Share Your Google Cardboard Design Idea, Win Your Share of $250 Making Vouchers

We’ve giving away everything you need to create your own custom Google Cardboard

You’ve heard about Google’s VR viewer, you’ve seen the cool things it can do, and you know how to make one for less than $10 with Ponoko.

Wouldn’t it be cool to make one for FREE?

We’ve got 3 Google Cardboard Kits and over $250 worth of laser cutting that we’re giving away to folks with the best ideas for a custom Google Cardboard headset.

Google’s kit is based around making with cardboard, and the manufacturing specifications are open source. This makes it perfect for developing and prototyping your killer idea with laser cut parts from Ponoko.

Maybe one button isn’t enough for the game you’re developing. Maybe you want an oversized headset that works with your iPad. Maybe you just want a shiny gold acrylic VR headset to match your gold watch.

Whatever your idea is, we want to hear it. The folks with the best ideas will get a head start on making their ideas a reality with one of the following prizes:

1st Prize - Google Cardboard Hardware Kit + $150 Worth of Laser Cutting
2nd Prize – Google Cardboard Hardware Kit + $75 Worth of Laser Cutting
3rd Prize – Google Cardboard Hardware Kit + $35 Worth of Laser Cutting

How to Enter:

Simply describe your idea in the comments below. Include a mockup, sketch or other visual aid that shows what makes your idea great. Multiple submissions welcome.

About the Prizes:

Hardware kit includes everything you need to get started: Two 25mm diameter lenses, one ring neodymium magnet, one ceramic disk magnet and a set of sticky-back velcro strips. Free laser cutting is issued in the form of Ponoko Making Vouchers. The original Google Cardboard costs less $10 to make with Ponoko, so the $35 prize is more than enough for three iterations!

Judging Criteria:

Finalists will be selected using the following criteria, in no particular order:

  • Originality.
  • Interesting use of material(s).
  • Production feasibility and/or market appeal.

Submit your idea before next Friday, August 14th. The best ideas as voted by the Ponoko team will be announced on Monday August 17th.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions, or things we can assist with.

Good luck!

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #13

Laser Cut Annual Reports and Catalogues

Celebrating a company’s milestones and achievements, the Annual Report is an important document that can be further enhanced through clever use of laser cutting. By using typographic voids, multicolored layering and other similar techniques familiar to laser cutting designers, the published information becomes interesting and eye-catching in a way that invites the reader to explore further.

Pictured above are examples of laser cut cover artwork on Annual Reports and Catalogues from Under Consideration (top-left) and Croatian Post (lower-right) as well as internal content from Pelayo Insurance (top-right) and the Zuiderzee Museum (lower-left). We can see in these different approaches that selective application of laser cut elements can help to give a sense of prestige and style to the printed material.

Have you seen other interesting examples of laser cutting on business publications? Let us know in the comments below, and see if you can come up with a novel way to transform your next annual report into a dynamic document that has lasting impact using the Ponoko Personal Factory.

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Ponoko’s Google Cardboard Gives You Virtual Reality For < $10.

Virtual reality from Google, with laser cut parts from Ponoko

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality kit that starts with a simple viewer anyone can build or buy. It works by turning your phone into a virtual reality headset using a sheet of cardboard, two plastic lenses, a magnet and a bit of velcro.

Using laser cut parts from Ponoko, you can get started with Cardboard for less than $10.

So far there have been a ton of apps released for the platform including test drives, roller coaster rides, and mountain climbs. But it’s not just games and rides- People are finding new ways to use the kit – from campus tours to marriage proposals to vacation planning.

Anyone can build their own Google Cardboard – there are no official manufacturers and the whole kit is open source. Want to engrave a VR code that opens up your app? Go for it. Want to add custom branding? No problem. Want to design a shiny gold mirror headset? The sky’s the limit.

Since the kit is made up of inexpensive cardboard, it’s perfect for experimenting and creating your own version using laser cut parts from Ponoko.

To get you started, we’ve put together a handy instructable that walks you through how to laser cut your own Cardboard headset with Ponoko for less than $10.

Got an idea for your own custom-made Google Cardboard compatible headset? Let us know in the comments below!

