Step-by-Step: Laser Cutting Tutorial – Part 1

Getting started with your Ponoko Personal Factory

In this back-to-basics tutorial video, we walk through the process of making a set of laser cut coasters from a free design file.

Following these steps is a great way to get started with Ponoko and realise what’s possible using your own Personal Factory.

In a few short minutes, you will know how to:

• Download a free design file
• Add it to your Personal Factory
• Choose material options to get personal pricing
• Place an order

We’ve made it really easy to start making and get a feel for the laser cutting process. Stay tuned for future posts in this back-to-basics series as you work towards generating your own custom designs and becoming a successful digital maker.

Here is where you can download the free design file featured in the video: Custom Made Coasters

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10 things to know before laser cutting with Ponoko

Useful information for both new users and laser cutting veterans

Are you a seasoned Ponoko maker? Or perhaps your imagination has been tingling and you are bursting to make your very first Ponoko product.

Either way, here is a top-10 list that we think will come in handy for those new to laser cutting, and it also contains useful information that will help more experienced Ponoko members keep things running smoothly.

Let us know what you would add!

1. How long it will take to make and ship your order.

We make all orders as quickly as we can, and how long that takes depends on the volume of orders we are processing at any one time. Due to the number of variables involved, we’ve written a separate post to help you work out the likely total time your order will take.
Read about our order timeframes.

2. If you are using Inkscape, you MUST use our design templates, or your design will be sized incorrectly.

We strongly recommend that everyone use our templates for laying out their laser cutting designs. If you are using Inkscape *it is 100% necessary*. The way that Inkscape works with measurements is different to other vector-based design software packages, and if you do not use our templates your parts will be made the wrong size. If you’ve already got an Inkscape design ready, we have created a guide to putting it on our templates.
Read how to place existing Inkscape designs onto our templates.

…so that’s the first two, and there are eight further important pointers to wrap your head around when you continue reading the full post.   (more…)

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Design Challenge: Over $2,500 up for Grabs!

This month, we’ve added three new premium wood veneers to our materials catalogue. To celebrate, we’re throwing a design challenge with $2,500+ in prizes up for grabs!

The Challenge:

Using one of our new premium materials, design a product that flaunts your creative brilliance and showcases the quality of our new premium materials.

The Materials:

Left to right: 3.5mm Maple, Cherry & Walnut Veneer. Click here to enlarge.

These high quality veneers have a wood laminate on each side which is sanded smooth and finished with a clear coat. The premium appearance makes these materials ideal for jewelry, coasters, clocks, or other high end products.

How to Enter:

Step 1 – Make with a Free P1:

Place an order with your Personal Factory using one or more of our new premium materials. To give you a leg up, your first P1 is on us.

Step 2 – Submit:

Take some great photos of your creation and share them with us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram before 10pm PDT on August 24, 2014. Use the hashtag #ponokonewmaterials to make your entry official.

Step 3 – Vote:

We will select the top sumbissions and post them on our blog for the community to vote; then it’s up to you to tell your friends and family to head over to our blog so they can vote for you!

Check out the design challenge rules & guidelines for all of the competition details.

Competition Calendar:

The Prizes: (Over $2,500 up for grabs!)

  • Grand Prize – $600 worth of making with your Personal Factory + free Prime for one year ($1,068 value.)
  • 2nd Place – $450 worth of making with your Personal Factory + free Prime for one year ($918 value.)
  • 3rd Place – $300 worth of making with your Personal Factory + free Prime for 6 months ($434 value.)

How Voting Works:

Ponoko will select the finalists and post them to our blog on August 26th, 2014. Readers with vote for their favorites on our blog between August 26th and September 1st.

All winners will be announced via the blog on August 26th, 2014.

Judging Criteria:

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

  • Clarity and resolution of design.
  • Originality.
  • Presentation and photography.
  • Interesting use of material(s).
  • Attention to detail.
  • Production feasibility.
  • Market appeal.

Again, be sure to check out all of the competition rules and guidelines before submitting, and good luck!

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What is Laser Cutting?

Taking a step back to go through some laser cutter basics.

What is laser cutting, and why are we so excited about it?
As we’ll see in this brief overview, laser cutting is a relatively simple technology that makes it possible to cut or etch forms from sheet materials.

Laser cutters work in a similar way to other CNC (computer controlled) tools, however the cutting is done with a powerful beam of light instead of a sharp blade. To cut, the laser beam is focused to hit the material at a precise point, causing it to melt, burn or vaporize. Etching is achieved by focusing the laser on the surface of the material, where it will only burn or vaporize the topmost layer.

