Understanding the Difference Between Engraving, Etching and Marking

Laser cutting

Engraving, etching and marking are often used interchangeably when it comes to laser cutting. But did you know there’s actually a difference between these three terms? Don’t worry, if you use one term to refer to another, we won’t take it against you. Not many know the difference. All three refer to permanent marking on a material.

Here’s how to tell which one best describes the right laser cutting technique:

  • Laser Marking – This is done with a low-powered beam by discoloring the material to create a high-contrast without actually disrupting the material’s surface. The marking is done via oxidation under the surface causing it to tun black. It is sometimes called laser coloration or laser dark marking. It is most commonly used on metals but the charring effect can also be done on plastic materials. It is typically used for serial numbers or model codes with great application in the medical or automotive fields. Laser marking can be used on flat, curved or round surfaces.
  • Laser Engraving – This, on the otherhand, cuts a cavity through the material’s surface leaving a cavity that reveals an image or writing at eye level that is noticeable to the touch as well. This is done with high heat laser causing the material surface to vaporize. It is very precise and is often a good option for people who want to personalize or customize something. Engrving depth can vary between 0.02″ in metals to 0.125 in harder materials. You can engrave almost any type of material but are most commonly used for metal, plastics, wood, leather, glass and acrylic.
  • Laser Etching – This is really a subset of engraving, with the main difference being the depth of the cut. This is usually no more than 0.001 inch — which makes it the most viable option for thin materials and small projects such as jewelry.

Those are the basic definitions and differences between the three terms often used for laser cutting. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

 

 

 

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #45

In The Right Frame Of Mind – Using Customized Picture Frames as a Marketing Toolcustom-laser-cut-frames-collage9

People love to have their favorite pictures on display, and laser cutting offers a fantastic potential for creative customized picture frame solutions. By incorporating laser cutting into your design process, custom picture frames can be a valuable marketing tool for your brand.

How to use laser cutting for picture frames

There are a number of different approaches you can take, from material selection to cut path complexity and adding laser etched details. The example above from Picture It Creations shows one way to use laser cut text, this time cut from colored matte board.

Let’s take a look at a few more approaches to laser cut customized picture frames.

Incorporating silhouettes

The perimeter of the photograph can be manipulated to fit within a chosen graphic theme, creating dynamic points of interest for the eye to follow. This can be seen with the banyan trees and the Seattle skyline frames from Elise Koncsek.
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Familiar laser cut and etched details

Building a box frame using the iconic laser cut tabbed construction as demonstrated here by Lasercutouts (below, left) can be a neat way to enhance the physical presence of the frame. Another familiar visual element is the use of laser etched details, as shown in the soccer team frame by R Keepsakes.

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Stylized objects and forms

Laser cutting enables a playful creativity that can open up new directions to explore, as with the nostalgic tv frame design (below, left) from Phings and the specially designed Ultrasound Frame (below, right) from Gravi Art.

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Ornate borders

Replicating traditional carved frames from different historic periods and artistic genres, The Wood Shape Store has some interesting approaches to using laser cutting for custom picture frames. Included in the mix below are two baroque/gothic style frames, as well as a deco geometric example (below, left) that consists of discrete elements to be mounted or installed onto an additional support structure.

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Delicate details

Laser cutting can be quite delicate, as we can see in the repetitive pattern design from Swirlydoos (below, left). Merging the traditional with contemporary techniques and materials, acrylic brooch frames from Emi Ko Supplies (below, right) look light-hearted and fun, thanks to the juxtaposition of playful materials and the ornate design.

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Both laser cutting and laser etching feature in the numerous frame designs from HMCrafters (below). By choosing to use laser etched details, the tone, grain and surface singed wood becomes a distinctive feature that is iconic and readily identifiable to laser cutting.

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With the custom wedding invitations from The Redd Press Shop (below) the use of laser etched details is further enhanced by layering materials to add contrast and impact to the laser cutting.

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While many of the laser cut frames featured in this post are specifically targeted to the consumer, it is not too much of a leap to see how a similar approach can be applied to promotional products for an event, conference or particular marketing theme. Let us know if you’ve seen other great ideas for laser cut customized picture frames in the comments below; and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

 

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Customized Laser Cutting for Tech Geeks

Designing Your Own Enclosures for Electronics Projects

adafruit laser cut enclosure

Laser cutting has long been the chosen solution for many DIY electronics project enclosures, and with good reason. By building a custom case using laser cutting, you are able to protect components, give precise access to interface elements, and also add laser etched details that communicate function and branding.

We’ve previously taken a look at how to make a laser cut enclosure using Box Maker and similar plugins for laser cutter-friendly software programs. Another neat browser-based option is MakerCase (screenshot below) where it is easier than ever to enter design constraints, interact with a 3D model of the enclosure and then save a file that is ready for laser cutting.

makercase

These fantastic tools and software solutions go a long way in making laser cut enclosure design accessible for projects large and small. While a laser cut enclosure can be quite simple, the thorough breakdown by Phillip Burgess on Adafruit covers a number of key considerations and comes strongly recommended indeed. The eye-catching rainbow Raspberry Pi case pictured at the top of this post is a prime example of the way that the strengths of laser cutting can be leveraged to produce unique, desirable outcomes.

Personal projects get a serious boost from laser cut enclosures, and the next step is often to produce and sell products that look both professional and highly resolved. A notable example of how custom laser cut enclosures have helped turn personal projects into Kickstarter success stories is the Game Frame (pictured below) from Jeremy Williams.

gameframe

So whether you’ve baked yourself a techno treat with the Raspberry Pi, or created new possibilities using the latest boards from Arduino; those electronic projects can get such a boost when a custom laser cut enclosure is added to the mix.

In short, laser cutting enables customization and full control over the following design and interface elements:

Protect components: Boards, screens and connectors can all be housed securely.
Location of openings: Plugs, connectors, lights and vents can all be positioned in exactly the right spot.
Communication: Adding custom branding, labels to ports, and a bit of personal flair.

Be sure to read through the Adafruit Laser Cut Enclosure Design Overview and fire up your Ponoko Personal Factory to get the prototyping process started right away. Let us know in the comments below if you know of any other handy tips and resources for making laser cut electronics enclosures.

 

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.

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #41

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

lasercutbowtie

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

How To Make a Customized Jigsaw Puzzle

Laser Cut Educational Toys

laser cut puzzle 1

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…)

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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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #34

Themed ‘Build Your Own’ event kits

honeymoonkit0

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.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #31

Layers and Shadows

BERLIN laser cut layers

The play of light and shade on crisp laser cut linework has an eye-catching impact that is both dynamic and alluring. With only a little more effort than it would take to prepare files for printing in a more traditional 2d format, it is possible to use the same visual structure to create laser cut layered artwork that can literally jump out from the page.

Why does it work so well?

The example pictured above demonstrates that this approach to 3-dimensional graphic design can be applied with great effect to simple text and logos. When given only a partially complete outline of each letter, the eye naturally resolves the missing details. Further support from environmental lighting can also enhance the stratification in the design. This allows the geometric forms of the custom font to be instantly recognisable even without prior knowledge of what the typeface looks like.

How to use this technique with your brand

Some of the best laser cut designs are also the simplest. This is particularly true when working with layered material and sections that are cut or removed; the less complicated your design can be, the fewer the potential errors when it all comes together. Remember to work with the strengths of laser cutting, making use of (to name a few): crisp linework, precision alignment and the elegance of accurate repetition.

Can you think of a clever way to harness light and shade using laser cutting 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.

image source: viral3k.com

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