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.

Stand Out
At Your Next Event.

Your Promo Products Designed By 171,793 Designers.

Get 5 Fresh Ideas For Free »

How To Make Your Own Laser Cut Precision Tools

Taking measures into your own hands

Just Add Sharks Laser Cut Caliper

How do you know if your projects are as precise as can be? While we can get a certain level of control by squeezing our fingers together and taking an educated guess, sometimes you need the cold hard facts. That’s where measuring devices such as vernier callipers come in handy to narrow down the numbers.

Inspired by some 3D printed measuring tools they had seen, the guys over at Just Add Sharks fired up their lasers to cut a set of fully functional callipers (above) from 1.5mm birch ply. The components were laser cut and glued together, and then to round things off an additional set of radius guides (below) allow for internal and external radii to be checked for accuracy.

Just Add Sharks radius guides

Looking for a fun weekend project? The files for these laser cut precision tools can be downloaded from the source article at Just Add Sharks, so head over there if you’d like to make your own laser cut measuring guides in your material of choice from the Ponoko Personal Factory.

via Just Add Sharks

Tools For Enhancing Your Laser Cut Product Photos

If you’re trying to sell your laser cut products online for the first time, there are a few things you need to know. Factors like having the right content for your product description and having amazing pictures can greatly influence your success as an online seller. Whether you choose to sell your products on Etsy, in your own store or any other online seller, it is important to remember that your potential buyers only have images and words to rely on. If you’ve made your laser cut prototype with Ponoko, you’re already on the right path. Having that physical product (or at least a photo of it)  to show your potential buyers is a must-have.

So, let’s get started with getting your product photos to look stunning. After all, they say pictures paint a thousand words. These tools — both free and paid — can help you highlight your products:

  1. PicMonkey – This free browser-based tool can do a lot of things — it makes it super easy to add filters, effects, text and do some awesome overlays. One of the more useful features for product photos is collage, which you can use for showing different angles of the same product in one frame.PicMonkey - Laser Cut Product Photo Editing
  2. FotoFuze – Clean up the background of your image and set it against either black or white. This way, the focus is on your product and nothing else. Plus, an all-white product makes it look more professional. FotoFuze - Laser Cut Product Photo Editing
  3. FotoFlexer – Another free tool you can use by uploading images to the web where you can easily retouch photos or add effects. Aside from the usual choices such as posterize, grayscale or sepia, you can also use lomo, comic, patchwork and more. FotoFlexer - Laser Cut Product Photo Editing
  4. Fotor – It’s cheap at $39 per year and you can use it directly on your browse. You can also try it for free if you’re not sure you want to pay an image editing tool just yet. It has some pretty amazing features such as the High Dynamic Range (HDR) tech which brings out the true colors of your photos. The HDR tech also lets you combine photos with different exposures into one cool image.
  5. Pixlr – This is a popular tool that can be used on the web, as an app or downloaded on a computer. It can be used to work in layers, transform objects, add overlays, borders and more.
  6. GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP is the free equivalent of Photoshop. While it doesn’t quite have all the bells and whistles as Photoshop, it’s good enough to help you with basic image clean-up. This needs to be downloaded to your computer.
  7. Photoshop Express – Who doesn’t love Photoshop? If you do but can’t really afford the license, get the next best thing: a free app! If you’re shooting your product photos with your phone, this can help crop, fix red-eye, reduce noise and more.

There you have it! A short but sweet list of free/nearly-free/you-gotta-pay tools to help you come up with professional or fun-looking photos for your laser cut items.

How To Make a Laser Cut Wobbler

Get your creativity rolling with this simple DIY laser cut project

laser cut wobbler 1

Watching things wobble has something mysterious and mesmerising about it, and when you add in the precision of a laser cutter, the results are mathematically sublime. Building your own laser cut Wobbler is a fun way to learn about the physics behind motion and inertia, or if the how and why is not as critical for you as the what, perhaps having something novel and intriguing to roll across the table is reason enough!

Thanks to Thingiverse users Greg Zumwalt and Ella Jameson, making your own laser cut Wobbler is easier than ever. You may notice from the image above (and the video below) that Greg’s design is not actually laser cut… it has been 3D printed. That’s where Ella comes in – she remixed Greg’s design to make her laser cut version, and shared the files for others to enjoy.

Simply download Ella’s .svg files (different disk sizes have been prepared for a material thickness of 3mm) and fire up your Ponoko Personal Factory to laser cut in your 3mm material of choice.

