Mechanical Engineering curriculum has been changing to increase the amount of design taught to students. Ideally students would manufacture and test their designs, as this process validates the quality of the design and gives invaluable feedback. Designs may not be constructed, however, where there are limitations on time students have for the building phase, where limited shop facilities are available, or where students don’t have the manufacturing skills necessary. Rapid prototyping machines can mitigate these issues, but their initial, support and consumable costs, along with their low productivity, make them inaccessible for most student projects. Even traditional shop construction of designs is of limited feedback value, since a non-functioning design could be the result of faulty design or of poor quality manufacture. This paper will explore the use of a laser engraver machine as a vehicle for low-cost 2D and 2-1/2D rapid prototyping of mechanical designs. Laser engraver machines have low initial (c.$10–20K) and operating costs. They are capable of cutting 2D parts from materials such as paper matte and illustration boards at cutting rates of one meter per minute or more, allowing high throughput of parts cut. Machines typically attach to computers through a printer driver, so operation is as simple as printing a drawing from CAD software. While individual parts are constrained to planar geometry, simple assembly materials (such as glue and small machine screws) allow designs with moving parts to be constructed and tested.

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