How to transform an existing product

IKEA product hacking gets a facelift with some custom laser cutting

stairlight2.jpg

Mass produced commercial products can make a fantastic base for custom laser cut additions. This IKEA wall fixture hack by Josh Reuss was originally posted in the Ponoko Support forums Show & Tell section, and provides a nicely resolved example of how laser cutting can be used to transform an existing product.

There is more to this than simply cutting out a shape that slips over the manufactured fitting. Josh came up with some clever ways to create the full sized panel from several smaller components, while keeping all joints concealed and obscured by the pattern details.

Follow the link for a thorough walkthrough of the process that saw an off-the-shelf product become a unique, eye-catching designer item with surprising ease. (more…)

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Design tip: Ponoko Color Palettes

Keep these swatches handy to streamline your workflow

Here is a neat tip from the Ponoko Support Forums. Follow the links below to download Ponoko-friendly custom color palettes for your favorite drawing application. Each file contains the necessary cutting and engraving values that will make sense at our end, where the magic happens.

The original post has files for Illustrator, Corel Draw and Inkscape.

Here’s a quick look at the installation process using Illustrator CC.

1. Download the Ponoko color swatch file for Illustrator: ponokoswatch.ai.zip

2. Unzip and move the file to (for Mac systems) Applications > Adobe Illustrator > Presets > Swatches
(For Windows systems replace Applications with Program Files)

3. Import your Palette:

Open Illustrator and go to Window > Swatches to make your Swatches panel active in the sidebar.

Click on the small arrow at the top-right of the Color Palette and select ‘Open Swatch Library’ and then ‘Other Library’.

Browse to your ‘Swatches’ folder and select ‘Ponokoswatch’, then click ‘Open’.

To keep things nice and straightforward on your screen, it can be helpful to expand the color icons into a list.

Click on the small arrow at the top-right of the Ponokoswatch panel and select ‘List View’.

Now you’ll have all the info right there, making it even easier to create design files for laser cutting with Ponoko.

Here are the files for each application:

Illustrator: ponokoswatch.ai.zip
Inkscape: Ponoko.gpl.zip
Corel Draw: ponoko.cpl.zip

Adapted from a post on the Ponoko Support Forums.

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How to avoid clipping masks in your designs

Clipping masks: please don’t use them!

When creating artwork for laser cutting in Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, people love the very handy technique of using clipping masks to achieve the desired visual outcome. But that’s just it – as the name of the command so succinctly implies, when you use clipping masks there is more to the image than meets the eye… and those hidden lines do not play nicely with the laser cutter.

In this tutorial from the Ponoko Support Forums, Catherine talks through how to clear your file from any hidden elements that were left behind when the clipping masks were created.

For either program, there are two main processes to get your head around and each contains a small number of steps. In Illustrator, you need to Release the clipping mask and then clean up any stray elements. For Inkscape, the process is similar with a command to release the Mask and Clip.

What comes next depends on the complexity of your design, but you can be sure any time spent getting the artwork right beforehand is always better than bottlenecks at the laser cutter due to incompatible files.

See the step-by-step guide on the Ponoko Support Forums:

Please don’t use clipping masks in your designs

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Using white wood filler to fill etchings

Making those detailed designs and laser etched text really pop

Laser etched details do often stand out pretty well in their own right, but sometimes it is a good idea to give them a helping hand.

Today we are revisiting an informative post in the Ponoko Support Forums that runs through using white wood filler to bring out the details on wood and plastic laser engraving.

The tutorial focuses on an example laser cut and etched from bamboo. Follow the link and you’ll be taken through the step-by-step process, including important tips such as remembering to clean off the smoke residue from the laser and how to avoid over-sanding in the finishing touches.

This is one way to do it – but we’ve seen people have great results with other techniques as well. Paints are ever-popular; model paints, acrylic paints… in fact paints of all kinds! Others use sharpie markers, crayons, and even glue mixed in with glitter particles.

Read the full tutorial to see if wood filler is the solution for your next laser etched project.

Ponoko Support Forums: White wood filler

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Let’s take a closer look at Matte Acrylic

A material that enables your design to shine

When we talk about laser cutting in acrylic, most of the time the focus is on materials with that familiar glossy surface. Today we are taking a closer look at glossy acrylic’s lesser-known (but just as fantastic) cousin, Matte Acrylic.

