Cookie Cutter CNC

Jacob Valdez
3 min readMay 15, 2021
3 hours+ hacksaw work

This project started with the objective of making a 2×2 plasma cutter. You see, until then, I had been painstakingly hacksawing all my sheet metal, and I probabbly broke 3 or more cutting blades each day in the process. It seemed like a no-brainer then to automate this process… or so I thought.

I quickly began deciding objectives. PDFs started piling up on material science, electrical engineering, mechanotronics, programming, and gcode. For the first month, I spent much of my time in school taking notes, formulating designs, and drafting parts. It’s so easy to get tempted to plan out every millimeter of a machine.

Finally, I settled on an acceptable design and began construction. At this point, there were only a few weeks of school left, and I wanted to share my work with my peers so I intensified my activity: no more basketball, programming through class and lunch, staying in the garage much of the evening. (I would’ve made more balanced decisions now) At this point, I began actually learning about machanical and electrical engineering, arduino programming, C#, SVG processing, matrix transformations, and of course, failure.

Arduino Mega Controller

It’s hard to maintain a crazy level of involvement for long without losing some enthusiasm, and when the roadblocks came, I was ready to move on to another more exciting project. One of the bigest setbacks was the day before I was scheduled present the machine to my class. I was showing the electro-discharge cutting head to some of my teachers and school principle. It had worked before on aluminum foil, but this time I was using a homebuilt transformer to carry higher current. Because of a miscalculation however, the moment I turned on the switch, it shorted half of the classroom I was in and also a neighboring lab. Needless to say, that was a very embarassing moment. Summer break was just around the corner anyway so from then on, I gave up on making a working machine and just focused on…

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Jacob Valdez
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I’m an artificial intelligence researcher