Laser-cut Punched Cards

I just had to do this:

Laser-cut punched card samples
Laser-cut punched card samples

It took several iterations to convince me I can’t quite pull it off yet, but the idea shows promise; the GitHub repo includes useful links to other variations and techniques.

The top card starts with hole locations / column numbers preprinted by the inkjet, then (nearly but not exactly) aligned in the laser cutter for “engraving” the variable text and “punching” the corresponding holes. The other cards represent various steps along the way, all of which demonstrate why a 60 W laser is the wrong way to print text on cardstock:

Laser cutter - engraved punched card
Laser cutter – engraved punched card

Aligning a preprinted sheet in the laser cutter with sufficient accuracy to hit all the holes turns out to be a significant challenge: the red dot laser pointer hangs off the rear of the nozzle with the beam at a steep angle:

Magnetic Honeycomb Spikes - MDF
Magnetic Honeycomb Spikes – MDF

Which means the red dot coincides with the main laser beam only at the exact focal distance below the nozzle after painstaking (and easily disrupted) alignment. A red dot laser coaxial with the CO₂ tube / beam should produce much better results, but that’s not what I have.

It Would Be Nice If™ I could cut the card outlines with the laser, print the hole positions on the inkjet, then align the “blanks” for “punching”, but I have yet to find any combination of parameters amid the unsteady ziggurat of Linux / CUPS printing configurations to produce properly aligned results on a custom paper size:

Misaligned punched card printing
Misaligned punched card printing

You might think telling the printer it’s handling a #10 envelope with the image of the text carefully positioned to land at the proper spot on the actual card should work. You (well, I) would be wrong.

I’m pretty sure this can be coerced into working, but it must marinate on the to-do list for a while.