Etsy Wholesale will relaunch its Open Call in August. Are you ready to pitch?

Now in its second year, Etsy Wholesale’s Open call brings together independent designers and buyers from top retail stores in the US. Members of the wholesale community are invited to apply and post their pitch to Instagram by tagging @EtsyWholesale and #EtsyOpenCall along with one of the participating retailers.  Up to 50 selected designers will be given a chance to pitch their line to a panel of retailers at Etsy’s Brooklyn headquarters in August.

What’s on the line is a chance to get huge purchase orders to see your products in stores during the busy holiday season. During the Open Call, the retailers will be looking at samples, giving critiques and suggestions and more importantly, placing their orders for their stores. Participating retailers include big names such as Cooper Hewitt, Paper Source, giggle, Macy’s and Whole Foods.

During the event, HGTV Magazine’s Lifestyle Director Jodi Kahn will award one seller with the “Designer to Watch” title and feature their work on hgtvmagonline.com. Three finalists for the title will be invited to present their products at HGTV Magazine’s 3rd Annual Blogger Block Party in New York City.

To find out more about Etsy Wholesale’s Open Call event, visit: https://www.etsy.com/wholesale/opencall

Are you ready to pitch your products? Ponoko is your personal factory and we can help you supply that purchase order if you win.

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #41

Trade Show Marketing: How to attract people to your booth with gifts/giveaways and promo products

lasercutbowtie

Setting up at a trade show so that your brand can have maximum impact is important, not only to ensure that you get noticed on the day but also so that your presence is memorable beyond the trade event itself. Promotional products and giveaways are a great way to create these interest and memory triggers, so let’s take a look at how to get the most out of this essential trade show marketing tool.

Understanding value

Choosing what to use as a giveaway item at your booth will only work for your brand if it has value – both in terms of being cost effective for your company and also a sense of value to the potential customer. While it might be nice to give away iPads or other fancy items, most companies simply don’t have a budget that stretches this far! A small, interesting keepsake is more realistic; and that is where laser cutting services can best provide unique customized solutions for your brand.

Quality vs quantity

Setting a budget for your promotional products (and, more importantly, sticking to it) will free you up to focus on developing more effective solutions for your brand. Being cost effective is important but that does not mean you have to be cheap! Your brand is more likely to make an impact if you can increase the desirability of giveaway items by being selective about who they are handed out to, rather than flooding the floor with cheap promo products that have no meaning or context for the recipient.

Targeting booth visitors based on criteria that promotes common ground and also business opportunities sets up the exchange for your valued, quality item. The result will be something that is a real conversation-starter both at the time of interaction on your stand and also when they return to their co-workers after the show.

Be interesting

Visitors to your booth need to be enticed to take a closer look, and clever promotional products are a good way to get peoples’ attention. For laser cut trade show giveaways, this could mean something that is particularly useful, and/or something that is incredibly unique. If your promo item comes under either of these two categories, then chances are it will make it further than the unfortunate (and inevitable) post-show purge when so much mindless event collateral gets tossed in the trash.

Don’t forget Branding

While we are talking here about trying to do more than the obvious solution of plonking your company logo on the side of a pencil, it is important to ensure that your company branding is a part of the promotional product outcome. Laser cutting services like Ponoko’s Personal Factory are a good way to incorporate branding and brand messaging in clever and unique ways that will help your promotional products have brand recognition and lasting value.

Variety

Preparing your trade show campaign with more than one promotional item can ensure you are ready for unexpected outcomes on the day. You may have come up with a clever, unique solution… only to find that the stall across from you has also been clever and unique to the point where attendees find it difficult to distinguish between the two! Providing more than one item means you are more likely to have something truly unique in the sea of booths at the show.

Another possibility is that your killer promo idea is so successful that supplies quickly run out, leaving you with just a smile and a handshake to offer further visitors. You are less likely to run out of giveaways if visitors to your booth can choose between a few options. If you do happen to run out of one of them, you will have a backup or two to ensure awareness of your brand is effectively passed on.

Planning ahead

All of the above tips won’t count for much if your timing is off. Be sure to plan your promotional products with enough lead time to design, source and/or produce the items. While laser cutting services do have a quick turnaround, planning ahead will mean you can get the most out of the versatility that laser cutting can provide.

