Cashing In on the Wedding Industry: Laser Cut Centerpieces

How Others are Finding Success Making and Selling Table Numbers and Centerpieces

laser cut wedding table personalisedfavours

Wedding guests have their first taste of things to come with custom laser cut invitations, and we’ve seen how fun and playful laser cut photo booth props entertain and delight. The all-important wedding cake has also had a romantic laser cut makeover, and today we are turning our attention to laser cut solutions for tables and guest seating.

With over 2.5 million weddings in the US annually, clever Etsy sellers are tapping into a niche market that has an eye for custom centerpiece design. From table numbers to decorative center features, laser cutting enables designers to explore creative themes that enhance the magic of the wedding day.

Pictured above is a three-panel centerpiece from Personalised Favours. Across the different panels there are laser etched details featuring the table number and also the menu, putting all the important table information into one neat package. Other popular Etsy offerings are freestanding table numbers such as the neat script from Foote and Flame (below, left) and a romance-themed numbered heart from PinkSwann (below, right).

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Also from Personalised Favours, the ornate script of these staked numbers (below) make great use of the complex contours that are enabled by laser cutting. Rather than have an attached base for the numbers to stand on their own, these can be inserted into an existing centerpiece for more height and greater presence on the table.

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Acrylic, another favorite material for laser cutters, also lends itself well to the wedding table. Pictured below is a bold laser cut table number set with integrated heat-formed base from ZCreateDesign. Options for these table numbers include black, transparent, silver or gold mirror acrylic.

laser cut wedding table zcratedesign

Further creative outcomes can be achieved when combining laser cut table numbers with other functional table elements. We saw the laser etched menu earlier, and the following examples from Foote and Flame also demonstrate ways to merge concepts together. The laser cut text becomes a romantic illuminated feature when a tealight candle is inserted into the assembly, and a laser etched coaster identifies seating arrangements and also becomes a personalised keepsake for the lucky guest to take home.

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Wedding decorations are an opportunity to express personality and explore the inspired creativity that fits so naturally when love is in the air. Through clever use of laser cutting, centerpieces and table numbers can easily become a part of the happy couple’s unique expression on the big day. Let us know in the comments below how you would use Ponoko’s Personal Factory to create some truly inspirational laser cut table features.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #44

Laser Cut and Etched Family-Centric Promotional Items

laser cut family birthday calendar

Promotional items that have a personal touch can become valued trinkets for the recipient, and you can’t get much more personal than with a focus on family. The diverse capabilities of laser cutting and laser etching make customized family-centric products quick and easy to achieve. As we’ll see in the following examples, materials can range from the familiar to the experimental using a number of different techniques.

Pictured above is a laser cut family birthday calendar from Zetka in Poland, who provide options for custom text and different materials and finishes. The family tree is also a popular theme, with an interpretation in ply from Dansky Arts & Crafts (below, left) and hand-cut paper from Twenty Fingers (below, right).

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Continuing the theme of family connections, the puzzle pendant necklace pictured below from AJ’s Custom Jewelry is hand-stamped, but the same idea will translate nicely across to laser cutting and etching. The focus is all on the names of each generation with Jimagination Creations’ text-based family tree (below right).
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Moving from text to images, the beautifully simple use of silhouettes from Cheek By Jowl are one of many versions on the same theme offered by these clever designers.

laser cut family silhouette portrait

 

Photographic images can make for striking laser etched family portraits. The engraved wood example from Twiki Concept (below, left) has so much more presence than an everyday photo print, and the set of laser etched leather coasters from Sweenks (below, right) enable the family photos to become a useful everyday product.

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Puzzles are another great way to make use of photos; many print services provide custom puzzles as an option, and it really isn’t difficult to go one step further to make custom laser etched puzzles from family portraits. Pictured below is a puzzle laser cut and etched in ply from Factory eNova. Learn how to make a custom laser cut puzzle with this handy guide.

laser cut family enova

The final examples are a little more experimental. For those with extra time or just the urge to be creative, an organic laser cut puzzle portrait such as this one from MoaDesu (below, left) lends itself well to being finished with a coat of bright paint or even laser cut from different materials. Food products are not a part of the selection in the Ponoko Personal Factory, but it’s still interesting (and fun!) to see the exploration from Coby Unger (below, right) where famous portraits have been laser etched onto Matzah, a crisp flatbread traditionally eaten at Passover in the Jewish community.

