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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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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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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Ponoko Customer Turns Product Into $100,299 In Just 20 Days

Ponoko + Kickstarter = Designer’s Dream

We covered this briefly before, but it’s going bananas! So we thought it was a good idea to introduce how designers are using Ponoko and Kickstarter to make and sell their products.

Jeremy Williams is a San Francisco based engineer and video game enthusiast with a passion for pixel art. His latest project, the Game Frame, is a fully-programmable grid of LEDs designed to make it easy to display animated pixel art anywhere. Jeremy’s product on Kickstarter just passed $100,000, and is trending to hit over $150,000 before closing.

The Game Frame was initially just a fun personal project – Jeremy loves 8-bit pixel art and wanted to find a way to display it on his walls – but after his prototype was demonstrated for Tested in June, the positive feedback inspired him to see if he could turn the Game Frame into a real product.

Using laser cut parts from Ponoko, Jeremy went through several iterations to refine his design. After months of prototyping, and multiple prototypes, Jeremy arrived at a Game Frame that was sleeker looking, cheaper to build, and easier to use.

With a new Game Frame in hand Jeremy set out to test the market viability of his new product.  There’s many ways to do this, like setting up a website, an ETSY store, or selling at a local event. But he decided to use Kickstarter to put his product directly in front of potential customers to gauge interest in the Game Frame, and to gain pre-orders to fund his first production run.

The enthusiasm was overwhelming. Within 4.5 hours the Game Frame had met it’s initial goal of $15,000. Within a week, he had over $50,000 in backing. As at press time, Jeremy has already sold 448 Game Frames = $107,123 and counting!

Now comes the fun part: Jeremy will spend the coming months fulfilling the orders for his Kickstarter backers, wiring the PCBs, soldering LEDs, & assembling laser cut frames using his Personal Factory at Ponoko. The first orders are scheduled to ship in June.

Jeremy’s story is an inspiring example of how you can take a cool idea, make it real at low cost with Ponoko, and discover a whole market you never knew you had.

We’ll be following this and letting you know more about how to use Ponoko and Kickstarter as the story unfolds.

If you’re interested in starting your own product line too, you can signup for free here to make and sell your own products.

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Lower Pricing for Laser Cutting

We are thrilled to announce new volume pricing for Prime members!

Prime members can now save 55% off their making costs

If your goal is to set competitive retail pricing & make a healthy profit, taking advantage of volume pricing is key. And even if you’re just making a handful of hobby projects, the savings can really add up.

Check out the chart below for a breakdown of the new rates:

$1 – $499: 32.5% off ($1.35 per minute) by joining Prime*.
$500 – $999: 35% off ($1.30 per minute).
$1,000 – $1,999: 39% off ($1.22 per minute).
$2,000 – $2,999: 43% off ($1.14 per minute).
$3,000 – $4,999: 47% off ($1.06 per minute).
$5,000 – $9,999: 51% off ($0.98 per minute).
$10,000+: 55% off ($0.90 per minute)

* vs free account pricing.

How to get these lower rates:

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

Lower pricing applies to laser making costs (excluding metal laser and 3D printing), when ordering from Ponoko US and NZ.

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

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