Try to fit the following into your pre-event workflow:

– Start with a test run to prototype your solution before committing to the final order. For many laser cut solutions the first step is to mock-up your design on paper with a desktop printer!
– Next, send through a few variations to your Personal Factory to further test and refine the laser cut/laser etched designs.
– Allow enough time for the finishing touches. Depending on your design, laser cut items may need to be cleaned, assembled, or inserted into packaging.

Keeping on top of this will give you the confidence that your promotional product is ready for the public by the time the trade event comes around.

Ask for help!

The friendly staff at Ponoko are not only experts when it comes to the technical side of making laser cut promotional products, they are also capable designers and clever thinkers in their own right. So if you have an awesome idea for your next trade show but are not quite sure how to make it happen, do get in touch at any stage of the project to see if we can help you reach a successful outcome.

How have you had success on the floor at trade events 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.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #42

Targeting the Golf Enthusiast CEO

laser cut golf putt marker

Those hard working executives at the top of the corporate ladder need to balance their business brains with some serious leisure activities, and as every CEO knows, the golf course is a great place to escape from the pressures of the office. Golf related goodies are always popular with corporate types, and this opens up a number of opportunities to introduce laser cut promotional products to tickle the fancies of the golf enthusiast.

Genuinely useful laser cut golf accessories

laser-cut-golf-divot-repair-1

Pictured above, a laser cut divot repair tool available on Instructables incorporates a magnetic disc marker that would be an ideal surface to add laser etched logos and personalized messaging. The divot repair tool is a simple device that can take many forms, so long as the functionality of the prongs is not compromised. Use laser cutting to get creative and customize a truly unique golfing accessory.

Tee markers are also a part of the group dynamics on the golf course, and as with the divot repair tool, what happens above the ground is quite open to interpretation. The brightly colored examples here from Boyd Golf (below, left/center) show how laser cutting makes it easy to follow a golfing theme. Using the same approach to suit particular corporate clients with branded imagery, logos and text can give a personalised feel to the laser cut golf accessory.

Golf themed products

laser-cut-golf-ideas

Golf themed products are a lot of fun as well. The reliable source of quirky products Vat19 has a neat Sportula (above, right) on offer, giving the trusty BBQ tool a golfing makeover that is sure to be a talking point at post-game drinking networking events.

Laser cutting enables you to be creative in the ways that you engage with your client’s penchant for golf accessories. The Ponoko Personal Factory makes this easier than ever before! Let us know your golf-related laser cut ideas in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Where Should You Sell Your Laser Cut Products? Makers Markets vs Online Selling

selling laser cut products online

Custom-made items are steadily gaining popularity. But you probably already know that by now. If you’ve ever thought about selling your laser cut products, now is the best time to do it. There are a lot of channels you can try for testing the waters of selling your products. The two main channels are online selling and selling in a physical location.

Online makes it easy to expand distribution and sell products. Even in this space, there are several channels to choose from. As a maker, you can set up your own store. Buying your own domain, getting hosting and putting your site together is relatively easy if you have some coding skills. If not, you can always buy turnkey solutions or get easy-to-setup sites like WordPress or Shopify. There are also DIY-friendly retail sites such as Etsy which have made it easier for artisans, woodworkers or metalworkers to sell online.

Then, there are maker community conferences usually called Maker’s Markets or Maker Faires. The first Maker Faire started in San Francisco and New York but are now becoming more commonplace across the globe. These events are also drawing in crowds by the thousands. According to Make magazine, the attendance of about 74,000 in 2009 grew to 120,000 in 2013.

So how do you choose one over the other?

It really depends on your skills and your comfort level as a seller. Skill-wise, selling online requires a bit of technical knowledge. If understanding terms like html, hosting and FTP seem out of your league, then start with face-to-face selling via a Maker’s Market. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are uncomfortable chatting up with potential buyers or pushing to close the sale, then an online channel might be your best bet.

There are also several benefits to consider. Online selling means less overhead cost. There is no need to rent out a both or set up your physical store, pay for utilities or hire people to maintain your retail space. Another important advantage of online is selling is the wider reach. Over 1 billion people worldwide use the internet today, reaching them is a matter of knowing how to market your products online. Analytics software also makes it easy to measure the results of any activity you do and attribute success to the right campaign.