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Adding a personal touch by featuring families and family activities in laser cut products can lead to some really creative outcomes that are more likely to be retained (and maybe even cherished) by the recipient. Let us know if you’ve seen other great ideas for laser cut family themed products in the comments below; and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #43

Marketing to the Travelling Executive

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When business executives and head honchos hit the road to seal the next big deal, they love to have all the right corporate gear. Let’s take a look at how laser cut giveaways and laser cut corporate gift ideas can smooth out even the bumpiest of business junkets.

Personalized Laser Cut Travel Accessories

Travel accessories are a great way to use laser cutting to customize products with company branding or personalized info. In the above example from Laser Cutting Lab, a leather passport wallet with laser etched details not only protects this important document, it also sets the exec apart from the other travellers in the departure lounge.

laser cut luggage tags

Briefcases, suit bags, backpacks and checked items all need to be easily identified. The scope for creative laser cut solutions is broad and varied when it comes to luggage tags. The two examples above show how laser etched details can be used effectively, and also how the shape of the tag itself can reference travel-themed forms. Luggage tags can be produced using most of the familiar laser cutting/etching materials such as leather, acrylic, ply and sheet metals.

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For the health-conscious travelling executive, laser cut kitchen tools are a novel way to keep that hard working body fuelled up. Imagine squeezing your own cup of fresh OJ before that important meeting! This travel friendly laser cut orange juicer (above) disassembles and packs flat, perfect for the open road.

Work hard, play hard… travel games are a great way to clear the head from all those work stresses while keeping the mind active. The portability of laser cut chess sets like the timber and leather Got Chess (pictured above) is just one example of how traditional board games can easily slot in to the briefcase or day pack.

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Document wallets, briefcase inserts, tablet and notebook holders can all be laser cut from leather and then stitched together. This method of construction gives a hand-crafted artisan look, and will balance nicely with any custom laser etched corporate details that are included in the design. In the example above from Laser Cutting Lab, slots for all of the essential business tools are neatly laid out in a stylish folding leather case.

laser cut felt pouch and etch test

Another consideration is to use laser cut felt, as in the example above from David Sjunnesson. Pictured on the right is a sample sheet showing how different engraving settings will look when using felt from the Ponoko Personal Factory.

Laser cutting makes it so easy to add custom details to executive travel gear, made even more accessible thanks to the relatively simple design requirements of products like luggage tags and basic document sleeves. Let us know if you’ve seen some great ideas for laser cut executive travel products in the comments below, and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Laser Cut Success Stories: Akujin Corps Etsy Store

How to quit your day job and find success with niche laser cut products 

akujincorps - laser cut glasses

Robert Overstreet was once a mild mannered IT consultant with a passion for cosplay on the side, but thanks to some clever design thinking and effective use of the Ponoko Personal Factory, his Akujin Corps Etsy store has turned into a serious full-time business.

Akujin Corps specialises in laser cut acrylic glasses for cosplay enthusiasts. The designs are inspired by the dynamic characters from various anime, comics and other media – a wildly creative culture where everyday boundaries blur with fantastical action and adventure.

Let’s take a look at Robert’s journey and reflections on his laser cutting experience with Ponoko.

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How did you get started as a designer and seller on Etsy?

To be honest I do not recall how I found Etsy. I expect it was mentioned somewhere while looking for alternatives to eBay.

What was the inspiration behind your product?

I started going to conventions in the mid-1990s. As cosplay started becoming more common over the next few years I noticed a lot of Vash cosplayers did not have glasses or had poor replicas. I searched online and found the official movic replicas selling on eBay for $150-$300 and the poor replicas selling at about $90. I bought up a few pairs of similar looking glasses and modified the arms and started selling them for $20 on eBay. I did not make a lot, but I made enough to afford buying more glasses to modify as well as my anime, comics and games.

What led to you try Ponoko?

Before I found Ponoko my products were very limited. I mostly worked with existing products that I purchased modified, then resold.

In 2012 I discovered Ponoko. Now I could design and cut acrylic and started making unique designs instead of modifying existing products. When business started picking up in late 2013 I had to choose between working full-time in IT for the county or my glasses. Certain circumstances came up and I put in my two weeks notice with the county and have been making glasses since.
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What are the top 3 things you love about Ponoko? Why?

The simple design requirements, the great customer service, and a fairly decent number of materials to choose from.

