Optimize your Laser-cutting design file for lower costs

How to get the most out of your Ponoko order

When you make something with Ponoko, there are 3 key costs to consider: making, materials, and shipping.

Making cost is all about labor — mostly machine labor and a little bit of human labor. Think of your design file as a work order, a set of instructions for the machine to follow. The simpler and more efficient your instructions are, the less time it takes the machine to follow them. And that means less making costs.

Here are a few tips and tricks direct from the Ponoko team that you can use to optimize your design file and help get you the lowest cost possible for your laser cut project.

The key thing to remember with laser-cutting is that you’re paying for the *time* your design spends on the laser cutter.

“If it’s your first time making something, start small with a P1 size material sheet. The smaller dimension will help constrain the amount of making time, and your material cost will be lower.” ~ Yana

“When it comes to laser-cutting, the more complex and detailed your design is the more expensive it will be to make. So when you can, and especially for beginners, I suggest starting with simple designs that aren’t too intricate.” ~ Christina

“Print out your design on paper first. You could consider this a free and instant first prototype. It’s the ideal way to spot sizing errors, see whether you’ve made holes big enough, and get a feel for what your final result will look like.” ~ Josh J.

“For any new design, I often recommend making a cardboard version first. Cardboard is one of our most affordable materials, and the laser can cut it really quickly; so you can get an inexpensive test run of your design. Then when you’re happy with the cardboard version, you can order your design in the material you want and feel more assured that it will come out the way you want.” ~ Josh R.

“One thing to remember is that the laser cuts the material by burning it. So thinner materials will cut faster than thicker materials. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than curves.” ~ Catherine

“Try to make all the pieces of your design fit together like a puzzle instead of scattered around the template. See if there are any pieces that could actually share a cutting line*. And put the rest of the pieces close together, but be sure to leave enough space for the kerf (how much material the laser burns away).” ~ Dan

*If pieces in your design share a cutting line, you must remove any “double lines” created by the overlap. Check our design starter kit for more info.

“Raster Fill Engraving is a very time consuming process, similar to how a dot-matrix printer works. For creating details in your design, I usually recommend using Vector Engraving instead. If you do use Raster Fill Engraving, try to keep the engraved areas as close together on the template as possible.” ~ Josh J.

Now you’ve heard the tips from our in-house experts, here is a summary of how to keep your laser cutting costs down:

• Time = money
• For beginners, start with a small size material (P1) and a simple design.
• Print your design out on paper to spot any immediate problems with the design.
• Make a cardboard prototype. You won’t regret it.
• Keep in mind that different materials burn at different rates.
• Fit the pieces of your design close (but not too, too close) together.
• Consider whether Vector Engraving is a better option than Raster Fill Engraving

Originally posted on the Ponoko Support Forums

Related posts:

Laser cut vacations

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #192

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above are laser cut and etched wood coasters from C+M Designs.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, ships in bottles, owls and pussycats, bears, posters, and escapes… (more…)

Related posts:

Lunchtime lasers

Zapping tasty treats with some personalised graphics

While delicious pastries may not be one of the options in the Ponoko Materials Catalog, we do find our mouths watering each time someone fires up their laser cutter for a burst of culinary creativity.

Proving once again that adding a personal touch to your midday meal can be an almost religious experience, Christopher Short etched this enigmatic dinosaur onto his quesadillas. Yum.

Watch the following clip to see the laser do its thing in real-time…

You can find more laser etching and cutting to enjoy from Christopher on YouTube.

Related posts:

Laser cutting 3D forms: 123D Make tutorial

Slicing up a T-Rex for laser cutting that roars

The software options available to digital makers just keeps getting better, and one of our recent favourites would have to be Autodesk’s 123D Make.

Why do we like 123D Make so much? Simply put, it just works and really is as easy as 1, 2… 3. The freely available software takes a 3D model and slices it up, then exports the data for laser cutting.

As you’ll see in the following tutorial, there are several very handy (and quite powerful) capabilities built in to 123D Make that help ensure your final result comes together just right.   (more…)

Related posts:

Owl you need to know about laser cutting

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #191

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above is a laser cut and etched leather owl bracelet from Dymond Designs.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, tubes, lagoons, and guest books… (more…)

Related posts:

Laser Cut Helical Springs

Coils that run rings around Slinky

Thanks to the addition of a rotary attachment for his laser cutter, Adam Watters has spent several months exploring what happens when you cut helical paths onto cylinders.

The variety of outcomes shows that there is a whole lot further to go with Springs than the trusty old Slinky would have us believe. Working in materials including acrylic, cardboard and 3d printed PLA, he has created a range of forms that have a mathematical beauty both as static objects and when in motion.

Discovering new patterns and the shapes and forms that follow has been a rewarding process for Adam. When questioned as to what the point of it all is, he had this to say:

For a little while, I turned my attention to finding an application for these, but that proved to be way less fun than experimenting with the process and cutting new springs. So for now, they are what they are.

Head over to Instructables where you can read all about laser cutting acrylic and cardboard springs, from a straightforward spiral through to cuboid grids, nested coils and even compression springs that take things in another direction entirely.

via Instructables: Laser Cut Helical Springs

Related posts:

10 Great Materials for Laser Cutting

Ponoko’s most popular materials for laser cutting with pricing info, pros and cons, and example project ideas

The Ponoko Materials Catalog offers a wide variety of high quality sheet materials for laser cutting. From those awesome new Premium materials down to plain old (but ever-so-useful) cardboard, there is a material option for every making scenario. Each material is thoroughly tested to ensure that it cuts cleanly, engraves nicely and just generally looks good. With all these great materials on offer, how do you know which one to choose?

