recommend that SIT purchase from Trotec.