Through the “Project for Promotion of Global Human Resource Development,” as the only private science and engineering institution to be designated as a Top Global University by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) has more than 800 overseas exchange students studying at its various campuses. At its campus in Toyosu, a compact Trotec laser cutter was acquired for the School of Architecture in 2013. In 2017, meanwhile, a mid-sized Trotec Speedy 400 was introduced for wider use throughout the university. Both units are now seeing extensive service, sometimes as machine tools used for model-fabrication and the conducting of research projects, and at other times as leading-edge digital assets that are deployed when SIT conducts hands-on workshops for children as part of its program of giving back to the local community.
This workshop is part of the “Open Tech Kids” program that is run by SIT, whose driving force has been Assistant Professor Keita Aoshima of the School of Architecture. As to its premise, using a leading-edge laser cutter, teams comprised of individual children and foreign exchange students fabricate their own “room,” and each individual creation is then combined to build a large “home for everybody.” Through the occasion, in a natural environment the participating children are able to learn something of various themes including communications skills, architectural flows and the profession of an architect. Held for the fourth time this year, every year the workshop proves to be a very popular event with applicant numbers running at two or three times the number of children who can be accommodated.
Upon joining SIT in 2013, Professor Aoshima quickly expressed a desire to purchase a laser cutter. As to why that was the case, while still somewhat of a rarity at Japanese universities, such equipment is very much part of the landscape at many overseas institutions. Accordingly, from within what was then known as the School of Architectural Engineering, Professor Aoshima worked hard to acquire sufficient funding from its numerous affiliated research laboratories. The required funding having been secured, a Trotec laser cutter was purchased, with it being mainly used by students for the fabrication of 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.
The standard graphic program can be used
The operation of Trotec laser cutters can be combined with the use of Adobe Illustrator. In other words, there are great advantages in the straightforward nature of the operational interface. Using the standardized configuration of the Trotec laser installed at the School of Architecture at SIT, students can directly generate designs that they have developed within the familiar environment of Adobe Illustrator.
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.”
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 units normally operate for 5 to 10 hours a week. However, from late December and into January, operation peaks to everyday usage as students work on their graduation portfolios. To ease waiting times during peak periods and double the volume of student usage, there are plans to install a second Speedy 400 unit 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.
Furthermore, Professor Aoshima mentioned that a Trotec salesperson relayed to him the story of a “female designer who installed a laser unit in her home.” On hearing that, he felt that in the future the idea of having a laser cutter at home will become the norm. It will literally be like having designers with factories located right next to them! Talking and empathizing with the salesperson about such matters is what Professor Aoshima believes led him to recommend that SIT purchase Trotec.