Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #1

Make a Digital Prototype Before You Spend Any Money

When you make something with Ponoko, there are 3 key costs to consider:

Making, Materials, and Shipping.

Making cost is all about labor — mostly machine labor and a little bit of human labor. Think of your design file as a work order; a set of instructions for the machine to follow. The simpler and more efficient your instructions are, the less time it takes the machine to follow them. And that means lower making costs.

Materials vary greatly in cost and your material choice will also have an impact on making time. The general rule is that thinner (and lighter) materials will cut faster, and the quicker your design gets cut the less it will cost you.

Shipping costs can have quite an impact on smaller projects, so see if you are able to combine several products onto a larger sheet size to reduce the per-unit price. For larger or more complex designs, it may be worthwhile taking advantage of Ponoko’s $100 free shipping threshold.

In this series of posts, we expand on each of these areas to give you the 10 best ways to keep your laser cutting costs down.


Tip #1: Digital Prototyping

Before spending any money, you can actually save a surprising amount just by tweaking the order process so that everything works in your favor.

Ponoko users may be familiar with the Product Recipe, a handy Ponoko walkthrough that new users are taken to as an introductory tour after creating an account.

A part of the process that is explained is the concept of Digital (or Zero Cost) Prototyping. How this works is that the Personal Factory is used to price many different design iterations instantly, revealing where the project can be optimised to save money on laser cutting, shipping and more. The best part is that you get all this valuable information without spending a single cent.

As you’ll see in the following results, that’s time well spent.

The Product Recipe example features a laser cut coaster that goes from an initial quote of $5.40 per unit down to $1.64 per unit prior to anyone opening their wallet.

That is quite a saving. Exactly how this was achieved will make more sense as we work through our 10 rules for keeping laser cutting costs down. Stay tuned for Tip #2: Paper prototypes.

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Guaranteed Order Deadline for St. Patrick’s Day

Ensure delivery in time for St. Patrick’s day by ordering before these deadlines.

Planning to have something special made for St. Patrick’s Day? Be sure to have your order in before the following dates to ensure a timely delivery:

Laser Cutting – Standard Speed Deadline: Sunday, March 1st 2015
Laser Cutting – Upgrade Speed Deadline: Monday March 16, 2015

Photochemical Machining (PCM): Friday, February 20th 2015

3D Printing: Monday, February 16th 2015

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Top 10 Features You May Not Have Used

We’re always adding new features & improvements here at Ponoko: Faster making times, lower shipping options, more materials, a streamlined checkout process, support for new software packages, the list goes on and on.

It’s so long, in fact, that we’ve gathered some of your Personal Factory’s lesser known features here to make sure you don’t miss out on them.

Join us as we count down the top 10 features you may not have used. Hopefully you’ll find something here you didn’t know about before.

#10. Order status information:

Last year we completely redesigned our order status page. You can now double check the details of your order, get progress updates, and tracking information once it has shipped. Just visit ponoko.com/make and click on “show details” to get the low-down on your latest order.

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New! Streamlined Support for Photochemical Machining

Making with metal just got a whole lot easier.

We are thrilled to announce new streamlined support for Photochemical Machining. Previously, if you wanted to create something using Brass, Copper or Stainless Steel, you had to take an extra step to email us the extra details of your order.

Now you can upload PCM design files directly to your Personal Factory account. In addition, you can now upload and get a quote for metal parts along with Laser Cut & 3D Printed designs at the same time, all in one order.

How to make with Photochemical Machining (PCM):

  1. Prepare and save your vector design as a PDF using our Metal Machining Starter Kits.
  2. Upload your PDF to your Personal Factory account.
  3. Select your choice of metal materials and proceed to checkout as usual.

That’s it! You’re now on your way to receiving some awesome metal goodies in your mailbox. Please note: The design requirements for PCM are slightly different from laser cutting with other materials. You’ll want to be sure to read through our design guides before uploading your designs.

If you have any questions about Photochemical Machining don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Comparing Stains on Laser Cut Wood

How to add a little something extra after all the cutting has been done

With all of the different material options available for laser cutting, it may seem like you are spoiled for choice. But sometimes it is nice to have a little more control over your finished outcome, and that’s were oils and wood stains can do wonders to transform the look of a material.

In this handy test-run and resulting visual comparison, Josh has taken a look at some of the popular Ponoko materials and how they perform with different finishes.

As well as putting together the table pictured above, he has noted down a few handy tips and material highlights that will help you make the right choice for your own laser cutting. Read on in the Ponoko Support Forums and learn how you can get the best possible outcome with stains and finishes on laser cut wood.

This content originally appeared in the Ponoko Support Forums.

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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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Top 10 Most Obscure Materials of 2014

Exploring some of the lesser-known materials in the Ponoko catalogue.

With 80+ materials available in the Ponoko catalouge, it’s understandable that a handful of them might fly under the radar. While classics like Bamboo & Walnut MDF might take up the spotlight, the Ponoko materials catalogue is rich with hidden gems.

Join us as we count down the top 10 deep cuts, b-sides, and unsung heroes of the Ponoko materials catalog:

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Annual Letter from Ponoko Founder / CEO

Happy 2015 to you.

Full Printed from nueveojos on Vimeo.

Hi, I’m Derek Elley, a founder and the CEO of Ponoko (since Jan 2013).

Thanks big for being on our journey to lay some foundations of the 3rd industrial revolution together.

We believe in distributed digital mass production.

That is, consumers will continue to increase the number of products they download and make at home. Kinda like a ‘digital Ikea’ experience to start, followed by a ‘Star Trek Replicator’ down the track. And businesses will continue to increase their supply of digital products, simply because it’s more profitable to do so.

