Award Winning Laser-Cut Shadows

Mesmerising projection installation wins major art prize

The intricate patterns projected by artist Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation piece envelop the surrounding space with an immersive interplay of light and shadow.

Titled Intersections, the laser cut cube houses a single light bulb that shines through the exquisitely detailed panels. Evoking the distinct aesthetics of Islamic art and architecture, the suspended artefact blurs boundaries as the viewer is invited into the space, drawing them in while at the same time excluding them from physically reaching the central focus point.

Anila describes the installation as challenging the viewer to “…confront the contradictory nature of all intersections, while simultaneously exploring boundaries.”

Making an impact beyond the physical space, Intersections deservedly won Anila both the $200,000 Public Vote Grand Prize and the $100,000 Juried Grand Prize at ArtPrize international art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Click through to learn more about the thinking behind this intriguing laser cut art piece.

Anila Quayyum Agha via The Creators Project

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Laser-Cut Halloween Costume

How one dad used Ponoko to make his kid’s dreams take flight

Halloween is approaching once again, and that means creative parents are busy putting together costumes for their eager little Trick or Treaters.

Taking note of his son’s ‘outsized interest in aviation’, SketchUp guru Aidan Chopra set himself the task of building an aeroplane at just the right scale for the diminutive 2½ year old pilot. The outcome – a laser cut cardboard aeroplane costume – looks fantastic, with cartoon-like proportions that give a real sense of comic aviation nostalgia.

Aidan has put together a thorough walkthrough of his design process, including references and explanatory diagrams that take you through each stage of the project in comprehensive detail. We’ve included a few snippets from the SparkFun guest post here, but do be sure to click through to the source for all of the juicy insights.

He began by referencing an enthusiast’s model of a WWII era fighter plane, and squished the proportions until it looked both fun and wearable. Having decided on laser cut cardboard for the final construction, Aidan then explored using Ponoko to produce the components… and that was where things really became interesting.

By taking time to plan out which materials to use, what sheet sizes and the relevant Ponoko requirements, he could then proceed with modeling the plane so that both construction and laser cutting costs were optimised.

The plane is constructed from 58 laser cut parts, of which 32 are unique. It took a little patience to work out how to best fit these onto the Ponoko P3 laser cutting template for double-layered corrugated cardboard, but the effort quite literally paid off by reducing cutting time.

“I’d discovered that it’s significantly cheaper to produce two copies of the same cutting file than it is to make two different sheets. Good thing, because it turns out that most of my airplane parts are symmetrical; they’re mirrored copies that exist in pairs.”

A lot of thought went in to each stage of the design process; from considering the scale and proportions appropriate for a child pilot, the material thickness and template sizes in the Ponoko Personal Factory, through to the inclusion of nodes on the slotted sections so that all the components fit together and hold in place securely.

The accuracy of the cutting was astounding. I’ve never laser cut anything; I expected the pieces to look good, but the quality of what I got made me alternate between grinning and literally giggling. For a person who spent hundreds of hours in architecture school hacking away at cardboard, foam core, basswood and plexiglass with an X-Acto knife, the extravagant expense of laser cutting instantly justified itself. I was hooked.

What a fantastic success story for a first-time Ponoko user. Why did he start off with a project as complex as this? It all may make a little more sense when you consider Aidan’s background. Having moved on from architecture, he became a master of the modeling program SketchUp. That’s no idle boast – some users may find him familiar as the author of the SketchUp for Dummies book series. Aidan’s guest post on SparkFun is both informative and entertaining, so click through if you’d like to hear the full story.

via SparkFun

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Laser cut precision

DIY callipers with imperial and metric vernier

Keeping track of precise measurements and the finest details just became a little easier, thanks to Sean Murphy’s updated vernier callipers on Thingiverse. He has come up with an interesting adaptation of a design that was originally intended to be cut from acrylic and then bolted together.

What did he do differently? Well, aside from tweaking the accuracy a little, Sean also laser cut the measuring device from paper and double-sided taped the two halves together.

“The result is a super thin set of callipers that can be slipped in a binder, folder, or book yet still give accuracy down to a few hundred microns.”

Very handy indeed… and because they are cheap, quick and easy to make, you could keep a set within reach at all times for refined accuracy wherever you happen to need them.

via Thingiverse

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Metal etching project hits 300% of Kickstarter goal

POLIGON Sculpture Shows What’s Possible With Ponoko’s Metal Etching Service

Unfolding into the mailboxes of many backers, the latest runaway success from Kickstarter features these elegant and refined sculptures by Poligon.

At the time of writing, pledges for the faceted brass and stainless steel creatures are about to eclipse 300% beyond the modest Kickstarter funding goal. Produced using a metal cutting and engraving process called PCM (Photochemical Machining), the clean lines and precise folds of these user-assembled sculptures have a striking visual presence and it’s easy to see why everybody wants one!

