Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #1

Make a Digital Prototype Before You Spend Any Money

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 lower making costs.

Materials vary greatly in cost and your material choice will also have an impact on making time. The general rule is that thinner (and lighter) materials will cut faster, and the quicker your design gets cut the less it will cost you.

Shipping costs can have quite an impact on smaller projects, so see if you are able to combine several products onto a larger sheet size to reduce the per-unit price. For larger or more complex designs, it may be worthwhile taking advantage of Ponoko’s $100 free shipping threshold.

In this series of posts, we expand on each of these areas to give you the 10 best ways to keep your laser cutting costs down.


Tip #1: Digital Prototyping

Before spending any money, you can actually save a surprising amount just by tweaking the order process so that everything works in your favor.

Ponoko users may be familiar with the Product Recipe, a handy Ponoko walkthrough that new users are taken to as an introductory tour after creating an account.

A part of the process that is explained is the concept of Digital (or Zero Cost) Prototyping. How this works is that the Personal Factory is used to price many different design iterations instantly, revealing where the project can be optimised to save money on laser cutting, shipping and more. The best part is that you get all this valuable information without spending a single cent.

As you’ll see in the following results, that’s time well spent.

The Product Recipe example features a laser cut coaster that goes from an initial quote of $5.40 per unit down to $1.64 per unit prior to anyone opening their wallet.

That is quite a saving. Exactly how this was achieved will make more sense as we work through our 10 rules for keeping laser cutting costs down. Stay tuned for Tip #2: Paper prototypes.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #3

Laser cut & engraved stamp

The tactile satisfaction of a physical stamp can help give your brand a memorable impact. The example above includes a simple but cleverly designed laser cut ergonomic handle which also has several surfaces where further branding or information can be laser etched.

Whether a laser etched stamp is produced as a promotional item to be given away, or as a tool to apply branding onto media for prospective customers, there is a novel human element to it that can communicate at a deeper level than conventional printed materials.

Creative modern interpretations of seemingly superseded technologies are a great way to make use of the Ponoko Personal Factory. Don’t see laser-safe natural rubber in the Materials Catalog? Make a request here, and your wish is our command…

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #1

Check out this creative way to make an impact for your brand

This fetching set of Venetian Blinders may look like something from a 1980’s music video, but in actual fact it was featured at The Future Is Here, a 2013 design exhibition showcasing digital manufacturing.

Agencies and brands can take inspiration from cleverly simple laser cut products like this. Looking beyond their debatable merits as a fashion accessory, they are a perfect example of what can be made in your Ponoko Personal Factory at high volume and low cost.

Would you feel cool sporting a set of these? Creating a unique item that shows off your agency’s technical and creative skills in a fun, playful way is made even more memorable if your clients can wear it home!

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7 Important Dates for Online Sellers

For folks selling online, Christmas is without a doubt the busiest time of year.

Online shoppers shelled out over $46.5 billion in the 2013 holiday season.

While a big chunk of sales went to powerful online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart, last year shopping carts such as Shopify and Big Commerce commanded the highest dollar value per individual order.

If you’re making and selling online, get ready for this year’s influx of holiday orders by planing around the following important holiday milestones:

Feel free to embed this infographic on your site or blog using the code below:

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Metal etching project hits 300% of Kickstarter goal

POLIGON Sculpture Shows What’s Possible With Ponoko’s Metal Etching Service

Unfolding into the mailboxes of many backers, the latest runaway success from Kickstarter features these elegant and refined sculptures by Poligon.

At the time of writing, pledges for the faceted brass and stainless steel creatures are about to eclipse 300% beyond the modest Kickstarter funding goal. Produced using a metal cutting and engraving process called PCM (Photochemical Machining), the clean lines and precise folds of these user-assembled sculptures have a striking visual presence and it’s easy to see why everybody wants one!

“We fell in love with the process because it doesn’t require hugely expensive tooling but gives highly accurate results with beautiful metals. It really has freed our creative thinking and these sculptures are just the beginning!” – Poligon

While we talk a lot about laser cutting and 3D printing here at Ponoko, metal cutting and engraving via Photochemical Machining is perhaps the quiet achiever. Taking less of the everyday focus, but (as we can see with the sculptures from Poligon) PCM certainly makes quite an impact from time to time. The Ponoko service is often used for intricate jewellery, and you can learn more about how Photochemical Machining works in our comprehensive overview.

Rodrigo and Matthew from Poligon had their own extensive experience in modelling and production to draw on, and the success of their Kickstarter campaign is well deserved. If you are inspired by this to give PCM a go yourself, then Ponoko has all your needs covered from laser cut card prototypes through to finely etched products in brass, copper and stainless steel.

