Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #25

Wrapped in a Living Hinge: Laser Cut Clutch

laser cut living hinge bag michael harwood

There is something almost magical about the way a flat sheet of rigid material becomes flexible when laser cut using the ‘living hinge’ technique. This method of achieving a 3D shape from 2D material is ideally suited to laser cutting, as it exploits the natural tendency for stiff materials to flex around voids or notches. With a distinctive visual identity, the functional design elements can also be quite eye-catching.

The result is a smooth, organic curve that can be controlled rather efficiently if you are willing to either put your head far enough into the mathematics of how it works, or simply enjoy the prototyping process through several rounds of trial and error.

About living hinges

Learn more in our post on How To Design a Living Hinge where the mathematics behind this construction technique are revealed. While many examples of living hinges use simple lines as the decorative and functional element, it is in fact possible to adapt complex graphics (such as icons or company logos) to achieve a similar physical manipulation in the material.

See the following examples of patterns increasing in complexity, and how they respond when they are a part of a living hinge. To the left is a basic staggered line element, similar to the clutch bag design featured above from Michael Harwood. Moving through to chevrons, larger voids in a plus symbol and then the more detailed Space Invader sprite, it is clear that visually recognisable icons can indeed become living hinge elements.

Applying this technique to your brand

Staggered lines are an excellent starting point when looking at living hinges, as the behavior of the material is much more predictable and therefore easier to control. To keep things interesting, we do also encourage exploring more complex designs for maximum impact. Consider both the form that is created when the material bends around the living hinge, and how best to incorporate brand identity.

Have you bagged the perfect fashion accessory using the Ponoko Personal Factory? 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.

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All Facets of Laser Cut Animals

Laser cut animals, rulers, spaceships, and California!

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Above are geometric animal coasters. They are laser cut and etched into maple wood, like‘s own Premium Veneer-MDF, and come from The Campbell Craft.

After the jump, rulers, spaceships, and California… (more…)

Laser Cut House Cats!

Laser cut  houses, and cats!

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Above is a Pop-Up Village. They are laser cut and etched into wood, like‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Thea Starr of 6 By 6 Arts.

After the jump, some cats… (more…)

How To: Laser Cut Wooden Keyboard

Using a laser cutter to customize your keys

lazerwood macbook keys

With all of the time people spend at their personal computers, there is a growing demand for new ways to give these devices a more natural, human touch. One popular solution to complement the cool sheen of the portable computer is to create custom keys and removable keyboard decals.

The laser cut and etched example pictured above faithfully recreates the features on the buttons, from the classic fonts all the way to proportion and composition. It also pays to experiment; if you get the laser etched details just right, there is even scope to allow for light to pass through from the backlit keys below.

This is an effective way to give your computer added tactile and visual warmth. If you don’t have the means to make your own, you can see if the full Lazerwood example suits your needs. For those who would like to try their own design for keyboard customizations, try this instructable as a starting point. Load in the design files to your Ponoko Personal Factory and you’ll soon be typing away on an individualized upgraded keyboard with some serious creative flair.

How To Create Strength Using Origami and Laser Cutting

New structural options from everyday materials 

In recent years, the boundary between art and engineering has continued to blur with scientists and researchers turning their formidable minds toward traditional craft techniques. The results are starting to get quite exciting, with surprise breakthroughs such as the Japanese origami-inspired ‘zippered tube’ featured above demonstrating that there is still much to learn about how we use familiar materials.

This example highlights a novel process of combining thin flexible sheets of material that have precise cuts and folds in them. The location and combination of these elements enables the material to become rigid when assembled in specific configurations, gaining structural integrity far beyond the original material’s capacity.

The research that developed this construction technique emerged from a collaboration between University of Illinois grad student Evgueni Filipov, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Glaucio Paulino and professor Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo.

