Makin’ Boxes!


A few years ago I mentioned Rahulbotics’ BoxMaker, and I’ve used it plenty over the years when I needed to laser cut an enclosure, but when someone has a good idea, eventually someone else decides to implement their own version. (This is good!)

One of the other box making sites I’ve used recently is MakerCase, which has a few more features than Rahulbotics does, including a choice of edge joints, specifically t-slot, which lets you create cases that can be assembled with nuts and bolts, though the choice of nut & bolt sizes are a bit limiting. Still, it’s a good effort, and I use MakerCase quite often.

make-a-box is another one I’ve taken for a spin. It didn’t offer much in the way of special features, except for the fact that all the Ruby code is in github ready to be forked. (Of course if you prefer Java, look at Rahulbotics’ BoxMaker code instead. Or, check some of the other boxmaker code.)

If you’re looking for non-web-based solutions, supposedly 123D Make has a beta out with finger joints. But it’s been nearly a year and I still don’t see that option in the software. I’ve also tried this BoxMaker for Inkscape, but it just gives me errors and fails to work.

I’ve long wanted a box maker for OpenSCAD, and I did find Parametric box maker for lasercut on Thingiverse, and it’s definitely something worth playing with, though on my creaky old laptop it’s not speed demon. Still, I really like the idea of code I can download and run rather than relying on a web site to generate a box.

I’ll continue to explore box making options that work well with laser cutter and other CNC machines, but if I’ve missed an option you know about, please let me know!


Laser. Cut. Wood. (Part II)

Laser Cut Box

In our last adventure cutting wood we had success! And it was good… So I decided to try the awesome BoxMaker again and I’m pleased with the result as compared to the previous attempt.

Above you’ll see the template I created from BoxMaker with a light bulb on one of the faces. I got the original bulb from OpenClipArt and tweaked the SVG file in Inkscape until I was pleased with it. (I may still need to adjust a few of the thinner areas, but I definitely like it.)

Bulb Box

In the next image you can see the results of the cut. This is using 3mm Baltic Birch plywood, which I highly recommend for the 25 Watt Laser Cutter that Milwaukee Makerspace has.

There’s actually one extra piece in the lower center which you’ll notice has straight lines, and is not part of the box, but this is the interesting part…

One thing about using the laser cutter is determining what settings to use. For this cut I used 100% power with 3.2% speed. It takes a few passes to complete the cut (maybe 4 or 5) but it works. I found that at slower speeds there is a higher risk of flames (which are bad!) and you can char the wood a bit too much. I actually didn’t care about the charring as I will be painting this box, but if you want less charring, up the speed a little bit, and know that you will need more passes.


Oh yeah, the interesting part! In the image above, I’ve highlighted two areas. In the bottom red rectangle you’ll see a lot more charring. This is due to the long straight line that the laser cutter follows when cutting. I noticed that the notched areas, with lots of small short lines, had much less flame, while the long continuous lines had a lot more flame. (It was still within an acceptable amount of flame, but this is why I didn’t want to go lower than 3.2% for the speed.)

So I’m definitely calling this one a success, if only due to the fact that I’m pretty certain I’ve got good settings to use when cutting 3mm Baltic Birch plywood.

Also, lasers are awesome!


Lasers and Boxes

Since we’ve got a laser cutter at Milwaukee Makerspace, I wanted to test out the BoxMaker and cut a box out of wood.


BoxMaker is a sweet little web app that lets you put in the dimensions and spits out a PDF file with what you need. I wanted a box 3″ x 5″ by 2″ and for the material thickness, I got out the digital calipers and took a measurement. (Take note of this! The material thickness is important later on…)


So here’s the PDF file I got. Depending on the size of your material (or how much you want to waste) it may make sense to move the pieces around. Since I imported the PDF file into CorewDraw (which is what the laser uses to cut things) it was fairly easy to rearrange the pieces. I also deleted the text that describes the box. I could have just made it a color the laser cutter ignores, but I figured I had the info in the original PDF file.


Now, our laser cutter is 25 watts, but since it’s old and may need some cleaning, it might not be outputting 25 watts, so when I put my thin piece of wood into the laser cutter, MattN mentioned that it wouldn’t cut it. I figured I’d give it a try, and yeah, even though I did multiple passes and tried to refocus the laser, it just couldn’t do it. I kept checking the depth of the cut, but it just wasn’t “cutting” it. (Pun intended!)

At this point I was fine with the failure to cut wood, and I knew the laser cutter could handle acrylic, so I grabbed a piece of that…

Cut Acrylic

The laser got through the acrylic just fine, as it’s done before… but wait, what did I say about the material thickness before? I said you needed to measure it! Since the acrylic was thinner than the wood, I should have generated a new file, but I didn’t. So this is what I got…

Finished Box

Here’s my box, with the tabs way too big, which gives it an interesting look I suppose. Not exactly what I was after, but at least I know that it works… mostly.

I also want to try a box with the T-joints like the MakerBot uses. Box-o-tron looks like it will work, if I can get it running. (Any other suggestions?)

Also, I had a fun time trying to photograph clear acrylic, so it wasn’t a total loss. :)