How To Find Open Source Design Files

Design resources that help you get started with laser cutting


The learning curve can be a steep one for some people when it comes to wrapping your head around digital manufacturing. Not only do you need to understand how to design for CNC, 3D printing or laser cutting; starting from scratch is daunting and design resources can be hard to come by.

In an attempt to de-mystify the process of digital manufacturing, Obrary takes inspiration from the changes enabled by the Open Source movement and has set up a resource supplying design files and code for anyone to use or improve on. Their motto is “Making it easy to make.”  They do that by providing the Maker community with a library full of open designs and a series of eBooks full of information about the making process.  The site has open designs from Makers from across the globe.

“Beyond improved sharing of design resources, new design approaches and engineering patterns are enabled”.

Users are encouraged to make their own tweaks to the designs, learning by trial and error in much the same way that made development for the Raspberry Pi so popular.

Have you ever wanted to build a cage gear mechanism? They’ve got one of those. How about an adding machine or even something simple like a robust shelving system… these are but a few of the designs that have been made freely available to the Obrary community. The design file package includes a number of file types including CAD files, interchange files (DXF, PDF, etc) and CAM files.  So you should be able to find a file format that fits into your manufacturing process.

And one nice feature of the site is that all of their designs and eBooks have the same license – Creative Commons-BY-SA.  This is a truly open license that even lets you sell products made from the designs.

“…making, building, and collaborating, not because we have to, or because it’s research, but because it’s so fun.”

Already a digital maker? Use the comments form below to tell us about other resources that were useful when you were just getting started, and how you’ve taken these skills and design adaptations into the Ponoko Personal Factory to turn them into reality.

See more collaborative designs and handy resources at Obrary.


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


Share Your Google Cardboard Design Idea, Win Your Share of $250 Making Vouchers

We’ve giving away everything you need to create your own custom Google Cardboard

You’ve heard about Google’s VR viewer, you’ve seen the cool things it can do, and you know how to make one for less than $10 with Ponoko.

Wouldn’t it be cool to make one for FREE?

We’ve got 3 Google Cardboard Kits and over $250 worth of laser cutting that we’re giving away to folks with the best ideas for a custom Google Cardboard headset.

Google’s kit is based around making with cardboard, and the manufacturing specifications are open source. This makes it perfect for developing and prototyping your killer idea with laser cut parts from Ponoko.

Maybe one button isn’t enough for the game you’re developing. Maybe you want an oversized headset that works with your iPad. Maybe you just want a shiny gold acrylic VR headset to match your gold watch.

Whatever your idea is, we want to hear it. The folks with the best ideas will get a head start on making their ideas a reality with one of the following prizes:

1st Prize – Google Cardboard Hardware Kit + $150 Worth of Laser Cutting
2nd Prize – Google Cardboard Hardware Kit + $75 Worth of Laser Cutting
3rd Prize – Google Cardboard Hardware Kit + $35 Worth of Laser Cutting

How to Enter:

Simply describe your idea in the comments below. Include a mockup, sketch or other visual aid that shows what makes your idea great. Multiple submissions welcome.

About the Prizes:

Hardware kit includes everything you need to get started: Two 25mm diameter lenses, one ring neodymium magnet, one ceramic disk magnet and a set of sticky-back velcro strips. Free laser cutting is issued in the form of Ponoko Making Vouchers. The original Google Cardboard costs less $10 to make with Ponoko, so the $35 prize is more than enough for three iterations!

Judging Criteria:

Finalists will be selected using the following criteria, in no particular order:

  • Originality.
  • Interesting use of material(s).
  • Production feasibility and/or market appeal.

Submit your idea before next Friday, August 14th. The best ideas as voted by the Ponoko team will be announced on Monday August 17th.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions, or things we can assist with.

Good luck!

Update 18 Aug: Congratulations to the winners!

First Prize – Richard for steampunk Cardboard

Second Prize – Tana for a Cardboard with a proximity sensor.

Third Prize – Kevin for a Cardboard stand that allows for time-lapse photos or other similar time consuming techniques.

If you are one of our winners, please check your email for details on how to claim your prize. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Ponoko’s Google Cardboard Gives You Virtual Reality For < $10.

Virtual reality from Google, with laser cut parts from Ponoko

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality kit that starts with a simple viewer anyone can build or buy. It works by turning your phone into a virtual reality headset using a sheet of cardboard, two plastic lenses, a magnet and a bit of velcro.

Using laser cut parts from Ponoko, you can get started with Cardboard for less than $10.

So far there have been a ton of apps released for the platform including test drives, roller coaster rides, and mountain climbs. But it’s not just games and rides- People are finding new ways to use the kit – from campus tours to marriage proposals to vacation planning.

Anyone can build their own Google Cardboard – there are no official manufacturers and the whole kit is open source. Want to engrave a VR code that opens up your app? Go for it. Want to add custom branding? No problem. Want to design a shiny gold mirror headset? The sky’s the limit.

Since the kit is made up of inexpensive cardboard, it’s perfect for experimenting and creating your own version using laser cut parts from Ponoko.

To get you started, we’ve put together a handy instructable that walks you through how to laser cut your own Cardboard headset with Ponoko for less than $10.

Got an idea for your own custom-made Google Cardboard compatible headset? Let us know in the comments below!

Laser Cut Robots Remind You to Water Your Plants

Your Geranium is texting you – thanks to Plant Friends

Some of us are blessed with a natural talent for caring for our houseplants. Others, however, struggle with merely keeping our houseplants alive.

For those of us born without a green thumb, Plant Friends are here to help save the lives of innocent plants everywhere.

Plant Friends is a moisture sensor system that monitors the air temperature, humidity, & soil moisture of of your indoor plants that will alert you via email or text message when your plants are thirsty.


Laser cut Sphere-O-Bot

Teaching kids how to build their own mini making machines

Designed for a workshop series that introduces kids to building their own motor controllers, the Sphere-O-Bot is a simple 2 axis CNC machine that can draw on small spherical surfaces. Suggested target spheres include ping pong balls, eggs and even golf balls are apparently worth a try.

There is a thorough tutorial on Instructables that will take you through the thinking behind the laser cut wooden design, and show just how to put it all together. Files are included for the laser cut structure as well as specs for all the hardware required to get the Sphere-O-Bot up and running.

This fun project was uploaded by Juan, a Maker Corps intern at the Children’s Museum of Houston, who says:

“By building your Sphere-O-Bot using a laser cutter, you can achieve a clean look while also reducing the production time of your parts. This design also features an electronics bay for your wires, micro-controller and motor drivers.”

via Instructables

The Kyub MIDI keyboard hits Kickstarter

The Kyub offers a six-sided twist on the usual 2D keyboard

Meet the Kyub, a compact, fully programmable MIDI interface that provides a new way to compose, record and perform music.

The Kyub features 11 fully programmable feather-touch keypads that connect to any computer or synthesizer via USB. Inside, an accelerometer tracks the movement of the Kyub to control the volume of the notes played.

These features make the interface really responsive, however the truly amazing thing is the way the Kyub is played. Check out the Kickstarter video below to see the Kyub in action:

The Kyub is designed as a kit that can be assembled at home by just about anyone, using laser cut parts from Ponoko.

If you’re short on soldering skills, you can back the Kyub and get a fully assembled unit as a reward. The Kyub is made to be as open and maker-friendly as possible, any computer-based synthesizer can be used to work with the Kyub.

If all this has got you excited for some cubed-out synth action, head over to the Kyub Kickstarter page to support the project and help make the Kyub a reality.

Original ideas to laser cut (not really)

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #167

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

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

Above is a laser cut covered notebook from Creative Use of Technology.

After the jump, scarf buckles, dinosaurs, lips,  love, and a laser cutter… (more…)

OpenDesk distributed manufacturing

Open source micro-factory turns your local laser cutter/CNC into a private IKEA

Exploring new models for open and collaborative digitally fabricated design, OpenDesk aims to become the destination of choice for modern open source furniture.

“By downloading, printing, purchasing or customising an OpenDesk, you’re helping to create a new way of buying products. One that’s more transparent, sustainable and flexible than current manufacturing models”.

With a growing repository of clever, flexible products from a number of designers, the OpenDesk model enables people to choose at what level they wish to engage with the manufacturing process.

The OpenDesk network helps create laser cut furniture from wood and other materials for less

Got a laser cutter of your own, or know someone with a CNC machine just down the road? Then you can download comprehensive drawings that are ready to send straight to the machine. Perhaps you’re not a carpenter or maker yourself but are happy with the flatpack IKEA process. OpenDesk puts you in touch with a workshop in your area, where the design can be cut and finished (oiled, sanded, polished etc) and sent to your door for you to assemble. If hands-off is more your style, there is even an option for a professional to whip it all together for you.

The idea is that the more work you do, the lower the cost will be. Of course, in many locations the OpenDesk network may not yet have makers who can deliver or assemble – so some users will be forced to buy flat-pack or arrange the making themselves.   (more…)

An open source analog camera you can 3D print at home

Download it, modify it, print it.

As much as we love low-cost 3D printers and what they can do for makers, their relatively low printing resolution can limit their applications. So it’s always particularly special when someone makes something awesome with a low-res printer.

Léo Marius made this camera for his graduation project from the School of Arts and Design in Saint-Etienne, France. It’s a surprisingly simple construction, and he says it should print in about 15 hours on a Rep-Rap or equivalent. It takes some pretty decent pictures too, especially if you’re into the old-fashioned look. Marius made an Instructable documenting the project, and the files are available on Thingiverse. Check out his blog for information about the development project, but you’ll have to translate it from French.

Continue past the jump for more images, including pictures taken with the printed camera.