Laser Cut Credit Cards

Amex Plastic Re-Imagined

WoodenSculptedAmericanExpressCards2-900x600

With a rich history in highly refined laser cut art pieces, French design agency Future Marketry were the right guys to bank on for American Express. The financial giant commissioned them to create interpretations of the three classic credit cards – Green, Gold and Platinum.

The results are a dynamic sculptural interplay of light and shade as the contoured laser cut surfaces replicate the holographic sheen of the actual cards. All this is achieved in multiple layers of poplar ply, brass and acrylic. This is a fantastic example of how to create a sense of depth and visual complexity using 2D laser cutting. Click through to the source for more detail images from the series.

WoodenSculptedAmericanExpressCardsCombo

What other clever examples of laser cut light and shade have you seen? Let us know in the comments below.

Future Marketry via Inspire Me

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #16

Going BIG: Changing the way we see everyday objects

giantcomb.1_1200x1200

Every day we interact with hundreds of objects, barely giving them a second thought as they perform their designated functions. The transformation that happens when you dramatically upscale an item can be a real conversation starter, as is demonstrated by the giant comb bike rack pictured above.

This clever design was a response by Know How Shop LA to the question: “What would I lock my bike to if I were really small?”

Changes in scale can be a simple way to create an eye-catching impact, where often the more ubiquitous the item, the stronger the reaction will be. See how using laser cutting to go big can help your clients stand out from the crowd! Let us know about your ‘big ideas’ in the comments below.

How To Make Custom Bokeh Lens Filters

Give your photography a boost using laser cut filters

Techniques for taking dramatic photos often rely on fancy (ie expensive) equipment, but as this little project from Jin Tsubota very effectively demonstrates, you can achieve some impressive results on a tight budget thanks to the Ponoko Personal Factory.

Watch the video above to see Jin’s step-by-step walkthrough of the remarkably easy process he used to make custom laser cut Bokeh Filters for a friend’s wedding.

“…I thought it would be fun to surprise him and his bride by shooting their wedding with these DIY bokeh filters.”

For those not familar with Bokeh, it refers to the aesthetic quality of the blurred elements that are captured through a camera lens. Bokeh filters take advantage of this, by controlling the shape of these areas using a physical filter attached to the front of the lens.

Inspired by these results, we had a quick go using the Ponoko logo! While our outcome isn’t quite as impressive as Jin’s, it is still fun to experiment with this technique.

Ponoko-Bokeh-lens-filter

You can see a photo with no filter on the left, then the filter with laser cut Ponoko logo, and the effect it creates on the right of the above image.

DIY Bokeh Filters make for a great low-cost laser cutting project, and the results can give your photography a unique, eye-catching personal touch. Have you made your own laser cut camera filters? Let us know in the comments below.

Laser Cut Bokeh Filters via YouTube: Jin Tsubota

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #15

Laser Cut Mobiles

laser cut robot mobile das wood

While there are some people who don’t give the humble mobile much thought outside of a baby’s nursery, for others the transformation that takes place as an object floats delicately through the air can be quite mesmerising.

Mobiles can take on many forms, as is demonstrated by the playful examples pictured here from Diana Jess aka daswooddesign. Hand-made from low impact eco-plastic, she used the compositionally friendly arrangement of four floating elements (pictured above)… but you can also have just as much impact with five, three, two or even one lone pendant suspension. It all comes down to how interesting your individual items are, and how well they balance when suspended.

laser-cut-mobiles-das-wood

Many of our favorite laser cutting materials are ideal to use in this application, as the silhouette of the object and the negative space around it contribute to creating a dynamic visual impact. The designs from daswood achieve this particularly well, using the strengths of laser cutting to make the most of the chosen material’s physical characteristics.

Where can you suspend an eye-catching promotional laser cut design from? Going beyond the standard ceiling mount, there are opportunities around us all the time. How about something dangling from the rear-vision mirror in a car, or clipped to the edge of a computer monitor? See what else you can come up with, and use the Ponoko Personal Factory to create a ‘space modulator’ that leaves a lasting impression.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #14

High contrast laser cut layers

Laser cut and etched wood has a striking impact all on its own, but as this example from San Francisco creative duo b-spired shows, adding in a backing layer of bright colored card really makes things pop.