Here is a video of Greg’s wobbler in action:

So how does a Wobbler work?

The Wobbler moves so nicely because its center of gravity remains very nearly constant while rolling along, thanks to the ratio between the slots that connect the disks and their radii. This can be calculated for any round-ish shape using mathematical magic, but if equations make you wobbly, then you can cheat a little and use the approximated ratio of:

Slot Length = Disk Radius * 0.293

Wobblers can come in a number of forms, and with the repeated motion of the disks as they roll along, there is a great opportunity to laser etch onto the surfaces for further visual impact. It is also possible to apply the same mathematics to other Wobbler constructions; perhaps the most notable example of this is John Edmark’s laser cut Rollipses.

Click through for a video of yet another stunning kinetic mathematical wonder from John Edmark, as well as a collection of Wobblers presented by Tim at Grand Illusions. (more…)

How To Make a Customized Jigsaw Puzzle

Laser Cut Educational Toys

laser cut puzzle 1

Personalised toys can make a great gift, adding something unique and memorable to show how much you care. It’s one of those things that many people think about doing, but never take the first steps to actually make it happen. Let’s take a look at how easy it can be to put together a personalised laser cut educational toy.

As you can see in this guide on Instructables, it is possible to achieve a highly resolved, professional-looking outcome even for those who are new to laser cutting. The guide, written by Ponoko’s own Dan Emery, walks through a process of creating the cutting pattern for the jigsaw pieces using Inkscape, and then building a custom map section that will become the laser etched details.    (more…)

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

How To Make a Laser Cut Dremel Chop Saw

Industrialize your mini DIY production line

dremel chop saw 1

Repetitive cutting for projects that require precision parts can be a time-consuming process. The need for consistency and accuracy in making several hundred cuts from small diameter pipes prompted sculptor HTMF Metal Pizza to seriously upgrade his DIY production line.

Why not use a pipe cutter?

The usual way to cut sections from the hobby pipe is to use a pipe cutter, however this tool leaves a small deformation around the inner diameter. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but as HTMF’s process requires smooth edges on both inner and outer surfaces, the sections from the pipe cutter are unsuitable for his needs.

Solution: the Dremel abrasive disc

An abrasive disc spinning at high speed will cut with the precision that HTMF is looking for. When controlled in smooth linear movements, the cuts will be quick and clean… so armed with this knowledge he set out to optimise the cutting process to achieve greater speed without sacrificing any accuracy.

“While I tried cutting the tubing free hand, I found I needed a third hand and there was a huge variation in size which required a great deal of re-finishing.”

Introducing the laser cut Chop Saw

The solution was to build a miniaturised ‘chop saw’ mount for his Dremel cutting tool. As well as holding the Dremel and working material securely, the chop saw houses two drawers; one to store Dremel parts and another to catch the pipe sections as they are cut. He also added a scale on the cutting table that aids in achieving consistent lengths with each cut.

dremel chop saw 2

See the full tutorial on how to build a laser cut Chop Saw mount for the Dremel multi-tool on Instructables. You’ll find all the files you need for laser cutting including an adapter for switching between the Dremel hand tool itself and the flexible shaft attachment, depending on which version you are using. The thoroughly detailed assembly instructions are also peppered with tips (and supporting pics) on how to best manage the trickier steps will see you up and cutting in no time.

…and if you’re wondering what’s up with this Instructables creator’s screen name, HTMF stands for Having Too Much Fun! 

 

How To Make an All-Wooden Laser Cut Padlock

Keeping your treasures safe 

laser-cut-lock

Knowing that your valuables are securely locked away gives peace of mind, whether you are storing the jewellery inherited from your grandma or the secret plans to your Next Big Thing. Perhaps you just need to keep someone out of your private space, or to seal off the cupboard under the stairs from monsters that lurk in the dark.

Whatever the reason is, a lock and key can be handy indeed. So instead of heading down to your local hardware store to buy one, how about building a fully functional laser cut lock of your own?

