Closing out the year with a laser cut Useless Machine
If you’re wondering how to make the most of that ever-so-tempting Ponoko Boxing Day discount, here is a completely useless project idea.
How about building your very own laser cut Useless Machine? Thingiverse user Aaron posted this decorative version, along with instructions on how to make your own diabolical contraption. He has even included handy tips on customisation to suit different material thicknesses.
For those who don’t know, a Useless Machine consists of a simple box with a single switch on the top. Upon activating the switch, a hatch opens up and out pops a lever that turns the switch off again.
Originally invented by Artificial Intelligence pioneer Martn Minsky, the Useless Machine is kind of reminiscent of a 19th century novelty mechanical curio. If you do a bit of research you’ll find dozens of examples of how people have had fun with this idea by creating their own variations, and here is a nice video of Martin talking about what he terms the ‘most useless machine ever made’.
As a laser cutting project for both new and experienced makers, this could in fact prove to be quite useful after all.
When we talk about laser cutting in acrylic, most of the time the focus is on materials with that familiar glossy surface. Today we are taking a closer look at glossy acrylic’s lesser-known (but just as fantastic) cousin, Matte Acrylic.
Available in the Ponoko Materials Library in both black and white options, Matte Acrylic is textured on the top surface, and glossy (like the regular acrylic) on the back. We have a detailed post in the Ponoko Support Forums, which runs through many of the characteristics of this versatile material. Supporting images provide real-world examples and help to clarify whether Matte Acrylic is the right choice for your next laser cutting project.
Learn about how to best make use of this material by combining it with glossy acrylic on larger projects. See examples of the contrast between shiny and matte finishes, and how to use metallic paint to fill laser etched details. There are also a few quirks to discover that you may not have encountered before, and the tutorial includes handy tips and tricks such as advice on removing protective paper.
Butcher knives become a canvas for artist’s message to mankind
Artist Li Hongbo has developed quite a reputation for his remarkable works in paper. The theme of manipulating intricate cutouts continues in cold hard steel with the series “Shadow of Knives”, where he weaves a cautionary tale about our ever-eager consumer society.
“Shadow of Knives” is a warning to society – human beings will eventually destroy themselves because of their gluttony and their abuse of animals.”
As well as the poignant message, these works are an excellent example of the impact that can be achieved using well-planned cutouts from a flat surface.
Free design shows exactly what will happen in your material of choice
The mysteries of how to get the right settings for vector and raster engraving is something that can take time and practise to fully unravel. Thanks to this free file from James Stokebrand, you can create a mini laser etching cheat sheet in your favorite Ponoko material.
The file is set to work perfectly with Ponoko’s P1 template size, and it includes a range of raster fill values, vector line fill values and even some handy tips for designs that use vector linework.
Pictured above is the file etched onto blonde bamboo, and James has also provided high-res sample images in black acrylic and cardstock. Although there is nothing that can truly replace holding a physical sample in your hand, zooming in on these images is pretty close to the next best thing.
Take a look on the Ponoko Support Forums to see for yourself. The file can be downloaded from the Ponoko Showroom, and if it all looks too confusing for you (don’t worry, we all start somewhere!) there is a simpler version of what James has provided all cut and ready to go on the Ponoko Samples page.
Last chance to get your hands on a laser cut rope braiding machine
When we first came across an earlier version of this laser cut mechanical marvel, it had our heads in quite a spin. The 21st century makeover of an 1890’s industrial artefact is a fantastic example of how laser cutting can enable accessibility to broader technological possibilities.
Ever true to his word,David from Mixed Media Engineering has refined the design and launched a Kickstarter campaign for what is now known as the Rope-O’Matic.
With a diverse range of applications it is hardly surprising that this very unique laser cut product has eclipsed its modest campaign funding goal.
Check it out before you miss your chance… don’t tie yourself in knots, there are only a few days left to secure yourself one of these novel devices.
As the Festive Season approaches and we become more and more enamoured with all things shiny, here are our tips on how to use laser etching for some serious impact on mirror acrylic.
People love the combination of crisp laser definition with the reflective sheen of mirror acrylic, and to create these effects there are a few key points to remember. The main one is that you’re not etching into the surface of the acrylic, but rather through the reflective coating on the rear of the material.
Another tip that may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it can sneak up on you – remember to reverse the artwork so that it reads correctly when viewed from the other side of the sheet.
For an informative collection of examples including vector and raster engraving, as well as different approaches to filling the etched designs, head over to the Ponoko Support Forums for the full scoop.
For Kyoto Institute of Technology student Ryo Kosaka, every leisurely bike ride should finish up with a relaxing cup of coffee. And what better way to put your feet up, than to bring along your own portable chair?
The laser cut plywood chair disassembles, with all the structural elements – including a bonus side table – neatly tucking away inside the seating surface for storage on a bike. Assembly instructions are etched onto the underside, making it quick and easy to pop together when you need to rest your legs and take in the view.
Click through for a neat little clip of the chair components being laser cut, and then put to good use out in the countryside. (more…)
With Ponoko’s last-chance holiday deadline almost upon us, there is still enough time to dazzle your loved ones with a laser cut masterpiece.
Remember the all-important first step of doing some ‘free prototyping’ at home by printing your design out at 1:1 scale. If it all looks right, then fire up your Personal Factory and send through a file for laser cutting before it’s too late!
Pumpkin pie becomes a tasty canvas for the Holidays
Bringing back a little history to the Thanksgiving celebration table, the guys at Quirky used their festive pumpkin pie as a canvas for a laser etched replica of the Mayflower.
“This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for pumpkin pie. We’re also thankful for the laser-cutting machine we used to burn the image of the Mayflower into our pumpkin pie.”
It’s educational, it’s artistic, and we assume it was also delicious.
For those of us who don’t have a laser cutter in the kitchen, consider this other option that can create a similar outcome. Fire up your Ponoko Personal Factory to laser cut a holiday-themed design from cardstock or acrylic, then use it as a stencil. Sprinkle over some sugar, chocolate, or perhaps sesame seeds to turn your own pie into a conversation piece that your guests will remember for more than just its flavor.
Miniature wooden forest creatures liven up tiny landscapes
With the holiday season fast approaching and Ponoko’s laser cutting deadlines closing even faster, here is a very cute gift idea that can be whipped together quite quickly.
Terrariums have a whimsical otherwordly feel to them, whether they are dangling in antique glassware at your local hipster café or nestled in the corner the Science lab at school. Instructables user Jodi Lynns posted a tutorial on how to make mini terrariums complete with teeny little laser cut critters that help give a new narrative to these snapshots of the natural world.
The Instructable starts off with handy advice on how to prepare and maintain the terrarium itself, which can be quite useful if you’ve never done this kind of thing before. Laser cutting the forest creatures is a straightforward process – source images, create the simple vector artwork for laser cutting and then turn that patch of nature into a living storybook.