Laser Cut Success Stories: Akujin Corps Etsy Store

How to quit your day job and find success with niche laser cut products 

akujincorps - laser cut glasses

Robert Overstreet was once a mild mannered IT consultant with a passion for cosplay on the side, but thanks to some clever design thinking and effective use of the Ponoko Personal Factory, his Akujin Corps Etsy store has turned into a serious full-time business.

Akujin Corps specialises in laser cut acrylic glasses for cosplay enthusiasts. The designs are inspired by the dynamic characters from various anime, comics and other media – a wildly creative culture where everyday boundaries blur with fantastical action and adventure.

Let’s take a look at Robert’s journey and reflections on his laser cutting experience with Ponoko.

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How did you get started as a designer and seller on Etsy?

To be honest I do not recall how I found Etsy. I expect it was mentioned somewhere while looking for alternatives to eBay.

What was the inspiration behind your product?

I started going to conventions in the mid-1990s. As cosplay started becoming more common over the next few years I noticed a lot of Vash cosplayers did not have glasses or had poor replicas. I searched online and found the official movic replicas selling on eBay for $150-$300 and the poor replicas selling at about $90. I bought up a few pairs of similar looking glasses and modified the arms and started selling them for $20 on eBay. I did not make a lot, but I made enough to afford buying more glasses to modify as well as my anime, comics and games.

What led to you try Ponoko?

Before I found Ponoko my products were very limited. I mostly worked with existing products that I purchased modified, then resold.

In 2012 I discovered Ponoko. Now I could design and cut acrylic and started making unique designs instead of modifying existing products. When business started picking up in late 2013 I had to choose between working full-time in IT for the county or my glasses. Certain circumstances came up and I put in my two weeks notice with the county and have been making glasses since.
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What are the top 3 things you love about Ponoko? Why?

The simple design requirements, the great customer service, and a fairly decent number of materials to choose from.

The design requirements are easy to understand and work with in inkscape which is free. Files can be created saved edited without expensive software or conversion.
It is not unusual for me to receive product and let it sit for a few days before I need to assemble a piece from the lastest Ponoko delivery. Sometimes I find my acrylic parts are damaged under the original paper by the manufacturer. When I contact Ponoko about this issue or other issues like product broken in the mail or cut in the wrong color which both very rarely occur, I never have any trouble getting in touch with Ponoko’s customer service who quickly arrange for a replacement. The number of materials to choose from in acrylic alone is pretty great. I have only run into a few instances where color limitation was an issue and in those cases Ponoko was willing to help me with a custom order.

How did you make (and sell) your glasses before Ponoko? How is this different from your Ponoko process?

From 1996 until 2012 I worked with existing products modifying them to create new products. I believe I had about 17 unique products until I started working with Ponoko. After the discovery of Ponoko in late 2012 I went from making a few different products to hundreds of unique items in less than a year.

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How long does it take to go from: (i) idea to design; (ii) design to prototype; (ii) prototype to product; (iv) product to first customer (or media attention)? How do these 4 speeds compare to doing this without Ponoko?

With Ponoko, From idea to design takes an hour or two, and design to prototype takes about a week. If the design works out I also end up with a product at this point. If the design does not work out I am looking at another hour or two fixing issues with the design and another week waiting for the revised design to be delivered. Once I have a new product listed on Etsy I usually have my first order within a week. Without Ponoko or a similar service my business does not exist.

What advice do you want to give to other designer/sellers?

Do not take criticism and feedback personally, but do not let people walk all over you either. Customer service is important but you should expect to be treated respectfully by your customers as well.

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So now that you know the story behind Akujin Corps, you can find the current range of laser cut cosplay glasses on Etsy.

If you’re inspired by Robert’s success to try laser cutting your own products, head over to the Ponoko Personal Factory and start making today.

 

Exciting New Materials: 3 Glitter Acrylics and Blonde Bamboo Ply

A little glitz and glamour is coming your way, USA. We’ve just released 3 glitter acrylics that look amazing for jewelry projects or anything that needs a little sparkle to standout.

Acrylics are hard and stiff plastics that can be cut with precision for small jewelry like earrings or tableware, electronics enclosures, conference badges, signage, book covers, POS displays and more. They’re non-toxic and even recyclable in some areas.

Acrylic Glitter Black

This striking new acrylic can give extra depth to your projects. The transparent black acrylic has flecks of black glitter that reflect light. It a great option for keychains such as in the example we have.

Acrylic Glitter Silver

This transparent silver acrylic has flakes of silver in it that catch the light and make it shimmer — making it feel just a little bit more special than regular acrylic material. It really looks lovely as a pair of posh earrings.

 

Acrylic Glitter Gold

This transparent acrylic with specks of gold glitter look amazing on different projects. You can use it for your wedding products such as cake toppers or as a phone cover for that extra bling.

 

One of our most popular materials – the blonde bamboo – is now available in New Zealand.

