Ten Helpful Tutorials and Guides

Best of the Blog 2010 – Tutorials and Making Help

In addition to the ten fantastic guides that are featured in the Ponoko Blog sidebar, today we’ve gathered for you a collection of ten more helpful guides and tutorials from the archives.

Read on for some simple advice for beginners (that may be a welcome reminder for more seasoned makers) through to a complete analysis of turning making into a business, with a few surprises in between.   (more…)

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10 Simple Steps to Make & Sell Your Custom Product

The world is full of great ideas, and never before has it been easier to turn those ideas into real, physical products. The thrill of holding something in your hands which you created is something quite special.

Here at Ponoko we love helping everyday people make extraordinary things and we relish our part in the renewed ‘maker movement’ which has taken off over the past few years.

To help you become a part of it too, we have drawn up ten steps to creating a successful custom product. We hope they’ll help to inspire you to start making – and hope to hear about your experiences of doing so!

1. Create a clear design brief for your product

The best thing you can start with is a very clear design brief, or outline. The key questions here are “Why?”, “Who?” and “What?”.

Firstly, identify the problem your product will solve, and the constraints you want to work within. For instance, instead of deciding you want to make a set of shelves – start with the fact you need to organize your books, and the constraint is that it needs to fit between your desk and your bed. This will widen the scope of what you may create, and ensure that it’s meeting a clear need.

Clarifying who you’re making the product for will help you in a multitude of ways – from how you will make it in the beginning through to how you will promote it to others.

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Christmas Ornaments from a Lasercutting Newbie

windmills for the tree

For those of you who’ve had an idea in the back of your head for something you’d like to make, but you’ve never tried making a design for lasercutting — you’re not alone.

Brian Lutz, a 32 year old resident of Washington state who works in tech, wanted to make some Christmas ornaments for his family’s annual holiday ornament exchange.

A total lasercut design newbie, Lutz took the dive into making a lasercut design for the first time and shared his learning process on his blog, The Sledgehammer (which I came across in my Google alerts for “lasercut”).

He uses Inkscape for the first time to design a windmill ornament, “an ongoing inside joke”, and took his files to his local maker space for production. It’s a good read for anyone who’s new to this whole “personal factory” business. : )

And with the holidays (read: vacation time!) coming up, there’s no better time to join the maker movement.

Find out how to make real products using Ponoko.
And check out our Beginner section in Tutorials + Making Help for everything you need to get started.

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Unbox, Build, Print — Review of the RepMan 3.1 3D Printer

3D Printers Australia sets up a RepMan Kit

3D Printers Australia brings “all the best information from the world wide 3D Printing industry to the Australian industry”.

They’ve got a blog with lots of 3D printing videos, and their most recent post is a review of the RepMan 3.1. In their conclusion, the two guys report “All up the RapMan took us a good 12 hours to assemble with 2 people working on it but once it was complete it was up and running and printing decent parts with out any adjustment with factory settings. That in itself says a lot.”

“The build process is a little more complicated than a Makerbot mainly due to the scaffold frame design however its not any harder, it just takes more time to assemble. …The Makerbot cupcake CNC is around half the price of the RapMan but your only getting a 1/4 of the build size so if you want to print parts bigger than 100 x 100mm its worth having a good look at a RapMan.”

If you’re thinking of getting your own 3D printer, be sure to check out 3D Printers Australia’s full review. And don’t miss the Step By Step Guide to Building a MakerBot Cucpake CNC 3D Printer.

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Ins and Outs of Holes

How to determine placement and size of jump rings when laser cutting jewellery.


Making jewellery is incredibly popular among Ponoko users.  It’s an excellent way to get a feel for laser cutting and try out a range of materials.  Popular rigid materials include plywood, acrylic, veneer mdf, bamboo, metals; while leather and felt are commonly used soft materials.

Much of the jewellery is based on 2D shapes, so minimal prototyping is required to get the optimum result in final product.  However, there are still a few problems that jewellery makers run into.  Many of those are the result of not considering how other components or findings, such as jump rings, clasps, pins, etc will be attached.  The other contributing factor is material durability.  You have to use enough material to avoid breakage.


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Step by Step Guide to Building a MakerBot CupCake CNC 3D Printer

in-depth 13 part guide from Make:

Marc de Vinck  just wrapped up an excellent and exhaustive step-by-step guide to building a MakerBot CupCake CNC. His 13 part article for Make: has been in the works for nearly a year, and the guide was finally finished today.

