CNC Plotter – NUL student designs drawing machine


“The car you see on the picture was not drawn by a human! No! It was drawn using a pen by a robotic machine I made,” says Thapelo Moeti, a National University of Lesotho (NUL) BEng in Electronics student. He calls his machine a CNC Plotter.

“Now that this machine can draw,” Moeti says, “I am already developing a bigger machine, 10 times faster than humans, that will have the capacity to cut clothes, steel, and wood based on computer drawings.”

Goodbye saws and scissors! Welcome the 4th Industrial Revolution!

Although he is a BEng in Electronics student, he has a diverse background. Let him surprise you a little bit, “I also have a background in clothing, woodwork, steelwork, and structural design.”

According to recent research findings, the most innovative souls among us are, usually, the often insulted “Jacks of all Trades.” It turns out they are the “Masters of All” when it comes to innovation.

“Fortunately, I have a very skilful and talented brother, Teboho Moeti, who is an artisan. So I have learned a lot about steelworks from him.”

Moeti says he takes woodwork as a hobby, adding he has also taken a short course in clothe-making. As he navigated these several trades, he saw serious problems that made him decide to tackle them using his Electronics Engineering skills.

For instance, cutting such things as small nice square holes on a metal sheet is a pain. Some people even use hand-held tools and the results are always less than desired.

The same thing can be said about woodwork. Working wood is usually a manual process in Lesotho. The result is that when you see a really good piece of work, you know there is a skilled woodworker behind it. The problem is, skilled woodworkers, die, so do their skills.

Hee, motho o ne a ja lepolanka eo!”

Woodworkers may die but if their designs remain, Moeti’s CNC Plotter will live to reproduce their work. Now comes clothes-making.

Well, Moeti knows a thing or two about clothing as well. While he was attending a clothing school, he realised something that took him by surprise. A lot of work in clothing was spent on pattern drafting and cutting. In fact, most students spent hours and some a few days to properly draft and cut a single design.

“This drafting and cutting was a mess,” Moeti recalls. “I then imagined how hard it might be, for someone already in the market, having to bring up large quantities of clothing designs in a limited time frame.” All these experiences got him thinking.

What if the idea of cutting is not as difficult as it is at the moment?

That thought put him on a journey to do something that almost no one believed he was capable of doing. He was going to design and build a CNC machine. It would just be told how to cut by a computer and it would do the rest of the job.

It was an unbelievable idea!

“Are you crazy?” “What the heck are you talking about?” That’s how people reacted as they listened to his outrageous ideas. However, his brother, Mathanzima Moeti, never ceased to motivate and support his brilliant idea – not that he really believed it was going to happen but you know a good brother.

During his journey in developing the idea of making this machine, he only aimed for the machine to reach a stage where it could draw on a paper on its own.

“That is the basic starting point of a CNC machine. If it can draw, then it can cut almost any shape you want it to cut.” He started experimenting and researching well before this project became part of his fifth-year project.

Already, he is creating a bigger machine that is going to engrave and cut clothes using a laser so that we can throw away scissors.

He strongly claims that the machine will be effectively 10 times faster than humans and that a digital design template will be created just once to generate more clothes at different sizes.

“I’m also eyeing the use of plasma for cutting steel.” The principle is the same. You draw on the computer, the machine cuts it, nicely, precisely… for you! – NUL Innovation Hub

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