DIY Laser Engraver can be made for just $20

Build your own 3D printed laser engraver

With the smooth geometry of a classic arcade machine, the Photon Printer 3D printed laser engraver is a tiny technological wonder. Built as a DIY project by New Zealand engineer Stephen Brockett, the fully functional etching machine was put together using selected DVD burner components and just a few purchased items to fill in the gaps that could not be 3D printed at home.

In part, the project was made possible by salvaging the impressive innards of a standard optical drive, but don’t let Stephen’s modesty fool you… there are a lot of other clever design decisions that kept the total build budget at just $20.

“Optical media drives are actually pretty amazing, they have linear rails, stepper motors, lead screws and even end stops inside them… They’re pretty much an entire axis of a CNC machine ready to go!”

Keeping a healthy respect for the laser at the heart of the machine, a number of safety features were built into the Photon Printer. Nifty inclusions made possible by 3D printing like a roller shutter and angled rear vents (to stop reflected laser light escaping) can be seen in the video below.

The whole journey is fully documented on Thingiverse where it has sparked up a spirited discussion from other makers using the detailed instructions and downloadable files to print out their own versions. Perhaps you could even build on this design further using the Ponoko Personal Factory…

via 3Dprint

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!

Hands-on with home 3D printing in 2015

Reflections after 16 hours with a new 3D printer

As a spectator, it may appear like 3D printers are getting closer than ever to being as easy to use as a desktop inkjet printer. For those who have purchased (or indeed built) their own 3D printer over the last few years, you’d know that this is not the case. There is a lot of tweaking, upgrading and also patience required to get this amazing technology up and running in your own home.

Scott Hanselman plunged into the world of 3D printing and has published an hour-by-hour account of his first two days (16 hours of ‘working’ time) with the Printrbot printer. It’s an engaging tale of triumphs and woes, with much useful advice for others who may be wondering whether to purchase a printer of their own in the near future.

I’ve been using this printer now for basically 16 total hours over a few days, so we’ll call it two days. I went through a number of emotions over this last two days an learned a TON, some about the Printrbot Simple Metal specifically, but also about 3D Printing in general.

Click through to read the full account and discover why Scott’s concluding thoughts are positive and optimistic about the future of home 3D printing.

via Scott Hanselman

Bitsbox monthly projects for kids

How to nurture creativity for the digital makers of the future

For many of us, learning coding simply isn’t fun – but perhaps we’ve gone about it all wrong. Two former Google employees (who also happen to be Dads) saw a way to make learning coding languages fun for kids, and their solution has gathered quite a following on Kickstarter. They call their learning system Bitsbox, and as you’ll soon see, there is more to the bits than just what’s in the box.

We don’t teach our kids how to read and write so that they can be novelists. We teach them those skills so that they can be happy, so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.

Bitsbox operates both online and as a subscription-based service that delivers boxes of coding projects in the mail to kids every month. Within minutes, kids are able to create apps that can run on a real device. The magic of the monthly deliveries is that they will keep kids hungry for more; and excited to engage with newer (and more challenging) projects as they become increasingly proficient with their coding skills.

What excites us at Ponoko is that these children will become the next generation of creative software designers and digital makers. This means that we can well and truly expect the 3D designers and laser cutting makers of the future to totally blow our minds.

Become a part of the Bitsbox community and make the most of the Kickstarter funding perks before the campaign closes.

Bitsbox via Kickstarter

Javascript Laser Cut Lamp Shades

A few lines of code to brighten your day

When Maxime Beauchemin set out to design a pair of laser cut lamp shades, he decided that it would be fun to make use of his coding skills. Already familiar with d3.js, he used Javascript to generate the vector artwork that would then be sent to the laser cutter.

This was much easier than it may otherwise appear thanks to the interactive setup at jsfiddle.net, a fantastic resource that some refer to as a ‘playground for developers’. Here is a screenshot of the number crunching that makes Maxime’s lamp possible:

This looks like an interesting way to approach design for laser cutting, with the interactive preview keeping the outcome right there on screen. Of course, a little coding knowledge would be handy to get started… but for those who just want to play, you can head over to jsfiddle and tweak Maxime’s code to make further iterations of his Javascript Laser Cut Lampshade.

via Maxime Beauchemin

Fab Academy 2015

Applications now open for the next Fab Academy Diploma

Applications are now open for the fifth edition of the Fab Academy Diploma, the main educational program of the Fab Lab Network.

