Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #25

Wrapped in a Living Hinge: Laser Cut Clutch

laser cut living hinge bag michael harwood

There is something almost magical about the way a flat sheet of rigid material becomes flexible when laser cut using the ‘living hinge’ technique. This method of achieving a 3D shape from 2D material is ideally suited to laser cutting, as it exploits the natural tendency for stiff materials to flex around voids or notches. With a distinctive visual identity, the functional design elements can also be quite eye-catching.

The result is a smooth, organic curve that can be controlled rather efficiently if you are willing to either put your head far enough into the mathematics of how it works, or simply enjoy the prototyping process through several rounds of trial and error.

About living hinges

Learn more in our post on How To Design a Living Hinge where the mathematics behind this construction technique are revealed. While many examples of living hinges use simple lines as the decorative and functional element, it is in fact possible to adapt complex graphics (such as icons or company logos) to achieve a similar physical manipulation in the material.

See the following examples of patterns increasing in complexity, and how they respond when they are a part of a living hinge. To the left is a basic staggered line element, similar to the clutch bag design featured above from Michael Harwood. Moving through to chevrons, larger voids in a plus symbol and then the more detailed Space Invader sprite, it is clear that visually recognisable icons can indeed become living hinge elements.

Applying this technique to your brand

Staggered lines are an excellent starting point when looking at living hinges, as the behavior of the material is much more predictable and therefore easier to control. To keep things interesting, we do also encourage exploring more complex designs for maximum impact. Consider both the form that is created when the material bends around the living hinge, and how best to incorporate brand identity.

Have you bagged the perfect fashion accessory 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: Laser Cut Wooden Keyboard

Using a laser cutter to customize your keys

lazerwood macbook keys

With all of the time people spend at their personal computers, there is a growing demand for new ways to give these devices a more natural, human touch. One popular solution to complement the cool sheen of the portable computer is to create custom keys and removable keyboard decals.

The laser cut and etched example pictured above faithfully recreates the features on the buttons, from the classic fonts all the way to proportion and composition. It also pays to experiment; if you get the laser etched details just right, there is even scope to allow for light to pass through from the backlit keys below.

This is an effective way to give your computer added tactile and visual warmth. If you don’t have the means to make your own, you can see if the full Lazerwood example suits your needs. For those who would like to try their own design for keyboard customizations, try this instructable as a starting point. Load in the design files to your Ponoko Personal Factory and you’ll soon be typing away on an individualized upgraded keyboard with some serious creative flair.

How To Create Strength Using Origami and Laser Cutting

New structural options from everyday materials 

In recent years, the boundary between art and engineering has continued to blur with scientists and researchers turning their formidable minds toward traditional craft techniques. The results are starting to get quite exciting, with surprise breakthroughs such as the Japanese origami-inspired ‘zippered tube’ featured above demonstrating that there is still much to learn about how we use familiar materials.

This example highlights a novel process of combining thin flexible sheets of material that have precise cuts and folds in them. The location and combination of these elements enables the material to become rigid when assembled in specific configurations, gaining structural integrity far beyond the original material’s capacity.

The research that developed this construction technique emerged from a collaboration between University of Illinois grad student Evgueni Filipov, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Glaucio Paulino and professor Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo.

“…we’re starting to see how it has potential for a lot of different fields of engineering” – Evgueni Filipov

Filipov and his colleagues focus on an origami technique known as Miura-ori folding, where a tube is constructed from two precisely folded ziz-zag strips. Individually, the strips are highly flexible but when combined the resulting tube has a remarkable rigidity and controllable degree of compression or folding.

What does this mean for Ponoko users? While much of the focus in the origami research is currently centered around potential uses in architecture and for space exploration; many of the options from the Ponoko Materials Library would be a great fit for this approach to assembly and construction.

via Georgia Tech News Center


Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #24

Delicious decorative details

laser cut sushi

For a tasty treat that is as much a feast for the stomach as it is for the eyes, laser cutting opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The precision and intricacy enabled by laser cutting is perfectly suited to many delicious everyday ingredients, as is demonstrated with the laser cut maki sushi rolls pictured above.

Laser Cutting In The Kitchen

The laser cutting we know and love works in two dimensions, transforming any flat material into an open creative canvas. Taking this into the kitchen where so many ingredients are rolled, stretched and beaten flat gives enterprising chefs a new tool with which to win over your heart. Sheets of nori (dried seaweed) are a great example, as they respond much like thin paper when laser cut. Then when they are assembled into a sushi roll the dramatic visual impact really draws attention.

Branding Good Enough To Eat

Applying brand identities and iconic imagery to ingredients creates quite a different engagement for the consumer than if the same elements are used on printed materials or packaging. With good reason, the way we pay attention to something edible triggers a response from somewhere deeper inside… how does that old proverb go? The way to a Man’s heart… (following images via

How can you tickle some taste buds 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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Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #23

Laser Cut Fashion

laser cut fashion example

The intricate designs enabled by laser cut textiles are no longer an exclusive novelty for the haute couture runway scene. The bold fashion statements enabled by laser cutting are now within the grasp of the everyday consumer, with leather, silk and other textiles ideally suited to the digital manufacturing process.