This simple and clever design from Thingiverse user PArtzzles will prevent prying fingers from finding their way into your box of treasures. The design for the laser cut lock was worked out on Inkscape, and files are available to download so that you can make a version of your own at your favorite laser cutting service. Some makers might like to adapt the lock to further boost its security credibility to a level that will stop thieves in their tracks. Well… that’s the idea, at least!

via Thingiverse

How To Use Nesting Parts in Laser Cutting

A guide to laser cut line optimisation

ponoko-nesting-lines-example-laser-cut-cardboard-bin

Discussions around the laser cutters at Ponoko continue to highlight how important effective nesting of parts in laser cut files is. Today we are taking a look at a real-world example of how optimising linework can achieve faster cuts and therefore save money. Cutting time is generally the most expensive component when ordering from Ponoko. In the Ponoko forums, people have shared their methods of saving money. Let’s take a look at nesting line work in greater detail…

original2.jpg.htm

This is the design we will work with – a bin. It is designed to take standard supermarket shopping bags, and was cut from 6mm thick double sided P3 corrugated cardboard. The first prototype came out to be about $40, an amount that could be considered a little steep for cardboard. However, after a few design changes we were able to reduce the cutting time by nearly half.

Design

First, consider good design as being the minimum necessary. The phrase “more is less” is a good mantra to abide by. Clever designers will figure out the best way to maximise the use of materials and processes they undergo.

Look carefully at your design, is there anything that could be considered superfluous? Is there anything that if you took it away, nobody would miss it terribly?

Curved lines vs. Straight lines

Keep in mind that lasers slow down dramatically on curves. If you ask yourself ‘are there any parts that you can take away curved sections without compromising the overall design?’ and the answer is ‘Yes’, then be sure to head back to your design program of choice before sending files to the laser cutter. Several vector drawing programs allow you to simplify linework down to straight lines. If not, try to reduce the size of radiuses as shown in the image below.

Another handy tip is that if you have lots of long straight lines try to align them parallel with either the x or y axis – this means the laser’s lens is only traveling in one direction at a time, it is slightly more efficient for the laser cutting.

Check the laser won’t see double

There can be an issue with overlapping linework. The laser doesn’t know what your intention was – it just thinks you want to cut the same line twice. It may sound obvious, but some vector drawing apps are more prone to this than others, it is often very easy to duplicate or copy and paste linework on top of each other.

You usually can’t see this, but the laser definitely can. In extreme cases this will double your cutting time (and cost) and increases the chances of burning the material. Always check your drawing files for duplicate linework.

The Fix: ungroup lines and drag the vertex points around to check you have no double ups.

Nesting cutting paths

Are there any parallel lines, or semi-parallel lines you can join to one another to make one section? This will give you greater control over the order of laser cutting parts. Remember to delete any shared lines that may double up.

You can see in the bin example below we had 12 individual strips, but then we changed the design to make them parallel on both sides and placed them together. The laser splits them after it has cut around the outside with individual parallel lines.

changes.jpg

Laser cutters don’t necessarily cut sequentially where you logically think they should. Sometimes they will travel to the other side of the material for the next line despite other linework in closer proximity.

Also, due to the slight unpredictability of the cutting order it can be helpful to upload several slightly differently nested files. Sometimes the placement of parts next to one another might help you save a few precious dollars or cents.

Experiment

before.jpg

Different materials have different cutting speeds and characteristics. Feel free to post any tips you find on reducing cutting time on the support forums and in the comments below. There is much to learn from hearing other people’s experiences.

after.jpg

Remember that it is unlikely your first design is going to be the best; prototyping is always an iterative process. Plan to make several variations of your design and do small tests so you don’t waste time, money and materials. As the results show here, a little tweaking of the design can save you a lot.

The content of this post by David McGahan originally appeared on the Ponoko Forums.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #34

Themed ‘Build Your Own’ event kits

honeymoonkit0

Diy kits are a great way to engage people with the world that your brand inhabits. From a collection of snap-together laser cut parts, a miniature diorama can be created that entertains and stimulates playful conversation.

Connect to an event

The example here comes from Michiel Post van der Molen’s wedding, where guests were given a Build Your Own Honeymoon kit that enabled them to become immersed in the newlywed spirit. The package contained iconic laser cut silhouettes along with a felt base, where a grid of slots allowed personal interpretations of the ideal romantic getaway to be clipped into place.


honeymoonkit3

honeymooncollage2

Connecting with your brand

What unique worlds can be created to connect people with your brand using laser cutting from the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. By handing out simple, thoughtful construction kits to potential customers, there is an opportunity for them to become new storytellers and enthusiastic brand ambassadors. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Stand Out
At Your Next Event.

Your Promo Products Designed By 171,793 Designers.

Get 5 Fresh Ideas For Free »