A Laser Cut Light In The Dark

Laser cut lamps, pumpkins, chicken boxes, the Black Lodge!

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Above is an updated Hollywood Regency pendant lamp from Phil Spitler. It is laser cut from plywood and acrylic like Ponoko.com‘s own.

After the jump, pumpkins, chicken boxes, the Black Lodge… (more…)

How To: Get The Best Results out of Laser Cut Cardstock

Useful tips to ensure optimum cut quality from this versatile material


Cardstock is such a handy material for laser cutting. The versatile combination of lightweight tensile strength, fast cutting/etching and low unit cost means cardstock is a wonderful choice for greeting cards, business cards, model making and packaging. A number of popular cardstock options are available from both NZ and US Ponoko making hubs.

Cardstock cuts slightly differently from other materials in the Ponoko catalogues, so there are a few useful things to know to get the optimum cut quality for your project. Some of these tips are mentioned in the Ponoko material pages, such as designing around small light pieces that can shift during cutting. We always strongly advise that you carefully read material information to get a clearer idea of what results to expect. Material samples are another handy reference, although we stress that every project is different, and prototyping is the only way to ensure the best outcome.    (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #19

How to use laser cutting to stand out from the crowd


The distribution of ‘freebies’ or giveaway items can be a powerful marketing tool, with novelty objects triggering conversations between stakeholders in new and interesting ways. When used to full effect, these products become memorable in their own right… and most importantly, that also means the brand identity becomes an integral part of the ongoing conversation.

For an exhibition showcasing the best student works titled ‘D& AD New Blood’, the creative design team from Southampton Solent University incorporated visual, conceptual and sensorial metaphors into their very effective event freebie. A neat little laser cut box was produced in the style of the ubiquitous Southampton dock packing crates. Inside, further supporting the theme of “Cargo”, nestled a macabre-looking glass vial with the top sealed in wax.


This small bottle of wine continued to play on the New Blood idea of creative juices being shipped out. All sealed in a laser cut crate with sliding lid and laser etched details, it held just the right combination of conceptual nostalgia and contemporary novelty to become an effective conversation starter. People loved the diminutive scale and the nonsensical utility of the object. This was all made possible through clever use of laser cutting to increase brand awareness. See more photos of the miniature crates on behance.

How would you stand out from the crowd with laser cut freebies using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below, and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

Free Design & Quote »

Building The Ideas That Build Young Minds

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When most people imagine laser cutting, they envision quirky personal projects or grand scale commercial ones. One of the last places you would expect to see laser cut designs is in a Physics classroom. But thanks to the inventiveness and commitment of one teacher, a classroom of students are now able to grasp the more complex fundamentals of Physics bother literally and figuratively, thanks to Ponoko’s laser cut designs.  

In this blog, written by Physics professor Matthew Jacques at Pentucket Regional High School we’ll see how Ponoko was able to build the tools, which enabled him to demonstrate his curriculum and ensure pinpoint precision each time. With Ponoko’s help, ideas that were relegated to just a textbook came to life with tactility and are helping young minds experiment and learn Physics like never before.

(The following blog has been written by Matthew Jacques, Pentucket Regional High School, edited by Samantha Herald and republished here on Ponoko’s blog with his permission)

When I am teaching physics, I always find myself thinking, “I wish there was a lab accessory or device to do this or that.” Most of the time the thought lingers for a moment and I simply push on with the materials we have or ultimately discover with dismay the desired equipment simply does not exist. Such occurred when I began the year examining the core concepts of motion. The unit studies how an object change its velocity and distance from one second to the next when accelerating due to free-fall. It is challenging enough to guide the students to the conclusions through inquiry based labs, but it is even more challenging when the equipment introduces extra variables. I purchased a set of gravity drop kits that operate through an original mechanical release mechanism that drop marbles from rest through two CPO photogates. The mechanical release mechanism did not drop the marble from rest and was terribly inconsistent. If a student was not careful, the mechanism would give the marble an undue initial velocity. I instead needed an electromagnet to drop the marble consistently every time. No such mechanisms existed that could easily connect with the CPO base stands; however these could be specifically tailored by laser cutting sheets of woods.

A few years ago, I created a personal project from ponoko.com, a “maker” service that can laser cut materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and more out of varying thicknesses with, of course, laser precision. The premise was simple: a blueprint design could be created using either Adobe Illustrator, InkScape, or Corel Draw, and if a line was “blue”, it cut the material and if the line was “red”, it would engrave a line. The design process consisted of determining what type of lab equipment was needed, taking measurements to integrate it with existing equipment, and going through design iterations on the computer. Choosing a material and thickness is a critical first step since it drives the overall design and dictates how the sides fit together. I chose a wood laminate, as it was inexpensive, durable, and easily assembled with wood glue.