Laser Cutting is particularly useful because it works touch-free, meaning no mechanical forces or pressures are transferred to the material. This enables delicate cutting paths that can be repeated with a high level of precision, whether they are cut all the way through the material or etched as an impression onto the surface.   (more…)

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NEW Materials: Three New Premium Veneers

Three new premium wood veneers for your premium products

EDIT: 7/15 – To celebrate the launch of these new premium materials, we’re throwing a design competition with over $2,500 worth of prizes up for grabs!

Left to right: 3.5mm Maple, Cherry & Walnut Veneer

We’ve expanded our material selection in the US with three new premium wood veneers.

These high quality veneers have a wood laminate on each side which is sanded smooth and finished with a clear coat. The premium appearance makes these materials ideal for jewelry, coasters, clocks, or other high end products.

Click on the images below or head over to the materials page to get all the details on our new premium woods.

Premium Veneer MDF – Cherry:

Premium Veneer MDF – Maple:

Premium Veneer MDF – Walnut:

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We’re Hiring! Community & Customer Success Manager

Ponoko is looking for a Community Manager to lead our growing community of product designers

You can’t imagine anything better than working with an innovative industry pioneer, leading an online community of 100,000+ product designers making and selling their custom products online.

You’re a natural communicator who delights customers all day long by delivering a highly empathetic, top quality and timely customer service experience.

You will answer questions regarding our services, help our customers successfully prepare their design files to make their product ideas real, and liaise with our production team to ensure on-time delivery of quality custom products.

This is a great opportunity for a recent communications or arts graduate, designer or maker to immerse into the world of custom product design and online digital making. And to be the ‘customer’s voice’ at our innovative and creative business, renown for over the top customer service.

Ponoko was the first to help designers make and sell their products online, enabling them to make a living from their creativity. We’re one of the world’s leading companies in the online digital making industry, and have been featured in places like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN Money, Inc. Magazine (cover), Forbes, Wired, Core77, TechCrunch, Makezine, MIT Technology Review, BBC News and The Economist.

Key Duties
• Manage our community of designers and inspire creative opportunities.
• Answer inbound email (and some phone) questions relating to customer orders, design file preparation, materials and our service generally.
• Interact with our community through various channels – email, social media, in person at events.
• Inspire customers through timely and creative resolution of their enquiries.
• Coordinate order fulfillment and customer happiness with the production team.
• Delight customers with the unexpected, and put a smile on their faces.

Reporting
• Report to the Chief Executive.
• Manage the customer service team.

Key Qualifications
• 2-3 years in customer service / customer success / community management.
• Impeccable verbal and written communication skills.
• Thrives in situations where electronic communication is the primary medium.
• Happy, empathetic, calm and professional when assisting customers.
• Proactive. Detail oriented. Process driven. All three.
• Likes to lead and enjoys working independently.
• Effective at multi­tasking and prioritizing the daily rush of tasks.
• Vector design skills with Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape and Coreldraw.
• Current authorization to work in the United States on a full­time basis.

Other Qualifications We Love But Don’t Require

• Designing for digital fabrication.
• Experience with laser cutting.
• Managing others towards a goal.
• 3D modeling with Solidworks, 123D, Inventor, Blender, SketchUp, Rhino, Meshlab, and Netfabb.

Benefits
• Market salary.
• Unlimited paid time off.
• Run your own ship.
• Employee rates on laser cutting your own stuff.
• Stock options.

To Apply
Introduce yourself and send your resume and examples of your customer interaction work or writing to derek [at] ponoko [dot] com.

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Introducing Loyalty Pricing for Prime Members

Save up to 55%, just for sticking with Prime

As a way to say “thanks” to all our loyal Prime customers, we are offering a lower per-minute rate for laser cutting for every month you are a Prime customer.

Your lower per-minute rate starts the month you sign up for Prime:

Month 1: 32.5% off ($1.35/minute).
Month 2: 33.5% off ($1.33/minute).
Month 3: 34.5% off ($1.33/minute).
Month 4: 36% off ($1.28/minute).
Month 5: 37.5% off ($1.25/minute).
Month 6: 39.5% off ($1.21/minute).
Month 7: 41.5% off ($1.17/minute).
Month 8: 43.5% off ($1.13/minute).
Month 9: 46% off ($1.08/minute).
Month 10: 48.5% off ($1.03/minute).
Month 11: 51.5% off ($0.97/minute).
Months 12+: 55% off ($0.90/minute).

You will automatically receive your new loyalty rate each month you renew your Prime subscription. You will always receive the lowest price as between your loyalty rate and your volume rate.

How to get these lower rates:

  1. Join Prime.
  2. Place your order as normal.
  3. That’s it! Loyalty pricing will automatically be applied to your order every month.

