Industrial Designer Iterates From Idea To Market in Just 15 Days.

Industrial designer Delna Balsara teams up with Ponoko to quickly bring her product idea to life.

Delna Balsara is the industrial designer behind BUKUL – a clever bamboo organizer that keeps your pens, notebooks, phone and tablet organized while you’re on the go.

Made from laser cut bamboo from Ponoko – the BUKUL comes with 2 elastic belts, one for securing your pens and phone to a notebook, and a larger belt for connecting the BUKUL to your laptop.

Delna got the idea while at work, going from meeting room to meeting room juggling her belongings in her hands. “Sometimes it was embarrassing” she says “It wasn’t enough to warrant carrying my backpack everywhere, but I kept dropping things.” A friend recommend she try out Ponoko, so she signed up and set to work on creating a solution for herself.

Delna was impressed with how quickly she was able to go from idea to prototype. “I drew it out in Illustrator and uploaded it to Ponoko – super easy.” she ways “I had it within a week”. Delna then set to work on hand-sewing the first set of elastic straps, and checking the measurements of her new invention.

The quick turnaround time meant she was able to quickly revise and update her product in days, rather than weeks. “The measurements were still a bit off for my phone and pen to properly fit” Delna says “so I revised my file and uploaded it to Ponoko. Once again, it was sent in no time and my first BUKUL was made.”

With a working final product in her hard, the BUKUL soon caught the eye of her co-workers. “Every meeting I went to, colleagues wanted to know where I bought it.” she says. It was clear that folks were looking for a way to keep organized when they walk into a meeting, studio or class. “Everyone was urging me to sell them on ETSY” she says “so I finally bit-the-bullet and set up a store.”

Delna points out Ponoko’s speedy customer service made it easy to iterate from idea to final product:

“I love the ease of uploading my files, the production statuses that I get, but most of all it’s the customer service. Anytime I’ve had an issue or question about a file, someone gets back to me right away and is really helpful. I think there’s just an overall ease to the process, from beginning to end.”

Delna’s story is another great example of how you can go from idea to final product faster than ever before with Ponoko.

The BUKL is available on Delna’s ETSY store.

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

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Ponoko Customer Blasts Past Kickstarter Goal in 3 hours

Another Kickstarter success using Ponoko

UPDATE: The Electric Eel Wheel has now raised over $40,928! Huge congrats to Maurice & Emily on reaching over 800% of their goal!

Maurice Ribble is the Boston based engineer behind the Electric Eel Wheel – a clever electric spinning wheel that makes it easy to spin the fiber of your choice into yarn.

Maurice’s Kickstarter campaign blew past it’s $5,000 goal in just three hours – and is on track to break $20,000 in under a week.

The Electric Eel Wheel was already a huge hit in the hobby fiber, spinning, and knitting communities, so it made sense to make the jump to Kickstarter. “I figured this would be a good project for it because nothing like it has been done before” Maurice says, ”my wife who’s been helping with this project really liked the idea of doing a Kickstarter so that’s what really decided it for me.”

Traditionally, yarn is spun with a foot powered spinning wheel – a time consuming process that tends to be hard to master. While there are electric alternatives available, quality wheels are costly- with price tags of $800 or more. This gap in the market was part of the inspiration for the Electric Eel Wheel.

Using laser cut parts from Ponoko, Maurice and his wife Emily set out to create their own electric spinning wheel that was affordable, while still being as good or better than the ones currently on the market.

Maurice says using Ponoko made it easy to reduce costs by iterating through different designs. “I was surprised at how much spending some time optimizing the part layout cut my costs.” he says  ”For me it almost cut my costs by half because I was able to share a lot of edges and use the materials more efficiently.”

While this is the fourth commercially available version of the wheel, Maurice was still able to find ways to improve the design and add new innovative features:

“Once I get my hand on the laser cut Ponoko pieces I assemble it and I almost always get ideas on how I might improve it during assembly. When those improvements are getting small I know I’m at the stage where it’s good enough.”

Maurice credits the research he did, as well as the feedback he got early on as the key to Electric Eel Wheel’s explosive success. “I read a lot about how to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Making a good video is important so I spent a lot of time on that.” Maurice says, “I shared it with a few close friends to build my confidence and get feedback on what I might tweak.”

