How to Make One to Hundreds of Helico Papers

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Helico paper is a simple and poetic craft you can easily make with very few materials. This simple object is the occasion to learn about vectorized drawings but mostly to have fun ! Being able to use vectorized drawing is an open door to any design project, this instructable is a first step to become an independent crazy inventor !

Plus, helico paper are really funny, get them at the good weight and they will do beautiful and harmless projectile, craft hundred of them and throw them off a balcony !
To begin with, we are going to learn how to quickly make one by hand just to understand the design of it.

Then how to make one using our generator website and import it through Inkscape, a free vectorial drawing software. We will show you how to draw a new form and change its pattern so you can invent a base support for your helico papers.

By using the generator it is possible to print customized helico papers and prepare an infinite number of those for cutting machines like laser cut or cutting plotter. In order to prepare the helico papers, the last part of this tutorial show how to prepare the laser cut file through Inkscape.

You don't have any cutting machine, well just like me you still have elbow grease, a printer and scissors, let's get massive and MAKE IT RAIN !

Step 1: Materials

Materials needed :

  • casual paper
  • scissors, to make several of those
  • paperclip (optional)
  • glue (optional)

Step 2: Cut It, Fold It, Customize It

Getting a thicker paper is a good tip to improve its flight capacity. If you don't have any fancy paper, you can simply glue two casual papers together to get it heavier. Adding a paperclip to its bottom is also a good way to upgrade it.

Step 3: Vectorize It

Now you have handcrafted your first helico paper, let's make a banch of them using vectorial drawing. Then, we will draw their paper base support using custom styles. A vectorial drawing allow you to use any type of cutting machines, being able to use it will allow you to make complex models made of any material a laser cut can handle.

Lets make five helico papers by using our generator website.

First, click four times on "Make an other one" or click on "I WANT MOOOORE" then enter 5.

Change their variables as you want, only don't get them too big so we can easily print them on one normal size paper.

Mine will be all 2cm width and different lengths so I can experiment which on will be the best at spinning !

Now you have your perfect custom helico papers click on "SVG" button and open it using Inkscape. Download and install Inkscape from the official website, go to the download section and get the proper version !

Step 4: Properties Setup

You have just openned your helicopapers.svg file into Inkscape and... saperlipopette... It's a big mess ! All you can see is intertwined lines and patterns, DON'T PANIC ! every helico paper is made as group so you can simply drag them one by one to a proper place.

But first lets setup the properties of your files : Use the short cut shift+ctrl+D or go to file > Document Properties, there you will find the unit setting using pixel by default. Change the unit pixel to the one you're more confortable with (mm or inch) then select the page size of your home printer. For me, it will be A4.

Now you can reorganize every helico paper next to each other inside your format paper. It is time to get creative, lets invent a support for each helico paper !

Step 5: Draw a Support

My support will be very simple, just a strip of paper folded 3 times with a little tab at the end. I will use the tab to glue the end of my strip at the beginning of it. finally I will draw a notch large enough to host the helico paper at the middle of the strip (perpendicular to the second folding line).

Lets begin by drawing the strip, nothing but a simple rectangle. You will find most of the drawing tool on the left of your screen, click on the scare or press F4. draw your strip, dimensions don't matter yet. You can enter your rectangle dimension on the top left of the screen "W" width and "H" height. As I made all my helico papers 2cm wide I will keep it like this for my strip. Change the units to cm and enter 2cm for width and 15cm for height.

Step 6: Fill, Stroke and Align Properties

Every shape in Inkscape are defined by its stroke (lines and dash) an fill (infill color and pattern) properties. You can acces the "Fill and Stroke" properties on the right of your screen, open it with shift+ctrl+F. select your rectangle and modify its properties to match the helico paper pattern and get a confortable stroke.

Now we will draw our two folding lines using the draw tool shift+F6. click to begin a ligne, keep ctrl press to get an orthogonal line, click to a second point and press enter to finish it. Make their stroke dash using the "Fill and Stroke" properties. Once you have approximately draw your two folding lines you can make sure their really align by using the "align and distribute" properties, press shift+ctrl+A to open it. select first your rectangle then by pressing maj select the two folding lines, click on "distribute center equidistantly" button in distribute properties. BOOM, everything should be align.