Enhancing the crisp lines and bold negative space that is such a strength of laser cutting, the layered card creates a high-contrast visual impact that completely transforms the natural tone of the timber. The same effect will be equally impressive when applied to other popular laser cutting materials such as acrylic and metals.

These greeting cards and invitations by b-spired also have a sturdy backing and a neat little pop-out stand, because when something looks this good, chances are high that people will want to display them.

Imagine how this technique would look when applied to corporate identities and company artwork. How can you use the Ponoko Personal Factory to create promotional laser cut layered items, inspired by b-spired?

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

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #13

Laser Cut Annual Reports and Catalogues

Celebrating a company’s milestones and achievements, the Annual Report is an important document that can be further enhanced through clever use of laser cutting. By using typographic voids, multicolored layering and other similar techniques familiar to laser cutting designers, the published information becomes interesting and eye-catching in a way that invites the reader to explore further.

Pictured above are examples of laser cut cover artwork on Annual Reports and Catalogues from Under Consideration (top-left) and Croatian Post (lower-right) as well as internal content from Pelayo Insurance (top-right) and the Zuiderzee Museum (lower-left). We can see in these different approaches that selective application of laser cut elements can help to give a sense of prestige and style to the printed material.

Have you seen other interesting examples of laser cutting on business publications? Let us know in the comments below, and see if you can come up with a novel way to transform your next annual report into a dynamic document that has lasting impact using the Ponoko Personal Factory.

How To: Design a Living Hinge

De-mystifying the ins and outs of laser cut curved surfaces

For the most part, laser cut objects consist of flat panels that are either cut or etched before being assembled into a final configuration. There is another way to use laser cutting to create 3D objects from flat materials, and it uses a clever design element called a Lattice or Living Hinge.

It is more common to see makers and hobbyists using Living Hinges in laser cut wood, because the properties of this material allow for a significant degree of flex before the material fractures. There are also examples of Living Hinges successfully being implemented in acrylic enclosures, which demonstrates the versatility of this technique – because without using heat to assist bending, acrylic tends to be notoriously brittle.

We’re going to take a look at two approaches to designing a living hinge – starting with the more accessible trial-and-error method, and then diving in to an overview of the mathematics behind how flat materials can become bendy.   (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #12

Laser Cut and Engraved Name Tags

Attending a conference or event involves many layers of social nuance, and the ubiquitous name tag is one way to help people connect. As these laser cut and laser etched examples show, with a little creativity and planning in advance you can find all kinds of ways to make personal identification novel and memorable.

Pictured above are samples from the Engraved project by John T Kim. Although they are business cards and not ‘name tags’, the clean graphic impact of this design and the way that it has used the precision of laser etching are a good reference point.

Click through for several traditional examples plus a few that come at the idea of identification in a whole new way. (more…)

Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 5

Ponoko Cost Saving Guide

Product Recipe #1 – Part 5

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 5: Sell It

With my product line ready to go, it was time to make some money …

Packaging Your Product

Time to consider packaging. l wanted it to look great, but be very low cost. After a bit of experimentation, I came up with this for the cost of $1 per package:

Setting a Profitable Price

With all costs now calculated, it was time to finalize my retail and wholesale pricing.

To start, I used a simple ‘cost plus margin’ pricing model to ensure profitability …

First – Calculate Your Total Production Cost at Various Order Volumes

Total Production Cost = Making + Materials + Shipping + Packaging Costs:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Material Sheets 1 x P1 1 x P3 5 x P3 45 x P3
Free Account Cost $18.64 $123.67 $618.33 $5,070.33
Prime Account Cost $15.69 $91.93 $447.42 $3,028.12
Prime Cost / Set $15.69 $8.36 $7.99 $6.56
Packaging Cost / Set $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56

Second – Calculate Your Profitable Pricing

My rule of thumb is 1 : 2 : 4 … $1 of cost means a $2 wholesale price, means a $4 retail price. In other words:

Profitable Retail Price = 2 x Wholesale Price = 2 x Total Production Cost.