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 5

Ponoko Cost Saving Guide

Product Recipe #1 – Part 5

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 5: Sell It

With my product line ready to go, it was time to make some money …

Packaging Your Product

Time to consider packaging. l wanted it to look great, but be very low cost. After a bit of experimentation, I came up with this for the cost of $1 per package:

Setting a Profitable Price

With all costs now calculated, it was time to finalize my retail and wholesale pricing.

To start, I used a simple ‘cost plus margin’ pricing model to ensure profitability …

First – Calculate Your Total Production Cost at Various Order Volumes

Total Production Cost = Making + Materials + Shipping + Packaging Costs:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Material Sheets 1 x P1 1 x P3 5 x P3 45 x P3
Free Account Cost $18.64 $123.67 $618.33 $5,070.33
Prime Account Cost $15.69 $91.93 $447.42 $3,028.12
Prime Cost / Set $15.69 $8.36 $7.99 $6.56
Packaging Cost / Set $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56

Second – Calculate Your Profitable Pricing

My rule of thumb is 1 : 2 : 4 … $1 of cost means a $2 wholesale price, means a $4 retail price. In other words:

Profitable Retail Price = 2 x Wholesale Price = 2 x Total Production Cost.

Hence:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Wholesale Margin 50% 50% 50% 50%
Wholesale Price / Set $33.38 $18.72 $17.98 $15.12
My Retail Margin 75% 75% 75% 75%
Retail Price / Set $66.76 $37.44 $35.96 $30.24
Overall Profit 50/50 62.5% 62.5% 62.5% 62.5%

To profit, this shows my retail price needs to be between $30.24 and $66.76 per set of 4 coasters to retain a profit margin of 62.5% assuming a 50:50 split in sales across both retail and wholesale channels.

Third – Set a Retail Price that Feels About Right

The information above coupled with knowing the market price ranges from $15 to $50 per set, I decide that my original retail price target of $30 per set is a good place for me to start.

Hence my profits will actually be:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Retail Price / Set $30 $30 $30 $30
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Retail Margin 44% 69% 70% 75%
Wholesale Price / Set $16.69 $15 $15 $15
My Wholesale Margin 0% 38% 40% 50%
Overall Profit 50/50 22% 54% 55% 62.5%
Prime + Packg Cost $16.69 $102.93 $503.42 $3,489.12

This third table tells me a few important things:

1) My Minimum Order Size - To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 11 sets of coasters at $102.93 per order. This is a good place for me to start my business.

2) My Most Profitable Order Size - To hit my goal of a 62.5% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 461 sets of coasters at $3,489.12 per order. This is a good place for me when I get a reliable stream of retail and/or wholesale orders.

3) Minimum Wholesale Order Size - To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to sell to retailers in a minimum batch of 10 sets of coasters at $150.

4) Tough Retailer Negotiation - To retain my profit margin, a retailer will need to order at least 461 sets of coasters to get a wholesale price less than $15 per set.

5) Taking a Tiny Step First - I know I can order & package just one set of coasters at $16.69 and sell them retail at a 44% profit margin, which is really nice to know if I do not want to spend the next level up at $102.93. But I also know that I can not sell this small order size at the $15 wholesale price because I will make a loss.

Of course, if I’m just getting started I can relax some of these 1:2:4 pricing ‘rules’. But they’re a great place to benchmark what is actually going on with my cash.

Without profit I can not continue my passion of making things for others. With profit I create new possibilities for myself :-)

Profiting from On-Demand Inventory

Continuing on my theme of keeping costs low, I decided to keep my stock digital until I had customer orders. This way I have zero cost until I make a sale and collect the cash.

The third table above shows that I can order just 1 set at $16.69 to fulfill a $30 retail order at a 44% retail margin. But I make nothing on a wholesale order – which tells me I need to set a minimum wholesale order size of at least 10 sets. And, in general, to maintain healthy profits I probably want to produce at least 11 sets each time I get an order, so I have a tiny stock on hand for fast delivery.

My friendly bike store owner pre-ordered 10 sets of 4 cork coasters when I was user testing in his store. He paid me the $150 wholesale price.

So I made the following design (of 45 coasters):

Download design file for this step.

