People and Lasers: Interview with Portland Laser Co.
January 23rd, 2017 by Mara Hasenstaub
Who knew that the grip tape for Justin Bieber’s skateboard was made with lasers?! Read on to meet the crew that made his tape and some even cooler products.
Portland Laser Company was established in 2014 by two former architects turned product designers, Rich and Avik. They offer a wide range of services and work on projects that include models, products, and fine art. They are located in the lively Pacific Northwest where the maker community thrives and keeps the machines busy.
1) Can you tell me a little bit about Portland Laser Company and its history?
PDXLC: Portland Laser Company was founded out of pure, genuine fascination. Avik and I used laser cutters a lot in grad school for architecture. I worked in the shop where all the laser cutting was done and was really attracted by the possibilities.
Avik and I have a separate products company called ILOVEHANDLES, and a few of our products are made with laser cutters. It got to the point that it made financial sense to buy a machine, so we thought it might be smart to start a side business to keep the machine busy. We had no trouble keeping the machine busy, consequently Portland Laser Co. became more than a side business.
2) What does a typical work day look like at PDX Laser Co.?
PDXLC: The lasers are workhorses, so they are running almost non-stop. We spend much of our time setting up files and doing some finishing on products after the laser cutting. We spend a lot of time playing with materials and testing new cuts for new products. Additionally, we help clients design and develop their projects.
3) What attracted you to working with lasers as opposed to traditional tools of the trade?
PDXLC: As soon as anyone sees the laser cut something intricate the first time, they are immediately hooked. In my opinion, it is even more magical than watching a 3D printer – the feature that is most impressive is the level of detail and precision that a laser can handle. We have done some insanely intricate stuff. Our lamp takes about eight hours to cut, and I have no idea how many bazillion little holes it has.
4) What makes working with lasers so unique?
PDXLC: I think the surprising thing about working with lasers is the range of projects that you can be a part of. We work on a lot of architecture models, fine art projects, consumer products, product displays, grip tape for Justin Bieber’s skateboard…
5) How do you practice and enforce laser safety?
PDXLC: The laser cutting machine is largely a closed system. We have glasses to protect our eyes and we work to keep everything clean and well ventilated.
6) Portland is an interesting city. What is the strangest product that you’ve helped create?
PDXLC: I think the weirdest material we have cut or engraved is bone. Portland has been a huge factor in our uniqueness as a business because there are so many creatives here who have a ton of ideas about how they could use the lasers. We attribute the success of the company to this creative spirit. Everyone is friendly and loves to collaborate—and there are a lot of highly creative people in this town.
Rich and Avik of Portland Laser Co.
Thanks for working this interview into your schedule, Portland Laser Co.! We cannot wait to see what wonderful and wacky projects you produce next. You can get in touch with Portland Laser Co. online.
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