Build a CNC Drawing Machine – MIT 2016 IAP

This is a 5 day workshop taught by Victor Leung in MIT in Janurary 2016. It combined theory lectures with lab sessions to introduce the mechanical and electrical systems in a typical CNC machine (i.e: a laser cutter). 12 students (in groups of two) conduct various exercises, completes a 2 axis CNC pen plotter and program the machines to make drawings.


Lucy Liu (MIT Architecture – Architectural Design) gave a lecture outlining the history from procedural painting to pen plotters to custom drawing machines.

The no-so-perfect behaviour of the machine is celebrated in this drawing. The machine lift the pen is a imprecise manner resulting in a trail behind the starting point of the line.

Students are encouraged to come up with ideas to modify the machine for other novel applications, resulting in a SCARA robot and a disc drawing machine.

One group modified the standard 2 axis plotter. Attached a custom-made brush tip to move thick paint around. The trail of the brush tip became the painting.

One group modified the plotter’s mechanical structure for a extreme precision and stability and created some very delicate drawings using 0.05mm pen tip .

The course was assisted by Julia Litman-Cleper (MIT – Design and Computation) and Mitchell Gu (MIT – EECS).

This course is sponsored by MIT-SUTD Collaboration, Makeblock and MIT Architecture.