Selling in a physical store, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to talk directly to your target market. You can easily find out their feedback and take note of improvements you need to make without conducting complicated surveys or focus group discussions. As a maker, you also get instant gratification when you hear good reviews about your work and can be quite exhilarating and inspiring.

That’s our take on both selling channels for makers. Have you tried selling your products online and in Maker’s Markets? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #40

Laser Cutting for Memorial Day

laser cut and etched american flag

Taking a moment to step back and honor the fallen on Memorial Day brings US citizens together on the last Monday in May each year. Amongst the paraphernalia that goes along with this sombre event, perhaps none is more powerful than the American Flag. The iconic Stars and Stripes make a bold statement that is instantly recognised across the globe, and the clean graphic composition of the flag lends itself well to visual reproductions using laser cutting.

Sharing in a show of National pride can take many forms, and through laser cutting we are able to add creative and eye-catching mementos to the Memorial Day caché.

Laser Cut Flag Stencils

memorial day laser cut flag stencil

Pictured above, the READYMAN American Flag Card is a no-nonsense, seriously tough keepsake made from 301 stainless steel. It can be used as a tracing template or as a decorative object in its own right. Continuing on the theme of using laser cutting to create an American Flag stencil, there are numerous clip-art options available for free online. We thought this dynamic flag-in-motion (below, left) captures the mood well. Another approach from Hollywood Toys & Costumes (below, right) is to make three stencils, one for each color of the red, white and blue.

memorial day laser cut flag stencils

 

Laser Cut Ornaments

memorial-day-laser-cut-2

While The Laser Place has a neat hanging ornament featuring the US Flag (above, left) on their Etsy store, amongst their other products you can find mementos of different branches of the armed forces. Laser etched cork coasters (above, middle) provide an example of how iconic Service emblems and badges can be incorporated into your celebrations. Also from The Laser Place, the laser cut wall plaque (above, right) is a more permament fixture that has been laser cut and etched with a layered 3D effect.

What other Memorial Day mementos can be customised for your clients 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.

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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

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #39

Laser Cut Summer BBQ Essentials

Laser Cut Beer Caddy Tom Keddie

As the days get longer and the hint of Summer warmth spreads its cheer, gathering together for a BBQ is a great way to reconnect with friends and family. For those who are hosting and also as gifts for (or from) the invited guests, laser cut BBQ tools and trinkets can make any event a memorable experience. Let’s take a look at a few BBQ ideas for creative brands and agencies this Summer.

Laser Cut Beer Sleeves

Pictured above, this handy beer caddy will enable up to 8 bottles or cans to be easily transported. The design makes use of the strengths of laser cutting, with interlocking components that require no adhesives and plenty of space to laser etch company, event or personalised details. Carting drinks from place to place doesn’t need to be an awkward balancing act – a laser cut beer caddy will get those drinks to your guests in style.

Laser Etched Cutting Boards

The broad, flat surface of a wooden cutting board or cheese platter is an ideal location for laser etched brand messaging. Adding details from an event, or personalising with quirky snippets and brand messaging will make this communal table item a memorable conversation starter or possibly even a desired keepsake. Examples: Dinner is Coming from Wicked Wooden Things, Mom’s recipe from 3D Carving, Lionel Richie from Darkling Designs 10.

Laser-Etched-Cutting-Boards

Laser Cut Bottle Opener

Having carted beers to all your guests, they will need a way to open the bottles. The profiles of openers are many and varied, and as these examples show, they are well suited to laser cutting. Whether you choose to have a little fun with the forms used (Beer & Friends from Hyde HousePorsche 911 classic from Racetrack Style); or incorporate the opener into an ingenious multi-tool (Hedgehog by Zootility Tools) or maybe go super-tiny like the Pangea Pico, the potential to get really creative with this simple and handy product is fantastic.

Laser-Cut-Bottle-Openers

 

Laser Cut Coasters

The surface and outline of the coaster can also be used for creating functional laser cut bottle openers, but if you’re not going that far, simply creating interesting shapes can be more than enough. Consider the laser cut and etched street map series titled I Kinda like it here by the National Design Collective, further quirky fun from Zootility and interlocking Penrose tile coasters from PhaseSpaceDesign in the Ponoko Showroom.

laser-cut-coasters

Each of these products present both an interesting form and a generous surface area where laser etching can be applied. As customised event collateral, they make for ideal promotional giveaways because they cleverly combine the feature of having fun with the function of being truly useful. All this happens while establishing further brand recognition and recall.