Hence:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Wholesale Margin 50% 50% 50% 50%
Wholesale Price / Set $33.38 $18.72 $17.98 $15.12
My Retail Margin 75% 75% 75% 75%
Retail Price / Set $66.76 $37.44 $35.96 $30.24
Overall Profit 50/50 62.5% 62.5% 62.5% 62.5%

To profit, this shows my retail price needs to be between $30.24 and $66.76 per set of 4 coasters to retain a profit margin of 62.5% assuming a 50:50 split in sales across both retail and wholesale channels.

Third – Set a Retail Price that Feels About Right

The information above coupled with knowing the market price ranges from $15 to $50 per set, I decide that my original retail price target of $30 per set is a good place for me to start.

Hence my profits will actually be:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Retail Price / Set $30 $30 $30 $30
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Retail Margin 44% 69% 70% 75%
Wholesale Price / Set $16.69 $15 $15 $15
My Wholesale Margin 0% 38% 40% 50%
Overall Profit 50/50 22% 54% 55% 62.5%
Prime + Packg Cost $16.69 $102.93 $503.42 $3,489.12

This third table tells me a few important things:

1) My Minimum Order Size – To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 11 sets of coasters at $102.93 per order. This is a good place for me to start my business.

2) My Most Profitable Order Size – To hit my goal of a 62.5% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 461 sets of coasters at $3,489.12 per order. This is a good place for me when I get a reliable stream of retail and/or wholesale orders.

3) Minimum Wholesale Order Size – To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to sell to retailers in a minimum batch of 10 sets of coasters at $150.

4) Tough Retailer Negotiation – To retain my profit margin, a retailer will need to order at least 461 sets of coasters to get a wholesale price less than $15 per set.

5) Taking a Tiny Step First – I know I can order & package just one set of coasters at $16.69 and sell them retail at a 44% profit margin, which is really nice to know if I do not want to spend the next level up at $102.93. But I also know that I can not sell this small order size at the $15 wholesale price because I will make a loss.

Of course, if I’m just getting started I can relax some of these 1:2:4 pricing ‘rules’. But they’re a great place to benchmark what is actually going on with my cash.

Without profit I can not continue my passion of making things for others. With profit I create new possibilities for myself :-)

Profiting from On-Demand Inventory

Continuing on my theme of keeping costs low, I decided to keep my stock digital until I had customer orders. This way I have zero cost until I make a sale and collect the cash.

The third table above shows that I can order just 1 set at $16.69 to fulfill a $30 retail order at a 44% retail margin. But I make nothing on a wholesale order – which tells me I need to set a minimum wholesale order size of at least 10 sets. And, in general, to maintain healthy profits I probably want to produce at least 11 sets each time I get an order, so I have a tiny stock on hand for fast delivery.

My friendly bike store owner pre-ordered 10 sets of 4 cork coasters when I was user testing in his store. He paid me the $150 wholesale price.

So I made the following design (of 45 coasters):

Download design file for this step.

I sold 10 sets for $150 at a cost to me of $93.57 (= $83.57 production + $10 packaging). A 38% wholesale profit margin to get me started ($150 wholesale price – $93.57 total cost = $56.43 profit).

Promoting Your Product

I sell my coasters to retailers and on Etsy. Here are my top tips.

Good Photos Sell

Well lit, crisp high-resolution photos of your product are a must.

Describe Your Product Well

I describe what it is made of, what the dimensions are and what it feels like. I share a bit about myself as well, so folks can identify with me as a person.

Be Pro-Active

Don’t just sit back and wait for customers to come to you. In the case of local bike shops, I just walk in, introduce myself and start a conversation. For larger retailers, I search company websites to get in touch with vendor departments. Wherever possible, I speak directly to their buyers.

Go for it!

  • Imagine it
  • Design it
  • Prototype it
  • Make it
  • Sell it

It really is that easy and low cost to make money selling your own products. You’re only limited by your imagination and determination. Ponoko can help you with the rest :-)