During 2014, we continued to obsess over delivering you the fastest way to make your custom products & build your creative businesses, using our online laser cutting & 3D printing services … made & shipped as fast as same day, no minimum order size, endless free instant quotes, on-demand production, all backed by our 100% re-make guarantee (and our new customer delight policy, whereby we reward you for giving us the opportunity to make good).

We LOVE playing our small part in your creative and business explorations. Thank you (!) for another great year in 2014 …

2014 – PEOPLE USING PONOKO

* Makers / Designers.

* ETSY Sellers.

* Kickstarter Entrepreneurs.

* Creative Agencies.

* Brands & Businesses.

2014 – YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS

* 70,000+ new product ideas submitted to Ponoko.

* 400,000+ custom products now made by Ponoko.

* $370,000+ Kickstarter campaigns using Ponoko.

* $1,720,000+ revenues earned from products you made using Ponoko and sold on marketplaces (like ETSY & Kickstarter), your websites, your stalls, your retailers, and our website.

2014 – IMPROVEMENTS WE MADE FOR YOU

We added the following major features (and many more behind the scenes or smaller features):

* Up to 55% off making costs for volume orders.

* Up to 55% off making costs for loyal customers.

* 100% off shipping costs for all orders over $100.

* Average of 20% off shipping costs with our new USPS service.

* 100% faster making time for our premium service (from 1 day to same day).

* 33% faster making time for our standard service (from 12 to 8 calendar days).

* 14% more materials, including our first $2,500 material design challenge.

* UX – Making your first product is easier with our new homepage and welcome experience.

* UX – Uploading your designs is easier with our new design trouble shooting experience.

* UX – Getting an instant online quote is easier after we cut away the noise.

* UX – Checking out is easier after we cut away lots more noise.

* New customer delight policy – in addition to our 100% re-make guarantee, we also reward you for giving us the opportunity to make good.

2014 – BIGGEST SURPRISE

* We A/B tested many many things. While most progressed to a product upgrade, there was one notable test that did not.

* Our hypothesis was: “Customers get frustrated when our automated design file checker rejects their design files, making it difficult to make things.”

* So we ran an A/B test to dis/prove this … A = no change (the file checker continued, meaning 30% of designs are rejected) … B = change (no file checker at all, meaning 100% of designs are accepted).

* The winner? Draw (hence we retained A).

* We really thought your behaviour would vote for B by a long stretch, but you did not – this really surprised us, and shows the power of A/B testing.

2015 – OUR PLAN

We believe in distributed digital mass production, a disruptor of the current centralised analog mass production model.

Hence, in 2007 we launched the world’s first website for designers to make and sell downloadable product designs (open/paid/free) to consumers.

Building upon this heritage, we have 2 major projects this year …

1) Improve Our Online Laser Cutting Service

For makers / designers, ETSY sellers, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, creative agencies plus brands & businesses, we’ll announce the following upgrades to our current service:

* AutoCAD DXF designs – get instant online quotes for laser cutting.

* Metal cutting – get instant online quotes using PDF designs.

* Rewards – for referring others.

* Pricing – new options.

* Materials & samples – more.

* Shipping – lower costs & faster.

* UX – a shopping cart so you can easily combine designs into a single shipment, and you don’t need to upload your designs repetitively to order repetitively.

* Loyalty – more for being a repeat customer.

* And lots more.

2) Launch Our New Home 3D Printing Service

For creative brands and businesses, we’ll announce a new initiative to make it simple for you to sell your products to consumers more profitably than ever before (via home 3D printers).

We believe the time is ripe for us to unveil the ‘future of making’ idea we’ve been sitting on for almost 8 years when we dreamed up Ponoko.

Please hit us up if you’d like to find out more about our new home 3D printing service.

2015 – BEST WISHES TO YOU

Finally, if you have any questions, concerns or merry-ness to share with me or our team, please feel free to email me [ derek - at - ponoko - dot - com ] or leave a comment below …

Thanks again.

Derek

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New Home 3D Printing Service for Creative Brands & Businesses

We’re launching a new service to make it simple for creative brands and businesses to sell your products to consumers more profitably than ever before (via home 3D printers).

We believe …

- In distributed digital mass production.

- Consumers will continue to increase product downloading & making at home.

- Creative brands & businesses will dramatically increase their profits via product downloads to home 3D printers.

To find out more, please let us know here …

I am a creative brand or business who wants to profit from home 3D printing

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I am a product consumer with a home 3D printer

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Thanks! We’ll be in touch with updates and questions as we develop and launch this new service :)

Please feel free to leave comments below …

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Top 10 Materials of 2014

Join us as we look back at the materials that hit it big in 2014.

The Ponoko Materials Catalog offers a wide variety of high quality materials for laser cutting. From those awesome new Premium materials down to plain old (but ever-so-useful) cardboard, there is a material option for every making scenario.

Join us as we take a look at the 10 most popular materials from 2014:

#10) Corrugated Cardboard – Double Layer

We start out countdown with one of our less glamorous materials: cardboard. Cardboard is a great material for prototyping your design and making it in another material later. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use cardboard in a final product. Check out these 20 inspirational designs made from good old fashioned recyclable cardboard.

Make something with cardboard! »

#9) Acrylic – White

White acrylic is one of Ponoko’s most versatile materials. To get an idea of the two opposite sides of the spectrum check out these polar bear snowflake ornaments from PepperSprouts, or this Synthesizer Enclosure from Glitched.

Make something with white acrylic! »
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