Available in the Ponoko Materials Library in both black and white options, Matte Acrylic is textured on the top surface, and glossy (like the regular acrylic) on the back. We have a detailed post in the Ponoko Support Forums, which runs through many of the characteristics of this versatile material. Supporting images provide real-world examples and help to clarify whether Matte Acrylic is the right choice for your next laser cutting project.

Learn about how to best make use of this material by combining it with glossy acrylic on larger projects. See examples of the contrast between shiny and matte finishes, and how to use metallic paint to fill laser etched details. There are also a few quirks to discover that you may not have encountered before, and the tutorial includes handy tips and tricks such as advice on removing protective paper.

See more in the full post on Ponoko’s Support Forums.

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Vector and Raster engraving examples

Free design shows exactly what will happen in your material of choice

The mysteries of how to get the right settings for vector and raster engraving is something that can take time and practise to fully unravel. Thanks to this free file from James Stokebrand, you can create a mini laser etching cheat sheet in your favorite Ponoko material.

The file is set to work perfectly with Ponoko’s P1 template size, and it includes a range of raster fill values, vector line fill values and even some handy tips for designs that use vector linework.

Pictured above is the file etched onto blonde bamboo, and James has also provided high-res sample images in black acrylic and cardstock. Although there is nothing that can truly replace holding a physical sample in your hand, zooming in on these images is pretty close to the next best thing.

Take a look on the Ponoko Support Forums to see for yourself. The file can be downloaded from the Ponoko Showroom, and if it all looks too confusing for you (don’t worry, we all start somewhere!) there is a simpler version of what James has provided all cut and ready to go on the Ponoko Samples page.

via Ponoko Support Forums

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How to etch mirror acrylic

Laser etched impact made easy

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.

Ponoko presents: Laser Etched Mirror Acrylic

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How to make a laser cut greeting card

Send your loved ones a card they will genuinely cherish

The pleasure of giving a custom greeting card is something many of us lose touch with beyond our pre-school years, but it needn’t be that way and Ponoko is here to help mark those special moments.

This informative post from the Ponoko Support Forums walks through two examples of laser cut greeting cards, and adds further inspiration on ways to make the most of the cost effective (and also quite versatile) options for laser cut card in the Ponoko Materials Library.

With Ponoko’s last-chance holiday deadline almost upon us, there is still enough time to dazzle your loved ones with a laser cut masterpiece.

Remember the all-important first step of doing some ‘free prototyping’ at home by printing your design out at 1:1 scale. If it all looks right, then fire up your Personal Factory and send through a file for laser cutting before it’s too late!

via Ponoko Support Forums: How To Make A Laser Cut Greeting Card

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10 Custom Holiday Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands

Along with the eggnog and scores of holiday-party invitations comes yet another seasonal tradition: Agencies and brands showing off their technical and creative chops with unique holiday promotions and client gifts.

One sure fire way to ensure this year’s holiday campaign stands out (amongst the scores of digital and traditional holiday cards) is to create something unique with your Personal Factory.

We’ve compiled 10 laser cut ideas that caught our eye and thought we’d “share” in the holiday cheer with some inspiration for your upcoming holiday campaigns.

(more…)

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Tiny stroke-only font for laser cutting

Miniature alphabet that you can squeeze just about anywhere

When adding small text to a laser etched design, you want to make sure the font you choose will be legible.

This tiny stroke-only alphabet is available to download from the Ponoko Showroom. The free file contains the entire alphabet plus punctuations, brackets and a few other randoms. Characters are only 1mm tall. Any smaller and you will start to loose the inside of characters like ‘A’ and ‘B’ using the heavy vector setting.

On a light wood like the bamboo the light vector setting seems to work well; while the heavy setting on plastics allow you to paint fill to improve readability.

This character set was based on the free pixel font “Wendy” which you can find on dafont. Wendy was used by Stroke-Only Font creator Josh as an initial guide when laying out the line segments. Unlike the pixel font, for this example, as many line segments as possible are joined to allow easy scaling up to larger sizes.

It is worth noting that these are only grouped lines, so you’ll need to manually place letters onto your design one by one.

Using a mini font like this is worth a try if you want to inexpensively add tiny part numbers or a website/email address to your designs.

If laser engraved fonts are your thing, the Evil Mad Scientists have a great Inkscape extension that is enables even more versatility.

This post originally appeared in an article by Josh Reuss on the Ponoko Support Forums.

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