How to oven form laser cut acrylic

A handy tip for when flat isn’t all that

Today we are taking a look at one way to give your laser cutting a boost and take it beyond the constraints of two dimensions. Utilising the thermoplastic properties of acrylic, it can be surprisingly easy to apply heat and then carefully form laser cut objects into more complex shapes.

Back in her student days, Kiki Brown Bear fired up the oven in her kitchen to soften her laser cut flatware, and then made use of actual forks and spoons as molds to get the shape she wanted. Follow her process over at Instructables, where you can find step-by-step photos and a brief video of the technique in action.

If you like the sound of this and want to explore further, there are all kinds of objects around the home that can also be used to help shape softened acrylic. We have seen some people laser cut custom profiles in MDF or ply, and then laminate them to create a DIY acrylic mold. To get heat into the acrylic, it is possible to use hair dryers, heat guns and grills (as well as ovens) to soften the material and get it ready for molding into shape. Just be sure to ventilate the area as much as possible, because those acrylic fumes are not so pleasant.

via Instructables

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Announcing Support for AutoCAD

Now you can upload DXF files directly from AutoCAD

You asked for it, you got it! You can now take DXF files exported from AutoCAD and upload them directly to your Personal Factory.

In addition, we’re thrilled to announce a brand-spanking-new starter kit for AutoCad, including a new design guide and design templates.

You can check out the new AutoCAD design guide here, and download the new design templates here.

Support for AutoCAD is still brand new, so if you’ve got any feedback or tips for improvement, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

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Hands-on with home 3D printing in 2015

Reflections after 16 hours with a new 3D printer

As a spectator, it may appear like 3D printers are getting closer than ever to being as easy to use as a desktop inkjet printer. For those who have purchased (or indeed built) their own 3D printer over the last few years, you’d know that this is not the case. There is a lot of tweaking, upgrading and also patience required to get this amazing technology up and running in your own home.

Scott Hanselman plunged into the world of 3D printing and has published an hour-by-hour account of his first two days (16 hours of ‘working’ time) with the Printrbot printer. It’s an engaging tale of triumphs and woes, with much useful advice for others who may be wondering whether to purchase a printer of their own in the near future.

I’ve been using this printer now for basically 16 total hours over a few days, so we’ll call it two days. I went through a number of emotions over this last two days an learned a TON, some about the Printrbot Simple Metal specifically, but also about 3D Printing in general.

Click through to read the full account and discover why Scott’s concluding thoughts are positive and optimistic about the future of home 3D printing.

via Scott Hanselman

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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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Bitsbox monthly projects for kids

How to nurture creativity for the digital makers of the future

For many of us, learning coding simply isn’t fun – but perhaps we’ve gone about it all wrong. Two former Google employees (who also happen to be Dads) saw a way to make learning coding languages fun for kids, and their solution has gathered quite a following on Kickstarter. They call their learning system Bitsbox, and as you’ll soon see, there is more to the bits than just what’s in the box.

We don’t teach our kids how to read and write so that they can be novelists. We teach them those skills so that they can be happy, so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.

Bitsbox operates both online and as a subscription-based service that delivers boxes of coding projects in the mail to kids every month. Within minutes, kids are able to create apps that can run on a real device. The magic of the monthly deliveries is that they will keep kids hungry for more; and excited to engage with newer (and more challenging) projects as they become increasingly proficient with their coding skills.

What excites us at Ponoko is that these children will become the next generation of creative software designers and digital makers. This means that we can well and truly expect the 3D designers and laser cutting makers of the future to totally blow our minds.

Become a part of the Bitsbox community and make the most of the Kickstarter funding perks before the campaign closes.

Bitsbox via Kickstarter

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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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Rope-O’Matic Kickstarter closing soon

Last chance to get your hands on a laser cut rope braiding machine

When we first came across an earlier version of this laser cut mechanical marvel, it had our heads in quite a spin. The 21st century makeover of an 1890’s industrial artefact is a fantastic example of how laser cutting can enable accessibility to broader technological possibilities.

Ever true to his word, David from Mixed Media Engineering has refined the design and launched a Kickstarter campaign for what is now known as the Rope-O’Matic.

With a diverse range of applications it is hardly surprising that this very unique laser cut product has eclipsed its modest campaign funding goal.

Check it out before you miss your chance… don’t tie yourself in knots, there are only a few days left to secure yourself one of these novel devices.

Rope-O’Matic via Kickstarter

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Javascript Laser Cut Lamp Shades

A few lines of code to brighten your day

When Maxime Beauchemin set out to design a pair of laser cut lamp shades, he decided that it would be fun to make use of his coding skills. Already familiar with d3.js, he used Javascript to generate the vector artwork that would then be sent to the laser cutter.

This was much easier than it may otherwise appear thanks to the interactive setup at jsfiddle.net, a fantastic resource that some refer to as a ‘playground for developers’. Here is a screenshot of the number crunching that makes Maxime’s lamp possible:

This looks like an interesting way to approach design for laser cutting, with the interactive preview keeping the outcome right there on screen. Of course, a little coding knowledge would be handy to get started… but for those who just want to play, you can head over to jsfiddle and tweak Maxime’s code to make further iterations of his Javascript Laser Cut Lampshade.

via Maxime Beauchemin

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Fab Academy 2015

Applications now open for the next Fab Academy Diploma

Applications are now open for the fifth edition of the Fab Academy Diploma, the main educational program of the Fab Lab Network.

For five months running between January and June in 2015, participants will find themselves immersed in an advanced digital fabrication program directed by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center For Bits and Atoms. The diploma is based on MIT’s rapid prototyping course, MAS 863: How to Make (Almost) Anything, and operates as a worldwide, distributed campus where Fab Labs across the globe become classrooms and libraries for a new kind of technical literacy.

Learn how to envision, prototype and document your ideas through many hours of hands-on experience with cutting edge digital fabrication technology.

Take note of the following important dates if you think this sounds like a great way to supercharge your creativity and productivity in 2015:

Application period: October 6th, 2014 – November 20th, 2014
Application revisions: November 21st, 2014 – November 31st, 2014
Application notification: December 1st, 2014 – December 10th, 2014
Classes: January 21st, 2015 – May 27th, 2015

A list of participating labs can be viewed here, and more information is available on the Fab Academy website. Applications are open… apply now for the 2015 course!

via Fab Academy

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Laser cut precision

DIY callipers with imperial and metric vernier

Keeping track of precise measurements and the finest details just became a little easier, thanks to Sean Murphy’s updated vernier callipers on Thingiverse. He has come up with an interesting adaptation of a design that was originally intended to be cut from acrylic and then bolted together.

What did he do differently? Well, aside from tweaking the accuracy a little, Sean also laser cut the measuring device from paper and double-sided taped the two halves together.

“The result is a super thin set of callipers that can be slipped in a binder, folder, or book yet still give accuracy down to a few hundred microns.”

Very handy indeed… and because they are cheap, quick and easy to make, you could keep a set within reach at all times for refined accuracy wherever you happen to need them.

via Thingiverse

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