Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #7

Pieces close together

With the knowledge that you’re paying for every move the laser makes, keeping all the pieces of your design close together can really make a difference. Instead of having them scattered around the template, try to fit them all together (kind of like a jigsaw puzzle).

Depending on your design, it may even be possible for some pieces to share a cutting line. Just be sure you don’t forget about removing double lines as we saw in Tip #6 if there are any overlaps.

When pieces are close together or sharing a cutting line, be sure that you leave enough space for the kerf (how much material the laser burns away – see here or here).

Once you have tested (and tested and tested!) your design on the P1 template and are ready to produce multiple copies, clever use of the larger P3 template will further reduce the cost per item.

Have you tried grouping parts together in your own laser cutting? What impact did it have for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Now that we have our layout sorted, let’s move on from outlines to details with  Tip #8: Vector vs Raster engraving.

Laser cut replica Wolcott mirror camera

Creating a miniature replica of pioneering photographic technology

With cameras at our fingertips at almost every waking moment, taking a quick selfie or a snapping a portrait of your nearest and dearest (yes, cats count too!) is something most of us do every day. For photographer Guy J. Brown, the passion for portraiture goes a little deeper; in fact, he specialises in recreating pioneering photographic techniques and devices.

One such device is the Wolcott Camera, said to be the first ever patented back in 1840. Guy has utilised the technology of his 21st century workshop to bring this early portrait machine back to life. The result is something to behold… with laser cut ply components designed in Adobe Illustrator, and hardware purchased from eBay completing the ‘baby Wolcott’.

Follow through to the source link to find out more about this project, including a deeper look at the original Wolcott camera. You can also download files to construct your own nostalgic photographic device – and then show those Instagram filters how it’s really done.

Are you a laser-equipped retro shutterbug too? Tell us about your laser cut camera experience in the comments below.

via Guy J Brown – Laser Cut Wolcott Camera

Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #6

Avoid Double Lines

When objects are positioned side-by-side, a double cutting line can result if there is an overlap. This means that the laser will cut the same section twice – which means you’ll pay double as well! To stop this from happening, take a moment to go through your design file and make sure that there are no shared lines or overlaps.

For more about avoiding double lines and how to fix them, the Ponoko Making Guides provide all the info you need. You’ll find comprehensive Starter Kits for Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDRAW and AutoCAD.

Remember that with laser cutting, you are paying for every move the laser makes. Don’t pay twice – check your design file before you upload.

Have you been caught out by this in the past? Let us know your story in the comments below…

Next up we look at another way to keep laser cutting costs down with Tip #7: Pieces close together.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #6

Business cards with just the key details

When exchanging business cards with someone, what information about you do they really need? In a world where connected devices are within reach at all times, perhaps your most critical info is your online presence.

Gabe Ferreira reduced his key details down to a personal website address and then maxed out the text to fill the area of a traditional business card. In his own words:

“…there is no distinction between content and material. The cards are more durable and cheaper to produce than most “premium” business cards.”

Making use of the Ponoko Personal Factory can give brand identities a strong visual presence and this example from Gabe shows how clever laser cutting will really stand apart from the more familiar printed alternatives. Have you seen other great laser cut business card ideas? Let us know in the comments below.

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Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #5

Simplify details

We already know that it’s helpful to keep things small in size at the beginning. One key aspect that is often overlooked is to keep details simple as well.

This means sticking to designs that take up as little ‘laser time’ as possible.

So how do you go about optimising your design with this in mind? The short version is that the less time it takes to cut, the less it will cost. You’re paying for every movement the laser cutter makes; whether it is cutting, engraving or travelling between cutting and engraving. Many small detailed forms take longer to trace out than fewer larger forms. Circles take longer than straight lines. Items spread out or are further apart take longer to cut than items located close together.

Dense vector line engraving also comes with the same warning. Remember that with lasers, time really does equal money.

What impact has keeping details simple had on your laser cutting costs? Let us know in the comments below.