Notes: Lower pricing applies to laser making costs (excluding metal laser and 3D printing), when ordering from Ponoko US and NZ. You’ll lose your entire loyalty status if you quit your Prime account.

If you have any questions about volume pricing don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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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

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 a $50 minimum order at the Ponoko US or NZ hub.
3. Type ‘JULY4’ in the special shipping instructions, and we’ll email you your $50 Making Voucher.

Things you should know: Offer good for making stuff with laser cutting at Ponoko. Showroom 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 only good at Ponoko US and NZ. Offer totally valid for Ponoko Prime accounts! Offer ends at 8pm pacific time on July 4, 2014.

About the free Making Voucher: Promotional voucher redeemable until Sept 4th, 2014. Promotional making voucher is good for a future order, not the initial $50 order. One promotional voucher per account. (Making Vouchers are good on making costs only.)

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Making Cannons with Lasers

Fully Functional Black Powder Cannons from Mini Cannon Tech

Alexander Sarnowski is the product designer behind Mini Cannon Tech – fully functional mini-sized cannons that combine CNC metal machining with wood laser cutting.

For as long as he can remember, Alexander has been building everything from his own morse code machines to home made rocket motors. For his 16th birthday his father bought him a mid-sized lathe, and since then he’s been designing and cranking out parts every chance he gets.

The inspiration behind his miniature civil war cannons came when he manufactured a cannon for his grandfather’s birthday.

“I made him a fully functional miniature civil war mortar out of brass, and he was more excited than I’ve ever seen him about anything. I think that was the point where I realized that I might be on to something.”

Alexander started his research on the mini cannon market and quickly found that while there were plenty of functional cannons available, most of them weren’t nearly as realistic as the ones he had in mind. So he set out to create a scaled down civil-war era black powder cannon that was fully functional, small enough to fit on a desk, and made from historically accurate materials. 

Alexander knew his way around a lathe, so the barrels wouldn’t be a problem. The wood carriages however, would have been impossible to make by hand at the scale he wanted. That’s where Ponoko came in:

“My roommate had ordered laser cut parts from Ponoko for one of his robotics projects, so I asked him if Ponoko also cut wood. I had plenty of CAD experience, so discovering Ponoko was the last piece to the puzzle.”

Once he learned what was possible with Ponoko, designing the first prototype “only took me a few hours” he says, adding that “the time it took me to bolt it all together was only a few minutes, thanks to how accurately the laser cut parts were.” He cites the help he got early-on as one of the top reasons he likes Ponoko:

“I have made some orders where I didn’t compensate for the heat of the laser properly,” he says “so Ponoko sent me exactly what I had ordered AND a redesigned layout for my parts to insure that my parts came out correctly.”

Mini Cannon Tech is now the producer of some of the smallest, and most realistic shootable Civil War cannons online. And yes, these incredibly small cannons can really fire! Using the same process as a real cannon, real black powder is used to fire a small projectile over 100 feet. Check out the video below to see the cannons in action:

His first run of cannons quickly sold out to customers worldwide. I asked Alexander if he had any future products on the horizon.

“The great thing about model cannons is that there are literally thousands of different cannons that existed throughout history so we will never have a shortage of ideas and new products.” he says. “Right now in the works we’ve got models of Civil War mortars, the highly acclaimed Parrott rifle, and the champion of the Mexican War, the 1841 6-Pounder Smoothbore.”

What is Alexander’s advice for designers hoping to make “bang” with their product? “Only make something you are truly passionate about. If you do this, your products will inherently improve over time and your passion will show to people who are looking for a quality product. Don’t do it because you can, do it because you want to. ”

You can get your own realistic, miniature shootable cannon at Mini Cannon Tech.

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The Kyub MIDI keyboard hits Kickstarter

The Kyub offers a six-sided twist on the usual 2D keyboard

Meet the Kyub, a compact, fully programmable MIDI interface that provides a new way to compose, record and perform music.

The Kyub features 11 fully programmable feather-touch keypads that connect to any computer or synthesizer via USB. Inside, an accelerometer tracks the movement of the Kyub to control the volume of the notes played.

These features make the interface really responsive, however the truly amazing thing is the way the Kyub is played. Check out the Kickstarter video below to see the Kyub in action:

The Kyub is designed as a kit that can be assembled at home by just about anyone, using laser cut parts from Ponoko.

If you’re short on soldering skills, you can back the Kyub and get a fully assembled unit as a reward. The Kyub is made to be as open and maker-friendly as possible, any computer-based synthesizer can be used to work with the Kyub.

If all this has got you excited for some cubed-out synth action, head over to the Kyub Kickstarter page to support the project and help make the Kyub a reality.

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