When we asked Maurice what advice he would give to people just starting out with Kickstarter, he warned entrepreneurs-to-be not to let expansion or addition of new features hurt your project:

“Don’t let feature creep hurt your project. First you need to decide when it’s good enough to put on Kickstarter. Some of the ideas that come in are good and I do leave my options open, but you need to always consider pros and cons before adding something.”

Want to get your hands on your own Electric Eel wheel and start spinning your own yarn? The Electric Eel Wheel is available through Kickstarter at a discounted price, with packages ranging from $149-$209.

Got a great hardware idea of your own? Make and sell it with Ponoko.

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Top 10 Seller Stories of 2014

Inspiring stories of independent designers & sellers creating products with Ponoko.

2014 was an amazing year for us and our amazingly creative customers. Ponoko customers are not only making super cool original products, they’re solving design problems for underserved markets and building successful small businesses.

#10: Laser Cut Robots Remind You to Water Your Plants

Some of us are blessed with a natural talent for caring for our houseplants. Others, however, struggle with merely keeping our houseplants alive.
Read Dickson Chow’s story about saving the lives of innocent plants everywhere with the help of his laser cut robot friends.

#9: Photochemical Machining Goes Bohemian

Rachel Dropp is the one-woman operation behind Raw Elements Jewelry, a brand that combines modern Photochemical Machining (PCM) with traditional jewelry-making techniques. The results are unique hand-crafted pieces that feature a raw, unique style.

Read Rachel’s story on how she launched a line of bohemian inspired jewelry designs, and the unique process behind these pieces.

#8 The Kyub MIDI keyboard

The Kyub is a compact, fully programmable MIDI interface that provides a new way to compose, record and perform music. Although the Kyub Music group fell short of their original Kickstarter goal – they were able to garner enough support for the product to put the Kyub into production. Read the Kyub’s story and get a first hand look a the Kyub in action.

(more…)

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Building a laser cut and 3D printed PlotClock

Arduino-driven clock that writes the time, erases and repeats

Self-declared “Geek Mom” Debra posts some pretty amazing DIY projects on her blog, and this version she made of the PlotClock is well worth a closer look.

As you can see in the video above, the PlotClock is a timekeeping device that diligently wipes away the previous figures before scrawling the current time with an erasable pen.

“There is something very human and endearing about the motion of the arms as they perform their task of drawing and erasing over and over and over again.”

Debra followed instructions that she found on Thingiverse and incorporated extra modifications suggested by other Thingiverse members. Even still, resolving the design was an iterative process that included using SketchUp to visualise how the mechanism works before sending files to Ponoko for laser cutting.

“The upload and ordering process was very easy.  The hardest part was waiting for the package to arrive.”

And arrive it did, in a timely manner. Read on to discover how she added in a variation of the 3D printed cap for the dry-erase pen, and used the flexibility of Arduino programming to customize the code to the specific requirements of this project.

via Geek Mom Projects

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Sweet dreams thanks to Sleep Sensei

Ponoko laser cut Kickstarter trains you to fall asleep. Eyes closed, now breathe…

Chasing those Z’s is about to get a whole lot easier thanks to this nifty innovation from Jeremy Wilson on Kickstarter. The Sleep Sensei sits on your nightstand and gently guides you towards a deep, restful sleep.

How does it do this? To some insomniacs, such an achievement may sound like pure magic, but there is some serious science behind the device. Jeremy’s own insomnia saw him trial numerous sleep aids before he set out to use his Arduino skills to sort out their collective shortcomings.

The functional laser cut prototype pictured above is at the core of this Kickstarter campaign, with the final design yet to be revealed. The key technology has all been sorted out already, as can be attested by an overwhelmingly positive outcome from product trials on real sleep-challenged volunteers.

“The Sleep Sensei primarily helps those with sleeping problems caused by stress or an overactive mind at bedtime.”

If you are one of those creative over-achievers who just can’t stop their mind racing at the end of the day (we probably all know at least a few people who fall into that category!) then head over to Kickstarter to discover more about The Sleep Sensei.

via Kickstarter

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Laser-Cut Halloween Costume

How one dad used Ponoko to make his kid’s dreams take flight

Halloween is approaching once again, and that means creative parents are busy putting together costumes for their eager little Trick or Treaters.