I sold 10 sets for $150 at a cost to me of $93.57 (= $83.57 production + $10 packaging). A 38% wholesale profit margin to get me started ($150 wholesale price – $93.57 total cost = $56.43 profit).

Promoting Your Product

I sell my coasters to retailers and on Etsy. Here are my top tips.

Good Photos Sell

Well lit, crisp high-resolution photos of your product are a must.

Describe Your Product Well

I describe what it is made of, what the dimensions are and what it feels like. I share a bit about myself as well, so folks can identify with me as a person.

Be Pro-Active

Don’t just sit back and wait for customers to come to you. In the case of local bike shops, I just walk in, introduce myself and start a conversation. For larger retailers, I search company websites to get in touch with vendor departments. Wherever possible, I speak directly to their buyers.

Go for it!

  • Imagine it
  • Design it
  • Prototype it
  • Make it
  • Sell it

It really is that easy and low cost to make money selling your own products. You’re only limited by your imagination and determination. Ponoko can help you with the rest :-)

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Booboo – The Interlocking Bamboo Drone

Interlocking bamboo drones from Andy Shen

There’s a lot of buzz around Andy Shen’s drones – and it’s not just the hum of his multi-rotor quadcopters. Earlier this year Motherboard featured Andy’s drones in their coverage of the first ever drone dogfight.

Since then, Andy’s been hard at work on his latest drone, the Booboo. Made from laser cut bamboo, the Booboo’s lightweight frame can be assembled like a 3d puzzle without the need for any glue or hardware. This unique interlocking design makes assembly a snap, while keeping the total weight of the drone to a minimum.

Check out the video below to see the Booboo in action:

Andy got his start flying drones in 2012 as a way to take aerial photographs of bike races. As a professional photographer and an amateur bike racer, Andy was enthralled with the idea of shooting races from the air. Once he started flying, he immediately saw improvements he could make to the drones on the market, so he began designing drones of his own.

After creating his racing quadcopter from CNC’d carbon fiber – the Fast Forward – He got the idea of making laser cut drone frames from Bamboo. His first step was to get his hands on a laser cut sample:

“I was pleasantly surprised to find laser cut bamboo is way cheaper than CNCing G10 or carbon. It also might be pretty light. I measured its surface area by counting pixels in Photoshop, and comparing that to a sample piece I get 112 grams for the frame, which is right on par with carbon frames!”

Andy started work on the Booboo using Google Sketchup. “It helped to build it in a 3d program to make sure all the parts fit correctly.” Andy says, “It’s a great way to visualize things and catch mistakes.” After a night of feverishly designing, he submitted his designs to Ponoko, and had a working prototype in a few weeks.

Andy’s first prototype went through two months of iterations before being ready for production. Andy details his process of testing, flying, designing and iterating over on his blog. After four iterations and a handful of crashes, Andy was ready to put the Booboo into production.

To achieve the Booboo’s unique interlocking design, Andy needed just the right amount of control over his parts, while still having access to Ponoko’s designers when he needed them:

“On the one hand, I love being control: I place the order and I upload the drawings. I’m solely accountable for the accuracy of my order.” Andy says, “On the other hand, the tight tolerances of the job required human supervision, and I was well taken care of by the crew to ensure that the materials met my specifications. It was really the best of both worlds.”

Andy credits Ponoko Prime for helping him keep the costs of his final product down. “You can’t beat Prime” Andy says, “Prime brought my costs down and allowed me to offer the Booboo at the right price for my customers. The Booboo is only viable at a certain pricepoint, so without Ponoko and Prime it would never see production.”

I asked Andy which drones are his favorite, and where he likes to fly. “We have a few spots in the city” Andy says “and we also have a club out on Long Island for weekends. For pure speed I fly the Fast Forward, and if I want to zone out and feel like a bird I fly the Booboo.”

Andy’s advice for designers just starting out with their own product line? “There’s few things more gratifying than seeing your idea realized in a tangible object” Andy says “There’s tons of great tips on the Ponoko site, so read them all and go for it.”

You can read about all of Andy’s drones at shendrones.com, and you can get a drone of your own at Andy’s Shopify Site.

Inspired to create your own product line? Make it with Ponoko!

