This page is an archive of iMAL's wiki that operated between 2012 and 2022. It documented projects, residencies and workshops mostly taking place at iMAL's Fablab.

Older & newer Fablab projects are now found at

Laser people

The starting point was a Flash animation, Deus Digitalis (2009). Dancing human figures, are symmetrically arranged in groups of 25 in different default colors. 


Following steps were planned:

  • Translate the Flash code into Processing code. 
  • Drop the animation, we are making 'real' objects here
  • Drop the colors, only limited colors are available.
  • Think positive/negative: which forms will be cut out, which will stay.

The result off all these steps was a grid of 9x9x25 frozen white people generated with Processing. The most difficult part was to keep in mind that all the people had to be connected. They had to form one group. So some next steps were necessary:

  • Generate a grid of squares around the groups of 25 people. As a kind of framework to connect everything.
  • Try to find out how to connect 'floating' heads and too short legs and arms to those squares without disturbing too much the symmetrical images formed by those groups.

An easy solution was to just extend (x10) some selected limbs while doing the generation. These super-long legs always touched the grid of squares. To keep the groups in places. Unfortunately they not only touched, but also crossed over the squares in the grid and went on in the other squares.

From Processing I exported a PDF. This was opened in Illustrator were I could manually 'cut off' these too far extending legs and arms. This is however a manual solution that might be better replaced by a automated one. In Illustrator I also had to convert the overlapping fills from Processing into single paths. Again something that might be automated better in Processing. 

Laser cutting tests

And then it was time for testing out the Laser cutter (Cyborg) on plexiglass (4mm). The software that came with the machine will never win a usability award and while doing the first tests the machine itself was not really configured as it should have been. But the results that came out of the test were enough to get an idea what was possible. At this point, I am looking foward to the end results on Wednesday or Thursday.  Three files are ready to be printed. 

I will have some nicely cut out patterns of people generated from Processing. The Processing part could have been maybe a bit more optimized to reduce the Illustrator steps afterwards. The temporary, almost finished result, confirms what was already obvious with the Deus Digitalis. animation. Random functions and human figures produce weird patterns. 

First prints, picking up the pieces

The printing on Wednesday went, well, not so good. Still not sure what went wrong. Some settings, I guess. Anyway, The laser only appeared to be going fully through the orange plexi at one side. It was at full power, running slow. One more go tomorrow. Things go wrong and you can not do 'undo'. That's one of these things with an overload of new hardware and real life materials. A whole different game then pure 'screenplay'. 

Meanwhile I have a bag full of pieces of orange plexi glass. All strange forms. Like pieces of some kind of unsolvable puzzle. I am supposed to throw these away. But they do have something interesting about them. I hope I can keep focused on my three designs. And certainly hope that the Cyborg will do the same tomorrow. 

Final result

Finally figured out the settings of the Cyborg. But it is still a fact that the distance between the head and the material is not constant. At the left it's cutting better then at the right side. Because I cut with full power (100%) and with slow speed (20), dangerous flames appeared underneath the plexi. But only on the left side. They left some annoying burning marks. I had to lower the power (80%) a bit. Then the result was ok. 

Just loved the sound of falling pieces. So, the end result to be exposed on Friday is a 60x60 piece of orange plexi glass.



Date: February 2012

Last updated: February 2012