As the Festive Season approaches and we become more and more enamoured with all things shiny, here are our tips on how to use laser etching for some serious impact on mirror acrylic.
People love the combination of crisp laser definition with the reflective sheen of mirror acrylic, and to create these effects there are a few key points to remember. The main one is that you’re not etching into the surface of the acrylic, but rather through the reflective coating on the rear of the material.
Another tip that may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it can sneak up on you – remember to reverse the artwork so that it reads correctly when viewed from the other side of the sheet.
For an informative collection of examples including vector and raster engraving, as well as different approaches to filling the etched designs, head over to the Ponoko Support Forums for the full scoop.
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…)
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.
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.
In this four-part series of introductory laser cutting tutorials we have shown you just how easy it can be to become a digital maker with Ponoko. Now it is time to watch the laser cutter do its thing and see those designs become real, tangible objects right before your eyes. Just hit Play on the video above.
Here’s a little refresher on what got us to this point.
Using Inkscape to design your own laser cut product from scratch
Welcome to the third instalment of Ponoko’s back-to basics tutorials. This time we get creative and generate a laser cut design from scratch that can be used with your Ponoko Personal Factory.
It all begins with key information from the Inkscape Starter Kit, a tremendously useful resource that sorts out everything you need to know about the free software package, Inkscape.
The tutorial walks through how to use Inkscape to draw a design using basic shape tools, the text tool, and Path commands. In the demonstration, Josh whips up a laser cut coaster and repeats the pattern before finalising the file to be ready for laser cutting.
In a little over ten minutes, you’ll be able to:
• Create a design from scratch with Inkscape
• Create and combine basic shapes
• Check your design in outline mode
• Format your design for laser cutting
Stay tuned for Ponoko’s Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 4 where we get to see the laser work its magic.
Using free design software to customize a design file
For the second instalment of Ponoko’s back-to-basics tutorials, we walk through the process of customizing a design file using freely available design software. The recommended software is called Inkscape, an open-source vector drawing program that offers powerful features in an easy-to-learn format.
Making use of the same free design file introduced in part 1 of the Laser Cutting Tutorial series, this time we walk through the process of adding your own text to the laser cut coaster.
Follow through as the process is explained from downloading Inkscape through to preparing the custom file for uploading to your Personal Factory.
In just under six minutes, you will know how to:
• Download Inkscape (available for Mac or PC)
• Open a design file in Inkscape
• Customize the design file with your own text
• Prepare the file for laser cutting
Now we’re just about ready to generate custom designs from scratch using Inkscape, so stay tuned for our Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 3.
In this back-to-basics tutorial video, we walk through the process of making a set of laser cut coasters from a free design file.
Following these steps is a great way to get started with Ponoko and realise what’s possible using your own Personal Factory.
In a few short minutes, you will know how to:
• Download a free design file • Add it to your Personal Factory • Choose material options to get personal pricing • Place an order
We’ve made it really easy to start making and get a feel for the laser cutting process. Stay tuned for future posts in this back-to-basics series as you work towards generating your own custom designs and becoming a successful digital maker.
A quicker, cheaper alternative to raster fill engraving
Vector or Raster? It’s a question that has goes back to the earliest days of laser etching. Here is an interesting little exploration from the creative team over at Cuddleburrito that scores another point for the Vector camp.
Instead of using a raster fill for a job that required large graphic elements, they devised a way to create the same effect using vector paths.
This saves a huge amount of time, as the laser only needs to engrave the actual paths of the lines instead of sweeping across the entire area. There was an added bonus that the outcome has a more consistent appearance when applied on timber, because the tendency for grain variation to be emphasized (as when using raster etching) had been eliminated.
Want to know how they did it? Click through to the source to find out…
Useful information for both new users and laser cutting veterans
Are you a seasoned Ponoko maker? Or perhaps your imagination has been tingling and you are bursting to make your very first Ponoko product.
Either way, here is a top-10 list that we think will come in handy for those new to laser cutting, and it also contains useful information that will help more experienced Ponoko members keep things running smoothly.
Let us know what you would add!
1. How long it will take to make and ship your order.
We make all orders as quickly as we can, and how long that takes depends on the volume of orders we are processing at any one time. Due to the number of variables involved, we’ve written a separate post to help you work out the likely total time your order will take. Read about our order timeframes.
2. If you are using Inkscape, you MUST use our design templates, or your design will be sized incorrectly.
We strongly recommend that everyone use our templates for laying out their laser cutting designs. If you are using Inkscape *it is 100% necessary*. The way that Inkscape works with measurements is different to other vector-based design software packages, and if you do not use our templates your parts will be made the wrong size. If you’ve already got an Inkscape design ready, we have created a guide to putting it on our templates. Read how to place existing Inkscape designs onto our templates.
…so that’s the first two, and there are eight further important pointers to wrap your head around when you continue reading the full post. (more…)