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…)
Helpful advice on how to get started with the Ponoko Personal Factory
For those who have always wanted to give Ponoko a go but are not sure where to start, this training video shows just how easy it is to produce your own laser cut designs.
In a little over ten minutes, Josh talks through the process of using Ponoko, and highlights a small project that makes a great starting point to help you feel your way with the Ponoko Personal Factory.
The material overview covers felt, cut and engraved bamboo, leather, 3d objects assembled from laser cut acrylic, and laser cut plywood. There is also advice on which materials are the best to get started with – and how to avoid common ‘beginner’ mistakes.
Then it gets to the good stuff – a neat little demo of how to actually make your very first product. The walkthrough explains how to use Inkscape to create a file that can be uploaded to Ponoko for laser cutting.
Starting with the Ponoko P1 template, Josh quickly whips up a collection of forms that use both laser cutting (for outlines) and laser etching (for surface details).
The upload process is then explained, with useful tips on how to check your files are correct and also how to order multiple copies of your design. Next comes material selection, which reveals some very useful information – how much it will cost! You’ll see that it’s really easy to switch to another material and see the price adjust accordingly in an instant.
The video wraps up with a few more handy design tips to be sure you start off on the right track.
Sound like fun? We think so. Watch the video, then dive right in!
Taking a step back to go through some laser cutter basics.
What is laser cutting, and why are we so excited about it?
As we’ll see in this brief overview, laser cutting is a relatively simple technology that makes it possible to cut or etch forms from sheet materials.
Laser cutters work in a similar way to other CNC (computer controlled) tools, however the cutting is done with a powerful beam of light instead of a sharp blade. To cut, the laser beam is focused to hit the material at a precise point, causing it to melt, burn or vaporize. Etching is achieved by focusing the laser on the surface of the material, where it will only burn or vaporize the topmost layer.
Laser Cutting is particularly useful because it works touch-free, meaning no mechanical forces or pressures are transferred to the material. This enables delicate cutting paths that can be repeated with a high level of precision, whether they are cut all the way through the material or etched as an impression onto the surface. (more…)
DIY Kerf measuring tool refines your laser cutting precision
Although it isn’t critical on all laser cut projects, for anything with parts that fit or slot together, kerf is something that is worth paying attention to.
It may sound like a Jim Henson creation – but kerf is in fact a very real technical term. Kerf refers to the gap that is left by the cutting device – in our case, the laser beam in a laser cutter. It’s usually more of an issue when laser cutting in wood, but will also come into play when laser cutting acrylic and other materials.
Open source enthusiast Dave Chamberlin has come up with a nifty device that can be used to accurately measure the kerf of a laser cutter. The simple cutting pattern has been uploaded to Thingiverse, and includes instructions on how to measure your kerf etched right onto the device itself. Here is what it looks like:
Follow the source link below to download the file and try it out on your own laser cutter. You can also discover what else Dave is up to in his open source maker crusade over at Takeaway 3d Tech.
A new way of building DIY electronics project boxes
Since the Raspberry Pi launched six months ago, a huge ecosystem of enclosure designs have sprouted up out of the creative commons community. The Pibow is a particularly innovative approach, consisting of a stack of laser-cut acrylic layers. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for this new technique to spread to through the community.
Instructables tutorial: slice up your loved ones, hide your treasures inside.
Ever wondered what the CEO of Autodesk gets up to in his spare time? This guide from CarlBass on Instructables gives us a little insight into his private moments, as he walks us through a fantastic laser-cut project to create a secret hiding place for his son.
And what kid wouldn’t love a secret compartment that is inside their own head?!?
The process is all laid out on Instructables, and makes good use of a few handy apps from Autodesk.
Photographs are converted into a 3D model using 123D Catch, and then sliced up for laser cutting in 123D Make (after the addition of a generous cavity to hide all those treasures, of course!). Locations and alignments for dowels and magnets are also planned in, so that the completed form can snap closed to conceal the secret compartment.
As happens with all good Instructables guides, a lively conversation has followed in the Comments section of the post.
Knowledge-sharing is central to the open design and distributed manufacturing movements. Here are ten of the best tutorials from 2011: 3D printing and laser-cutting techniques, online resources, and software help.