What other Summer BBQ Essentials can be customised for your clients 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.

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How To Make a Brushless Motor for Education

Exploring electromagnetism with DIY laser cut motor

laser cut brushless motor

Teaching kids about how motors work can be a lot of fun, particularly when they get to build and experiment on the motors themselves. So when engineer Matt Venn spotted a neat little 3D printed motor, he decided to make his own variation – this time using laser cut components and an Arduino to run the show.

The learning experience

Once all the kinks were worked out, the Arduino was replaced by a few cheap electronic components. This way, students have the opportunity to build the entire setup from scratch, mounting the electronics on a breadboard as they work out exactly what each component does.

The adjustable laser cut rotor has slots to hold different numbers and configurations of magnets, and this can be further extended by cutting custom rotors to suit alternate magnet arrangements.

This is a great project that encourages a hands-on approach to exploring electromagnetism by building a simple DC brushless motor. Consideration has been made to come up with a laser cut solution that can be assembled and studied within the time constraints of a science class workshop.

Matt has provided all of the files and extra info you need to get the motor up and running on GitHub, where you will also find a brief video walkthrough that highlights how the motor and supporting circuitry work.

Matt Venn via Hackaday

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #37

Laser Etched QR Codes

laser QR 1

Our devices are talking to each other every day, and with all this chatter going on, making new connections or transferring data should be an effortless process. Technologies such as NFC (Near Field Communication) and QR (Quick Response) Codes help to make these digital interactions smooth and simple. Continue reading to discover how you can use laser cutting to integrate these technologies into your products.

How does NFC and QR work?

For NFC to work, information is encoded onto an embedded chip. When two devices containing NFC chips come into contact (usually in the form of a bump or light tap) a process is engaged – payment could be transferred, data and audio connections established or other tasks involving interaction between the two devices.

QR codes operate much like a barcode; they contain a set of reference information that can be scanned using the camera on a smartphone. This prompts the device to access information such as a website address, play a video, or (as in the example above) display login credentials.

Why is this useful for your brand?

The ability to seamlessly connect can give your customers immediate access to a deeper level of information. This means you can add collateral such as image galleries, video clips and other detailed supporting content without consuming valuable real estate on your product. There is much scope to have fun with QR Codes as well as to use them for sensible, straightforward communication.

In the example shown here, Instructables user BWRussell needed a way to share the login details for his wireless network. Tired of spelling out the passphrase to relatives and visitors, he constructed his own dongle that houses an NFC chip and a laser etched QR Code. All visitors need to do is tap or scan the code with their mobile device, and they will be granted access to the network.

It is worth noting that when it comes to the actual physical QR code, a similar functional outcome can be achieved with a desktop printer… however, a laser etched QR code has a greater sense of quality and purpose.

Laser QR 2

See more of this DIY approach to NFC and QR from Instructables user BWRussell.

Can your laser cutting make connecting easy 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.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #36

Laser Cut Cross Stitching

laser cut cross stitch

The crafty, handmade look of cross stitch embroidery has something wonderfully warm and fuzzy about it. While the regular grid of holes speaks of an industrial precision, the contrast of woven yarn introduces a human element that is organic and inviting.

Laser Cut Cross Stitch Inspiration

The pendant above was made by Rebecca from Hugs are Fun as a gift for her dad. Over time, Rebecca has refined her techniques to become a bit of an expert at making all kinds of laser cut cross stitched whimsies. It’s well worth browsing through her website for inspiration, patterns, project ideas and even items to purchase.

How to use Laser Cutting for cross stitching

Cross stitching describes an embroidery technique of tracing out patterns using yarn or other coiled materials. In these particular examples, the yarn is threaded through a defined pattern of laser cut holes to generate the raster-like effect. With a little creative thought and planning, you can come up with many interesting variants based on this core idea.

The material of choice can be any of our usual laser cutting favorites. Bamboo ply, acrylic, metals or even leather and felt will all respond well as substrates for the cross stitch technique.

For versatile cross stitched patterns, a grid of laser cut holes will allow for quirky pixellated artwork or logos. It can also be effective to cut only the holes you need to define the form; leaving the substrate surface bare either to have presence in its own right or as an optional space for further laser etched details.

Can you give your brand a cross stitched crafty twist with 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.

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