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The cost of any Ponoko order is extremely variable based on the complexity of the laser cutting and the types of materials being used. Luckily, I was able to have an idea of the cost by uploading designs and receiving an instant quote through the Ponoko website. The quote allowed me to optimize the project and cut down on costs. For example, if you have two objects laser cut, by sharing a “cut line” between objects, you reduce the laser time and thus the cost. Certain types of laser cutting such as engraving an area costs far more than just creating an engraved line. Because I ordered the product through my school, I was given a generous 55% discount and a free subscription to their prime service. All in all, the entire order came just shy of $160 and took about two weeks from the time of order to the date of arrival.

The Ponoko order arrived in large sheets of wood which looked like jigsaw puzzles. After removing the paper backing, the pieces lifted out easily. It was a satisfying experience seeing the design on the screen become real and tangible objects. It is most likely the closest thing we have to the replicator on Star Trek. The parts were exactly as I designed them down to the most minute detail. Aside from some light sanding on a few pieces, the majority of the project fit together seamlessly.


The electromagnetic marble releaser (or EMR) was the most challenging of all the builds due to its technical nature. The EMR uses a momentary switch to trigger an electromagnet and a slide switch to enable an LED indicator. Maximizing its usefulness, the device can fit on either a slanted straight track or vertically on a base stand. As expected, the EMR takes out the human element of releasing the marble and produces a much more consistent release.

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Moving forward, I can only hope to think of and create more laser cut projects for class. No longer do custom solutions need to be haphazardly put together with cardboard and tape; they can instead made with laser precision. If any fellow teachers are interested in learning more or acquiring these designs for your class, please email me at mjacques@prsd.org 


#HolidaySales Tip #2: The Simplest Sales Hook Is A Festive Look


In our last post, we looked at the importance of planning your retail strategy before the start of the holiday season. Assuming you’ve got all those aspects locked in, let’s move on to the next step – decorating.

Remember ‘Home Alone’? Most of us can recount almost every gag in the movie. But apart from those moments, another fact that’s cemented in our memory is this – it was a Christmas movie. This association, even after so many years, is due to the visual power of décor. This festive season, you can tap into the pool of positive emotions associated with the holidays (the biggest of all being ‘spending’) simply by taking the time to incorporate an appropriate festive look in your online stores and through your social accounts.

Aim to look inspiring, not conspiring

It’s no secret that shoppers are aware of the myriad of psychological ploys employed by retailers to entice them into spending more during the holiday season. And while most shoppers tend to ignore this fact while shopping, any retail brand, which doesn’t sound genuinely participative in the holiday season, will immediately be seen as nothing but a money-grubbing Grinch.

As Trixy Eichler, head of merchandising for various large and small retail stores puts it succinctly, “When considering decorating your store, don’t limit yourself by the product in your store. Take inspiration from your surroundings, your community, what might be going on in the world. This will show your customers you’re active, aware, and participate in daily life. You are not just a sales outlet. You give people something to relate to and you’re engaging your customers.”

Now for many of you the act of physically decorating a store may not be something you do, but an online store’s front page and in many ways your social accounts are for all intents and purposes delivering the same message that a shop window would. Regardless the input required from you as a seller remains the same.

Start outside and work your way in

When planning your festive décor, start with the first point of contact for a shopper- your “window display”. As previously mentioned, by window display we are referring to your online store’s home page or your social accounts that take a pictorial focus, such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. “Window displays” are key to breaking the visual monotony, whether on a social feed or as an attractive click action on your homepage and if you can grab someone’s attention for even a few seconds, you greatly increase their willingness to “walk in”.  With social posts, having relevant content that can be boosted to increase its appeal to a wider audience, beyond those of your fans, will attract people’s attention and may get them to click through to your site or “walk in” if you like.

Start your design and social posting plan by choosing a theme which reflects your store image. Is your store trendy or high-end? Will your store be offering huge bargains or will there be marquee products on sale? Your theme should reflect these elements and showcase products which reflect your store’s image.

When creating a storefront for the holiday season, start by using a background image, banner or set of images to create a clear distinction between the Christmas store and the regular store, if you are continuing to market merchandise not specifically applicable to Christmas. Consider the option of vividly showcasing just a few products. Or if you want to use a wider collage of items, consider building a story around them which intrigues shoppers to stop and take notice.

Great examples of this are creating split sections on the homepage that have a targeted gift market i.e ‘Gifts for Him’ or ‘Gift for Her’ and even by pricing, ‘Gifts for under $20’. You can then use relevant hashtags through social media to get the product in front of people looking for ideas and link them back to your store.