Delicate patterns reminiscent of fine lace and needlework lend themselves well to laser cutting, but as we can see in the image above, bold shapes and iconic imagery can be just as effective.

With some clever design thinking, laser cutting has also enabled more exotic materials to become wearable garments. The wooden t-shirt below by Pauline Marcombe uses laser cut panels attached together with wire, transforming what was once a rigid material into a malleable interlocking form of modern body armour.

laser cut fashion wood shirt pauline marcombe

Why would you turn to laser cutting for brand promotion? For one, the eye-catching impact of these fashion items invites attention and a healthy curiosity… but also, thanks to the laser cutting process, there is much scope for design freedom and customization at a price that is accessible to the consumer.

How can your brand stand out amongst all the other fashonistas 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.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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How To make a Laser Cut Local Landmark

City of Bath Georgian House flat-pack model


Miniature models of local landmarks are a popular choice when it comes to souvenirs and keepsakes. In this example, the iconic Georgian terrace houses from the city of Bath in the UK are recreated with loving attention to detail.

Available as a flat-pack kit of three neatly stacked cosy homes, you can choose from either 1.5mm card or 3mm poplar ply, and the straightforward assembly process will only take a few minutes.

Laser cut architectural models are the ideal choice to make use of tab-and-slot construction techniques that allow for quick and easy construction, often holding together without the need for glues or adhesives. Basic elevations of the structure can be traced out in your preferred drawing program (inkscape is a Ponoko favorite) and prepared for laser cutting. Take the guesswork out of designing with interlocking slots using one of several freely available tools and plugins. For a landmark or object with a more sculptural form, 3D models can also be sliced up into panels or interlocking sections that are just right to send to the laser cutter.

Once you have the profiles and parts that make up your object, arrange them neatly within one of the Ponoko laser cutting templates and add useful notes or assembly tips as etched details. The Ponoko guide to keeping laser cutting costs down contains important information that will save you time and money, so be sure to read through before starting to avoid common (and costly) pitfalls.

It can also be nice to add a little something extra to the assembled model. The Georgian terrace kits by Bob Kann come supplied with a little light to install inside, so that there is a warm welcoming glow that completes the homely feel.

via Bob Kann

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #22

Laser Cut Pop Up Text


It makes sense that with many promotional products and messaging items, the choice of typography plays a major role in whether your messaging gets through to people. One way to literally stand out from the crowd can be to create something that looks interesting and encourages a simple physical interaction, all within the text itself.

This eye-catching example of 3D text with a difference came from the forward-thinking fashionistas at Anthropologie. The event invitation would have looked appropriately refined and stylish printed onto white card, if only a more traditional approach had been taken. However, the simple transformation of laser cutting a portion of the font outline completely changes how the recipient reads the message. Each word can be folded out to stand proud from the surface, making perspective, light and shadow all contribute to a more memorable sensorial experience.

Could your corporate messaging take on a whole new impact 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.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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How To Find Open Source Design Files

Design resources that help you get started with laser cutting


The learning curve can be a steep one for some people when it comes to wrapping your head around digital manufacturing. Not only do you need to understand how to design for CNC, 3D printing or laser cutting; starting from scratch is daunting and design resources can be hard to come by.

In an attempt to de-mystify the process of digital manufacturing, Obrary takes inspiration from the changes enabled by the Open Source movement and has set up a resource supplying design files and code for anyone to use or improve on. Their motto is “Making it easy to make.”  They do that by providing the Maker community with a library full of open designs and a series of eBooks full of information about the making process.  The site has open designs from Makers from across the globe.

“Beyond improved sharing of design resources, new design approaches and engineering patterns are enabled”.

Users are encouraged to make their own tweaks to the designs, learning by trial and error in much the same way that made development for the Raspberry Pi so popular.

Have you ever wanted to build a cage gear mechanism? They’ve got one of those. How about an adding machine or even something simple like a robust shelving system… these are but a few of the designs that have been made freely available to the Obrary community. The design file package includes a number of file types including CAD files, interchange files (DXF, PDF, etc) and CAM files.  So you should be able to find a file format that fits into your manufacturing process.

And one nice feature of the site is that all of their designs and eBooks have the same license – Creative Commons-BY-SA.  This is a truly open license that even lets you sell products made from the designs.

“…making, building, and collaborating, not because we have to, or because it’s research, but because it’s so fun.”

Already a digital maker? Use the comments form below to tell us about other resources that were useful when you were just getting started, and how you’ve taken these skills and design adaptations into the Ponoko Personal Factory to turn them into reality.

See more collaborative designs and handy resources at Obrary.


How To Help Your Client Launch a Kickstarter Campaign

Head off Crowdfunding questions with these useful tips and resources


Crowdfunding campaigns give entrepreneurs, artists and businesses a unique opportunity to test the viability of their ideas. Yet for many, the thought of running a Kickstarter campaign can be a daunting prospect.

So how can you help de-mystify the process, and give your client the tools and support they need to embrace all that Kickstarter has to offer? Let’s take a look at some of the contributing factors that enable campaigns to reach – and indeed exceed – their funding goals.