“…we’re starting to see how it has potential for a lot of different fields of engineering” – Evgueni Filipov

Filipov and his colleagues focus on an origami technique known as Miura-ori folding, where a tube is constructed from two precisely folded ziz-zag strips. Individually, the strips are highly flexible but when combined the resulting tube has a remarkable rigidity and controllable degree of compression or folding.

What does this mean for Ponoko users? While much of the focus in the origami research is currently centered around potential uses in architecture and for space exploration; many of the options from the Ponoko Materials Library would be a great fit for this approach to assembly and construction.

via Georgia Tech News Center


Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #23

Laser Cut Fashion

laser cut fashion example

The intricate designs enabled by laser cut textiles are no longer an exclusive novelty for the haute couture runway scene. The bold fashion statements enabled by laser cutting are now within the grasp of the everyday consumer, with leather, silk and other textiles ideally suited to the digital manufacturing process.

Delicate patterns reminiscent of fine lace and needlework lend themselves well to laser cutting, but as we can see in the image above, bold shapes and iconic imagery can be just as effective.

With some clever design thinking, laser cutting has also enabled more exotic materials to become wearable garments. The wooden t-shirt below by Pauline Marcombe uses laser cut panels attached together with wire, transforming what was once a rigid material into a malleable interlocking form of modern body armour.

laser cut fashion wood shirt pauline marcombe

Why would you turn to laser cutting for brand promotion? For one, the eye-catching impact of these fashion items invites attention and a healthy curiosity… but also, thanks to the laser cutting process, there is much scope for design freedom and customization at a price that is accessible to the consumer.

How can your brand stand out amongst all the other fashonistas using the Ponoko Personal Factory? 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 Cut Self Portraits

Laser cut Frida, unicorns, boxes, signs, and a new Kickstarter!

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Above are Frida Kahlo earrings. They are laser cut and hand painted wood like‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Ave Rose Collections.

After the jump, unicorns, boxes, signs, and a new Kickstarter… (more…)

How To make a Laser Cut Local Landmark

City of Bath Georgian House flat-pack model


Miniature models of local landmarks are a popular choice when it comes to souvenirs and keepsakes. In this example, the iconic Georgian terrace houses from the city of Bath in the UK are recreated with loving attention to detail.

Available as a flat-pack kit of three neatly stacked cosy homes, you can choose from either 1.5mm card or 3mm poplar ply, and the straightforward assembly process will only take a few minutes.

Laser cut architectural models are the ideal choice to make use of tab-and-slot construction techniques that allow for quick and easy construction, often holding together without the need for glues or adhesives. Basic elevations of the structure can be traced out in your preferred drawing program (inkscape is a Ponoko favorite) and prepared for laser cutting. Take the guesswork out of designing with interlocking slots using one of several freely available tools and plugins. For a landmark or object with a more sculptural form, 3D models can also be sliced up into panels or interlocking sections that are just right to send to the laser cutter.

Once you have the profiles and parts that make up your object, arrange them neatly within one of the Ponoko laser cutting templates and add useful notes or assembly tips as etched details. The Ponoko guide to keeping laser cutting costs down contains important information that will save you time and money, so be sure to read through before starting to avoid common (and costly) pitfalls.

It can also be nice to add a little something extra to the assembled model. The Georgian terrace kits by Bob Kann come supplied with a little light to install inside, so that there is a warm welcoming glow that completes the homely feel.

via Bob Kann

Bare Bones of Laser Cuting

Laser cut skulls, elephants, a broken clock, and some abstraction!

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Above are Calavera skull charm bracelets. They are laser cut and etched from mirrored acrylic like‘s own and come from Guy Blanco.

After the jump, elephants, a broken clock, and some abstraction… (more…)

Laser Cutting? You Bet!

Laser cut poker chips, a styracosaur, a lamp, and a fox!

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Above is a steampunk poker set. All pieces, including the box, are laser cut from plywood like‘s own Birch Plywood  and comes from Plywood Science.

After the jump, a styracosaur, a lamp, and a fox… (more…)