For five months running between January and June in 2015, participants will find themselves immersed in an advanced digital fabrication program directed by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center For Bits and Atoms. The diploma is based on MIT’s rapid prototyping course, MAS 863: How to Make (Almost) Anything, and operates as a worldwide, distributed campus where Fab Labs across the globe become classrooms and libraries for a new kind of technical literacy.

Learn how to envision, prototype and document your ideas through many hours of hands-on experience with cutting edge digital fabrication technology.

Take note of the following important dates if you think this sounds like a great way to supercharge your creativity and productivity in 2015:

Application period: October 6th, 2014 – November 20th, 2014
Application revisions: November 21st, 2014 – November 31st, 2014
Application notification: December 1st, 2014 – December 10th, 2014
Classes: January 21st, 2015 – May 27th, 2015

A list of participating labs can be viewed here, and more information is available on the Fab Academy website. Applications are open… apply now for the 2015 course!

via Fab Academy

Manufacturing The Future

How 3D printing went from pipe dream to your desktop

When Ponoko was founded back in 2006, we envisaged the third Industrial Revolution, where consumers of the future can download and make products at home. The road to distributed digital mass production was paved by the pioneering work of stereolithography inventor Chuck Hull and transformed once again with the rise and rise of MakerBot, to name just a few.

In a fantastically comprehensive article over on Digital Trends, the full history of 3D printing has been laid out in detail.

3D printers are all the rage with enthusiasts, but they didn’t just materialize out of nowhere like the sculptures they produce. Here’s the untold story of how the next big boom in technology came to be over 30 years.

It’s a fascinating story where dreams become reality and the stuff of science fiction enters our daily lives. We have seen this first-hand, with over 400,000 custom products produced online via Ponoko’s global network of digital making services.

Click through to Digital Trends to learn how other key influencers have helped shape the strange past and seemingly impossible future of distributed digital mass production over the past 30 years.

via Digital Trends: Manufacturing the Future

image thanks to Pete Golibersuch/Knurling LLC

Ponoko Customer Blows Past Kickstarter Goal in One Day


Brad Hill is the creator behind LittleRP – A DLP projector-based resin printer that can be put together for as little as $499.

Brad set out to create a printer that was open, flexible and affordable. Rather than using proprietary resins, the LittleRP is designed to use as many different formulations of UV curing resins as possible. By focusing on smaller, higher quality prints, the LittleRP is able to provide high accuracy while keeping costs low.

The flexibility and low cost helps explain the explosive popularity of the LittleRP’s Kickstarter, which passed it’s funding goal of $25,000 is under 24 hours. As of this writing the LittleRP has raised over $98,000, just under 400% of it’s original goal!

The LittleRP’s sleek translucent enclosure is made from Ponoko’s Acrylic Orange Tint, and the housing is made from Melamine Finished MDF seen here:

The LittleRP works using a process known as 3D stereolithography, a 3D printing process that uses light-sensitive resin and a high intensity light source to build a 3D object, layer by layer, rather than using spools of plastic filament as on a majority of 3D printers currently on the market. You can check out the LittleRP in action on it’s Kickstarter Video:

Want to get your hands on your own LittleRP? Head over to Brad’s Kickstarter page to get one while you still can.

Inspired to make your own project? Signup to make and sell for free!

Sketch It Make It now available

iPad app makes it even easier to design for laser cutting

When we first heard about the iPad app Sketch It Make It, we were pretty excited. Now that developers Blank Slate Systems have released their clever drawing app to the public, our fingers are really twitching!

Sketch It Make It is able to rapidly transform even the wobbliest scribbles into neat geometric forms, and have them ready to export for digital manufacturing almost instantly. Whether you are laser cutting, using CNC milling or 3D printing there has quite possibly never been a faster way to turn ideas into tangible objects.

To discover more, download the app to your iPad and check out this series of brief tutorial videos.

The following clip also provides a neat snapshot of just how intuitive Sketch It Make It is to use.

via Sketch It Make It

Open Source Laser Cut CT Scanner

Taking a DIY approach to high tech imaging

Providing the magical ability to scan not only the surface, but also to reveal details of the insides of an object, the CT (computed tomography) scanner has quite literally changed the way we see ourselves.

Modern CT scanners are frightfully expensive and are usually found in hospitals but Canadian-born Peter Jansen has built one himself out of laser cut wood.

“After seeing the cost for my CT scan, I decided it was time to try to build an open source desktop CT scanner for small objects, and to do it for much less than the cost of a single scan.”

With a design quite similar to the early commercial CT scanners, Peter’s device began as a quarter-scale laser cut acrylic version that he whipped up in a single day.

He then used this mockup to help refine the design, under the watchful gaze of a friendly house cat. (more…)