Japanese Inspired Coasters (Week 3)

Like many others, I am inspired by the Japanese designs of the distinct clear and clean lines.  So I have designed a set of 8 coasters that have a very distinct Japanese inspired design.  Here are some concept sketches:


I considered using CNC machining to cut out the precises shapes, however due to their minimal size and fine tolerances, a big CNC machine would not be up to the task as there is not enough surface area to hold the part securely while being machined and would have an extremely high chance of the spinning router causing the fine joins to break.

Therefore, this leaves the option open to laser cutting. There are 6 Epilog EXT 120watt lasers that are located throughout the RMIT city campus, most of these are located at 08.11.63.  The laser cutter is able to cut MDF up to 6mm thick, wood (balsa) up to 8mm thick and acrylic up to 6mm thick.  This gives me three options of materials.  However I have decided I would use wood (preferably a light wood such as an ash), as this is often used in many Japanese, and Asian designs in general.

This would have to be tested for its strength and durability, as the wood grain may split due to the fine tolerances causing the coasters to become useless.  If this were the case, then acrylic would be the next best option in a variety of colours and shades, such as red, black and white.


To be able to use the laser machines:

  • First, a laser training session must be attended.  These sessions are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30am in building 08.11.63. However these sessions cease after the 8th of May.  This laser training only has to be done once, after that each year students must keep current with the machines and procedures by completing an online laser re-training test. Found HERE. (Skip to Step 3)
  • Secondly the student has to access the Architecture and Design Workshop Website and complete the online laser re-training test and have a perfect score of 100%. Found HERE.
  • Then the student will have to go to the Architecture and Design Workshop to complete the Conditions of Access declaration
  • Finally, you will have to fill in a laser levy form that is available from the Architecture and Design reception (Building 08, Level 12).  To use the laser machines, one must pay a levy of $30 per semester.  This levy helps to cover the cost of maintenance and repairs.

The students laser account will then be activated within the next 3 working days if all the above has been completed satisfactorily.


For access to the laser machines one only has to go to 08.11.63 and wait for the next available laser machine to become available. They are available 24/7, but it is best to go between 9:00 – 17:00 as there is a 30 min time limit on the use of a machine, which means that you will are guaranteed to use a machine without waiting for long periods.  After the times of 9:00 – 17:00 there is no limit on the time one can spend on a machine, so this could mean an extremely long wait.  However it would be in these times that one can begin cutting an item that will take a long time.

No assistance is needed for the use of the laser machines once the training session and online training test has been completed.

The laser machines are able to cut and etch a wide range of materials, these include:final material table - revised (650px width)

  • MDF
  • Veneer
  • Plywood
  • Balsa Wood
  • Cork
  • Masonite
  • Solid Timber
  • Card
  • Corrugated Cardboard
  • Acrylic Sheet
  • PET
  • Polypropylen
  • Coreflute
  • Textile
  • Leather


Daniel Ong (daniel.ong@rmit.edu.au) is the person to speak to with concerns or query’s regarding the laser machines.


There are a few steps that have to be followed when using this machine to achieve the required outcome:



There are also a few things that one needs to watch out for when using this machinery if the laser becomes jammed:

  1. Turn the machine off.
  2. DO NOT restart.
  3. Disconnect the laser power cord at wall.
  4. Secure with power lock.


Other alternatives include using commercial laser cutting services in Melbourne such as:



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