The design requirements are easy to understand and work with in inkscape which is free. Files can be created saved edited without expensive software or conversion.
It is not unusual for me to receive product and let it sit for a few days before I need to assemble a piece from the lastest Ponoko delivery. Sometimes I find my acrylic parts are damaged under the original paper by the manufacturer. When I contact Ponoko about this issue or other issues like product broken in the mail or cut in the wrong color which both very rarely occur, I never have any trouble getting in touch with Ponoko’s customer service who quickly arrange for a replacement. The number of materials to choose from in acrylic alone is pretty great. I have only run into a few instances where color limitation was an issue and in those cases Ponoko was willing to help me with a custom order.

How did you make (and sell) your glasses before Ponoko? How is this different from your Ponoko process?

From 1996 until 2012 I worked with existing products modifying them to create new products. I believe I had about 17 unique products until I started working with Ponoko. After the discovery of Ponoko in late 2012 I went from making a few different products to hundreds of unique items in less than a year.

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How long does it take to go from: (i) idea to design; (ii) design to prototype; (ii) prototype to product; (iv) product to first customer (or media attention)? How do these 4 speeds compare to doing this without Ponoko?

With Ponoko, From idea to design takes an hour or two, and design to prototype takes about a week. If the design works out I also end up with a product at this point. If the design does not work out I am looking at another hour or two fixing issues with the design and another week waiting for the revised design to be delivered. Once I have a new product listed on Etsy I usually have my first order within a week. Without Ponoko or a similar service my business does not exist.

What advice do you want to give to other designer/sellers?

Do not take criticism and feedback personally, but do not let people walk all over you either. Customer service is important but you should expect to be treated respectfully by your customers as well.

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So now that you know the story behind Akujin Corps, you can find the current range of laser cut cosplay glasses on Etsy.

If you’re inspired by Robert’s success to try laser cutting your own products, head over to the Ponoko Personal Factory and start making today.

 

Cashing in on the Wedding Industry: Laser Cut Invitations

How Etsy sellers are finding success with Laser Cut Invitations

etsy wedding laser cut lovepop

Every year, around 2.5 million weddings are celebrated in the US. Chances are, the guests who attend these weddings are not being invited via text message! The traditional paper invitation continues to be the chosen method for soon-to-be nuptials.

But that does not mean they are limited to plain old (or even fancy) printing. Clever designers have been using laser cutting to create novel wedding invitations, and then turning a tidy profit thanks to the thriving marketplace for all things Wedding on Etsy.

Why use laser cutting for wedding invitations?

Familiar graphic themes from traditional wedding invitations can be reinterpreted using laser cutting with Ponoko’s Personal Factory. The delicate forms of lace and filigree patterns, floral motifs and artistic whimsies are no sweat for a laser cutter. Even better, laser cut details on wedding invitations allow for layered effects, overlays with color reveals and hints of further artwork or information within folded content.

Laser cut invitation examples

The wedding invitation is an opportunity for couples to introduce their guests to the flavor of their upcoming celebrations. Let’s take a look at a few examples that have been made available by designers selling their laser cut invitations on Etsy.

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For a more traditional approach, the floral lace effect of this invitation cover (above, left) by Dorothy Rovensky hints at the fine papercraft of past elegance while introducing a contemporary feel. Extending on this theme, the modern illustrated artwork using laser cut negative space as a decorative frame (above, right) by Lavish Laser demonstrates another approach, where the cardstock containing ornate printed text is laser cut as a secondary process.

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Setting the scene for a romantic wedding, the Laser Cut Love Story (above, left) by Celine Designs captures a moment of romance in an intimate silhouette.  The multiple folds of DotLaser’s invitation (above, center) uses silhouettes of a country wedding scene to help set the tone for an upcoming ceremony. Also envoking the special moment in silhouette (above, right) is this example from madebyloveaustralia, where additional color highlights the laser cut artwork.

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Laser cut invitation covers are a popular way to add elegance without departing from the traditional printed invitation nestled inside. The double floral folds from Stunning Stationery (above, left) and single fold from Cartalia (above, center) let the recipient know there is something special inside, as does another example with a modern leaf pattern (above, right) also from Cartalia.

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Designers and artists familiar with laser cutting also love to cut and etch into wood. These two examples from Aniri Art (above) add a playful twist with the recognisable visual hallmarks of laser cut ply.

Another technique used by successful wedding invitation designers on Etsy is to create 3D effects from slotted laser cut assemblies. We can see this technique represented very nicely with the Willow Tree Love Scene popup card from LovePopCards, featured at the top of this post.

