The Most Advanced Peanut Butter Mixer Ever

Arduino-Controlled Peanut Butter Mixer from Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder has an awesome writeup of Ponoko over on Foundry – the show and tell site for makers.

If you’re a fan of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, you’re familiar with the natural separation of oils that occurs after opening your jar of peanut-buttery goodness.

Made from laser cut bamboo from Ponoko – Mark’s Arduino-powered invention helps stirs the yummy ingredients back together for smooth spreading.

This ingenious tool not only helps solve the mess associated with mixing natural peanut butters, it’s a great example of what’s possible when you combine the precision of laser cutting with a bit of creativity.

You could say that ingenuity & laser cutting compliment each other like, well, peanut butter & jelly.

Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 5

Ponoko Cost Saving Guide

Product Recipe #1 – Part 5

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 5: Sell It

With my product line ready to go, it was time to make some money …

Packaging Your Product

Time to consider packaging. l wanted it to look great, but be very low cost. After a bit of experimentation, I came up with this for the cost of $1 per package:

Setting a Profitable Price

With all costs now calculated, it was time to finalize my retail and wholesale pricing.

To start, I used a simple ‘cost plus margin’ pricing model to ensure profitability …

First – Calculate Your Total Production Cost at Various Order Volumes

Total Production Cost = Making + Materials + Shipping + Packaging Costs:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Material Sheets 1 x P1 1 x P3 5 x P3 45 x P3
Free Account Cost $18.64 $123.67 $618.33 $5,070.33
Prime Account Cost $15.69 $91.93 $447.42 $3,028.12
Prime Cost / Set $15.69 $8.36 $7.99 $6.56
Packaging Cost / Set $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56

Second – Calculate Your Profitable Pricing

My rule of thumb is 1 : 2 : 4 … $1 of cost means a $2 wholesale price, means a $4 retail price. In other words:

Profitable Retail Price = 2 x Wholesale Price = 2 x Total Production Cost.

Hence:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Wholesale Margin 50% 50% 50% 50%
Wholesale Price / Set $33.38 $18.72 $17.98 $15.12
My Retail Margin 75% 75% 75% 75%
Retail Price / Set $66.76 $37.44 $35.96 $30.24
Overall Profit 50/50 62.5% 62.5% 62.5% 62.5%

To profit, this shows my retail price needs to be between $30.24 and $66.76 per set of 4 coasters to retain a profit margin of 62.5% assuming a 50:50 split in sales across both retail and wholesale channels.

Third – Set a Retail Price that Feels About Right

The information above coupled with knowing the market price ranges from $15 to $50 per set, I decide that my original retail price target of $30 per set is a good place for me to start.

Hence my profits will actually be:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Retail Price / Set $30 $30 $30 $30
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Retail Margin 44% 69% 70% 75%
Wholesale Price / Set $16.69 $15 $15 $15
My Wholesale Margin 0% 38% 40% 50%
Overall Profit 50/50 22% 54% 55% 62.5%
Prime + Packg Cost $16.69 $102.93 $503.42 $3,489.12

This third table tells me a few important things:

1) My Minimum Order Size – To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 11 sets of coasters at $102.93 per order. This is a good place for me to start my business.

2) My Most Profitable Order Size – To hit my goal of a 62.5% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 461 sets of coasters at $3,489.12 per order. This is a good place for me when I get a reliable stream of retail and/or wholesale orders.

3) Minimum Wholesale Order Size – To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to sell to retailers in a minimum batch of 10 sets of coasters at $150.

4) Tough Retailer Negotiation – To retain my profit margin, a retailer will need to order at least 461 sets of coasters to get a wholesale price less than $15 per set.

5) Taking a Tiny Step First – I know I can order & package just one set of coasters at $16.69 and sell them retail at a 44% profit margin, which is really nice to know if I do not want to spend the next level up at $102.93. But I also know that I can not sell this small order size at the $15 wholesale price because I will make a loss.

Of course, if I’m just getting started I can relax some of these 1:2:4 pricing ‘rules’. But they’re a great place to benchmark what is actually going on with my cash.

