Understanding Button Design

A Comprehensive Product Design Guide to Push All Your Buttons

button design for laser cutting

Even with the prevalence of touch-enabled devices in our lives, the tactile button still holds its own as one of the most important physical design elements in a product. Throughout your day, you will encounter dozens (if not hundreds) of examples ranging from the thoroughly satisfying and highly engineered through to the hastily made, poorly molded and barely functional.

Getting those buttons right can be tricky, but thanks to design engineer Christian Brown’s Button Design Showcase we are able to get our heads around some of the important considerations that can help to ensure a successful outcome for your laser cut products.

“Buttons are a chance for both comfortable ergonomics and increased intuition in your product design… Large buttons surrounded by smaller ones indicate relative importance. A volume rocker button indicates a level going up and down. A single big red button says, ‘PANIC!’.”

 

How About Button Design for Laser Cutting?

By incorporating Christian’s button design insights with the thinking behind lattice (or living) hinges, we can use these same design principles for laser cutting. Enclosures for DIY electronics projects will often have holes or cavities laser cut to allow for the insertion of mechanical switches or buttons. It would certainly make the design a whole lot more interesting if these mechanical elements can become a more integral part of the laser cut pattern!

Laser Cut Buttons: Integrated

One way to do this is to add integrated spring elements to the surface of an enclosure, enabling buttons to be a part of the product housing itself. The DIY cellphone from David Mellis shows this quite effectively:

laser cut wood cellphone laser cut buttons

Laser Cut Buttons: Materials

Another option is to use an alternate material that can be fixed to the casing mechanically, much like is done in manufactured products. Alternate materials can include:

  • – color contrast (eg: different colored acrylic)
  • – translucent (eg: clear acrylic, back-lit for extra zing)
  • – rubber/silicone (using laser cutting and/or 3D printing to make a simple mold)

 

laser cut buttons emu caseimage source: BMOW

laser cut button 3d print
image source: roland.bz

Learn About Button Design

If your laser cut designs have buttons of any kind, then you should find Christian Brown’s Right On The Button: Using Design as a Showcase for Excellence an interesting read indeed. Gaining an understanding of what goes into the button design for manufactured products can help your own workflow, and aid in using laser cutting to its full potential.

Fictiv via Solidsmack

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #39

Laser Cut Summer BBQ Essentials

Laser Cut Beer Caddy Tom Keddie

As the days get longer and the hint of Summer warmth spreads its cheer, gathering together for a BBQ is a great way to reconnect with friends and family. For those who are hosting and also as gifts for (or from) the invited guests, laser cut BBQ tools and trinkets can make any event a memorable experience. Let’s take a look at a few BBQ ideas for creative brands and agencies this Summer.

Laser Cut Beer Sleeves

Pictured above, this handy beer caddy will enable up to 8 bottles or cans to be easily transported. The design makes use of the strengths of laser cutting, with interlocking components that require no adhesives and plenty of space to laser etch company, event or personalised details. Carting drinks from place to place doesn’t need to be an awkward balancing act – a laser cut beer caddy will get those drinks to your guests in style.

Laser Etched Cutting Boards

The broad, flat surface of a wooden cutting board or cheese platter is an ideal location for laser etched brand messaging. Adding details from an event, or personalising with quirky snippets and brand messaging will make this communal table item a memorable conversation starter or possibly even a desired keepsake. Examples: Dinner is Coming from Wicked Wooden Things, Mom’s recipe from 3D Carving, Lionel Richie from Darkling Designs 10.

Laser-Etched-Cutting-Boards

Laser Cut Bottle Opener

Having carted beers to all your guests, they will need a way to open the bottles. The profiles of openers are many and varied, and as these examples show, they are well suited to laser cutting. Whether you choose to have a little fun with the forms used (Beer & Friends from Hyde HousePorsche 911 classic from Racetrack Style); or incorporate the opener into an ingenious multi-tool (Hedgehog by Zootility Tools) or maybe go super-tiny like the Pangea Pico, the potential to get really creative with this simple and handy product is fantastic.

Laser-Cut-Bottle-Openers

 

Laser Cut Coasters

The surface and outline of the coaster can also be used for creating functional laser cut bottle openers, but if you’re not going that far, simply creating interesting shapes can be more than enough. Consider the laser cut and etched street map series titled I Kinda like it here by the National Design Collective, further quirky fun from Zootility and interlocking Penrose tile coasters from PhaseSpaceDesign in the Ponoko Showroom.

laser-cut-coasters

Each of these products present both an interesting form and a generous surface area where laser etching can be applied. As customised event collateral, they make for ideal promotional giveaways because they cleverly combine the feature of having fun with the function of being truly useful. All this happens while establishing further brand recognition and recall.

What other Summer BBQ Essentials can be customised for your clients 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.