Weddings are a time where happy couples specifically set out to make an impact as they share their big day with friends and family. As we can see from the collection of samples available for sale on Etsy, designers are catching on that laser cutting is a clever way to contribute to this growing industry. Can you think of interesting ways to incorporate laser cutting into your wedding invitation designs? Let us know how you’ll make laser cut romance in the comments below.

Modernizing Vintage Crafts With Laser Cutting

There is a certain beauty to vintage crafts.

One of the hard-to-beat old-fashioned crafting techniques is paper tole. This is the art of constructing three-dimensional images by cutting and layering elements from identical images. So essentially, you are building a 3D image using 2D prints. This style is also known as papier tole and 3D decoupage.

The simplest types of paper toles are those you’d see in pop-up books or old 3D cards. Even with just two layers, it seems to bring out an entire magical dimension to the paper craft. The more popular use of this technique is to produce a decorative framed print where the image is set in a deep wall frame and the finished product is displayed as wall art.

Vintage Paper Tole Card

The exact origin of paper toles is unknown. Traces of the art can be seen in Italian furniture in the 16th century where cut and shaped paper was shellacked to furniture. The same was used in 17th century France, where furniture craftsmen used varnish to protect the delicate paper cut designs. It has evolved into an artform called “Vue d’Optique” where paper sculptures are used to create three-dimensional pictures. The craft as we know it today, further emerged during the Depression-era USA. In the 1930’s it was common for households to receive multiple Christmas cards sold by charity agencies and contain the same image. Innovative crafters used these cards to create what is the current art form. The craft really surged in popularity in the late 70’s to the early 80’s.

Much of the focus of paper toles was on the artistry — layers were lovingly and skillfully hand-cut to create depth, contour and perception. However, since it consumes time and the complexity of the process requires a degree of skill, it has become a dying art.

Modernizing Paper Tole with Laser Crafting

 

This is where laser cutting can save the day! It can revive the nearly-lost art of paper toles by taking out the excruciating part of the process — the cutting. Now before you think that this simply destroys the art — hold that thought! There’s much more to paper tole than just cutting. This is the very reason why paper tole kits began populating the market in the 1980’s. Pre-cut kits became available to those who love the assembly process but do not have time for the cutting process.

Modern-day paper tole with laser cutting

Essentially the process is the same as in the traditional way it is done. When designing a laser-cut paper tole kit, the maker needs to look at the 2-dimensional image and visualize a foreground, a middle-ground and a background. It’s not really the cutting that makes it special, but rather the shaping. Sculpting each cut-out piece gives the entire picture a natural perspective and a touch of realism.

A maker can focus on just producing a paper tole kit instead of an entire project. The kit, in itself, is a sellable item that many will still appreciate. Once the pieces are pre-cut and pre-sculpted using precision laser cutting, assembly instructions are needed to produce the complete kit. A laser-cut paper tole kit will resonate well with an audience who wants to focus on the layering or assembly part of the paper tole technique. They can layer and glue the pieces to the provided base print with a neutral cure silicone to create the 3D effect.

Another option for makers would be to create the completed paper tole artwork and sell it as is. There’s still a growing market for precision-crafted art and laser cutting makes the space all the more exciting to explore.

How To Make a Laser Cut Wobbler

Get your creativity rolling with this simple DIY laser cut project

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Watching things wobble has something mysterious and mesmerising about it, and when you add in the precision of a laser cutter, the results are mathematically sublime. Building your own laser cut Wobbler is a fun way to learn about the physics behind motion and inertia, or if the how and why is not as critical for you as the what, perhaps having something novel and intriguing to roll across the table is reason enough!

Thanks to Thingiverse users Greg Zumwalt and Ella Jameson, making your own laser cut Wobbler is easier than ever. You may notice from the image above (and the video below) that Greg’s design is not actually laser cut… it has been 3D printed. That’s where Ella comes in – she remixed Greg’s design to make her laser cut version, and shared the files for others to enjoy.

Simply download Ella’s .svg files (different disk sizes have been prepared for a material thickness of 3mm) and fire up your Ponoko Personal Factory to laser cut in your 3mm material of choice.

Here is a video of Greg’s wobbler in action:

So how does a Wobbler work?

The Wobbler moves so nicely because its center of gravity remains very nearly constant while rolling along, thanks to the ratio between the slots that connect the disks and their radii. This can be calculated for any round-ish shape using mathematical magic, but if equations make you wobbly, then you can cheat a little and use the approximated ratio of:

Slot Length = Disk Radius * 0.293

Wobblers can come in a number of forms, and with the repeated motion of the disks as they roll along, there is a great opportunity to laser etch onto the surfaces for further visual impact. It is also possible to apply the same mathematics to other Wobbler constructions; perhaps the most notable example of this is John Edmark’s laser cut Rollipses.

