In this four-part series of introductory laser cutting tutorials we have shown you just how easy it can be to become a digital maker with Ponoko. Now it is time to watch the laser cutter do its thing and see those designs become real, tangible objects right before your eyes. Just hit Play on the video above.
Here’s a little refresher on what got us to this point.
First branch of long-dreamed half makerspace/half cafe opens its doors
When it comes to laser cutting services in the UK, it’s hard to beat RazorLAB for precision and expertise. Now you can throw in some tasty treats and a chat with the guys in the the know because they have just opened Makers|CAFE.
For those who need a little caffeine to cultivate their creativity, this really is a dream come true:
“…a space where people could have a quality coffee while having their prototypes made on the spot”
It’s an exciting time for makers in London, and Makers|CAFE are celebrating with a launch party this Thursday (August 21) where a lucky few will enjoy live music, free drinks and laser cutters + 3D printers in action.
Using Inkscape to design your own laser cut product from scratch
Welcome to the third instalment of Ponoko’s back-to basics tutorials. This time we get creative and generate a laser cut design from scratch that can be used with your Ponoko Personal Factory.
It all begins with key information from the Inkscape Starter Kit, a tremendously useful resource that sorts out everything you need to know about the free software package, Inkscape.
The tutorial walks through how to use Inkscape to draw a design using basic shape tools, the text tool, and Path commands. In the demonstration, Josh whips up a laser cut coaster and repeats the pattern before finalising the file to be ready for laser cutting.
In a little over ten minutes, you’ll be able to:
• Create a design from scratch with Inkscape
• Create and combine basic shapes
• Check your design in outline mode
• Format your design for laser cutting
Stay tuned for Ponoko’s Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 4 where we get to see the laser work its magic.
iPad app makes it even easier to design for laser cutting
When we first heard about the iPad app Sketch It Make It, we were pretty excited. Now that developers Blank Slate Systems have released their clever drawing app to the public, our fingers are really twitching!
Sketch It Make It is able to rapidly transform even the wobbliest scribbles into neat geometric forms, and have them ready to export for digital manufacturing almost instantly. Whether you are laser cutting, using CNC milling or 3D printing there has quite possibly never been a faster way to turn ideas into tangible objects.
Using free design software to customize a design file
For the second instalment of Ponoko’s back-to-basics tutorials, we walk through the process of customizing a design file using freely available design software. The recommended software is called Inkscape, an open-source vector drawing program that offers powerful features in an easy-to-learn format.
Making use of the same free design file introduced in part 1 of the Laser Cutting Tutorial series, this time we walk through the process of adding your own text to the laser cut coaster.
Follow through as the process is explained from downloading Inkscape through to preparing the custom file for uploading to your Personal Factory.
In just under six minutes, you will know how to:
• Download Inkscape (available for Mac or PC)
• Open a design file in Inkscape
• Customize the design file with your own text
• Prepare the file for laser cutting
Now we’re just about ready to generate custom designs from scratch using Inkscape, so stay tuned for our Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 3.
Surplus store discovery inspires DIY mechanical marvel
Rope braiding machines are mesmerising to watch as they go through their mysterious machinations. Having spotted such a machine in a Surplus store, David from Mixed Media Engineering reverse-engineered the 1890’s product so that he could nut out exactly how the device works.
The result is a 16-bobbin laser cut wonder, with orbiting spools that guide the individual threads into an intricately woven mesh.
“I have been experimenting with some exotics such as carbon fiber yarns (rocket fusalage) embroidery thread for great braclets, surgical tube core with nylon shieth for pressure tubing, and para-cord nylon.”
There has been such a great response to the project that plans are in the works to turn it into a DIY kit on Kickstarter for others to enjoy. To catch a glimpse of those cogs in action, check out the brief clip of David introducing the rope braider at the source article.
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.”