Other Kickstarter projects that have used Ponoko’s services and exceeded expectations include the wildly successful Game Frame (1,031% over goal), the LittleRP affordable resin 3D printer (475% over goal), and the musical wonder that is Motion Synth (108% over goal).

Support Poligon on Kickstarter
Make your own PCM products with Ponoko

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What to do with your first laser cut design

Four scenarios and next step options for first-time makers

You’ve created a design and uploaded it to Ponoko, placed and order, and now you have your first piece of laser cut delight. So now what?

It all depends on what stage of the process you’re in. We’ve come up with four scenarios to keep things moving. See which one best describes you.

Scenario #1

You: My design is not quite right – it didn’t work out!

Ponoko: Don’t let this get you down. The first try pretty much never turns out perfect for anyone. Making something is a process, and you’re in the prototyping phase. Most of our customers have to make 5-10 prototypes to get their design just right. Don’t forget that we will do whatever it takes to help you get there!

What to do next:

• If you’re not sure why your design didn’t work out or if you think we messed something up, get in touch: service-at-ponoko-dot-com
• If you know what needs to be changed, revise your design and try again. To speed up the prototyping process, we recommend putting multiple versions of your design on a single sheet of material and see which one works best.

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Register for the LA & SF Renegade Craft Fairs

Sell the awesome products you make!

At Ponoko we’re all about enabling designers to make a living off of their creativity. If you’ve got a unique product, a great place to connect with folks interested in buying your designs is a craft fare – and Renegade is one of the best.

They just opened vendor applications for 2 west coast fairs this summer:

Applications for both fairs close April 18, 2014, so head over to Renegade’s site to submit your application. Make sure your product really shines by checking out these tips for submitting an all-star application.

If you don’t live in the golden state, don’t despair. Renegade has craft fairs in Austin, Chicago, Brooklyn, and London!

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What Etsy’s New Policy Means for Ponoko Customers

Early this month, Etsy released new guidelines for Etsy shops. The new policy officially welcomes shops that use outside/outsourced manufacturers — as long as they are first “approved”.

Etsy writes that “These new policies are crafted to support a diverse community of makers, designers and curators — from the solo artisan just starting out, to the full-time seller hiring staff, to the artist who partners with a manufacturer to bring her creations to life.”

The “artist who partners with a manufacturer” should apply for approval in order to sell on Etsy. This includes all Ponoko customers using our laser cutting service to help create their designs.

According to the new policy, “Digital prints and posters, music, books you’ve authored, and 3D printed items can be sold without review.” This means that Ponoko customers using our 3D printing service to create designs do *NOT* need approval.

I contacted the Etsy integrity team and asked some questions on behalf of Ponoko customers.

(more…)

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The Neo-Artist: Last chance to get involved

Time is ticking – Kickstarter campaign ends 4pm Friday EDT

When we recently discovered The Neo-Artist, it seemed like Lincoln Kamm was living the dream. He has developed an expertise in helping creative people find ways to produce and sell their work using the latest in digital manufacturing technologies, and now he wants to share it with you.

All of his knowledge (and a few extra practical perks) are condensed into the publication The Neo-Artist, which is the focus of a Kickstarter campaign that wraps up on Friday July 12 at 4pm EDT.

A nice snapshot of what The Neo-Artist is all about can be seen in the clip above, where Lincoln is interviewed by 3D Printer World. Watch the interview to discover more about the campaign, as well as cat-breading and other insights into Lincoln’s creative world that led him to share his expertise in The Neo-Artist.

If you need a little convincing to get involved in this campaign, one of the perks for backers is to receive discounted consultation time with Lincoln himself on your own projects. Imagine having personal, one-on-one time with an expert in making a success of making! Jump on board before it’s too late.

via Kickstarter

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The Neo-Artist: a high-tech guide to making

One man’s mission to solve the economic downturn for creative people.

Lincoln Kamm spent 12 years in the animation industry before breaking out and producing his own works. He has since met with notable success with six-figure sales and is now helping others learn how they too can do the same.

In an upcoming publication The Neo-Artist, Lincoln expands on his college lecture series and consulting experience. The book is a treasure-trove of knowledge that aims to teach creative people about the latest in high-tech hardware and software for turning ideas into real physical objects.

Topics covered include 3D printing and laser cutting, designing custom electronics, clothing and more. Most importantly, The Neo-Artist will also show how to make other aspects of the available technologies work for you to help market and sell your work. It’s perfect for makers who are just starting out and will still have plenty to offer those who have been in business for years, guiding them to the next level and beyond.

So if you are a creative person who’s into technology, be sure to take part in The Neo-Artist Kickstarter campaign and make a pledge to secure yourself a copy of the book. It’s time to leave the rat race behind.

The Neo Artist via Kickstarter

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