“We fell in love with the process because it doesn’t require hugely expensive tooling but gives highly accurate results with beautiful metals. It really has freed our creative thinking and these sculptures are just the beginning!” – Poligon

While we talk a lot about laser cutting and 3D printing here at Ponoko, metal cutting and engraving via Photochemical Machining is perhaps the quiet achiever. Taking less of the everyday focus, but (as we can see with the sculptures from Poligon) PCM certainly makes quite an impact from time to time. The Ponoko service is often used for intricate jewellery, and you can learn more about how Photochemical Machining works in our comprehensive overview.

Rodrigo and Matthew from Poligon had their own extensive experience in modelling and production to draw on, and the success of their Kickstarter campaign is well deserved. If you are inspired by this to give PCM a go yourself, then Ponoko has all your needs covered from laser cut card prototypes through to finely etched products in brass, copper and stainless steel.

Other Kickstarter projects that have used Ponoko’s services and exceeded expectations include the wildly successful Game Frame (1,031% over goal), the LittleRP affordable resin 3D printer (475% over goal), and the musical wonder that is Motion Synth (108% over goal).

Support Poligon on Kickstarter
Make your own PCM products with Ponoko

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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

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Tiny stroke-only font for laser cutting

Miniature alphabet that you can squeeze just about anywhere

When adding small text to a laser etched design, you want to make sure the font you choose will be legible.

This tiny stroke-only alphabet is available to download from the Ponoko Showroom. The free file contains the entire alphabet plus punctuations, brackets and a few other randoms. Characters are only 1mm tall. Any smaller and you will start to loose the inside of characters like ‘A’ and ‘B’ using the heavy vector setting.

On a light wood like the bamboo the light vector setting seems to work well; while the heavy setting on plastics allow you to paint fill to improve readability.

This character set was based on the free pixel font “Wendy” which you can find on dafont. Wendy was used by Stroke-Only Font creator Josh as an initial guide when laying out the line segments. Unlike the pixel font, for this example, as many line segments as possible are joined to allow easy scaling up to larger sizes.

It is worth noting that these are only grouped lines, so you’ll need to manually place letters onto your design one by one.

Using a mini font like this is worth a try if you want to inexpensively add tiny part numbers or a website/email address to your designs.

If laser engraved fonts are your thing, the Evil Mad Scientists have a great Inkscape extension that is enables even more versatility.

This post originally appeared in an article by Josh Reuss on the Ponoko Support Forums.

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Cheating the parametric design process

Compensating for different material widths when scaling your laser cut designs

Parametric Design is awesome, and makes for fewer headaches when it comes to changing a few details here and there. Well… most of the time, at least. Sometimes all those numbers can get a little complex but Martin Raynsford has developed a way to ‘cheat’ the parametric design process while scaling down his neat little laser cut catapults.

Because the design consists entirely of laser cut parts, his mini catapult can be scaled using a base version of the file where material width acts as the key piece of information. He explains his thinking and practical techniques in yet another informative blog post, and you can even download the .svg file to give it a go yourself.

If you’ve heard of the term Parametric Design but need a little refresher on just how handy it can be when applied to laser cutting projects, check out this tabbed box maker. It’s a great example of true parametric design in action.

Read more about Martin’s technique at the source article, and while you are there don’t forget to have a peek in the store because his laser cut designs are available to buy in kit form as well.

via Martin Raynsford: Cheats Parametric

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How to get the best results out of laser cut cardstock

Useful tips to get the optimum cut quality from this versatile material

Both NZ and US hubs now offer several cardstock options.  This material is a wonderful choice for greeting cards, business cards, model making and packaging.

Cardstock cuts slightly differently from other materials in the Ponoko catalogues, so there are a few useful things to know to get the optimum cut quality for your project.  Some of these are mentioned in the material pages, such as designing around small light pieces that can shift during cutting.  We always strongly advise that you carefully read material information to get a clearer idea of what results to expect.  Material samples are another handy reference, although we stress that every project is different, and prototyping is the only way to ensure the best outcome.

Something to keep in mind is that many of the mass-produced, intricately cut card products on the market are not laser cut but stamped out with a die – like a cookie cutter.  A laser cuts by burning, so some discoloration can be expected around cut marks.  This is an inherent part of the laser cutting process and can be seen in the catalogue material photos.   (more…)

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Your chance to revolutionize the concept of pasta

PrintEat 3D printable pasta competition

Being creative is hungry work, so it is no surprise that designers continue to amuse themselves by 3D printing food in ever new and delicious ways.

Set to revolutionize the concept of pasta, PrintEat is a competition over on Thingarage that probes into the future of the king of carbs. Will we one day sit down at the local trattoria and print out a dish of custom pasta right at the table?

Entrants will be challenged to:

“…subvert the traditional patterns of production (extrusion and mold) by producing morphologies that can be realized only through 3D printing”

If you think this sounds like some tasty fun, then head over to Thingarage where you can sign up to get cooking on your chance to win a share of the €2400 price money. Entries are open to the global design community and there are still (at the time of writing) 30 days left before the judges work up an appetite choosing which concepts will feature on the Specials board.

via Thingarage

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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

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