Digital Fabrication Translation


Nyo Meiko

Jake Hicks

Joe Magar

Lohaine Goncalves

Sean Maykrantz

Level: , , , , , , ,
Duration: 5 weeks
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Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Project Brief

Take an old 2-D design project that you worked on (either through coursework, personal, or freelance) and generate a new artifact for that project using a CNC laser cutter/engraver.


  • You worked on a branding project and you want to create some merchandise. 
  • You developed a concept for a public space intervention and you want to prototype your idea. 
  • You did a cool poster for an event and you want to think about how you could turn something two-dimensional into something three-dimensional (or using a different medium)
  • You created a web application but want to explore how that logic translates to a physical form. 

Learning Objectives

  • Prepare vector-based artwork for use in a CNC laser cutter/engraver, either custom-made or altered from open-sourced templates
  • Prototype designs prior to using CNC tech to understand physical limitations and opportunities
  • Learn how to safely use CNC software and hardware to manipulate material, laser strength and speed, and lens focus to achieve desired outcomes
  • Learn, share, and provide feedback with your peers


  • One physical artifact primarily made with a CNC laser cutter/engraver
  • Process dossier (PDF).
    • Collect any images, screenshots, inspiration, etc into one multi-page document.
    • Write a reflection for each stage of your process, documenting your experiments, lessons learned, and how your original artifact concept changed, if at all. 
    • Include photo(s) of your final finished artifact.



This project is meant to serve as an introduction to CNC laser engraving in a short amount of time for students in design, humanities, and the liberal arts. Whereas ordinarily learners might be given small templated objects to fabricate, this project uses a past design project as the conceptual starting point to ground students in familiar territory and increase investment in problem-solving. Sketching and prototyping were key steps in the first week, as they allowed students to visualize the final form before diving into the technicalities of the machine. In-class demos also proved to be useful for best practices in file prep. In the end, each project was as unique as the original artifact but still felt like a natural extension of its concept. Students stated higher confidence in using CNC in future projects in final semester assessments.  

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