Blonde Bamboo

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We’ve been seeing a lot of cool projects getting made with this material. Here’s an example from Iluxo that we really love.

blonde bamboo ply

 

Got any ideas for what you want to make with these new materials? Tell us about it in the comment section.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #41

Trade Show Marketing: How to attract people to your booth with gifts/giveaways and promo products

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Setting up at a trade show so that your brand can have maximum impact is important, not only to ensure that you get noticed on the day but also so that your presence is memorable beyond the trade event itself. Promotional products and giveaways are a great way to create these interest and memory triggers, so let’s take a look at how to get the most out of this essential trade show marketing tool.

Understanding value

Choosing what to use as a giveaway item at your booth will only work for your brand if it has value – both in terms of being cost effective for your company and also a sense of value to the potential customer. While it might be nice to give away iPads or other fancy items, most companies simply don’t have a budget that stretches this far! A small, interesting keepsake is more realistic; and that is where laser cutting services can best provide unique customized solutions for your brand.

Quality vs quantity

Setting a budget for your promotional products (and, more importantly, sticking to it) will free you up to focus on developing more effective solutions for your brand. Being cost effective is important but that does not mean you have to be cheap! Your brand is more likely to make an impact if you can increase the desirability of giveaway items by being selective about who they are handed out to, rather than flooding the floor with cheap promo products that have no meaning or context for the recipient.

Targeting booth visitors based on criteria that promotes common ground and also business opportunities sets up the exchange for your valued, quality item. The result will be something that is a real conversation-starter both at the time of interaction on your stand and also when they return to their co-workers after the show.

Be interesting

Visitors to your booth need to be enticed to take a closer look, and clever promotional products are a good way to get peoples’ attention. For laser cut trade show giveaways, this could mean something that is particularly useful, and/or something that is incredibly unique. If your promo item comes under either of these two categories, then chances are it will make it further than the unfortunate (and inevitable) post-show purge when so much mindless event collateral gets tossed in the trash.

Don’t forget Branding

While we are talking here about trying to do more than the obvious solution of plonking your company logo on the side of a pencil, it is important to ensure that your company branding is a part of the promotional product outcome. Laser cutting services like Ponoko’s Personal Factory are a good way to incorporate branding and brand messaging in clever and unique ways that will help your promotional products have brand recognition and lasting value.

Variety

Preparing your trade show campaign with more than one promotional item can ensure you are ready for unexpected outcomes on the day. You may have come up with a clever, unique solution… only to find that the stall across from you has also been clever and unique to the point where attendees find it difficult to distinguish between the two! Providing more than one item means you are more likely to have something truly unique in the sea of booths at the show.

Another possibility is that your killer promo idea is so successful that supplies quickly run out, leaving you with just a smile and a handshake to offer further visitors. You are less likely to run out of giveaways if visitors to your booth can choose between a few options. If you do happen to run out of one of them, you will have a backup or two to ensure awareness of your brand is effectively passed on.

Planning ahead

All of the above tips won’t count for much if your timing is off. Be sure to plan your promotional products with enough lead time to design, source and/or produce the items. While laser cutting services do have a quick turnaround, planning ahead will mean you can get the most out of the versatility that laser cutting can provide.

Try to fit the following into your pre-event workflow:

– Start with a test run to prototype your solution before committing to the final order. For many laser cut solutions the first step is to mock-up your design on paper with a desktop printer!
– Next, send through a few variations to your Personal Factory to further test and refine the laser cut/laser etched designs.
– Allow enough time for the finishing touches. Depending on your design, laser cut items may need to be cleaned, assembled, or inserted into packaging.

Keeping on top of this will give you the confidence that your promotional product is ready for the public by the time the trade event comes around.

Ask for help!

The friendly staff at Ponoko are not only experts when it comes to the technical side of making laser cut promotional products, they are also capable designers and clever thinkers in their own right. So if you have an awesome idea for your next trade show but are not quite sure how to make it happen, do get in touch at any stage of the project to see if we can help you reach a successful outcome.

How have you had success on the floor at trade events 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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How To Make Your Own Laser Cut Precision Tools

Taking measures into your own hands

Just Add Sharks Laser Cut Caliper

How do you know if your projects are as precise as can be? While we can get a certain level of control by squeezing our fingers together and taking an educated guess, sometimes you need the cold hard facts. That’s where measuring devices such as vernier callipers come in handy to narrow down the numbers.

Inspired by some 3D printed measuring tools they had seen, the guys over at Just Add Sharks fired up their lasers to cut a set of fully functional callipers (above) from 1.5mm birch ply. The components were laser cut and glued together, and then to round things off an additional set of radius guides (below) allow for internal and external radii to be checked for accuracy.

Just Add Sharks radius guides

Looking for a fun weekend project? The files for these laser cut precision tools can be downloaded from the source article at Just Add Sharks, so head over there if you’d like to make your own laser cut measuring guides in your material of choice from the Ponoko Personal Factory.

via Just Add Sharks

Spend $50 or More at Ponoko, Get a FREE $50 Making Voucher

An Independence Day Deal For The Independent Designer

Independence Day Promo - Laser Cutting Promo

The independent designer’s favorite deal is back! This summer, let’s celebrate Independence Day with 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 ‘JULY16’ in the coupon box while checking out, and we’ll email 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 good at Ponoko US and NZ only. Offer also valid for Ponoko Prime accounts. Offer starts 8:00am Pacific Time on June 4, 2016 and ends at 11:59pm Pacific Time on July 4, 2016.