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 4

Ponoko laser cut cost saving guide 1

Product Recipe #1 – Part 4

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 4: Make It

And now for the fun stuff…

My Final Design & Material Choice

From the price testing and cardboard prototype earlier, I decided on this final design. And from the three $2.50 material samples I bought earlier, I decided to do my first real test using the cork material:

Download design file for this step.

Make a Few for User Testing

I laid out my winning coaster design onto a template for the smallest P1 material sheet size and ordered:

Yippeee! My Final Product

A few days later I received a very special delivery. I was pretty excited!

Time for User Testing

I tested my coasters with potential customers – biking friends, my friendly bike store owner and his customers. They loved the design and I took pre-orders.

But some wanted a different material. So I repeated the process above to make some in black acrylic …

Final Product Line!

With cork and black acrylic coasters in my new product line, I was ready to sell.

Making tests in the final material choice enables you to trial your actual product with potential customers. This way, you can get a real feel for how people will respond to your design, and also make any last-minute changes in response to genuine feedback before moving ahead with the final production run. It was through this process that Jill discovered a demand for alternate material options, an important marketing opportunity that she otherwise may have missed.

Next up in Part 5 of this Ponoko Product Recipe we look at preparing the product for sale and making sure that the final pricing is right for the coasters to sell at a profit.

How have you tested your production-ready designs before moving on to the final sale item? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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Spend $50 or more at Ponoko, get a FREE $50 Making Voucher

An Independence Day deal for the independent designer

This summer we’re celebrating Independence Day by offering up an independent designer’s favorite deal:

Spend $50 or more at Ponoko, get a FREE $50 Making Voucher.

This is our first offer of the year, and one of only 1-2 per year, so get it while it’s hot!

To get your $50 making voucher:

  1. Log in to your Ponoko account. If you don’t have one, sign up for free here.
  2. Place an order for $50 or more at the Ponoko US or NZ hub.
  3. Type ‘July15’ in the coupon box while checking out, and we’ll email you your $50 Making Voucher.

Things you should know: Offer good for making stuff with laser cutting at Ponoko in the US or NZ. Showroom, Metal, 3D or sample store purchases do not qualify. $50 minimum does not include shipping. Other coupon codes or vouchers cannot be used with this offer. Offer totally valid for Ponoko Prime accounts! Offer ends at 11:59pm pacific time on July 4, 2015

About the free Making Voucher: Promotional making voucher is good towards the making costs of a future laser cutting order, not the initial $50 order. One promotional voucher per account. Promotional voucher must be used before the end of summer, ‘officially’ September 22, 2015. Promotional vouchers cannot be split between multiple orders.

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Second Time’s a Charm: The Sleep Sensei Kickstarter Comeback

5 Lessons from an unsuccessful Kickstarter

Jeremy Wilson is the mechanical engineer behind the Sleep Sensei – A sleep coaching device that sits on your nightstand and gently guides you towards a deep, restful sleep.

Last November, Jeremy set out to secure funding for the Sleep Sensei on Kickstarter. While the first campaign raised over $2,500, the project still fell short of it’s goal.

Now Jeremy is back with a new video, a revamped campaign and an updated Sleep Sensei.

So what did he do differently? What lessons did he learn? Here are five key take-aways from his Kickstarter to yours:

#1 Set the Right Goal
Being flexible with the amount of units he planned to sell was important to Jeremy, especially given how the first campaign hit only 10% of his original goal. Thanks to scalable manufacturing from Ponoko, Jeremy’s second Kickstarter goal could be more conservative: “I have plans for how I can produce 100 units, and how I can produce 1000+ units” Jeremy says, “while still keeping my costs low enough to recoup my development costs.”

One thing to keep in mind: setting a smaller goal won’t keep you from having a huge success. In fact, people are more likely to pile on once they see you’ve met your goal.

#2 Get a Hand With Your Video
According to Kickstarter, projects with videos succeed at a rate of 50% while those without tend to only get funded 30% of the time. So how do you make sure your video is a success? For starters, don’t do it all yourself. Get someone else behind the camera so you can focus on sharing your passion with your audience. This time around, Jeremy got help from his girlfriend to shoot & direct the video. In addition, he reached out to lots of friends and family to get feedback before posting. “I found it was very useful to get outsider’s opinions on these things” says Jeremy, “they could catch details that I left out, or things that were unclear to those unfamiliar with the product.”