Without profit I can not continue my passion of making things for others. With profit I create new possibilities for myself :-)

Profiting from On-Demand Inventory

Continuing on my theme of keeping costs low, I decided to keep my stock digital until I had customer orders. This way I have zero cost until I make a sale and collect the cash.

The third table above shows that I can order just 1 set at $16.69 to fulfill a $30 retail order at a 44% retail margin. But I make nothing on a wholesale order – which tells me I need to set a minimum wholesale order size of at least 10 sets. And, in general, to maintain healthy profits I probably want to produce at least 11 sets each time I get an order, so I have a tiny stock on hand for fast delivery.

My friendly bike store owner pre-ordered 10 sets of 4 cork coasters when I was user testing in his store. He paid me the $150 wholesale price.

So I made the following design (of 45 coasters):

Download design file for this step.

I sold 10 sets for $150 at a cost to me of $93.57 (= $83.57 production + $10 packaging). A 38% wholesale profit margin to get me started ($150 wholesale price – $93.57 total cost = $56.43 profit).

Promoting Your Product

I sell my coasters to retailers and on Etsy. Here are my top tips.

Good Photos Sell

Well lit, crisp high-resolution photos of your product are a must.

Describe Your Product Well

I describe what it is made of, what the dimensions are and what it feels like. I share a bit about myself as well, so folks can identify with me as a person.

Be Pro-Active

Don’t just sit back and wait for customers to come to you. In the case of local bike shops, I just walk in, introduce myself and start a conversation. For larger retailers, I search company websites to get in touch with vendor departments. Wherever possible, I speak directly to their buyers.

Go for it!

  • Imagine it
  • Design it
  • Prototype it
  • Make it
  • Sell it

It really is that easy and low cost to make money selling your own products. You’re only limited by your imagination and determination. Ponoko can help you with the rest :-)

Laser Cut Play Time

Laser cut tables, boxes, crowns, vinyl organization, and a broken heart

Above is coffee table inspired by Minecraft. It is a take on the simple layered topo but adding the 8-bit pixelation for all the gamers out there. It comes from Martin Raynsford and there a complete run down on how to make it Kitronik. The materials that go into the project are MDF, birch plywood, and acrylic and all available from Ponoko.

After the jump, boxes, crowns, vinyl organization, and a broken heart… (more…)

Topographic coffee table inspired by Minecraft

From pixels to iconic laser cut contours

The blocky aesthetic of Minecraft has broken beyond its digital confines before, but we’ve never seen it done with as much finesse and refinement as this coffee table by Martin Raynsford. Meticulously planned and laser cut with the help of the friendly guys at Kitronik, this is one table that has been turning heads… let’s take a look and see if we can discover why.

The final item is incredible and every time I look at the landscape I see something new in the details that I had forgotten about.

It wouldn’t be a Martin Raynsford project without a thorough run-down on how the table was made. We’ve outlined the key stages of the process here, but we do recommend flagging the full article for a deeper read during your leisure time.

Making the topographic model: As a motion sickness sufferer, Martin could not actually build within Minecraft – so he turned to Cinema 4D to generate the form.

Slicing the model: The layering was achieved using a tool for 3D printing called Slic3r. This was a good choice because the construction of the layered contour table is similar in principle to the way a 3D printer deposits material.

Adding that Minecraft aesthetic: Each layer to be cut was exported as a low resolution bitmap image, and then re-worked in Inkscape to prepare for laser cutting.

Cutting a Prototype: Knowing that going full size right away means paying big bucks while risking big mistakes, Martin started off with a half-scale mockup that revealed a number of insights relating to construction and assembly of the laser cut forms, as well as when best to paint the layers.

Full Sized Construction Once he had more confidence that the final design was resolved, the next step was to make the most of material sheet sizes. With freshly laser cut contours in hand, he then applied a clever system of alignment guides that would ultimately speed up the construction process.

