In this back-to-basics tutorial video, we walk through the process of making a set of laser cut coasters from a free design file.
Following these steps is a great way to get started with Ponoko and realise what’s possible using your own Personal Factory.
In a few short minutes, you will know how to:
• Download a free design file • Add it to your Personal Factory • Choose material options to get personal pricing • Place an order
We’ve made it really easy to start making and get a feel for the laser cutting process. Stay tuned for future posts in this back-to-basics series as you work towards generating your own custom designs and becoming a successful digital maker.
A quicker, cheaper alternative to raster fill engraving
Vector or Raster? It’s a question that has goes back to the earliest days of laser etching. Here is an interesting little exploration from the creative team over at Cuddleburrito that scores another point for the Vector camp.
Instead of using a raster fill for a job that required large graphic elements, they devised a way to create the same effect using vector paths.
This saves a huge amount of time, as the laser only needs to engrave the actual paths of the lines instead of sweeping across the entire area. There was an added bonus that the outcome has a more consistent appearance when applied on timber, because the tendency for grain variation to be emphasized (as when using raster etching) had been eliminated.
Want to know how they did it? Click through to the source to find out…
Useful information for both new users and laser cutting veterans
Are you a seasoned Ponoko maker? Or perhaps your imagination has been tingling and you are bursting to make your very first Ponoko product.
Either way, here is a top-10 list that we think will come in handy for those new to laser cutting, and it also contains useful information that will help more experienced Ponoko members keep things running smoothly.
Let us know what you would add!
1. How long it will take to make and ship your order.
We make all orders as quickly as we can, and how long that takes depends on the volume of orders we are processing at any one time. Due to the number of variables involved, we’ve written a separate post to help you work out the likely total time your order will take. Read about our order timeframes.
2. If you are using Inkscape, you MUST use our design templates, or your design will be sized incorrectly.
We strongly recommend that everyone use our templates for laying out their laser cutting designs. If you are using Inkscape *it is 100% necessary*. The way that Inkscape works with measurements is different to other vector-based design software packages, and if you do not use our templates your parts will be made the wrong size. If you’ve already got an Inkscape design ready, we have created a guide to putting it on our templates. Read how to place existing Inkscape designs onto our templates.
…so that’s the first two, and there are eight further important pointers to wrap your head around when you continue reading the full post. (more…)
Teaching kids how to build their own mini making machines
Designed for a workshop series that introduces kids to building their own motor controllers, the Sphere-O-Bot is a simple 2 axis CNC machine that can draw on small spherical surfaces. Suggested target spheres include ping pong balls, eggs and even golf balls are apparently worth a try.
There is a thorough tutorial on Instructables that will take you through the thinking behind the laser cut wooden design, and show just how to put it all together. Files are included for the laser cut structure as well as specs for all the hardware required to get the Sphere-O-Bot up and running.
This fun project was uploaded by Juan, a Maker Corps intern at the Children’s Museum of Houston, who says:
“By building your Sphere-O-Bot using a laser cutter, you can achieve a clean look while also reducing the production time of your parts. This design also features an electronics bay for your wires, micro-controller and motor drivers.”
Helpful advice on how to get started with the Ponoko Personal Factory
For those who have always wanted to give Ponoko a go but are not sure where to start, this training video shows just how easy it is to produce your own laser cut designs.
In a little over ten minutes, Josh talks through the process of using Ponoko, and highlights a small project that makes a great starting point to help you feel your way with the Ponoko Personal Factory.
The material overview covers felt, cut and engraved bamboo, leather, 3d objects assembled from laser cut acrylic, and laser cut plywood. There is also advice on which materials are the best to get started with – and how to avoid common ‘beginner’ mistakes.
Then it gets to the good stuff – a neat little demo of how to actually make your very first product. The walkthrough explains how to use Inkscape to create a file that can be uploaded to Ponoko for laser cutting.
Starting with the Ponoko P1 template, Josh quickly whips up a collection of forms that use both laser cutting (for outlines) and laser etching (for surface details).
The upload process is then explained, with useful tips on how to check your files are correct and also how to order multiple copies of your design. Next comes material selection, which reveals some very useful information – how much it will cost! You’ll see that it’s really easy to switch to another material and see the price adjust accordingly in an instant.
The video wraps up with a few more handy design tips to be sure you start off on the right track.
Sound like fun? We think so. Watch the video, then dive right in!
Using a laser cutter to make a speaker casing with style
When Chilean designer Francisco Sahli needed to take his tunes on the road, he decided the best way would be to make his own stylish bluetooth speaker.
Many makers turn to laser cutting to build enclosures for their electronic projects. What sets this example apart is the departure from the usual boxy laser cut forms, with the result looking much more like a manufactured product.
Rather than the usual slotted laser cut corners, Francisco achieved a smooth radius and angled faces by laser cutting timber profiles and then laminating them together.
The final assembly was then carefully sanded by hand, before three coats of paint were applied. You can read all about the construction process, see the laser cutting paths and find out what’s inside to make the bluetooth speaker work its magic on Francisco’s website.
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…)
Leaves, MC Escher’s Rippled Surface and some sci-fi just for fun
Using a laser cutter to add physical presence to 2D artworks can be really effective, as these recent explorations from Maxime Beauchemin show. Having kicked things off with a rather elegant laser etched ATAT walker, he then moved on to more everyday ephemeral visions.
Pictured above is an acrylic replication of MC Escher’s iconic Rippled Surface print, where Maxime faithfully recreates the layered illusion of water surface, reflected trees and rippled distortion.
Turning to laser cut wood for another project, the delicate structure of a decaying leaf skeleton is revealed. (more…)
Space saving portable design takes laser cutting on the road
Here is another interesting DIY laser cutter project, this time featuring a novel departure from the standard construction we are used to seeing.
Instead of running within a constrained space, the compact laser cutter has an arm that swings out in a format reminiscent of the RepRap 3D printer.
When the laser cutter is in use the arm opens up to 90 degrees perpendicular to the box and the laser head runs along it.
The main structural elements are made from aluminium extrusions, and there are a few custom CNC milled and 3D printed components to fill in the gaps and connect other off-the-shelf parts.
This looks to be a novel way to build a laser cutter that you can take on the road with you. No more heavy equipment fixed in place in the workshop… just be careful not to set it up on your grandma’s favourite coffee table!
For more info, including a thorough photo essay of the development process behind the fold-out laser cutter, click through to the source.
Running interesting laser cutter experiments is one of the things that Just Add Sharks does best. In this exploration, they have addressed the question of how to break away from the mortice and tenon joints that have become so familiar in laser cut projects.
By creating a laser cut jig that holds the material at a specific angle, they were able to cut edges that can fit together in a manner that is clean and precise. No more stepped blocks and slots! Here is what the jig looks like:
Much easier to achieve than modifying the axis of the laser cutter itself, this jig provides a firm support to a pre-cut panel, and does not require any other machine modifications. The angle of the cut can be controlled by altering the vertical supports.
“Manually changing the angles like this is tiresome so the next sensible upgrade would be to build an ‘any angle, any material thickness’ jig for the same purpose, but that is a job for another day.”
The Just Add Sharks blog has an overview by Martin Raynsford that talks through a few of the considerations that led to the first successful cut. Having proven that it can be done with standard perpendicular joints, they adjusted a few specs on the jig to produce a icosahedron, pictured below.