10 Great Materials for Laser Cutting

Ponoko’s most popular materials for laser cutting with pricing info, pros and cons, and example project ideas

The Ponoko Materials Catalog offers a wide variety of high quality sheet materials for laser cutting. From those awesome new Premium materials down to plain old (but ever-so-useful) cardboard, there is a material option for every making scenario. Each material is thoroughly tested to ensure that it cuts cleanly, engraves nicely and just generally looks good. With all these great materials on offer, how do you know which one to choose?

Here is a snapshot of the top ten materials available for laser cutting in your Ponoko Personal Factory. Each material overview includes a price range for the Ponoko sheet sizes, the number of varieties to choose from, and also important information about pros, cons and suggested usage scenarios.

1. CARDBOARD

Pricing: 50 cents to $4.00
Varieties: 4 different types
Pros: Inexpensive, recyclable, easy to paint, easy to join (tape, glue, staples)
Cons: Low durability, not suited to raster engraving
Great for: early prototypes, package design, crafts, kids projects
Make something with cardboard!

2. ACRYLIC

Pricing: $2 to $86
Varieties: 30 different types + colors, up to 6 different thicknesses
Pros: High quality look and finish, high level of detail possible, engraves well, affordable
Cons: Can crack under stress, can scratch
Great for: jewelry, hardware/electronic enclosures, signage, ornaments, wall art, mobiles
Make something with acrylic!

3. BAMBOO

Pricing: $3.50 to $33
Varieties: 2 different types, 2 different thicknesses
Pros: High quality look and finish, affordable, renewable resource
Cons: Engraving results are inconsistent, large sheets are prone to warping
Great for: jewelry, coasters, clocks, ornaments, picture frames, boxes, wall art, mobiles
Make something with bamboo!

4. PLYWOOD

Pricing: $3.50 to $34
Varieties: 2 different thicknesses
Pros: Affordable, engraves well, easy to stain
Cons: Slightly rough unfinished surface
Great for: crafts, models, home decor, kids projects
Make something with plywood!

5. FELT

Pricing: $7 to $45
Varieties: 15 different colors, up to 2 thicknesses
Pros: 100% wool, high quality look and finish, renewable resource
Cons: Strong burn smell, dark burned edge color
Great for: jewelry, coasters, trivets, crafts, ornaments, lining
Make something with felt!

6. MIRROR ACRYLIC

Pricing: $6 to $58.50
Varieties: 3 different colors
Pros: Reflective, interesting effects possible, high quality look and finish, engraves well
Cons: Can crack under stress, can scratch, prone to warping
Great for: jewelry, signage, home decor, wall art, ornaments
Make something with mirror acrylic!

7. CORK

Pricing: $4.50 to $26
Varieties: 1 type
Pros: Flexible, renewable resource
Cons: Does not raster engrave well
Great for: cushioning/padding, coasters, crafts, kids projects, pin boards
Make something with cork!

8. WOOD VENEER MDF

Pricing: $3.50 to $26
Varieties: 3 different types
Pros: High quality look and finish, engraves well, solid/substantial feel
Cons: Inconsistent thickness between supply batches
Great for: clocks, magnets, puzzles, coasters, ornaments, jewelry, picture frames
Make something with wood veneer MDF!

9. LEATHER

Pricing: $13 to $104.50
Varieties: 5 different colors
Pros: High quality look and finish, flexible, soft suede on back side,
Cons: Expensive, low in-house inventory
Great for: bracelets, bags, wallets, book covers, glasses case, iphone/ipad cases, zipper pulls
Make something with leather!

10. MELAMINE MDF

Pricing: $2 to $11
Varieties: 1 type
Pros: High quality look and finish, wipable melamine surface on both sides
Cons: Only 1 thickness available
Great for: countertops, tabletops, placemats, shelving
Make something with melamine MDF!

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Announcing the Winners of our Premium Materials Design Challenge

The votes are in!

We are pleased to announce the winners of our new Premium Materials Design Challenge.

We want to thank everyone who participated – whether you submitted a project or voted for your favorite – we were blown away by the caliber of the designs submitted, and thrilled to see whats possible with the our new premium materials.

We’re releasing new materials and planning more challenges for the very near future so you can all stretch your design talent again!

Without further ado, the winners:

Grand PrizeCretaceous Critters Coasters by Rebecca Cey

2nd PlaceCigar Cutter by Dan Marino

3rd PlaceCubist Guitar Sculpture by Craig Hein Design

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Laser cut parts-to-whole

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #190

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above is a laser cut metal and powder coated Lego Man bookmark from Cool Bookmark.

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Laser Cut Turbine Whistle

Shrinking an air-raid siren to fit into your pocket

Quoted as being ideally suited for those looking to be really annoying, this laser cut project by Mark Langford on Instructables might catch your attention. Taking the same principles that give air-raid sirens such an impressive audio impact, he has condensed them down into a neat little package that can fit on a key ring.

After several iterations, the mechanics of the three-layer design were perfected and (as you can hear in the following video) it really does work. Extra points of course go to the fancy eyebrow acrobatics!

Here is how it works:

The air you blow in blows out through the pattern of holes, and at the same time, it makes the turbine spin.

If there was no turbine, the air would just hiss out of the holes, but the holes and blades are designed so that the spinning turbine alternately covers and uncovers the holes, rapidly blocking and releasing the air in a series of pulses that make the noise you hear.