The table base: Knowing better than to second-guess a good thing, Martin chose Ikea’s Lack coffee table as a sturdy base. The contour section was then designed to slip over the top so that it can be removed to separate the parts again if design changes or updates occur in the future.

Sounding good so far? Boosted by a number of explanatory images, the full (and nicely detailed) run-down of Martin’s process makes for an interesting read over on the Kitronik blog.

This process is a great example of how careful planning helps to achieve high quality results. If it looks a little intimidating, you can always start small with the Ponoko Personal Factory, and then work towards larger and more complex projects.

Have you constructed a topographic form using laser cutting? Let us know in the comments below.

Martin Raynsford via Kitronik

Booboo – The Interlocking Bamboo Drone

Interlocking bamboo drones from Andy Shen

There’s a lot of buzz around Andy Shen’s drones – and it’s not just the hum of his multi-rotor quadcopters. Earlier this year Motherboard featured Andy’s drones in their coverage of the first ever drone dogfight.

Since then, Andy’s been hard at work on his latest drone, the Booboo. Made from laser cut bamboo, the Booboo’s lightweight frame can be assembled like a 3d puzzle without the need for any glue or hardware. This unique interlocking design makes assembly a snap, while keeping the total weight of the drone to a minimum.

Check out the video below to see the Booboo in action:

Andy got his start flying drones in 2012 as a way to take aerial photographs of bike races. As a professional photographer and an amateur bike racer, Andy was enthralled with the idea of shooting races from the air. Once he started flying, he immediately saw improvements he could make to the drones on the market, so he began designing drones of his own.

After creating his racing quadcopter from CNC’d carbon fiber – the Fast Forward – He got the idea of making laser cut drone frames from Bamboo. His first step was to get his hands on a laser cut sample:

“I was pleasantly surprised to find laser cut bamboo is way cheaper than CNCing G10 or carbon. It also might be pretty light. I measured its surface area by counting pixels in Photoshop, and comparing that to a sample piece I get 112 grams for the frame, which is right on par with carbon frames!”

Andy started work on the Booboo using Google Sketchup. “It helped to build it in a 3d program to make sure all the parts fit correctly.” Andy says, “It’s a great way to visualize things and catch mistakes.” After a night of feverishly designing, he submitted his designs to Ponoko, and had a working prototype in a few weeks.

Andy’s first prototype went through two months of iterations before being ready for production. Andy details his process of testing, flying, designing and iterating over on his blog. After four iterations and a handful of crashes, Andy was ready to put the Booboo into production.

To achieve the Booboo’s unique interlocking design, Andy needed just the right amount of control over his parts, while still having access to Ponoko’s designers when he needed them:

“On the one hand, I love being control: I place the order and I upload the drawings. I’m solely accountable for the accuracy of my order.” Andy says, “On the other hand, the tight tolerances of the job required human supervision, and I was well taken care of by the crew to ensure that the materials met my specifications. It was really the best of both worlds.”

Andy credits Ponoko Prime for helping him keep the costs of his final product down. “You can’t beat Prime” Andy says, “Prime brought my costs down and allowed me to offer the Booboo at the right price for my customers. The Booboo is only viable at a certain pricepoint, so without Ponoko and Prime it would never see production.”

I asked Andy which drones are his favorite, and where he likes to fly. “We have a few spots in the city” Andy says “and we also have a club out on Long Island for weekends. For pure speed I fly the Fast Forward, and if I want to zone out and feel like a bird I fly the Booboo.”

Andy’s advice for designers just starting out with their own product line? “There’s few things more gratifying than seeing your idea realized in a tangible object” Andy says “There’s tons of great tips on the Ponoko site, so read them all and go for it.”

You can read about all of Andy’s drones at shendrones.com, and you can get a drone of your own at Andy’s Shopify Site.

Inspired to create your own product line? Make it with Ponoko!

The Cute Side Of Scary Laser Cutting

Laser cut possums, cannibals, sweatshirts, and deer

Above is a possum charm to hang on your phone (do people still do that?). It is made of laser cut acrylic that has been inlaid and bonded to a thicker white acrylic backer – all made possible by the precision of laser cutting. This beautiful, graphic critter comes from Poo Kat Dino Crafts.

