Laser Cutting from a Galaxy Far Far Away

When The Force is strong

laser cut millenium falcon

When May the Fourth comes around each year, a whole galaxy of sci-fi fans kind of go nuts – well, more nuts than usual. It’s a fun time for these movie enthusiasts, and making models of the classic space vehicles from the original films can be a great way to share your enthusiasm with fellow fanatics.

Laser cutting is perfect for replicating the complex surface details of the iconic space vehicles, as has been well demonstrated by Thingiverse user Costaricaorca in the image above.

For others, the surface details take second place behind the actual shape of the vehicles. Once again, laser cutting provides an accessible way to replicate these forms and the following examples show how you don’t need much before it’s quite clear where the reference for the various machines comes from.

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Millenium Falcon by Killor; Waker by BillyMcCoy; and Star Destroyer with Tie Fighters by Breakfastsandwich

There are more like these to be found, uploaded by enthusiasts of all skill levels and experience to design community sites such as Thingiverse. Some have been made on laser cutters at local maker spaces, while others are zipped through during ‘spare time’ by employees lucky enough to have an on-site laser cutter at work. Another option that is accessible to all is to download files from Thingiverse and then have the parts cut in the material of your choice in the Ponoko Personal Factory.

May the fourth be with you…

 

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.

 

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

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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Animated Laser Cut Fox

Playfully pouncing from frame to frame

laser cut fox animation

The inner musings of talented artist Sarah Capon have been brought to life thanks to an animated collaboration with Industrial Designer Benjamin Donnelly.

The process started off with a neat series of drawings that make up each frame of the animation, capturing the motion and physical suspense as the fox steadies itself before pouncing playfully. Sarah’s sketches were then converted and sent to a laser cutter to be etched and cut from plywood, along with a clever support bracket designed to hold the laser cut fox frames in place during filming.

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Watch the full animation in the video below, along with behind-the-scenes footage that gives a good taste of the process that enabled this playful laser cut animated outcome.

Sarah Capon via YouTube

How To Make an All-Wooden Laser Cut Padlock

Keeping your treasures safe 

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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…

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #33

Sweeten up your laser cutting

laser-cut-typography-honey-yum

Here is a great way to use laser cutting to help your brand stand out from the crowd. We already know that laser cut letters have serious impact when compared to printed alternatives… there’s something that really grabs you when a typeface stands proud in 3D.

For Agencies and Brands, the need to go one step further in order to draw in the target audience can lead to some interesting design explorations.

Mouth-watering appeal

The use of food, with all of its associations and temptations, opens up a number of unusual opportunities to enhance laser cut objects.

We’re wired to respond positively to sweet things. There’s something about desserts, particularly sweet ones, and it’s hard to get any sweeter than honey. Putting the sensorial experience of eating honey aside, actual honey is also a visual marvel with its mesmerising molten viscous motion and deep golden glow.

Here is a great example of this combination of food and laser cutting working really well together. Giving laser cut letters a unique eye-catching appeal, this experimental typeface takes inspiration from the classic wooden honey dipper. It is only once the honey is added that the letters become complete.

Laser cut typography honey

How did this come about?

When challenged to create a liquid-inspired typeface with minimal post-production, Franc Navarro and Alberto Martinez from IED Barcelona turned to honey coated laser cutting.

“We were attracted to the simplicity of structuring layers of wood, the mesmerizing viscosity and warm tonalities that honey has.”

Can you think of other playful ways to combine food 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 Design Hooked

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #30

Having a ball

laser-cut-ball

Give a bunch of people something round that can be thrown, caught, bounced or rolled… and within moments an impromptu game will have started. Even the non-sporty types are likely to join in, so strong is the allure of the ubiquitous ball.

This clever flat-packed ball from Instructables user Scientiffic is comprised of only two simple laser-cut components. Repeated and then snapped together with no need for glues or adhesives, it is a neat example of how you can make a robust and functional object from basic elements.

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What does an object like this do for your brand?

Engaging customers with a physical object that can then become a light-hearted networking tool allows your brand to form a different kind of association at an event. Incorporating the tactile process of assembling the ball, then adding in the element of play either as an introverted solo activity or as a way to interact with others may indeed prove to be more engaging (and therefore more memorable) than the usual event swag.

A vehicle for your corporate identity

The example here from Instructables shows the components of a ball that have been laser cut from wood. Ways to adapt this design could include the addition of company branding as a laser etched detail, or even changing materials to use acrylic in colors that match your company’s colorway. Other options to generate interest and encourage interaction could involve the addition of simple electronics to illuminate the material from within, or add engagement triggers such as sound or motion sensitive functionality.

Can you think of other ways to make an interactive conversation starter 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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