Here is a snapshot of the top ten materials available for laser cutting in your Ponoko Personal Factory. Each material overview includes a price range for the Ponoko sheet sizes, the number of varieties to choose from, and also important information about pros, cons and suggested usage scenarios.

1. CARDBOARD

Pricing: 50 cents to $4.00
Varieties: 4 different types
Pros: Inexpensive, recyclable, easy to paint, easy to join (tape, glue, staples)
Cons: Low durability, not suited to raster engraving
Great for: early prototypes, package design, crafts, kids projects
Make something with cardboard!

2. ACRYLIC

Pricing: $2 to $86
Varieties: 30 different types + colors, up to 6 different thicknesses
Pros: High quality look and finish, high level of detail possible, engraves well, affordable
Cons: Can crack under stress, can scratch
Great for: jewelry, hardware/electronic enclosures, signage, ornaments, wall art, mobiles
Make something with acrylic!

3. BAMBOO

Pricing: $3.50 to $33
Varieties: 2 different types, 2 different thicknesses
Pros: High quality look and finish, affordable, renewable resource
Cons: Engraving results are inconsistent, large sheets are prone to warping
Great for: jewelry, coasters, clocks, ornaments, picture frames, boxes, wall art, mobiles
Make something with bamboo!

4. PLYWOOD

Pricing: $3.50 to $34
Varieties: 2 different thicknesses
Pros: Affordable, engraves well, easy to stain
Cons: Slightly rough unfinished surface
Great for: crafts, models, home decor, kids projects
Make something with plywood!

5. FELT

Pricing: $7 to $45
Varieties: 15 different colors, up to 2 thicknesses
Pros: 100% wool, high quality look and finish, renewable resource
Cons: Strong burn smell, dark burned edge color
Great for: jewelry, coasters, trivets, crafts, ornaments, lining
Make something with felt!

6. MIRROR ACRYLIC

Pricing: $6 to $58.50
Varieties: 3 different colors
Pros: Reflective, interesting effects possible, high quality look and finish, engraves well
Cons: Can crack under stress, can scratch, prone to warping
Great for: jewelry, signage, home decor, wall art, ornaments
Make something with mirror acrylic!

7. CORK

Pricing: $4.50 to $26
Varieties: 1 type
Pros: Flexible, renewable resource
Cons: Does not raster engrave well
Great for: cushioning/padding, coasters, crafts, kids projects, pin boards
Make something with cork!

8. WOOD VENEER MDF

Pricing: $3.50 to $26
Varieties: 3 different types
Pros: High quality look and finish, engraves well, solid/substantial feel
Cons: Inconsistent thickness between supply batches
Great for: clocks, magnets, puzzles, coasters, ornaments, jewelry, picture frames
Make something with wood veneer MDF!

9. LEATHER

Pricing: $13 to $104.50
Varieties: 5 different colors
Pros: High quality look and finish, flexible, soft suede on back side,
Cons: Expensive, low in-house inventory
Great for: bracelets, bags, wallets, book covers, glasses case, iphone/ipad cases, zipper pulls
Make something with leather!

10. MELAMINE MDF

Pricing: $2 to $11
Varieties: 1 type
Pros: High quality look and finish, wipable melamine surface on both sides
Cons: Only 1 thickness available
Great for: countertops, tabletops, placemats, shelving
Make something with melamine MDF!

Related posts:

Laser cut parts-to-whole

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #190

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above is a laser cut metal and powder coated Lego Man bookmark from Cool Bookmark.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, chairs, peacocks, and daisies… (more…)

Related posts:

Laser Cut Turbine Whistle

Shrinking an air-raid siren to fit into your pocket

Quoted as being ideally suited for those looking to be really annoying, this laser cut project by Mark Langford on Instructables might catch your attention. Taking the same principles that give air-raid sirens such an impressive audio impact, he has condensed them down into a neat little package that can fit on a key ring.

After several iterations, the mechanics of the three-layer design were perfected and (as you can hear in the following video) it really does work. Extra points of course go to the fancy eyebrow acrobatics!

Here is how it works:

The air you blow in blows out through the pattern of holes, and at the same time, it makes the turbine spin.

If there was no turbine, the air would just hiss out of the holes, but the holes and blades are designed so that the spinning turbine alternately covers and uncovers the holes, rapidly blocking and releasing the air in a series of pulses that make the noise you hear.

See the Turbine Whistle on Instructables where you can learn from Mark’s thorough project walkthrough. There are plenty of step-by-step photos and of course you can download the files to make a pocket siren of your own.

via Instructables: Turbine Whistle

Related posts:

What to do with your first laser cut design

Four scenarios and next step options for first-time makers

You’ve created a design and uploaded it to Ponoko, placed and order, and now you have your first piece of laser cut delight. So now what?

It all depends on what stage of the process you’re in. We’ve come up with four scenarios to keep things moving. See which one best describes you.

Scenario #1

You: My design is not quite right – it didn’t work out!

Ponoko: Don’t let this get you down. The first try pretty much never turns out perfect for anyone. Making something is a process, and you’re in the prototyping phase. Most of our customers have to make 5-10 prototypes to get their design just right. Don’t forget that we will do whatever it takes to help you get there!

What to do next:

• If you’re not sure why your design didn’t work out or if you think we messed something up, get in touch: service-at-ponoko-dot-com
• If you know what needs to be changed, revise your design and try again. To speed up the prototyping process, we recommend putting multiple versions of your design on a single sheet of material and see which one works best.

(more…)

Related posts: