Cheating the parametric design process

Compensating for different material widths when scaling your laser cut designs

Parametric Design is awesome, and makes for fewer headaches when it comes to changing a few details here and there. Well… most of the time, at least. Sometimes all those numbers can get a little complex but Martin Raynsford has developed a way to ‘cheat’ the parametric design process while scaling down his neat little laser cut catapults.

Because the design consists entirely of laser cut parts, his mini catapult can be scaled using a base version of the file where material width acts as the key piece of information. He explains his thinking and practical techniques in yet another informative blog post, and you can even download the .svg file to give it a go yourself.

If you’ve heard of the term Parametric Design but need a little refresher on just how handy it can be when applied to laser cutting projects, check out this tabbed box maker. It’s a great example of true parametric design in action.

Read more about Martin’s technique at the source article, and while you are there don’t forget to have a peek in the store because his laser cut designs are available to buy in kit form as well.

via Martin Raynsford: Cheats Parametric

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How to get the best results out of laser cut cardstock

Useful tips to get the optimum cut quality from this versatile material

Both NZ and US hubs now offer several cardstock options.  This material is a wonderful choice for greeting cards, business cards, model making and packaging.

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 are mentioned in the 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.

Something to keep in mind is that many of the mass-produced, intricately cut card products on the market are not laser cut but stamped out with a die – like a cookie cutter.  A laser cuts by burning, so some discoloration can be expected around cut marks.  This is an inherent part of the laser cutting process and can be seen in the catalogue material photos.   (more…)

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Your chance to revolutionize the concept of pasta

PrintEat 3D printable pasta competition

Being creative is hungry work, so it is no surprise that designers continue to amuse themselves by 3D printing food in ever new and delicious ways.

Set to revolutionize the concept of pasta, PrintEat is a competition over on Thingarage that probes into the future of the king of carbs. Will we one day sit down at the local trattoria and print out a dish of custom pasta right at the table?

Entrants will be challenged to:

“…subvert the traditional patterns of production (extrusion and mold) by producing morphologies that can be realized only through 3D printing”

If you think this sounds like some tasty fun, then head over to Thingarage where you can sign up to get cooking on your chance to win a share of the €2400 price money. Entries are open to the global design community and there are still (at the time of writing) 30 days left before the judges work up an appetite choosing which concepts will feature on the Specials board.

via Thingarage

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Optimize your Laser-cutting design file for lower costs

How to get the most out of your Ponoko order

When you make something with Ponoko, there are 3 key costs to consider: making, materials, and shipping.

Making cost is all about labor — mostly machine labor and a little bit of human labor. Think of your design file as a work order, a set of instructions for the machine to follow. The simpler and more efficient your instructions are, the less time it takes the machine to follow them. And that means less making costs.

Here are a few tips and tricks direct from the Ponoko team that you can use to optimize your design file and help get you the lowest cost possible for your laser cut project.

The key thing to remember with laser-cutting is that you’re paying for the *time* your design spends on the laser cutter.

“If it’s your first time making something, start small with a P1 size material sheet. The smaller dimension will help constrain the amount of making time, and your material cost will be lower.” ~ Yana

“When it comes to laser-cutting, the more complex and detailed your design is the more expensive it will be to make. So when you can, and especially for beginners, I suggest starting with simple designs that aren’t too intricate.” ~ Christina

“Print out your design on paper first. You could consider this a free and instant first prototype. It’s the ideal way to spot sizing errors, see whether you’ve made holes big enough, and get a feel for what your final result will look like.” ~ Josh J.

“For any new design, I often recommend making a cardboard version first. Cardboard is one of our most affordable materials, and the laser can cut it really quickly; so you can get an inexpensive test run of your design. Then when you’re happy with the cardboard version, you can order your design in the material you want and feel more assured that it will come out the way you want.” ~ Josh R.

“One thing to remember is that the laser cuts the material by burning it. So thinner materials will cut faster than thicker materials. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than curves.” ~ Catherine

“Try to make all the pieces of your design fit together like a puzzle instead of scattered around the template. See if there are any pieces that could actually share a cutting line*. And put the rest of the pieces close together, but be sure to leave enough space for the kerf (how much material the laser burns away).” ~ Dan

*If pieces in your design share a cutting line, you must remove any “double lines” created by the overlap. Check our design starter kit for more info.

“Raster Fill Engraving is a very time consuming process, similar to how a dot-matrix printer works. For creating details in your design, I usually recommend using Vector Engraving instead. If you do use Raster Fill Engraving, try to keep the engraved areas as close together on the template as possible.” ~ Josh J.

Now you’ve heard the tips from our in-house experts, here is a summary of how to keep your laser cutting costs down:

• Time = money
• For beginners, start with a small size material (P1) and a simple design.
• Print your design out on paper to spot any immediate problems with the design.
• Make a cardboard prototype. You won’t regret it.
• Keep in mind that different materials burn at different rates.
• Fit the pieces of your design close (but not too, too close) together.
• Consider whether Vector Engraving is a better option than Raster Fill Engraving

Originally posted on the Ponoko Support Forums

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Laser cut vacations

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #192

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

Above are laser cut and etched wood coasters from C+M Designs.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, ships in bottles, owls and pussycats, bears, posters, and escapes… (more…)

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Lunchtime lasers

Zapping tasty treats with some personalised graphics

While delicious pastries may not be one of the options in the Ponoko Materials Catalog, we do find our mouths watering each time someone fires up their laser cutter for a burst of culinary creativity.

Proving once again that adding a personal touch to your midday meal can be an almost religious experience, Christopher Short etched this enigmatic dinosaur onto his quesadillas. Yum.

Watch the following clip to see the laser do its thing in real-time…

You can find more laser etching and cutting to enjoy from Christopher on YouTube.

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Laser cutting 3D forms: 123D Make tutorial

Slicing up a T-Rex for laser cutting that roars

The software options available to digital makers just keeps getting better, and one of our recent favourites would have to be Autodesk’s 123D Make.

Why do we like 123D Make so much? Simply put, it just works and really is as easy as 1, 2… 3. The freely available software takes a 3D model and slices it up, then exports the data for laser cutting.

As you’ll see in the following tutorial, there are several very handy (and quite powerful) capabilities built in to 123D Make that help ensure your final result comes together just right.   (more…)

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Owl you need to know about laser cutting

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #191

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

Above is a laser cut and etched leather owl bracelet from Dymond Designs.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, tubes, lagoons, and guest books… (more…)

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Laser Cut Helical Springs

Coils that run rings around Slinky

Thanks to the addition of a rotary attachment for his laser cutter, Adam Watters has spent several months exploring what happens when you cut helical paths onto cylinders.

The variety of outcomes shows that there is a whole lot further to go with Springs than the trusty old Slinky would have us believe. Working in materials including acrylic, cardboard and 3d printed PLA, he has created a range of forms that have a mathematical beauty both as static objects and when in motion.

Discovering new patterns and the shapes and forms that follow has been a rewarding process for Adam. When questioned as to what the point of it all is, he had this to say:

For a little while, I turned my attention to finding an application for these, but that proved to be way less fun than experimenting with the process and cutting new springs. So for now, they are what they are.

Head over to Instructables where you can read all about laser cutting acrylic and cardboard springs, from a straightforward spiral through to cuboid grids, nested coils and even compression springs that take things in another direction entirely.

via Instructables: Laser Cut Helical Springs

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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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