After the jump, cannibals, sweatshirts, and deer… (more…)

Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 4

Ponoko laser cut cost saving guide 1

Product Recipe #1 – Part 4

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 4: Make It

And now for the fun stuff…

My Final Design & Material Choice

From the price testing and cardboard prototype earlier, I decided on this final design. And from the three $2.50 material samples I bought earlier, I decided to do my first real test using the cork material:

Download design file for this step.

Make a Few for User Testing

I laid out my winning coaster design onto a template for the smallest P1 material sheet size and ordered:

Yippeee! My Final Product

A few days later I received a very special delivery. I was pretty excited!

Time for User Testing

I tested my coasters with potential customers – biking friends, my friendly bike store owner and his customers. They loved the design and I took pre-orders.

But some wanted a different material. So I repeated the process above to make some in black acrylic …

Final Product Line!

With cork and black acrylic coasters in my new product line, I was ready to sell.

Making tests in the final material choice enables you to trial your actual product with potential customers. This way, you can get a real feel for how people will respond to your design, and also make any last-minute changes in response to genuine feedback before moving ahead with the final production run. It was through this process that Jill discovered a demand for alternate material options, an important marketing opportunity that she otherwise may have missed.

Next up in Part 5 of this Ponoko Product Recipe we look at preparing the product for sale and making sure that the final pricing is right for the coasters to sell at a profit.

How have you tested your production-ready designs before moving on to the final sale item? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #11

Laser Cut and Laser Etched Awards & Trophies

Rewarding people for their hard work or congratulating team members on a particular achievement has greater impact when something tangible can be handed over. If the presentation item is good enough, hopefully it will be retained and proudly put on display to share with others.

With even the most straightforward use of laser cutting and laser etching, awards and trophies can be easily customized. Identifying the event and naming the recipient in crisp, clean laser precision adds a perceived authenticity to the trophy. We’ve come a long way from hand-engraved brass name plates glued to a generic cup!

Pictured above is a laser etched award plaque-in-progress by Epilog Laser. For more creative approaches, check out their other examples and think about how you could make the most of Ponoko’s laser cutting service to give your next presentation ceremony a memorable impact.

Have you used laser cutting or laser etching to produce an award? Let us know in the comments below.

Spend $50 or more at Ponoko, get a FREE $50 Making Voucher

An Independence Day deal for the independent designer

This summer we’re celebrating Independence Day by offering up an independent designer’s favorite deal:

Spend $50 or more at Ponoko, get a FREE $50 Making Voucher.

This is our first offer of the year, and one of only 1-2 per year, so get it while it’s hot!

To get your $50 making voucher:

  1. Log in to your Ponoko account. If you don’t have one, sign up for free here.
  2. Place an order for $50 or more at the Ponoko US or NZ hub.
  3. Type ‘July15’ in the coupon box while checking out, and we’ll email you your $50 Making Voucher.

Things you should know: Offer good for making stuff with laser cutting at Ponoko in the US or NZ. Showroom, Metal, 3D or sample store purchases do not qualify. $50 minimum does not include shipping. Other coupon codes or vouchers cannot be used with this offer. Offer totally valid for Ponoko Prime accounts! Offer ends at 11:59pm pacific time on July 4, 2015

About the free Making Voucher: Promotional making voucher is good towards the making costs of a future laser cutting order, not the initial $50 order. One promotional voucher per account. Promotional voucher must be used before the end of summer, ‘officially’ September 22, 2015. Promotional vouchers cannot be split between multiple orders.

Laser Cut And Make A Rainbow

Laser cut looms, feathers, flies, a log, a lamp, and Ryan Gosling…

Above is a laser cut Kumihimo disk. Kumihimo is a form of Japanese cord braiding. These disks are laser cut from acrylic and from 52 Lasers (take of look for more information – including a link to a Kumihimo disk generator).

After the jump, feathers, flies, a log, a lamp, and Ryan Gosling…

(more…)