The next handy hint focuses on another way to save time, and therefore cost, with your laser cutting. Stay tuned for Tip #6: Avoid Double Lines

Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #4


Start small

A great tip for first timers and also just as useful for more experienced makers is to keep things small and simple at the beginning. In short, stick to the Ponoko P1 template. Starting small enables you to test your ideas and be confident before charging ahead with multiple items on larger sheet sizes.

This will keep material costs lower, which is handy not only when experimenting with laser cutting for the first time but also if you are trying out a new material that you haven’t used before.

Make the most of the P1 template size by performing small tests of multiple design ideas. Don’t assume your first attempt will be “The One”. Try multiple cuts, shapes, engravings, etc to see what you like the look of. You are much more likely to end up with a design you are happy with if you remind yourself that it’s not about getting that perfect outcome on the first try.

Keep in mind that with laser cutting, more size or complexity means greater costs. So the smaller dimensions of the P1 template help to constrain the amount of making time, which again means both cutting and material costs will be lower.

What savings have you made by starting small with your laser cutting? Let us know in the details below.

Stay tuned for the next handy piece of advice from the Ponoko team. It’s time to pare things back with Tip #5: Simplify details.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #5

Laser Cut Pop-Up Chair Card

Giving your clients a quick and easy construction project can be a fun way to ensure your message will be remembered. This effective example of a pop-out chair from seier+seier was produced as a Christmas card and includes straightforward assembly instructions and branding etched onto the remaining material.

As a cute little extra, an additional card featured a bonus pop-out cat to sit on the assembled chair.

Using the Ponoko Personal Factory you too can produce laser cut objects that can easily be transformed from 2d to 3d by the end user. Interactive designs are great way to make a lasting impression. Have you seen other ideas similar to this one? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #3

Make a Cardboard Version First

It is an exciting moment when your design is ready to be laser cut, but it can really pay off to do a trial cut in cardboard first before moving ahead with more expensive materials.

Remember, with laser cutting you are paying for the time it takes for the machine to make your design… and cardboard cuts really quickly. This contributes to it being one of the most affordable materials, which means you can get a fast, inexpensive test run of your design. Once you are happy with the cardboard version, you can order your design in a more expensive material with greater confidence that it will come out the way you had hoped.

If your final outcome is to be made from cardboard… well, then kick back and relax because you’re already one step ahead!

Tell us about how trial cuts in cardboard have helped keep your laser cutting costs down in the comments below.

Next up in the Top 10 Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs is a handy bit of advice that is easy to overlook. Tip #4: Start small

Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #2

Paper Prototypes From Your Home Printer

Even if you are positive that your design is just right, it is always wise to check those details one more time before sending files to be laser cut. There is a very simple way that this can be done, thanks to your trusty desktop paper printer.

Printing out your design on paper is an ideal way to spot sizing or design errors, see whether holes or tolerances are big enough, and get a general feel for what your final result will look like. You could consider this as a free instant first prototype.

Working with digital files can be super efficient but sometimes people do lose track of whether their design will look just as good in the physical world as it does on-screen. So start your physical prototyping at home, and confirm that everything is a-ok before spending time and money on laser cutting. Once you have your details sorted, then take the plunge and upload your files to Ponoko for laser cutting.

Have you saved by making paper prototypes at home? Tell us about it in the comments below.

The next in our 10 rules for keeping laser cutting costs down is an extension of the paper prototype, but this time the lasers are firing. Stay tuned for Tip #3: Cardboard before expensive materials.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #4

Laser Cut Paper Crowns

Whether you are actual Royalty or just a regular Joe, on certain occasions there can be something special about slipping a crown onto your head. As this example from Art We Heart shows, there is scope to include considerable complexity (and therefore artistic expression and identity) when using laser cutting in this way.

Laser cut crowns are a cost-effective way to transform customers into proud, willing and eye-catching roving brand ambassadors.

With the Ponoko Personal Factory, there could be heads making a Regal impact wearing your company’s brand messaging at the next big trade show or industry event! What laser cut headwear have you come across? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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