#3 Get to a Final Design, Quick
Soon after the prototyping phase is over, most hardware founders start making plans on how to launch a pre-order campaign on Kickstarter. This has several advantages: you can get feedback from your backers before you’ve set your design in stone, and you can beat any potential competition by being first to market.

But this approach does have it’s drawbacks: “In my last Kickstarter the design of the Sleep Sensei was not finalized, so backers didn’t necessarily know what to expect would arrive at their doorstep when the campaign ended.” Jeremy says “Between the end of the last campaign and this one, I finalized the design, added a few features to the functionality of the device, and made a handful of test units to get confidence in the manufacturability and usability of the product.”

#4 Don’t Forget About Your Offline Audience
By finalizing his design early, Jeremy was able to test out and get first hand reactions to the Sleep Sensei. He brought the finalized prototype to the Bay Area Maker Faire and listened to the kinds of questions potential backers had. Any questions that came up repeatedly were added to his project’s F.A.Q.

In addition to spreading the word, getting offline input like this provided Jeremy with customer feedback and insights that he couldn’t have gotten online.

#5 Get The Word Out
Kickstarter is a chance to put your project into the world, but it won’t happen if you don’t tell people about it. “You can have the best product in the world,” Jeremy says, “but nobody will find out about it without a bit of networking and marketing. Find a local maker space, find a meetup, share your ideas with your friends, attend a convention, or find a forum online that would be interested. Get the word out any and every way you can!”.

In addition, try to get your product into the hands of as many people as you can while you’re still developing it. In Jeremy’s case, this meant running an informal sleep study with users he found on an insomnia form, and using their feedback to craft his final product.

The Takeaway:
Even if your first Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, the lessons you’ll learn will be indispensable. Sometimes, a failed campaign is the perfect way to learn how to succeed next time around.

If you are one of those folks who just can’t stop their mind racing at the end of the day (maybe obsessing over the details of your next crowdfunding campaign?) then head over to Kickstarter to get your hands on a Sleep Sensei of your own.

Was this post helpful to you? Got any comeback tips of your own? Let us know in the comments.

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 3

Keep your laser cutting costs down with the Ponoko Product Recipe

Product Recipe #1 – Part 3

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 3: Prototype It

My goal was to find a happy compromise between design aesthetics (look/feel) and efficient engineering (cost).

Zero Cost Prototyping!

Before I paid to make anything, I used my Personal Factory to price lots of design iterations instantly. I learned a whole lot and it didn’t cost me a bean …

Summary:

Target Production Cost = $1.88 per coaster (75% off retail).
First Quote – #1 = $5.40 per coaster (28% off retail).
Final Quote – #9 = $1.64 per coaster (78% off retail) !!

Here’s what I did to reduce my production cost, without actually making anything:   (more…)

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 2

Keep your laser cutting costs down with the Ponoko Product Recipe

Product Recipe #1 – Part 2

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 2: Design It

Now that I had an idea of where I wanted to go, it was time to prepare my first design for laser cutting. Here are my top tips.

Download a Laser Design Template

Open a Personal Factory laser design template in Adobe Illustrator. Using the template makes it so much easier to get a good result.

Use Existing Images

I did an image search to find a few gears with crisp images on a clean white background to make outlining easier:

Next – I imported the images into Adobe Illustrator, and converted the gears into black outlines:

Get the Essentials Right – Line Colors & Widths

I needed to use these settings to cut along the lines of the gear drawings:

* Stroke Color – Blue (R0, G0, B255).

* Stroke Width – 0.01mm.

To engrave along the lines of the gear drawings I needed to use these settings:

* Stroke Color – Red (R255, G0, B0).

* Stroke Width – 0.01mm.

To summarise Part 2 of the Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide; Jill downloaded a design template from Ponoko, selected an image and refined the linework in Illustrator, and then ensured that the line colors and widths were compatible with the laser cutting guidelines provided in the template.

With the design sorted, our next step is to look at making a prototype. Continue reading Part 3 of this Ponoko Product Recipe for handy tips that will keep your laser cutting costs as low as possible.

How do you prepare your designs so that they are ready for laser cutting? Tell us about your process in the comments below.

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