Artist transforms flat lasercut designs into 3D installations with heat forming

Ponoko project by Jenny Balisle

Bay Area artist Jenny Balisle works in three distinct mediums: painting, pen and ink, and sculptural installation made from heated acrylic sheets.

As explained in her artist statement, her body of work is “conceptually linked by dichotomous relationships — simple and complex, beautiful and grotesque, micro and macro perspectives, and natural and manmade environments.”

Her acrylic sculptures embody this concept by turning completely flat pieces of acrylic, which she lasercuts with Ponoko, into much more complex three-dimensional sculptures.

To achieve this, Jenny uses a heat forming technique. “It’s a delicate process,” she says. “I have to take great care not to crack or warp the acrylic or yellow the white surface.”

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Scan this, DIY lasercut business cards with QR codes

James Stokebrand leads by example. Lots of examples.


Last year James Stokebrand, a computer engineer living in Chicagoland, discovered Ponoko and decided to create some lasercut business cards.

“I was laid off in April 2011,” James explains “but I prefer to stay busy so I got the idea to create business cards with a QR code to my LinkedIn profile.”

But the first try was far from perfect. The cards were too big, corners were too sharp, and the text alignment was off. (The blurring in the images is for James’ privacy, not the result of the lasercutter.)

The second cut fixed most of the problems with the first round, but the cards — made of 3mm black acrylic — were too thick.

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What you get when you fasten Gothic flanges to a flashlight — the Magmace.

Ponoko made project by Jim Rodda

Jim Rodda introduces his Magmace as “6.8 pounds of cold-rolled, Krylon-coated, All-American neo-medieval whoop-ass.”

The Wisconsin-based maker and full-time arcade video game designer started the project by 3D printing prototypes with his Replicator. Jim then decided to get a little more hardcore and create his mace with lasercut cold-rolled steel from Ponoko.

The metal flanges are attached to a 6D cell Maglite flashlight with a pair of hose clamps. I asked Jim where he got this idea.

“I used to live in a part of the country where power went out intermittently, so it made sense to have lots of flashlights velcroed to walls around the house. So now I have like 9 different flashlights,” he explains.

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Jewelry by Black Swan Design

Victoriana of the Long White Cloud

Black Swan Designs re-emerged after the Christchurch earthquake at Mel’s post-quake office (aka home). Fortunately, outsourcing fabrication (especially when the design files are in cloud) means that even a natural disaster can’t stop the Maker wheels from turning. The Black Swan aesthetic is strongly inspired by the Victorian era – a vintage and ornate style that lends itself to traditional jewelry making techniques. However, Mel found that even with her jeweler background, creating the desired aesthetic using conventional jewelry making methods would result in the finished product being priced out of the local market.

Mel decided to try laser cutting to fabricate the Black Swan Designs line of necklaces, earrings, brooches and rings. Most of the highly detailed jewelry is cut from bamboo and black acrylic, and there are plans to introduce paper and 3D printed ceramic into the range, as a shift towards more eco-friendly materials. Once the laser cut pieces arrive at her door, Mel farewells her manicure and diligently removes the backing paper from all the tiny parts. Afterwards the pieces are painstakingly glued together, and findings are attached.A few words from the designer after the jump:

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Laser Cutting for Costume Design

And cutting time and cost of making while at itWhen Aaron Davison discovered that the Ponoko NZ hub was only walking distance from him, he was too intrigued not to try out the service.  Since then he’s been using it for al sorts of projects and experiments.  So far, Aaron has produced laser cut 2-D and 3-D costume pieces, buttons and templates from various materials.  He’s experimented with acrylics, Styrene, Bamboo Ply, Eurolite Poplar, leather and card stock.

Aaron’s material selection is guided largely by his experience as a modelmaker – something he’s been doing for years.  Now the manual making techniques he’d learned over the years have been, in most part, taken over by the digital processes, resulting in more time spent on designing and refining ideas than making.  The manual component of the process is still there, but mostly in form of finishing, such as sanding, staining and assembly.  The general outcome? It takes less time, effort and money required to produce a more polished product.Years of hobbyist prop designing have resulted in a multitude of digital files waiting to turned into physical objects.  The main obstacle to this used to be lack of access to the right tools and enough funds to transform those ideas into real things.  Now Aaron is revisiting his old designs to prepare them for production with laser cutting, 3D printing and CNC routing.

Not everything is laser cut to be the final product.  In the case of the N7 Helmet from Mass Effect, the laser cut card stock parts formed an armature that was fiberglassed on the inside and used as a base for sculpting.Read more abour Aaron’s process after the jump:

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Minimising Timeframe from Idea to Product

“Form follows constrains” philosophy aids design processAlienology’s physical design output is pretty impressive.  As a designer your head space has to be perpetually filled with evolving concepts.  Time permitting, those imagined concepts become sketches or even make it to the CAD phase for rendering.  Resources permitting, a concept will result in a prototype.  However, the chances of the prototype ever becoming a product that makes it to the market are pretty negligible.

Alienology founder Igor Knezevic isn’t interested in showing half-baked concepts or even refined ideas.  Alienology portfolio consists only of products available for purchase – an outcome enabled by a commitment to minimise the time span between idea and the manufactured object. Igor has embraced on demand digital fabrication with every limb to rapidly move through a process that would have required much time and capital investment under the traditional manufacturing model.

