Cutting Kinetic Sculptures with a FabLight

Anthony Howe is a prominent American kinetic sculpture artist whose work has been featured in places ranging from the Oscars to the Rio Olympics. He's getting a FabLight Tube & Sheet soon. We spoke to him about why he chose FabLight, and what he hopes to do with it.

What solution were you seeking when you found us?

I had been looking at 4x4 cubes, which are the smallest but still industrial fiber laser cutting system you could get, but they were still a little bigger than what I really wanted and needed. And they require an infrastructure much greater than the FabLight — chillers, voltages that were getting too high for the total amperage of my shop, way too heavy — a lot of things all put together. Yours was the perfect solution.

How did you find us?

I was doing a lot of Google searches for laser cutters, and I just stumbled upon yours. I might’ve found it through another one of your customers who listed it online. I reached out to director of that shop and asked him about it, and he said he had a great machine. And that was it.

Why not a plasma cutter?

I already have a 4’x10’ high definition 100A plasma system, with a nitrogen cutting torch for weldable edges. It’s just not the same deal as a laser cutter. You cut a hole that you want for a ¼” bolt with that plasma system, and you’re gonna have to drill it out — there’s no way around it. You can’t just go cut a part and think it’s gonna work without doing a lot of work afterwards.

Why not a waterjet?

Waterjets cut too slow, and they’re finicky. I’ve been around them working, and I have a lot of my stuff made at a local foundry. They have a big waterjet, and it’s not what I’m looking for — too slow, too much infrastructure.

You model all your stuff in CAD. What’s your design process? 

I pretty much see where I want something to go before I take it to the computer. I’ve made so many of these now that I can pretty much visualize what I’m looking for, sit down, and then sketch it out on 3ds Max. Then I refine it enough so I can cut the parts with Rhino, run it through a machining program, and make it with the plasma.

What are you hoping this machine does for you?

The high definition system is not great at cutting thin materials. A lot of users actually use a separate head on the cutting table for the thinner materials, like a low-powered plasma cutter. I’m not making big sculptures in my shop as much anymore, and the FabLight is perfect for small production for smaller sculptures.

Are you planning to cut tubes?

The thing that I’m using now to connect those wings that go around those circular axles is actually a hollow universal joint. Instead of a link-and-pin thing, I intend to use it to cut hollow universal joints out of tubes. But you never know — every new machine brings a new sculpture.

Here's a link to another video featuring Howe's work that has been watched over 50 million times.