This is the journey that each Bold Standard product takes. And if you're thinking about taking up laser cutting, this can serve as a helpful overview.
If you're interested in how a laser cutter works, the blog entry below goes into detail about its inner workings and capabilities.
STEP 1: Ideation
Creativity gets all the credit—all glamour—but these days I consider this step the fun, easy part. Perfecting the tangible result, for aesthetics and functionality, is a whole different beast.
STEP 2: Material Selection
Does anyone else salivate just looking at material swatches?
I once heard a professor say, "There is no perfect material". I couldn't agree more. Oftentimes, the limitations of a material get in the way of our vision. But materials can also be a great source of inspiration. As you experiment, you unlock new aspects of a material and it can influence you design massively.
With laser cutting, each material—whether acrylic, wood, cork, fabric, leather, etc*—requires a different machine setting. Even different colors can require different settings. This can only be perfected through trial and error and varies between machines.
*No, my laser cutter can't cut metal.
STEP 3: Sourcing
STEP 4: Measurements
I am nothing without my caliper. Measure once, cut twice. I mean...
The littlest measurement can make a huge difference with jewelry. I like to print out my design on paper first to make sure the scale feels right.
STEP 5: File Creation
Designing an efficient file is tedious but saves material. The example above maximises efficiency, but it doesn't always end well...
Acrylic overheats when pieces are too close together and you can get what's called 'crazing'—weird marks and cracking.
The colors in your file represent the order in which the cuts are made. This is an important step because pieces shift slightly after being cut. You can inadvertently cut through a piece if it shifts into the area of your next cut.
STEP 6: Material Protection
As the laser burns through material, off-gassing will create undesirable marks on the surface. Glossy material will dull, wood will darken. To ensure a pristine result, specialty adhesive paper is required.
Unfortunately, the protective paper that comes standard on most the acrylic will flare up when cutting. The paper I use is designed to be safe for laser cutting since burning glue can be toxic.
STEP 7: Laser Settings
STEP 8: Order Layers
Next, you order your layers, having color-coded them in Step 5, and input your settings into the laser cutter controls. A 'pass' is how many times the laser runs its course. Sometimes you need multiple passes to get through a material.
STEP 9: Laser Cut
STEP 10: Peel Away
STEP 11: Assemble
Get out your tools and go to town. This step requires a separate blog involving the endless techniques and tools related to jewelry making.
STEP 12: Problem Solving
It's never right the first time. Every design gets revised—usually multiple times. Use your ingenuity, then start again from the top.
If you're laser cutting for commercial purposes, the next steps include: Photography & Retouching, Product Listing, Packaging & Fulfillment and Advertising & Social Media.
As you can see, a lot goes into even the smallest project. Hopefully you've gained insight into my process. Maybe you have a greater appreciation for laser cut products—and any other project that require technical knowledge, creativity, patience and perseverance.