In this four-part series of introductory laser cutting tutorials we have shown you just how easy it can be to become a digital maker with Ponoko. Now it is time to watch the laser cutter do its thing and see those designs become real, tangible objects right before your eyes. Just hit Play on the video above.
Here’s a little refresher on what got us to this point.
First branch of long-dreamed half makerspace/half cafe opens its doors
When it comes to laser cutting services in the UK, it’s hard to beat RazorLAB for precision and expertise. Now you can throw in some tasty treats and a chat with the guys in the the know because they have just opened Makers|CAFE.
For those who need a little caffeine to cultivate their creativity, this really is a dream come true:
“…a space where people could have a quality coffee while having their prototypes made on the spot”
It’s an exciting time for makers in London, and Makers|CAFE are celebrating with a launch party this Thursday (August 21) where a lucky few will enjoy live music, free drinks and laser cutters + 3D printers in action.
Using Inkscape to design your own laser cut product from scratch
Welcome to the third instalment of Ponoko’s back-to basics tutorials. This time we get creative and generate a laser cut design from scratch that can be used with your Ponoko Personal Factory.
It all begins with key information from the Inkscape Starter Kit, a tremendously useful resource that sorts out everything you need to know about the free software package, Inkscape.
The tutorial walks through how to use Inkscape to draw a design using basic shape tools, the text tool, and Path commands. In the demonstration, Josh whips up a laser cut coaster and repeats the pattern before finalising the file to be ready for laser cutting.
In a little over ten minutes, you’ll be able to:
• Create a design from scratch with Inkscape
• Create and combine basic shapes
• Check your design in outline mode
• Format your design for laser cutting
Stay tuned for Ponoko’s Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 4 where we get to see the laser work its magic.
iPad app makes it even easier to design for laser cutting
When we first heard about the iPad app Sketch It Make It, we were pretty excited. Now that developers Blank Slate Systems have released their clever drawing app to the public, our fingers are really twitching!
Sketch It Make It is able to rapidly transform even the wobbliest scribbles into neat geometric forms, and have them ready to export for digital manufacturing almost instantly. Whether you are laser cutting, using CNC milling or 3D printing there has quite possibly never been a faster way to turn ideas into tangible objects.
Using free design software to customize a design file
For the second instalment of Ponoko’s back-to-basics tutorials, we walk through the process of customizing a design file using freely available design software. The recommended software is called Inkscape, an open-source vector drawing program that offers powerful features in an easy-to-learn format.
Making use of the same free design file introduced in part 1 of the Laser Cutting Tutorial series, this time we walk through the process of adding your own text to the laser cut coaster.
Follow through as the process is explained from downloading Inkscape through to preparing the custom file for uploading to your Personal Factory.
In just under six minutes, you will know how to:
• Download Inkscape (available for Mac or PC)
• Open a design file in Inkscape
• Customize the design file with your own text
• Prepare the file for laser cutting
Now we’re just about ready to generate custom designs from scratch using Inkscape, so stay tuned for our Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 3.
A quicker, cheaper alternative to raster fill engraving
Vector or Raster? It’s a question that has goes back to the earliest days of laser etching. Here is an interesting little exploration from the creative team over at Cuddleburrito that scores another point for the Vector camp.
Instead of using a raster fill for a job that required large graphic elements, they devised a way to create the same effect using vector paths.
This saves a huge amount of time, as the laser only needs to engrave the actual paths of the lines instead of sweeping across the entire area. There was an added bonus that the outcome has a more consistent appearance when applied on timber, because the tendency for grain variation to be emphasized (as when using raster etching) had been eliminated.
Want to know how they did it? Click through to the source to find out…
Teaching kids how to build their own mini making machines
Designed for a workshop series that introduces kids to building their own motor controllers, the Sphere-O-Bot is a simple 2 axis CNC machine that can draw on small spherical surfaces. Suggested target spheres include ping pong balls, eggs and even golf balls are apparently worth a try.
There is a thorough tutorial on Instructables that will take you through the thinking behind the laser cut wooden design, and show just how to put it all together. Files are included for the laser cut structure as well as specs for all the hardware required to get the Sphere-O-Bot up and running.
This fun project was uploaded by Juan, a Maker Corps intern at the Children’s Museum of Houston, who says:
“By building your Sphere-O-Bot using a laser cutter, you can achieve a clean look while also reducing the production time of your parts. This design also features an electronics bay for your wires, micro-controller and motor drivers.”
Helpful advice on how to get started with the Ponoko Personal Factory
For those who have always wanted to give Ponoko a go but are not sure where to start, this training video shows just how easy it is to produce your own laser cut designs.
In a little over ten minutes, Josh talks through the process of using Ponoko, and highlights a small project that makes a great starting point to help you feel your way with the Ponoko Personal Factory.
The material overview covers felt, cut and engraved bamboo, leather, 3d objects assembled from laser cut acrylic, and laser cut plywood. There is also advice on which materials are the best to get started with – and how to avoid common ‘beginner’ mistakes.
Then it gets to the good stuff – a neat little demo of how to actually make your very first product. The walkthrough explains how to use Inkscape to create a file that can be uploaded to Ponoko for laser cutting.
Starting with the Ponoko P1 template, Josh quickly whips up a collection of forms that use both laser cutting (for outlines) and laser etching (for surface details).
The upload process is then explained, with useful tips on how to check your files are correct and also how to order multiple copies of your design. Next comes material selection, which reveals some very useful information – how much it will cost! You’ll see that it’s really easy to switch to another material and see the price adjust accordingly in an instant.
The video wraps up with a few more handy design tips to be sure you start off on the right track.
Sound like fun? We think so. Watch the video, then dive right in!
Using a laser cutter to make a speaker casing with style
When Chilean designer Francisco Sahli needed to take his tunes on the road, he decided the best way would be to make his own stylish bluetooth speaker.
Many makers turn to laser cutting to build enclosures for their electronic projects. What sets this example apart is the departure from the usual boxy laser cut forms, with the result looking much more like a manufactured product.
Rather than the usual slotted laser cut corners, Francisco achieved a smooth radius and angled faces by laser cutting timber profiles and then laminating them together.
The final assembly was then carefully sanded by hand, before three coats of paint were applied. You can read all about the construction process, see the laser cutting paths and find out what’s inside to make the bluetooth speaker work its magic on Francisco’s website.
Space saving portable design takes laser cutting on the road
Here is another interesting DIY laser cutter project, this time featuring a novel departure from the standard construction we are used to seeing.
Instead of running within a constrained space, the compact laser cutter has an arm that swings out in a format reminiscent of the RepRap 3D printer.
When the laser cutter is in use the arm opens up to 90 degrees perpendicular to the box and the laser head runs along it.
The main structural elements are made from aluminium extrusions, and there are a few custom CNC milled and 3D printed components to fill in the gaps and connect other off-the-shelf parts.
This looks to be a novel way to build a laser cutter that you can take on the road with you. No more heavy equipment fixed in place in the workshop… just be careful not to set it up on your grandma’s favourite coffee table!
For more info, including a thorough photo essay of the development process behind the fold-out laser cutter, click through to the source.