How to oven form laser cut acrylic

A handy tip for when flat isn’t all that

Today we are taking a look at one way to give your laser cutting a boost and take it beyond the constraints of two dimensions. Utilising the thermoplastic properties of acrylic, it can be surprisingly easy to apply heat and then carefully form laser cut objects into more complex shapes.

Back in her student days, Kiki Brown Bear fired up the oven in her kitchen to soften her laser cut flatware, and then made use of actual forks and spoons as molds to get the shape she wanted. Follow her process over at Instructables, where you can find step-by-step photos and a brief video of the technique in action.

If you like the sound of this and want to explore further, there are all kinds of objects around the home that can also be used to help shape softened acrylic. We have seen some people laser cut custom profiles in MDF or ply, and then laminate them to create a DIY acrylic mold. To get heat into the acrylic, it is possible to use hair dryers, heat guns and grills (as well as ovens) to soften the material and get it ready for molding into shape. Just be sure to ventilate the area as much as possible, because those acrylic fumes are not so pleasant.

via Instructables

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Hands-on with home 3D printing in 2015

Reflections after 16 hours with a new 3D printer

As a spectator, it may appear like 3D printers are getting closer than ever to being as easy to use as a desktop inkjet printer. For those who have purchased (or indeed built) their own 3D printer over the last few years, you’d know that this is not the case. There is a lot of tweaking, upgrading and also patience required to get this amazing technology up and running in your own home.

Scott Hanselman plunged into the world of 3D printing and has published an hour-by-hour account of his first two days (16 hours of ‘working’ time) with the Printrbot printer. It’s an engaging tale of triumphs and woes, with much useful advice for others who may be wondering whether to purchase a printer of their own in the near future.

I’ve been using this printer now for basically 16 total hours over a few days, so we’ll call it two days. I went through a number of emotions over this last two days an learned a TON, some about the Printrbot Simple Metal specifically, but also about 3D Printing in general.

Click through to read the full account and discover why Scott’s concluding thoughts are positive and optimistic about the future of home 3D printing.

via Scott Hanselman

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #2

Pop-up record player keeps customers in the groove

For a promotional product to make a lasting impression it can help to find a clever way to surprise and delight the recipient. Take this example from Canadian ad agency Grey who created a memorable direct mail product that references the client’s historical association with vinyl records.

A very basic but fully functional record player folds out from a sleeve containing the 45rpm single. Manually operated, the hollow space in the folded card amplifies the sound. According to Geoff Dawson from Grey:

“It’s actually shocking how good the sound quality is, it took a long time of playing with different materials and designs to get the audio just right”.

For a little more on the Grey player, check out the brief review on Modular 4.

Here’s another take on the same concept, this time in the form of a rather charming wedding invitation featuring more refined graphics and a custom song for the recipient to spin. Have you seen something like this before? Let us know in the comments section below.

Taking inspiration from these examples, the Ponoko Personal Factory can be used to make simplified interpretations of other familiar domestic products. This is a great way to get your message across at high volume and low cost.

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How to transform an existing product

IKEA product hacking gets a facelift with some custom laser cutting

stairlight2.jpg

Mass produced commercial products can make a fantastic base for custom laser cut additions. This IKEA wall fixture hack by Josh Reuss was originally posted in the Ponoko Support forums Show & Tell section, and provides a nicely resolved example of how laser cutting can be used to transform an existing product.

There is more to this than simply cutting out a shape that slips over the manufactured fitting. Josh came up with some clever ways to create the full sized panel from several smaller components, while keeping all joints concealed and obscured by the pattern details.

Follow the link for a thorough walkthrough of the process that saw an off-the-shelf product become a unique, eye-catching designer item with surprising ease. (more…)

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Design tip: Ponoko Color Palettes

Keep these swatches handy to streamline your workflow

Here is a neat tip from the Ponoko Support Forums. Follow the links below to download Ponoko-friendly custom color palettes for your favorite drawing application. Each file contains the necessary cutting and engraving values that will make sense at our end, where the magic happens.

The original post has files for Illustrator, Corel Draw and Inkscape.

Here’s a quick look at the installation process using Illustrator CC.

1. Download the Ponoko color swatch file for Illustrator: ponokoswatch.ai.zip

2. Unzip and move the file to (for Mac systems) Applications > Adobe Illustrator > Presets > Swatches
(For Windows systems replace Applications with Program Files)

3. Import your Palette:

Open Illustrator and go to Window > Swatches to make your Swatches panel active in the sidebar.

Click on the small arrow at the top-right of the Color Palette and select ‘Open Swatch Library’ and then ‘Other Library’.

Browse to your ‘Swatches’ folder and select ‘Ponokoswatch’, then click ‘Open’.

To keep things nice and straightforward on your screen, it can be helpful to expand the color icons into a list.

Click on the small arrow at the top-right of the Ponokoswatch panel and select ‘List View’.