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Get Creative with 3 New Two-Color Acrylics

Have you seen our latest two-color acrylics in modern tones? We hope these spark your creativity and inspire you for your next laser-cut project. Our new acrylics are 0.8 – 2.1mm thick. With a thin layer of a different colored plastic on top. Engraving reveals the second acrylic color underneath. This results in a dramatic effect perfect for making jewelry, tableware, electronics enclosures, conference badges, signage, book covers, point of sale displays and more.

We have three new two-color acrylics available:

White on Black

cut_edges_wite_on_black_large

Brushed Silver on Black 

cut_edges_silver_on_black_large

Black on White

cut_edges_black_on_white_large

What we love about the two-color  acrylic is how it changes the overall look of the finished product. Here’s a great example of brushed silver on black:

Promo products

 

Laser Cut Acrylic Bending Jig

Quick approach to controlling acrylic forming

laser cut acrylic bending jig

Laser cut acrylic has so much going for it, which is why this material’s variants are among the most popular of all the options in the Ponoko Materials Catalog. Designs for laser cut acrylic tend to follow a familiar pattern; boxy shapes, notched and stepped joins and slotted connections. But what happens when your form doesn’t fit this mold?

Ceramicist Chris Donnelly used laser cutting to build himself a basic bending jig that would enable the secondary manipulation of acrylic for his students at the Edinburgh Academy. Consisting of two laser cut side panels that are bolted onto a horizontal platform, the device allows for precise control across 180 degrees of movement thanks to a vertical plane that can pivot and lock into position.

Exactly what the students are making with this jig is yet to be revealed, but it’s great to see how some quick thinking and a clever laser cut design can upgrade the capabilities of their school workshop.

For those inspired to make a laser cut bending jig of their own, the Chris has shared the files on Thingiverse.

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #37

Laser Etched QR Codes

laser QR 1

Our devices are talking to each other every day, and with all this chatter going on, making new connections or transferring data should be an effortless process. Technologies such as NFC (Near Field Communication) and QR (Quick Response) Codes help to make these digital interactions smooth and simple. Continue reading to discover how you can use laser cutting to integrate these technologies into your products.

How does NFC and QR work?

For NFC to work, information is encoded onto an embedded chip. When two devices containing NFC chips come into contact (usually in the form of a bump or light tap) a process is engaged – payment could be transferred, data and audio connections established or other tasks involving interaction between the two devices.

QR codes operate much like a barcode; they contain a set of reference information that can be scanned using the camera on a smartphone. This prompts the device to access information such as a website address, play a video, or (as in the example above) display login credentials.

Why is this useful for your brand?

The ability to seamlessly connect can give your customers immediate access to a deeper level of information. This means you can add collateral such as image galleries, video clips and other detailed supporting content without consuming valuable real estate on your product. There is much scope to have fun with QR Codes as well as to use them for sensible, straightforward communication.

In the example shown here, Instructables user BWRussell needed a way to share the login details for his wireless network. Tired of spelling out the passphrase to relatives and visitors, he constructed his own dongle that houses an NFC chip and a laser etched QR Code. All visitors need to do is tap or scan the code with their mobile device, and they will be granted access to the network.

It is worth noting that when it comes to the actual physical QR code, a similar functional outcome can be achieved with a desktop printer… however, a laser etched QR code has a greater sense of quality and purpose.

Laser QR 2

See more of this DIY approach to NFC and QR from Instructables user BWRussell.

Can your laser cutting make connecting easy 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.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #35

Illuminated laser etched business card

laser-etched-illuminated-card

Handing out cards is a networking ritual that is still going strong, and for good reasons. As a conversation starter and trigger for memory recall, the trusty business card plays an important role… but with all the cards that get passed around at events, how can you make sure yours stands out from the crowd?

This bright example, designed by Uk creative agency The Big A for artist Ghizlan el Glaoui, shows that there are indeed alternatives to printed cardstock. Although it may not be something she’s handing out to every passer-by, it would certainly have an impact for the select few who do receive one.

How does it work?

A laser cutter was used to etch artwork and text into the clear acrylic surface, with the result almost invisible when viewed in natural light. This all changes when the material is lit from an edge, in a process known as total internal reflection. For Ghizlan’s illuminated business card, a small LED embedded in the corner is activated with a gentle squeeze, lighting up a sample of her artwork along with her signature and key contact info.

How can your brand’s image be illuminated with laser cutting from 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.

via PSFK

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Laser Cut Cube Reveals Hand Painted Images

A unique image appears on each rotation of this transparent acrylic cube

cube2

There was definitely some careful planning going on when artist Thomas Medicus put together this remarkable laser cut cube titled ‘Emergence Lab’. Upon rotation, a new hand-painted image is revealed from each orientation with a dynamic three-dimensional impact. It really is quite mesmerising… continue reading below for an HD clip of the cube being rotated through all axis.

