When I covered MakerCon last month in New York for Gizmag, literally one of the first things I did was text a photo of the 45-lb (20 kg), tote-able laser cutter to my friend who owns a shop back home in New Mexico. As it turns out, that's exactly the type of consumer Pittsburgh startup Red Ant hopes to target with its Origami.
"Certainly it's good for universities, but also shops with limited space, pro-sumers and craft fairs too, because it provides the ability to customize products on the fly," Red Ant co-founder Scott Ardisson told me.
Most laser cutters are big, bulky affairs that are set up once and rarely moved, often due to the elaborate wiring and ventilation systems that might be required. Even more frustrating for those with grand ambitions and projects is that the cutting area is often limited in size. Red Ant claims to address those concerns with a device it describes as the "first portable laser cutter with a fold-out arm and no limiting enclosure."
That foldable, laser-packing arm allows a user to cut pretty much anything that you can bring the Origami to and then fit under it; it's also possible to perform vertical cuts by setting the unit on its side. Red Ant says an important part of making this work is not just the patented folding arm, but also its self-contained ventilation system that does away with the need for hoses snaking all over the place.
"You don't have to worry about stinking up the room with acrylic fumes," said Ardisson.
The Origami runs off a standard 110-volt outlet and boasts a 40-watt CO2 laser capable of cutting or etching most organic materials, including acrylic, glass and wood. The cutter is controlled by custom software that runs on a computer and can import all major image formats.
It can also print directly from Corel Draw or AutoCAD using a plugin for those applications. There is also an on-board control panel that should make it possible to simply plug in a USB flash drive to one of the Origami's two ports, pick your image file and start cutting or etching it into your material of choice.
Red Ant reports that the unit is fully serviceable and expects the laser tube to last between 1,500 and 1,800 hours. While the prototype I saw in New York weighs 45 lb, Ardisson told me they plan to make it smaller and lighter by reducing the overall size of the chassis and switching out some steel pieces for aluminum.
Ardisson pointed out that safety glasses should be worn within 5 ft (1.5 m) of the cutting area to meet government safety regulations in the United States, and one of the key modifications made since the original prototype is that the laser beam path is fully enclosed to prevent deflection and increase safety.
Red Ant launched a Kickstarter campaign a few days after I spoke with the team and is attempting to raise US$80,000. All going to plan, a $4,200 pledge will reserve you your own Origami from the first batch that will be limited to a run of just 25. As of this writing, there are still twenty left to be claimed.
Check out Red Ant's origin story in the video below.
Source: Red Ant