Taking note of his son’s ‘outsized interest in aviation’, SketchUp guru Aidan Chopra set himself the task of building an aeroplane at just the right scale for the diminutive 2½ year old pilot. The outcome – a laser cut cardboard aeroplane costume – looks fantastic, with cartoon-like proportions that give a real sense of comic aviation nostalgia.

Aidan has put together a thorough walkthrough of his design process, including references and explanatory diagrams that take you through each stage of the project in comprehensive detail. We’ve included a few snippets from the original SketchUp post here, but do be sure to click through to the source for all of the juicy insights.

He began by referencing an enthusiast’s model of a WWII era fighter plane, and squished the proportions until it looked both fun and wearable. Having decided on laser cut cardboard for the final construction, Aidan then explored using Ponoko to produce the components… and that was where things really became interesting.

By taking time to plan out which materials to use, what sheet sizes and the relevant Ponoko requirements, he could then proceed with modeling the plane so that both construction and laser cutting costs were optimised.

The plane is constructed from 58 laser cut parts, of which 32 are unique. It took a little patience to work out how to best fit these onto the Ponoko P3 laser cutting template for double-layered corrugated cardboard, but the effort quite literally paid off by reducing cutting time.

“I’d discovered that it’s significantly cheaper to produce two copies of the same cutting file than it is to make two different sheets. Good thing, because it turns out that most of my airplane parts are symmetrical; they’re mirrored copies that exist in pairs.”

A lot of thought went in to each stage of the design process; from considering the scale and proportions appropriate for a child pilot, the material thickness and template sizes in the Ponoko Personal Factory, through to the inclusion of nodes on the slotted sections so that all the components fit together and hold in place securely.

The accuracy of the cutting was astounding. I’ve never laser cut anything; I expected the pieces to look good, but the quality of what I got made me alternate between grinning and literally giggling. For a person who spent hundreds of hours in architecture school hacking away at cardboard, foam core, basswood and plexiglass with an X-Acto knife, the extravagant expense of laser cutting instantly justified itself. I was hooked.

What a fantastic success story for a first-time Ponoko user. Why did he start off with a project as complex as this? It all may make a little more sense when you consider Aidan’s background. Having moved on from architecture, he became a master of the modeling program SketchUp. That’s no idle boast – some users may find him familiar as the author of the SketchUp for Dummies book series. Aidan’s guest post on SparkFun is both informative and entertaining, so click through if you’d like to hear the full story.

via SparkFun and SketchUp

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Photochemical Machining Goes Bohemian

Digital fabrication meets ancient jewelry making techniques

Rachel Dropp is the one-woman operation behind Raw Elements Jewelry, a brand that combines modern Photochemical Machining (PCM) with traditional jewelry-making techniques. The results are unique hand-crafted pieces that feature a raw, unique style.

The pieces in the Raw Elements Jewelry line drawn inspirations everywhere from French needle point lace to the phases of the moon.

“While creating new collections I adhere to 3 aesthetic themes: rustic nature, bohemian and sacred geometry.”

The pieces are designed by Dropp, who then hammers, polishes, patinas and does the final soldering to arrive at her finished product. “I love incorporating all of the processes” Dropp says, “because it keeps things interesting and it allows me to have a great mix of products to offer to my customers.”

As someone who enjoys working on the creative side, Rachel initially found it difficult to jump into sales. “I’ve had to step outside my comfort zone” Dropp says “to call boutiques that I feel would be interested in selling my wares and to make appointments”.

Stepping out of her comfort zone has paid off for Dropp, who’s jewelry is now available online on her website and Etsy store as well as in boutiques everywhere from Sonoma County to the San Francisco Bay area

I asked Rachel what was on the horizon for Raw Elements Jewelry. “Coming up in August, I will be attending the Bodega Bay Seafood Art and Wine Festival and then in the beginning of September I will have a booth at Bhakti Fest in Southern California. I also plan to launch a new collection of mini sacred geometry charm necklaces.”

You can purchase Raw Elements Jewelry online at rawelementsjewelry.com or at any of the stores and boutiques listed on her site.