Decorating your store with no walls

As web usability guru Jakob Nielsen puts it, the reason we must decorate our websites for the holidays is “…because we respect users as human beings, rather than simply as ‘eyeballs’ or a source of e-commerce transactions…it is a way for websites to connect to users and be seen as welcoming environments, rather than places focused solely on money-grubbing.”

With a few simple touches to your online store, you can translate the festive spirit customers enjoy in your physical store and drive them to buy more.

More ideas for your graphics


If your website uses a header, updating it with a seasonal image can be a great start to sprucing up your site for the holidays. Also consider adding some sidebar images with holiday graphics and, if you have the time and the resources, try to incorporate your products into the graphics as well. 

If you can’t pull this off in time, use what you have available. For instance, you could simply decorate your site’s background image with holiday snapshots from you and your employees’ families.

Tell interesting holiday stories

If your website features a carousel on the homepage, this is a great way to incorporate your brand’s products with the holiday season. Use each image to create a story around a single product or a group of products. Your carousel can do more than just advertise your wares during the holidays, it can become a great medium to highlight new gifts this season and even push gifting of items which may not be getting as much attention across your site.

Using your social accounts to tell an engaging holiday story is a great way to get people connected to your brand and product and will leave them waiting for the next update. With the introduction of video in social, this is a great way to tell stories to the visual people in the world. Creating short, entertaining videos as little commercials will stop people in their tracks when reading through their social feeds. Producing videos up to around 30 seconds is ideal and easy to do with apps like Vine and Instagram and if you’re using an iPhone the built in apps from Apple are a great movie studio for the beginner. If commercials aren’t your thing, find someone you know to create review videos or how to videos, if they apply to your product.

Say hello with a holiday smile

Last, but not least, if your homepage has a welcome message, take a few minutes to update it with a note about the holidays. Here’s your chance to really be creative. Instead of just a boring “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, think of how you can incorporate your brand’s ethos into this message or simply let customers know how your brand plans to celebrate the holiday season this year.

Decorating for the holidays should always be light-hearted yet subtly tactical. If done well, it can put customers in the right mood to shop, draw attention to items you would like to sell and above all, make your brand a friendly place to shop this season. In our next post, we’ll look at building your customer base through customer service (which always get more strenuous during the holidays). For now, as you begin decorating for more #HolidaySales, just remember to stick to a theme, be prudent in your choices and above all else, have fun doing it.

#HolidaySales Tip #1: The best sale is a planned one

the best sale is a planned one

“The holiday season is almost here”. If hearing that makes you squirm in your seat, even a little bit, maybe you need to stop working on your next sale poster and take some time to plan out your strategy first. We know the holidays can be a maddening time for retail. But to make sure your business doesn’t get swept up in the oncoming cacophony, we’ve created a 10-part blog series covering each aspect of holiday season retail. Think of it like decorating a Christmas tree – you wouldn’t just throw decorations at it and see which sticks, would you? With that in mind let’s hang our first bauble – planning.

Do you have a calendar handy?

In retail, there’s more than one date you need to keep in mind during the holiday season. Not only because you need to prepare for the added sales volume on those days but also because you need to integrate your sales plan backwards from those dates to be fully prepared. While you might know most of these dates, here is a quick refresher on the ones, which should definitely on your retail calendar for the holiday season:

October 31, Halloween: Each year, about 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.

November 28, Black Friday: 2013 saw online spending on Black Friday increase 15% to a record $1.20 billion.

December 1, Cyber Monday: Online shoppers spent over 1.73 billion dollars on Cyber Monday in 2013, marking the heaviest online spending day in history.

December 8, Green Monday: Last year, consumers spent $1.4 Billion on Green Monday – a major e-retail day falling on the Monday in December, at least 10 days prior to Christmas.

December 18, Free Shipping Day: Shoppers took advantage of Free Shipping Day in 2013, making 1.03 billion in online purchases.

December 25, Christmas Day: With most shoppers spending time offline, this is one day to (sort of) relax and prepare for Boxing Day.

December 26, Boxing Day: Boxing Day is consistently among the biggest retail days of the year. 2013 saw an overall jump in online sales of 40% when compared to the same day in 2012.


Start wide but finish deep

Before the season starts, spend time putting together a complete assortment of merchandise across all your categories. But as the season gets closer, start to narrow your assortment and focus only on the ones which have proven to work, the best sellers in your lineup. Since customers have already expressed interest in those items, they more likely to generate sales and have the lowest markdown risk.

Look past the immediate horizon

Even though we’re still in September, you need to start reviewing your sales plans for November and December right away. By now, you should be far enough into the season to project the last two months, as compared to the start of the season. Ask yourself key questions like “how have sales trended compared to last year?” “Which categories have proven to strong?” “Are any weak categories lagging behind in my lineup?” Answering questions like these will help you make more accurate sales predictions for the holiday season.