The LA based design company embraced the Ponoko model from the onset and has used its laser cutting and 3D printing services to create numerous lighting elements, jewelry and tableware.  Igor already had experience with digifabbing technologies and had access to making facilities, but the option of an online service made it possible for him to focus on designing the products rather that concerning himself with how to make them physically.

Of course, design is never a straight forward process, and prototyping one of its integral features.  Many of Igor’s designs undergo repeated experimentation to achieve the functionality, fabrication efficiency and the desired aesthetic of the final product.  Igor has had pieces 3D printed in plastics and Stainless Steel, and for laser cut objects worked with tinted acrylics, felt and different wood materials, such as Veneer Core and Eurolite Poplar.  He makes a point of considering material quality as one of the starting points in a design, so little finishing is necessary to complete the products.  There are also some products that are designed to be spray-painted and lacquered.A few words from the designer after the jump:

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Glove Mobile Phone

So you can talk to the handBryan Cera describes himself as a designer, and artist and a maker, and his projects exemplify those directions with a mix of practical, conceptual and technical approaches.  Digital fabrication is an integral part of Bryan’s creative process, and he’s not new to combining laser cutting, CNC milling and 3D printing in his projects.

Majority of Bryan’s projects involve re-purposed electronics and custom built circuits.  The end result doesn’t have to have a practical application, as long as the experimentation process is fun.  Metals and plastics are Bryan’s favourite materials to work with, as they are accessible, easy to machine and add a sense of permanence to the work.  3D printing in metal is certainly on that list.

One such project is Glove One:

a wearable mobile communication device. It presents a futile and fragile technology with which to augment ourselves. A cell phone which, in order to use, one must sacrifice their hand.  It is both the literalization of Sherry Turkle’s notion of technology as a “phantom limb”, in how we augment ourselves through an ambivalent reliance on it, as well as a celebration of the freedom we seek in our devices. Emotional investment becomes physical, as the functionality of the device depends on the dysfunctionality of the wearer. While we enjoy the fantasies they offer, we rethink the technologies we construct and reflect on how they construct us.

Essentially, this is a prototype for a mobile phone glove with a futuristic armor aesthetic that evokes a fusion of Inspector Gadget and Daft Punk robot gloves.  The glove phone is designed around components from wrist-watch cell phone that wasn’t getting much use.  The structure of the glove was 3D printed from Super Fine Plastic to give the parts the best form definition.  Bryan wanted to give the glove a smooth, shiny finish, and that meant a lot of sanding and several coats of paint.More on Bryan’s process after the jump:

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NTH Synth: a DIY electronics + open-source hardware + crowd-funding + Ponoko fairytale

Meet the makers of the NTH Synth, following their successful Kickstarter campaign
This mouth-wateringly good looking machine is the NTH Synth, a product that was recently crowd-funded on Kickstarter. I interviewed the guys behind NTH Synth about DIY electronics, designing for Ponoko, and how to get your crowd-funding campaign to stand out from the crowd.
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Designing for San Francisco

SF Bay Area – a Design Inspiration for little and big thingsWe’re used to seeing locations and landmarks serving as inspiration for design and art around us. Think how much influence the Eiffel Tower, for example, or anything NY has had on so much of the styling we are exposed to. As a designer you may be particularly influenced by design styles of places you’ve travelled to or your own city that you commute through every day. One US designer has chosen his place of residence – San Francisco as a catalyst for his creative endeavours.

David Nichols of Dotmatrix Design takes major inspiration from various infrastructure and industry around the Bay Area. Conveniently located in same area, Ponoko has helped shape his creative process. David’s first project was a human scale model of SF Sutro Tower, “a local landmark TV tower that pokes through the fog of the city most days of the year”. He had the tower CNC routed out of plywood, and it will be making its way to Maker Faire next month as part of the Ponoko display.

David likes the challenge of using interlocking to produce 3D objects out of 2D shapes, so laser cutting and CNC routing are his ideal precision fabrication methods. He’d made a tiny model of the container cranes in the Port of Oakland and also laser cut maps of the Bay Area. Most of the objects he created are fabricated out of wood, either in plywood or composite form. Hardboard and MDF are some of David’s favourite materials to work with. The material choices allow for minimal finishing and easy assembly that doesn’t require adhesives.A few words from the designer after the jump:

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Portrait sculpture, an artistic tradition carried on with 3D printing

Sculpture created with 3D technologies by artist Sophie Kahn

The world of Chicago based digital artist Sophie Kahn is firmly embedded in 3D. Originally from Australia, Sophie trained as a photographer and came to perceive 3D scanning and 3D printing as post-photographic processes. Much of her work over the last eight years has revolved around these digital processes.

Initially Sophie used wax stereolithography for lost wax casting in bronze. More recently, she has been experimenting with full color 3D printing for which the digital model was generated using a laser scan and a photograph of a model. The final 3D print then requires sandblasting and sanding to create “the appearance of an unearthed ancient artifact.” The option of on-demand online fabrication has allowed the artist to experiment and test ideas quickly without much capital, whereas earlier work involved using large service bureaus that were often prohibitively expensive.

Sophie’s fabrication process is an involved one that expands beyond the computer screen and various scanning and printing technologies. 3D printing is often only an intermediate phase in creating the final art piece. The artist uses 3D prints for molds as part of wax casting or ceramic clip casting. She’s hoping to be able to 3D print in ceramic once it is possible to print larger objects. The goal is “to move away from plastic and towards more natural materials with longer histories”.

Sophie’s most recent project was a miniature printed in stainless steel. In this case the print was intended as the artefact.A few words from the artist after the jump:

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