Now you’ll have all the info right there, making it even easier to create design files for laser cutting with Ponoko.

Here are the files for each application:

Illustrator: ponokoswatch.ai.zip
Inkscape: Ponoko.gpl.zip
Corel Draw: ponoko.cpl.zip

Adapted from a post on the Ponoko Support Forums.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #1

Check out this creative way to make an impact for your brand

This fetching set of Venetian Blinders may look like something from a 1980’s music video, but in actual fact it was featured at The Future Is Here, a 2013 design exhibition showcasing digital manufacturing.

Agencies and brands can take inspiration from cleverly simple laser cut products like this. Looking beyond their debatable merits as a fashion accessory, they are a perfect example of what can be made in your Ponoko Personal Factory at high volume and low cost.

Would you feel cool sporting a set of these? Creating a unique item that shows off your agency’s technical and creative skills in a fun, playful way is made even more memorable if your clients can wear it home!

Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve seen laser cutting used in this way as a creative promotional product.

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Laser etched Moiré pattern artwork

Introducing a novel way to create tone and depth for laser etched images

Always on the lookout for new and creative ways to explore laser cutting, Martin Raynsford recently transposed an intricate graphic work into this striking laser etched art piece.

The inspiration came from Andrea Minini’s Animals in Moiré series, where the mesmerising concentric lines form styalized creatures full of character.

I manually traced the original image to create the vector artwork, each line is just a single low power cut.

Martin suggest that at some point he would like to see an app or plug-in that can generate patterns like this automatically. He has good reason to dream of an optimised workflow for future projects, given that it took 8 hours of drawing to recreate the 100+ individual lines in Andrea’s Puma portrait.

via Moiré Pattern Artwork: Puma

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Bitsbox monthly projects for kids

How to nurture creativity for the digital makers of the future

For many of us, learning coding simply isn’t fun – but perhaps we’ve gone about it all wrong. Two former Google employees (who also happen to be Dads) saw a way to make learning coding languages fun for kids, and their solution has gathered quite a following on Kickstarter. They call their learning system Bitsbox, and as you’ll soon see, there is more to the bits than just what’s in the box.

We don’t teach our kids how to read and write so that they can be novelists. We teach them those skills so that they can be happy, so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.

Bitsbox operates both online and as a subscription-based service that delivers boxes of coding projects in the mail to kids every month. Within minutes, kids are able to create apps that can run on a real device. The magic of the monthly deliveries is that they will keep kids hungry for more; and excited to engage with newer (and more challenging) projects as they become increasingly proficient with their coding skills.

What excites us at Ponoko is that these children will become the next generation of creative software designers and digital makers. This means that we can well and truly expect the 3D designers and laser cutting makers of the future to totally blow our minds.

Become a part of the Bitsbox community and make the most of the Kickstarter funding perks before the campaign closes.

Bitsbox via Kickstarter

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Laser cut Geneva Drive mechanism

Designing the gears to fit inside a laser cut Automata

The mechanical marvels that are the specialty of Rob Ives don’t just come together overnight. It takes a lot of careful planning and prototyping to get those gears working just right.

In this recent blog post, he reveals the mechanism that will be at the heart of an upcoming Automata. This arrangement of gears is called a Geneva Drive, and it was originally used as a safeguard to prevent clock springs from being over-wound.

“…a particularly interesting mechanism. There is a little window in the background of the model. Through the window you can see a portrait of a woman. As the mechanism runs I need the picture in the window to change to another portrait, then another, then another… and so on. I need the picture to be stay still for a set amount of time then flip quickly to the next picture as the mechanism runs.”

Rob designed the parts in Illustrator before laser cutting his prototypes. It will be exciting to see the final outcome, where these gears will work their mechanical magic.

You can learn more about the Geneva Drive in an earlier blog post from Rob, which features an animation of the gears in action. We often see Ponoko users creating laser cut gears from acrylic, card and wood. Perhaps this adaptation of the Geneva Drive will get your mind turning as well!

via Rob Ives: Notes

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How to avoid clipping masks in your designs

Clipping masks: please don’t use them!

When creating artwork for laser cutting in Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, people love the very handy technique of using clipping masks to achieve the desired visual outcome. But that’s just it – as the name of the command so succinctly implies, when you use clipping masks there is more to the image than meets the eye… and those hidden lines do not play nicely with the laser cutter.

In this tutorial from the Ponoko Support Forums, Catherine talks through how to clear your file from any hidden elements that were left behind when the clipping masks were created.

For either program, there are two main processes to get your head around and each contains a small number of steps. In Illustrator, you need to Release the clipping mask and then clean up any stray elements. For Inkscape, the process is similar with a command to release the Mask and Clip.

What comes next depends on the complexity of your design, but you can be sure any time spent getting the artwork right beforehand is always better than bottlenecks at the laser cutter due to incompatible files.

See the step-by-step guide on the Ponoko Support Forums:

Please don’t use clipping masks in your designs

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