The cube consists of 216 laser cut acrylic strips assembled into a grid structure. This enables an anamorphic painting to be positioned on each side that is only able to be seen in complete clarity from one specific viewpoint. In order to retain the integrity of the transparent cube, the images have to occupy the same physical space as their counterparts on the opposite side; adding to the complexity of the hand painted designs.

cube-medicus-opposites-1

cube-medicus-collage

By using this method of construction for the cube, it makes the task of applying the images much more straightforward – but also results in unwanted reflections within the structure. To get around this, Thomas came up with a clever solution: fill the cube with a silicon oil that has the same refractive index as the acrylic structure. This gives the visual impression of a solid glass block, as the individual facets and surfaces of the acrylic strips blend away to become almost invisible.

 

Can you think of other ways to use silicon oil to enhance the impact of laser cut acrylic from the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below.

Emergence Lab via My Modern Met

How To Make Laser Cut Interlocking Acrylic Designs

The Importance of Radii

We’ve written about using ‘nodes’ with 3D objects made from wood before, but suggested it may not work for acrylic because it is more brittle and tends to be less forgiving.

However, after working with Drownspire to develop their Vambit toy into a product for a giveaway at Makerfaire, it soon became apparent that you can successfully use nodes when making with acrylic.

Nodes in Acrylic: Two tricks to getting it right

Firstly the nodes need to be a bit smaller; something in the realm of <0.15mm/0.006″ on each side. This means they won’t cover the same range as when used in wood but they still remain a good option.

Secondly, how you treat the end of the slot is the key. If you have a sharp corner, which is typical in a laser cut slot, the acrylic will always fracture at that point. See this example:

Effectively a sharp corner is creating a weak point in the acrylic. Not such a good thing when this is an important structural part of the design! A small radius in that corner can do wonders to transfer the forces from one face of the hole or slot to the other, and reduces the risk of the material splitting at the corner.

How large should they be?

The larger the radii the stronger it will be so you will need to make an aesthetic decision on how big you can go. On the Vambit the radii was tiny, at just 0.26mm, and it was enough to make a noticeable difference. We suggest aiming for 0.5mm and greater if your design will allow it.

Where to place the nodes

Another trick to keep in mind is putting the nodes on a part of the design where you can guarantee the length. That way you don’t need to bet on the thickness changing and the range of variation is a lot smaller. This occurs when you have 2 edges that are cut by the laser that are the friction edges. This works if you are using tabs but is not necessarily the case if you are using a slotting joint.

For example, in the design of this spinning top Dan put the nodes on the tab as opposed to on the slot.

The tabs on the triangle parts fit into the slots on the circle part. Dimension X and Y will be the same each time as cut by the laser, therefore he put the nodes on these parts. Had the nodes been positioned on the slot for the handle (as in diagram below), the friction points would be against the surface of the material, a part that can vary if the thickness varies.

Other types of connections

An alternative joint is the t-slot joint which is popular with people who make more engineering-type products. This joint uses tabs to locate pieces then a t-shaped slot with a captive nut. This type of joint is great. You can slightly oversize the holes to allow for oversized material and the bolt will hold it snug together. If you use the radii on the corners of the cut outs you greatly reduce the risk of cracking the acrylic by over tightening the bolt.

If you want to go another step, rubber washers can also reduce the chance of over tightening and maintain tension in the bolt so it won’t come undone through vibrations etc.

Hopefully these tips will help you with your next laser cutting project, or perhaps give you the extra tools you need to finalize a design you’re working on.

We’ll be interested to hear your experiences using radii too, and any other advice you might have for people wanting to make 3D designs using acrylic. Let us know below!

This handy advice from Dan Emery was sourced from the Ponoko Support Forums.

Laser Cutting Nostalgia

Laser cut Bugs, snails, moons, gems, and 3D cubes!

I’m Sam Tanis and this was The Laser Cutter Roundup #260.  For the past 6 years I have been collecting my post into the weekly roundup here at Ponoko’s Blog, but The Laser Cutter Blog is coming to an end. I have been posting there since 2009 (1813 total posts!), and it is time to move on. In the near future I hope to return to blogging for Ponoko, focusing more in-depth on the skills required to make an idea into a final product. The Laser Cutter blog will remain, but it will no long be updated, except for new link that may come up. The Facebook Page will remain, and a new Facebook Group has been set up for anyone who wishes to join. Thanks Everyone!

TLC260 (3)

Above are models of VW Campervans. They are made of laser cut and etched birch plywood, like Ponoko.com‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Fleurs Gifts.

After the jump, snails, moons, gems, and 3D cubes… (more…)

Laser Cutting On Display

Laser cut hands, pins, girls, bananas, and bow ties!

tlc259 (1)

Above is a POS display for a Samsung Camera. It is laser cut from acrylic like Ponoko.com‘s own Glass Green,  with an application of mirrored foil and comes from Milos Paripovic.

After the jump, pins, girls, bananas, and bow ties… (more…)