Four-by-Two’s Perspex model flat for Studio B

Four-by-Two's Perspex model flat for Studio B

Just before Easter, Four-by-Two got in touch. They were busy completing the fit out of the new Studio B store at 150 Kensington High Street. This highly interactive branch and ideas factory for the Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank opened on 24th April 2017.

A launch and a competition

As part of their launch, Studio B held a competition. The prize? A flat in Kensington that the winner would live in rent free for one year! Studio B wanted a model of the flat to put in their window display to publicise the competition, and Four-by-Two asked if I could help. We had eight days with the Easter bank holiday slap bang in the middle. Could we do it in such a tight timescale?

Artwork for a laser cut model

After an initial conversation about the model, materials and timescales, I sent Segolene and Javier my top tips for designing artwork for laser cutting, summarised in one of my recent blogs. For a project like this, artwork and materials are important things to get right. When time is tight, getting artwork right early saves a lot of time that we simply didn’t have to waste.

Javier’s sample artwork showed that this would be a very detailed and complex project involving cutting and engraving, and pieces that would slot together. It was important that everything would fit properly. Lots of detailed engraving was required, mainly vector engraving but with some raster engraving.  After I advised that rastering would add significantly to cost and production time, it was agreed that vector engraving would help us meet our deadlines and save money. This picture shows the detail of one of the model facades. Red lines are for cut through and the blue lines are for vector engraving.

model facade detail
Four-by-Two model facade detail

Material lead times

As the artwork progressed, Four-by-Two firmed up their ideas on materials. They wanted to use clear Perspex for the two building facades which would feature engraved detail, and a soft opal for the internal flat construction. Before materials could be ordered, thicknesses, sheet sizes and quantities had to be confirmed.  There’s always a lead time for material delivery, but we knew that artwork could be finalised as we waited for it.

Javier ordered the Perspex as promptly as he could, but unfortunately, next day delivery on Good Friday was not possible. Tuesday after the bank holiday weekend was the best we could expect. All the model parts had to arrive with Four-by-Two’s Edinburgh office on the subsequent Thursday afternoon at the latest. It was going to be tight.

Production begins

On Tuesday morning at 10am, the Perspex arrived and I started production with the top priority clear 10mm Perspex facades.

I decided to laser cut the Perspex with the surface film intact. It protects the material from the heat of the laser which discolours the cut edges. After all the cutting was complete, I peeled back the protective film on the top surface to vector engrave the Perspex directly using a power setting that wouldn’t cause surface damage.

This approach had the benefit of not having to pick off small pieces of film after production. This would cost Four-by-Two valuable time during assembly. Surface scratching of the model parts can happen when film is picked off, so this measure also guaranteed product quality.

All the exterior building detail looked stunning and caught the light beautifully, but these photos aren’t quite close enough to do it justice.

Studio B complete acrylic model
Studio B complete acrylic model

Once the 10mm clear Perspex was processed, we laser cut and engraved the internal flat detail. While the opal gave a better background for the 3D printed furniture than clear, engraved details were much more subtle than on clear Perspex. Laser engraving on Perspex always appears white. On white or similar Perspex, it’s more visible under certain lights, so it’s hard to spot in the photos.

I was concerned that there were some fragile elements in the design that could break easily. Window astragals and the bookshelf sections were particularly vulnerable. Javier increased their thicknesses to 2 – 3mm, making the pieces more robust for transportation and assembly.

On Thursday morning, I laser cut the last pieces of the model.  A courier arrived at lunchtime, and they arrived at Four-by-Two’s Edinburgh office before 5pm that day.

Assembling the model

Segolene and Javier built up the model in situ in Studio B over the weekend. There were lots of pieces that we’d laser cut and engraved from nine huge Perspex sheets. Solvent weld was used to hold the parts together. It works differently to glue as it melts the Perspex surfaces together and they chemically bond together to form one piece.

Then the flat was furnished with the 3D printed furniture and they met their deadline before the Monday opening.

Below is a picture of the finished model in Studio B’s window display on Kensington High Street. I’m so proud to have been involved in such a prestigous project.

Studio B window display
Studio B window display