See the Turbine Whistle on Instructables where you can learn from Mark’s thorough project walkthrough. There are plenty of step-by-step photos and of course you can download the files to make a pocket siren of your own.

via Instructables: Turbine Whistle

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Top 10 Designers Announced in Premium Materials Design Challenge

Vote for your Favorites by Sept 1st!

In July, we challenged designers to showcase their skills by creating a product using one of our three new premium materials. At first, we weren’t sure what to expect; This was the first time we ran a contest where designers actually created something tangible to enter, as opposed to just submitting their design files.

Would we get any good entries? Would folks just take the free sheet of material and run? We didn’t know.

We were thrilled to find that although the amount of submissions were somewhat smaller, the quality of entries we recieved were through the roof. The creativity & quality of the submissions made selecting the finalists a challenge in itself.

You can use the hashtag #ponokonewmaterials on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram to see all of the amazing submissions.

Check out the finalists below, and use the survey at the bottom of the page to vote for your top three before Sept 1st.

If you are the designer behind one of the final entries you are encouraged to invite all your friends and family to vote for you. Keep in mind: Voting ends at 10pm PST on Sept 1st.

The Prizes:

  • Grand Prize – $600 worth of making with your Personal Factory + free Prime for one year ($1,068 value.)
  • 2nd Place – $450 worth of making with your Personal Factory + free Prime for one year ($918 value.)
  • 3rd Place – $300 worth of making with your Personal Factory + free Prime for 6 months ($434 value.)

The Finalists:

 

Cretaceous Critters Coasters by Rebecca Cey

Cigar Cutter by Dan Marino

Cubist Guitar Sculpture by Craig Hein Design

BoomBox Keychain by Junichi Tsuneoka

Geometric Lamp by Iluxo

Tangram by Jeremy Williams

Mini Sketchbook / Journal by Lcrookston

Lotus Brace by Marissa Noell

Cross-Stitched Earrings by Rebecca Cey

Stainglass Game by Bertrand Le Roy


A huge thank you to everyone who helped make our design challenge a success. We will announce the winners here on Sept. 2nd. Good luck!

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Laser cutting that measures up

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #189

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Above is a laser etched Measuring Tape/Beltt via Instructables from Robb Godshaw.

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Laser Cut Typographic Gears

Round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows

Check out this gem of a project from Mario Klingemann, otherwise known as Quasimondo. A few years back he whipped up a Typographic Gear Generator that is able to create pairs of wheels that interlock with mesmerising precision.

The gears can then be laser cut and added to your next mechanical marvel for all to enjoy. There is something whimsical and kind of cute about bundling in this extra layer to an otherwise run-of-the-mill laser cut component.

Pictured here (and in the following clip) is a laser cut geared wheel turning around a quote from the 1950’s tv classic, The Original Amateur Hour. Other variations that Mario has tried out include a Muybridge-inspired horse in motion, demonstrating that the process works just as well with images as it does with text.

via Mario Klingemann

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A sense for laser cutting

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #188

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Above are laser cut perforated paper take-off light lampshades which allow you to make any pattern or opacity you want from fifti-fifti.

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Ponoko Customer Blows Past Kickstarter Goal in One Day


Brad Hill is the creator behind LittleRP – A DLP projector-based resin printer that can be put together for as little as $499.

Brad set out to create a printer that was open, flexible and affordable. Rather than using proprietary resins, the LittleRP is designed to use as many different formulations of UV curing resins as possible. By focusing on smaller, higher quality prints, the LittleRP is able to provide high accuracy while keeping costs low.

The flexibility and low cost helps explain the explosive popularity of the LittleRP’s Kickstarter, which passed it’s funding goal of $25,000 is under 24 hours. As of this writing the LittleRP has raised over $98,000, just under 400% of it’s original goal!

The LittleRP’s sleek translucent enclosure is made from Ponoko’s Acrylic Orange Tint, and the housing is made from Melamine Finished MDF seen here:

The LittleRP works using a process known as 3D stereolithography, a 3D printing process that uses light-sensitive resin and a high intensity light source to build a 3D object, layer by layer, rather than using spools of plastic filament as on a majority of 3D printers currently on the market. You can check out the LittleRP in action on it’s Kickstarter Video:

Want to get your hands on your own LittleRP? Head over to Brad’s Kickstarter page to get one while you still can.

Inspired to make your own project? Signup to make and sell for free!

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Step-by-Step: Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 3

Using Inkscape to design your own laser cut product from scratch

Welcome to the third instalment of Ponoko’s back-to basics tutorials. This time we get creative and generate a laser cut design from scratch that can be used with your Ponoko Personal Factory.

It all begins with key information from the Inkscape Starter Kit, a tremendously useful resource that sorts out everything you need to know about the free software package, Inkscape.

The tutorial walks through how to use Inkscape to draw a design using basic shape tools, the text tool, and Path commands. In the demonstration, Josh whips up a laser cut coaster and repeats the pattern before finalising the file to be ready for laser cutting.

In a little over ten minutes, you’ll be able to:

• Create a design from scratch with Inkscape
• Create and combine basic shapes
• Check your design in outline mode
• Format your design for laser cutting

Stay tuned for Ponoko’s Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 4 where we get to see the laser work its magic.

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