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

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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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Awesome Laser Cut Robots That Fit in Your Pocket

Ponoko-made pocket sized robots by Junichi Tsuneoka.

Junichi Tsuneoka is the illustrator and designer behind CHIBIPOCKET – collectable laser cut robot toys that combine traditional woodworking techniques with digital laser fabrication.

Junichi has been a graphic designer since 2002, creating vibrant character-driven illustrations for his company Stubborn Sideburn. In 2012, he was inspired to jump into making three dimensional art when one of his clients hired him to design their vinyl toys:

“When I first got the sample I really liked the idea of my design becoming a 3D form. I had been doing only flat print projects till then so it was very refreshing for me. I wanted to do more 3D projects to expand my design possibilities.”

Junichi experimented with several production methods ranging from soft vinyl, plastic mold and 3D printing before landing on laser wood cutting. “It’s very close to how I usually design graphics and print digitally” he explains, “yet there is a bit of crafting quality.”

His first robot figurine was meant to be more of a personal project rather than a product line, but after showing it around it became clear there was a lot of interest in the idea. “I got a lot of good feedback plus I really enjoyed making it,” he says, “so I decided to expand the project.”

Junichi used his Personal Factory to instantly price lots of design iterations while expanding his new product line:

“It’s very handy that you can see the price right away when you upload the file” he said, “it gives me a chance to modify the file so I can control the price really easily.”

By digitally prototyping with in this way, Junichi was able to control costs early so he could stay competitive at the retail level later on.

CHIBIPOCKET was inspired by the types of toys Junichi grew up carrying around in his pocket. ‘Chibi’ is a Japanese term for ‘short person’ or ‘small child’. In popular culture, chibi has mostly referred to characters with oversized heads and small bodies – similar to babies – to emphasize cuteness and child-like spirit. “My original concept of the whole product line is about my childhood memory.” he says, “So I decided to do pocketable art/toys.”

When I asked what initially drew him to Ponoko, Junichi explained that speed is key:

“When I work with individual laser cut service, I had to spend quite a bit of time giving instructions for custom jobs and communicating back and forth.” he explains. “That would cause errors and a lot of extra time to spend. I don’t have to experience that with Ponoko.”

Each figurine combines several pieces of laser cut bamboo and fluorescent acrylic, which is then hand-sanded and finished with Sumi Ink to bring the characters to life.

What’s on the horizon for Junichi? CHIBIPOCKET was recently commissioned by totem resolve to make all the 10 Wu Tang Clan members into handmade bamboo toys:


Left to right: GZA, RZA, UGOD, Cappa Donna & Ghost Face

Junichi’s robots are available at CHIBIPOCKET.

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

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Bonded Forever: Jewelry that Unites Cancer Patients and their Families

Bonded Forever designs and sells jewelry for cancer patients, survivors and their families. A portion of the proceeds from every sale are donated to cancer research and patient care.
Bonded Forever Jewelry

In September 2010, Cassandra Hoo faced a difficult situation that ultimately served the as inspiration behind her jewelry company, Bonded Forever.

When her mother was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, Cassandra Hoo wanted to give her a gift that would help her feel grounded, safe, & surrounded by love. “I designed and made a beautiful pair of earrings, a bracelet, and a necklace with semiprecious gemstone beads that I thought would create a soothing, nurturing, and positive effect on her.”

Solar System Pendants

Soon the jewelry became a hit with friends and family, and Cassandra was inspired to create an entire line of jewelry that could help bond people together during hard times.

With her mother 100% cancer-free, Cassandra teamed up with Ponoko to do her part to help cancer patients and their families.

“A friend of mine, who is professional jewelry maker and designer, suggested that I try Ponoko. I was really pleased that Ponoko offered so many materials and the flexibility of making as much or as little product as I wanted.”

With a little help from her graphic design inclined father, Cassandra created a new laser-cut jewelry line that showcased her beautiful logo.

In addition to her site, Cassandra sells her jewelry at trunk shows and craft fairs locally in the Philadelphia area. Cassandra is also raising funds by participating in this year’s “Get Your Rear in Gear” Philly run.

You can purchase Bonded Forever pendants and more at Bonded Forever Jewelry, and read her blog at bondedforever.org

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

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