Choosing the right platform
The first question to ask is whether or not this method of raising funds is actually suitable for your business proposal. Each crowdfunding platform has its quirks and benefits, and in the example of Kickstarter, many submissions do not even pass the approval phase. It is well worth taking the time to identify which crowdfunding option best suits your business model and potential project outcome.

Don’t be dazzled by dollar signs – just because there are campaigns raising millions of dollars does not mean that every campaign will be an overwhelming success. For the majority of campaigns, a few thousand or even just a few hundred dollars over the target amount can be a big deal.

Be prepared to work hard
Although crowdfunding has been shown to be surprisingly lucrative for some, successful outcomes are not guaranteed. It takes more than just having a bright idea; you have to know your project very well and be prepared to put time into every stage of the funding process. Understand that for every hour you spend (and there will be many!) on preparing the campaign, there will be just as much time required to maintain and promote the project through to completion. Yet even then, your task doesn’t end when the countdown stops. Assuming you are sitting on a pile of money after a successful campaign, you will need to get moving on production and manage the distribution of rewards to your backers.

There is a misconception that a crowdfunded campaign is something that can be done on the side, in your downtime or on the weekends. This is simply not true… one thing that all successful campaigns have in common, regardless of funding levels or project outcomes, is that the campaign itself was a full-time commitment.

There is a strong social media component to the Kickstarter process, with communication and personal interaction playing a large role in backer satisfaction. It can help to remind yourself that Kickstarter is not an online store, even though some backers continue to treat it like one. Integral to successful campaigns is the way people love to feel like they are involved in making things happen. This is a different consumer experience than traditional online shopping, and with careful planning you can use that to your advantage. Choose a variety of rewards including smaller contributions that can help keep people interested in your progress, even if they aren’t in a position to commit larger amounts of money during the campaign. These potential future customers can become informal brand ambassadors through their own social media activity, expanding your reach before the campaign reaches its conclusion.

Be realistic
Not all campaigns are successful, and that is ok. The reasons why a campaign does not reach its funding goals can be quite varied, and are sometimes just as mysterious as to why other campaigns dramatically exceed expectations. When setting up a crowdfunding campaign, plan out how you will navigate through both failure and success, so that your business can continue to evolve beyond the campaign timeline.

Don’t be shy – a Kickstarter campaign is a lot to take on, and it is perfectly ok to seek out help. In fact, many services are popping up that enable a streamlining of each aspect of the campaign. Gathering and processing information beforehand will help to protect you from nasty surprises and also empower you to fully exploit successes and opportunities should they come your way. Here are a few to start you off:

The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding
Presented by Shopify, the ecommerce solution of choice for many successful campaigns. This thorough walkthrough over 23 chapters covers all the key considerations to be aware of before taking on your own Kickstarter campaign.

How To Make a Successful Kickstarter Campaign
Using the Pebble Watch as a case study, this detailed investigation looks at how a 24 year old guy’s project with a goal of $100,000 became a $10 million record-breaker.

Tools for Kickstarter: Planning Calculator
A handy tool from Reuben Pressman, you can generate a quick overview of whether your numbers will all stack up. The calculator also includes a valuable Incentives component that will help to resolve the allocation of backer rewards.

Social Media services: Backercamp
Communication and Marketing for your campaign will get a huge boost if you call in the experts to lend a hand.

Manage your Mail: Green Inbox
With so much content flooding your clients’ email and social media, direct personalised messaging gets through to people and saves you time.

Look your best on camera: Elevant Productions
The influence a refined video clip has on campaign success rates is huge. Get it right first time for maximum impact on the small screen.

Case Studies: Success Stories
Also from Shopify, this breakdown of eleven campaigns highlights what they did right and what they did wrong, providing many valuable insights.

Analysis and Infographics
In-depth analysis of campaign metrics, trends and a very handy infographic that helps to navigate The Untold Story behind Kickstarter Stats.

The task of setting realistic goals, achievable rewards and establishing effective communication with backers is often more complex than people first anticipate. By investing a little time in making the most of these resources, the entire campaign experience becomes a whole lot more manageable. Don’t underestimate the impact that thorough preparation can have. By approaching your campaign with the knowledge that you are prepared for any surprises that may pop up – whether they are positive or negative – you will be ready to rise to the challenge.

Are you using the Ponoko Personal Factory to produce rewards for a campaign? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll discuss the best way to help you reach your funding goals.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #21

Silhouettes at human scale


The magic that’s in the air at sunset helps to bring John Marshall’s playful cardboard cutouts to life, with a real sense of movement and action communicated through his carefully constructed photography.

By planning each scene according to perspective, lighting and precision timing; an entertaining scenario is depicted with surprising realism. This human-scaled shadow puppetry is a technique that could be adapted to give an impact to marketing collateral that standard graphic prints can only dream of.


Location-specific installations encourage people to rethink their role in the physical environment, engaging the viewer and ultimately creating a connection to the space that leaves a lasting impression.


The examples shown here in John’s Sunset Selfies are all cut out by hand, and the concept is well suited to a streamlined process using laser cutting. How can your clients apply this idea of immersive puppetry using laser cut cardboard from the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below, and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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