About The Free Making Voucher:

Promotional voucher redeemable until Sept 4th, 2016. Promotional making voucher is good for a future laser cutting order, not the initial $50 order. One promotional voucher per account. (Making Vouchers are good on making costs only.)

3 New Materials To Inspire New Projects: Peel & Stick Veneers

Sticker Products

Need something new to inspire your next laser cut wood project? Can’t find the right material that offers flexibility and versatility? Check out our latest additions to our material selection. The wood design on these peel & stick veneers offer incredible detail.

The premium grade real wood veneer has a pressure sensitive adhesive backing. The veneer is quite flexible along the grain and can be applied to curved surfaces. They’re great for jewelry projects, to stick on to acrylics or to create amazing 3D stickers. Your imagination is the only limit to you how you can use the walnut, bamboo amber and bamboo blonde peel & stick veneers for your next laser cut wood project.

Click on the images below to get all the details on our new premium peel & stick veneers.

Peel & Stick Veneer – Walnut

Walnut has rich, chocolate hues, auburn undertones, and beautiful grain patterns that make it appealing as material for projects that need stronger color contrast.

laser cut wood veneer

Peel & Stick Veneer – Bamboo Amber

Bamboo has a beautiful fine grain which may have some visible joints on the surface to break up the grain — giving it a unique appearance. The Amber version has a  golden brown color, a great choice for neutral-looking jewelry projects.

laser cut wood veneer - bamboo amber

Peel & Stick Veneer – Bamboo Blonde

The natural occurence of joints on this other new bamboo is also a welcome break from the fine grain. It has a golden color that is a few shades lighter than the Amber version.

laser cut wood veneer - bamboo blonde

 

 

We’d love to know your ideas for things you can make with these new materials. Comment them below.

How To Make a Customized Jigsaw Puzzle

Laser Cut Educational Toys

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Personalised toys can make a great gift, adding something unique and memorable to show how much you care. It’s one of those things that many people think about doing, but never take the first steps to actually make it happen. Let’s take a look at how easy it can be to put together a personalised laser cut educational toy.

As you can see in this guide on Instructables, it is possible to achieve a highly resolved, professional-looking outcome even for those who are new to laser cutting. The guide, written by Ponoko’s own Dan Emery, walks through a process of creating the cutting pattern for the jigsaw pieces using Inkscape, and then building a custom map section that will become the laser etched details.    (more…)

Get Creative with 3 New Two-Color Acrylics

Have you seen our latest two-color acrylics in modern tones? We hope these spark your creativity and inspire you for your next laser-cut project. Our new acrylics are 0.8 – 2.1mm thick. With a thin layer of a different colored plastic on top. Engraving reveals the second acrylic color underneath. This results in a dramatic effect perfect for making jewelry, tableware, electronics enclosures, conference badges, signage, book covers, point of sale displays and more.

We have three new two-color acrylics available:

White on Black

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Brushed Silver on Black 

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Black on White

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What we love about the two-color  acrylic is how it changes the overall look of the finished product. Here’s a great example of brushed silver on black:

Promo products

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #36

Laser Cut Cross Stitching

laser cut cross stitch

The crafty, handmade look of cross stitch embroidery has something wonderfully warm and fuzzy about it. While the regular grid of holes speaks of an industrial precision, the contrast of woven yarn introduces a human element that is organic and inviting.

Laser Cut Cross Stitch Inspiration

The pendant above was made by Rebecca from Hugs are Fun as a gift for her dad. Over time, Rebecca has refined her techniques to become a bit of an expert at making all kinds of laser cut cross stitched whimsies. It’s well worth browsing through her website for inspiration, patterns, project ideas and even items to purchase.

How to use Laser Cutting for cross stitching

Cross stitching describes an embroidery technique of tracing out patterns using yarn or other coiled materials. In these particular examples, the yarn is threaded through a defined pattern of laser cut holes to generate the raster-like effect. With a little creative thought and planning, you can come up with many interesting variants based on this core idea.

The material of choice can be any of our usual laser cutting favorites. Bamboo ply, acrylic, metals or even leather and felt will all respond well as substrates for the cross stitch technique.

For versatile cross stitched patterns, a grid of laser cut holes will allow for quirky pixellated artwork or logos. It can also be effective to cut only the holes you need to define the form; leaving the substrate surface bare either to have presence in its own right or as an optional space for further laser etched details.

Can you give your brand a cross stitched crafty twist with 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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At Your Next Event.

Your Promo Products Designed By 171,793 Designers.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #34

Themed ‘Build Your Own’ event kits

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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.


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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.

Stand Out
At Your Next Event.

Your Promo Products Designed By 171,793 Designers.

Get 5 Fresh Ideas For Free »