Click through for a video of yet another stunning kinetic mathematical wonder from John Edmark, as well as a collection of Wobblers presented by Tim at Grand Illusions. (more…)

Understanding Button Design

A Comprehensive Product Design Guide to Push All Your Buttons

button design for laser cutting

Even with the prevalence of touch-enabled devices in our lives, the tactile button still holds its own as one of the most important physical design elements in a product. Throughout your day, you will encounter dozens (if not hundreds) of examples ranging from the thoroughly satisfying and highly engineered through to the hastily made, poorly molded and barely functional.

Getting those buttons right can be tricky, but thanks to design engineer Christian Brown’s Button Design Showcase we are able to get our heads around some of the important considerations that can help to ensure a successful outcome for your laser cut products.

“Buttons are a chance for both comfortable ergonomics and increased intuition in your product design… Large buttons surrounded by smaller ones indicate relative importance. A volume rocker button indicates a level going up and down. A single big red button says, ‘PANIC!’.”

 

How About Button Design for Laser Cutting?

By incorporating Christian’s button design insights with the thinking behind lattice (or living) hinges, we can use these same design principles for laser cutting. Enclosures for DIY electronics projects will often have holes or cavities laser cut to allow for the insertion of mechanical switches or buttons. It would certainly make the design a whole lot more interesting if these mechanical elements can become a more integral part of the laser cut pattern!

Laser Cut Buttons: Integrated

One way to do this is to add integrated spring elements to the surface of an enclosure, enabling buttons to be a part of the product housing itself. The DIY cellphone from David Mellis shows this quite effectively:

laser cut wood cellphone laser cut buttons

Laser Cut Buttons: Materials

Another option is to use an alternate material that can be fixed to the casing mechanically, much like is done in manufactured products. Alternate materials can include:

  • – color contrast (eg: different colored acrylic)
  • – translucent (eg: clear acrylic, back-lit for extra zing)
  • – rubber/silicone (using laser cutting and/or 3D printing to make a simple mold)

 

laser cut buttons emu caseimage source: BMOW

laser cut button 3d print
image source: roland.bz

Learn About Button Design

If your laser cut designs have buttons of any kind, then you should find Christian Brown’s Right On The Button: Using Design as a Showcase for Excellence an interesting read indeed. Gaining an understanding of what goes into the button design for manufactured products can help your own workflow, and aid in using laser cutting to its full potential.

Fictiv via Solidsmack

 

How To Make a Customized Jigsaw Puzzle

Laser Cut Educational Toys

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Personalised toys can make a great gift, adding something unique and memorable to show how much you care. It’s one of those things that many people think about doing, but never take the first steps to actually make it happen. Let’s take a look at how easy it can be to put together a personalised laser cut educational toy.

As you can see in this guide on Instructables, it is possible to achieve a highly resolved, professional-looking outcome even for those who are new to laser cutting. The guide, written by Ponoko’s own Dan Emery, walks through a process of creating the cutting pattern for the jigsaw pieces using Inkscape, and then building a custom map section that will become the laser etched details.    (more…)

Laser Cutting from a Galaxy Far Far Away

When The Force is strong

laser cut millenium falcon

When May the Fourth comes around each year, a whole galaxy of sci-fi fans kind of go nuts – well, more nuts than usual. It’s a fun time for these movie enthusiasts, and making models of the classic space vehicles from the original films can be a great way to share your enthusiasm with fellow fanatics.

Laser cutting is perfect for replicating the complex surface details of the iconic space vehicles, as has been well demonstrated by Thingiverse user Costaricaorca in the image above.

For others, the surface details take second place behind the actual shape of the vehicles. Once again, laser cutting provides an accessible way to replicate these forms and the following examples show how you don’t need much before it’s quite clear where the reference for the various machines comes from.

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Millenium Falcon by Killor; Waker by BillyMcCoy; and Star Destroyer with Tie Fighters by Breakfastsandwich

There are more like these to be found, uploaded by enthusiasts of all skill levels and experience to design community sites such as Thingiverse. Some have been made on laser cutters at local maker spaces, while others are zipped through during ‘spare time’ by employees lucky enough to have an on-site laser cutter at work. Another option that is accessible to all is to download files from Thingiverse and then have the parts cut in the material of your choice in the Ponoko Personal Factory.

May the fourth be with you…