Do you have enough supply to meet demand?

Most retailers have mixed feelings about inventory around the holiday season. Order too much inventory and you risk significant markdowns later in the season but order too little and customers might go elsewhere in a heartbeat if they don’t find what they’re looking for.

That’s why you need to review your inventory plans for the end of October, November and December. Think long and hard about what percentage of your ending inventories each month you want to dedicate to stocks of your best items. Because irrespective of quantity, the quality of these items ultimately drives your sales in the last two months.

Don’t lose focus on your vendors

While it’s great to plan inventory and sales projections (and feel quite proud of yourself) don’t forget your retail business is not a one-man band. Once you’ve calculated which items you need and what quantities you need them in, the next question to ask is – which vendors? Choosing the right vendor will give you a better handle on delivery dates.

Make sure your vendors are clear with your requirements and if you primary vendor doesn’t have a key item, don’t panic. Someone else is bound to have it and consider yourself lucky you discovered the weak link in the supply chain sooner rather than later.

Keep the phone lines open

Once you’ve got your vendors to agree with your requirements for the holiday season, don’t give in to the urge to kick your feet up and let automation do its job. Think of this as a mission to space. So far, you’ve only gotten past launch. There’s still plenty that could go wrong. Late deliveries in November and December can very easily turn all your hard work upside down and before you can say, “Houston, we have a problem”, you could be looking at lost sales and heavier than anticipated markdowns.

Stay clear of ‘inventory blindness’

When you’re making your list of items to stock for the holiday season, it’s easy to start assuming certain items are going to be a hit. But knowing what you shouldn’t buy is as important, if not more, than knowing what you should.

Take another looks at your inventory and identify those items, which you don’t absolutely have to maintain until the end of the season. These items may have been necessary to complete a full assortment but any money spent on them during the holiday season might not generate the same sales volume as your better performing counterparts and leave you exposed to a greater risk of markdown.

Planning for the holiday season can be a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. All you need is a little foresight and time set aside to get it done properly. In our next post, we’ll go over designing your storefront (both online and offline) for the holiday season. For now, just remember, if you go through planning your #HolidaySales step by step, you’ll end up with a better looking inventory and a cash register that keeps on ringing. In the world of retail, what could be better holiday music?


Laser Cutting Time – With Friends!

Laser cut clocks, droids, horns, tags, leaves!

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Above is a dragonfly wall clock. It is laser cut and stained wood and comes from Sarah Mimo Clocks. Ponoko.com‘s own versatile Birch Plywood could be used to make this beautiful clock.

After the jump, droids, horns, tags, leaves… (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #18

Topping off tasty treats with laser cutting


Tasty treats are a great way to draw a crowd, and as these playful laser cut cake toppers demonstrate, there can be so much more to the proverbial ‘cherry on the top’ if you’re willing to get creative with laser cutting.

This approach calls for elements that ring true with the strengths of laser cutting – a combination of crisp outlines, bold forms and delicate silhouettes that are uniquely eye-catching. Each individual unit is also fast and cheap to make, and will be resilient enough to withstand the rigors of more than a few rounds at events or parties. This makes them great take-home souvenirs or giveaways, with the added memorable twist of your brand being associated in a fun way with a tasty treat.


Using the cupcake as a base for their creative endeavors, John and Christine from Thick and Thin Designs have gathered quite a following with their cake toppers on Etsy; a few of which are pictured here. How does this inspire you to use the Ponoko Personal Factory to sweeten your corporate messaging? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

Free Design & Quote »

Laser Cutting and Learning To Fly

Laser cut blueprints, lamps, cats, fronds, and ornaments.

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Above a custom chest. It is custom engraved birch plywood, like Ponoko.com‘s own, and comes from DaVinci Crafts.

After the jump, lamps, cats, fronds, and ornaments… (more…)

Elliptical Laser Cut Boxes

Using Inkscape plugins to round out those boxed corners 


We all agree that laser cut boxes are handy to use as enclosures for DIY electronic projects and for storing little keepsakes. Adding your own personal touch gets a whole lot more interesting when you can break away from the traditional rectilinear form to create elliptical laser cut boxes.

Once again, the magic happens thanks to some clever programming in the form of a freely available Inkscape plugin. Instructables user Bas van der Peet has compiled an extensive guide to using this plugin, with a number of fun examples of what you can achieve when you round off a few corners here and there.


If breaking out of the box sounds like fun to you, head over to Instructables and follow Bas’ guide, then let us know how you go with the plugin in the comments below.

Make your elliptical laser cut boxes using the Ponoko Personal Factory.

Elliptical Box Maker via Instructables