Step 7: Tab and Notch, Last Parts of the Support

The tab, at the end of the strip, will be made with the same tool. So press shift+F6 and draw your tab as you want it. You must draw a close shape contiguous to the edge of your strip. When it is done, you can merge the strip rectangle and the tab together. To do so, select the rectangle and the tab together by pressing maj, press maj++ or go to "Path" > "Union". BOOM one beautiful strip finish by a tab. Add the last folding line by simply copy paste it.

Finally, the notch ! Draw a small rectangle perpendicular to one of your folding lines and use the "Fill and Stroke" properties to get a white background inside this rectangle. Once it is done select all parts of your support and group it with ctrl+G or right click and "group", press shift+ctrl+g to ungroup or right click and "ungroup". Copy paste it and modify its pattern or shapes for each helico paper. Organize all of this on your paper format and print 'em aaaall !!! Now you are able to draw simple shapes, merge them, modify stokes and fills. It is good enough to prepare a file for a laser cut. This will allow you to go massive in your helico papers production. Thanks to laser cutting you can get several hundreds of helico papers in one hour.

Step 8: Setup Properties for Laser Cutting

Because every cutting machines are using their own software to generate the instructions, I won't be able to show you the end of the process but I can show you how to get this file ready to use for most cases.

Use the short cut shift+ctrl+D or go to file > Document Properties, there you will find the unit settings using pixel by default. Many of the cutting machines software are working with millimeters, change px > mm. Define the cutting area of your machine by changing width and height in the same properties setup. One last property to add is color profil in the same properties setup you will find the "color" tab, add Adobe RGB (1998) to color profils.

Now you can organize every helico papers next to each other in the cutting area. Gather them as close as possible in order to avoid waste of paper.

Step 9: Modify Your Helicopapers

As I said before every helicopaper is a group, so in order to modify any part of it you will have to double click on that group.
Many cutting machines won't support the patterns, it is possible to engrave those patterns but it will take forever to do so. My advice is to delete them. Double click on one helicopaper, selecting the pattern, finally left click on the little cross at the beginning of the bottom color chart. Or smarter don't generate the pattern when usingg the generator :p Now in order to prepare the file for lasercut you might want to assign colors to every line. Those colors will represent the order of cutting and the speed of laser displacement. We will need 3 different colors :

  • green : engrave parts, for the folding lines (you also might want to suppress them in order to facilitate the work)
  • red : first cuts, inside cut lines
  • blue : last cuts, boundary cuts

You may need to adapt the colors to the software machine. It is important to cut the boundary of helicopapers the last in order to avoid them to move during the cutting, it might append because of ventilation.

Double click to get inside a group, select one line and right click on it. Go to "select same" and click "Fill and Stroke". At this point Inkscape have select every similar lines, even those out of the group. You want to change their color by clicking right on chosen color of the bottom color chart and click "set stroke". and BIM !

Repeat this action four times to get all lines in good colors.

Step 10: Optimize for Laser Cutting

This step might be skipped because it is not a time saver when it comes to cut one hundred helicopapers, still for a few of those it is interesting to optimize the path of a laser cut.
At this point each helicopapers boundaries are overlapping which mean the laser will cut 2 times the same spots. It is important to avoid as much as possible this situation.

Select everything with ctrl+A, degroup everything with maj+ctrl+G, select the blue boundaries, merge them together by using Path > Union or maj+ctrl++. At this point you should have only one external boundary.

Now draw back all the vanished lines using the draw tool shift+F6. A good trick is to keep CTRL pushed when creating a line to be sure to stay orthogonal. Get the new lines in red color.

As you can see, it can take a very long time to do if you have too many helicopapers.

Step 11: Stroke and Laser Cut !

Give a file as simple as possible to the machine software. Change all lines to continuous and thin, with "fills and stokes" setup, Shift+Crtl+F to open it, then select all Ctrl+A, select mm as units for strokes and 0,1mm as width. Make sure no dash lines stayed and your file is ready !

We made one by hand, then 5 with a printer, now we can go for an infinite number ! Just need a cutting machine which I don't have, but hey... still got my elbow grease and a printer to make those on hundred helico papers. I really want to see what hundred of helico papers throw thought my windows will look like !

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