The documentary starts off with a little bit of the author’s background in CNC machining and then takes you through every step of putting together a fully functional CupCake CNC — from opening the box on the kitchen floor…

“The first thing I found was a nice letter from the MakerBot team and a couple of postcards. I’m going to keep these filed away in a safe place. Maybe one day I’ll be on the Antiques Roadshow and the host will let out a delighted *gasp* when I whip out my original, signed MakerBot Industries letter. Hey, you never know?!”

…to 3D printing a classic whistle in ABS plastic.

“Feeling confident, I proceeded to download the infamous whistle by Zaggo STL file. I fired up the printer, and in a few minutes, I had a whistle! Amazing!”

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to try out a CupCake for yourself, now would be that time. Not only do you have Vinck’s guide to walk you through the entire process, but the CupCake Starter Kit is now on sale for $649.

And don’t forget, all the files for the body of the printer are available for free in MakerBot’s Ponoko showroom and will cost you under $250 to cut with Ponoko. Save even more money by sourcing the electronics from the new hardware additions to our materials catalog.

via Make: & Marc de Vinck (t)

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Should I Manufacture or License My Product or Invention?

I recently attended my local Inventors Association (Inventors Alliance in Northern California) and noticed that Inventors kept inquiring about the differences between manufacturing and licensing a product.  New Inventors were confused about what these terms meant and wanted to learn more about the factors to consider when deciding which way to go for their own product.   So I thought I’d take a minute to discuss both options as this comes up all of the time in my workshops and classes as well.

Let’s start with Manufacturing.  Manufacturing is the process by which an Inventor actually designs, develops, sells and markets their product. Basically they are working on a product idea from start to finish.  They are responsible for taking a product idea and bringing it to market and creating an entire business venture around this product idea.   Inventors who manufacture their products typically take on all facets of a business—they are responsible for product development, packaging, marketing, selling and much more.

Licensing is a bit different. Licensing is when you actually ‘rent’ your product idea to a company who will do all of the work for you.   And when I say work, I mean they will handle all of the product development, packaging, marketing and selling for your product idea.  In other words, you provide a company with your brilliant idea and they in turn will bring your product to market and write you a check for every unit sold.

Why would a company agree to license a product idea?


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How to find SparkFun electronics on the Ponoko site

find what you need amongst 1,500 items

Search is always a key thing online. When Ponoko teamed up with SparkFun to provide electronic hardware in the materials catalog, it meant that you could now build an entire product – inside and out – right here at Ponoko.

So how do you go about finding exactly what you want amongst over 1,500 hardware items?

Every page on Ponoko (other than the blog) has a Google Site Search feature awaiting your pleasure at the top right-hand corner.

So let’s say you are after an Arcade Joystick for your retro gaming cabinet. Simply type arcade joystick into the Site Search, and you’ll be shown a list of matching components.


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How Detailed is too Detailed?

Getting superb results from thin plywood and bamboo.

Every now and then we come across P3 design files that are so densely populated with designs that we marvel at the super efficient use of space.  It is fantastic cutting something that will generate minimal waste. However, there can be a downside to adding so much detail onto a large sheet.

Sometimes a sheet of material may not be very flat when we get it from the manufacturer. This is seen most commonly in 2.7mm/0.106″ bamboo, 5mm bamboo (NZ) and other thin plywood. Unfortunately this is the nature of material. The inherent tension in the grain of the wood and the way it is constructed means the panels can warp between the factory they were made in and the Ponoko shop.

Additionally, dense cutting and engraving generates heat build up, which can cause the sheet of material to warp during cutting. This can adversely affect the quality of the cutting, engraving and has the potential to damage the machine. This is most apparent on thin materials like leather, styrene and bamboo.

So why is warping so detrimental to cut quality?


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Barrier Grid Optical Illusions

Create Your Own Mesmerising Illusions

Had enough of your mundane reality? How about spicing things up a bit with some simple home-made optical illusions.

We recently mentioned an infinity mirror how-to from Youtube illusion guru Brusspup. While a number of his clips caught my attention, there was one in particular that stood out – another how-to; this time explaining the mysteries of Barrier Grid Illusions. Watch the video above for a good snapshot of this optical novelty.

Following in the footsteps of Rufus Butler Seder, this effect is remarkably easy to achieve using the most basic of Photoshop skills and your own home printer.

What gets my mind ticking over though – is the thought of how this could be taken further with a bit of Ponoko etching and laser cutting. Just like Rufus has done in numerous public spaces, imagine creating dynamic optical features as installations and artworks… or even incorporating these effects into your next laser-cut product!

Learn exactly how to create Barrier Grid Illusions of your own after the break.


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