Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #1

Make a Digital Prototype Before You Spend Any Money

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 lower making costs.

Materials vary greatly in cost and your material choice will also have an impact on making time. The general rule is that thinner (and lighter) materials will cut faster, and the quicker your design gets cut the less it will cost you.

Shipping costs can have quite an impact on smaller projects, so see if you are able to combine several products onto a larger sheet size to reduce the per-unit price. For larger or more complex designs, it may be worthwhile taking advantage of Ponoko’s $100 free shipping threshold.

In this series of posts, we expand on each of these areas to give you the 10 best ways to keep your laser cutting costs down.


Tip #1: Digital Prototyping

Before spending any money, you can actually save a surprising amount just by tweaking the order process so that everything works in your favor.

Ponoko users may be familiar with the Product Recipe, a handy Ponoko walkthrough that new users are taken to as an introductory tour after creating an account.

A part of the process that is explained is the concept of Digital (or Zero Cost) Prototyping. How this works is that the Personal Factory is used to price many different design iterations instantly, revealing where the project can be optimised to save money on laser cutting, shipping and more. The best part is that you get all this valuable information without spending a single cent.

As you’ll see in the following results, that’s time well spent.

The Product Recipe example features a laser cut coaster that goes from an initial quote of $5.40 per unit down to $1.64 per unit prior to anyone opening their wallet.

That is quite a saving. Exactly how this was achieved will make more sense as we work through our 10 rules for keeping laser cutting costs down. Stay tuned for Tip #2: Paper prototypes.

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Guaranteed Order Deadline for St. Patrick’s Day

Ensure delivery in time for St. Patrick’s day by ordering before these deadlines.

Planning to have something special made for St. Patrick’s Day? Be sure to have your order in before the following dates to ensure a timely delivery:

Laser Cutting – Standard Speed Deadline: Sunday, March 1st 2015
Laser Cutting – Upgrade Speed Deadline: Monday March 16, 2015

Photochemical Machining (PCM): Friday, February 20th 2015

3D Printing: Monday, February 16th 2015

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Laser cutting city limits

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #214

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above are laser cut aluminum Frederick Spires Cityscape from Shield Co.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, hearts, dinosaurs, and a table… (more…)

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Top 10 Features You May Not Have Used

We’re always adding new features & improvements here at Ponoko: Faster making times, lower shipping options, more materials, a streamlined checkout process, support for new software packages, the list goes on and on.

It’s so long, in fact, that we’ve gathered some of your Personal Factory’s lesser known features here to make sure you don’t miss out on them.

Join us as we count down the top 10 features you may not have used. Hopefully you’ll find something here you didn’t know about before.

#10. Order status information:

Last year we completely redesigned our order status page. You can now double check the details of your order, get progress updates, and tracking information once it has shipped. Just visit ponoko.com/make and click on “show details” to get the low-down on your latest order.

(more…)

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New! Streamlined Support for Photochemical Machining

Making with metal just got a whole lot easier.

We are thrilled to announce new streamlined support for Photochemical Machining. Previously, if you wanted to create something using Brass, Copper or Stainless Steel, you had to take an extra step to email us the extra details of your order.

Now you can upload PCM design files directly to your Personal Factory account. In addition, you can now upload and get a quote for metal parts along with Laser Cut & 3D Printed designs at the same time, all in one order.

How to make with Photochemical Machining (PCM):

  1. Prepare and save your vector design as a PDF using our Metal Machining Starter Kits.
  2. Upload your PDF to your Personal Factory account.
  3. Select your choice of metal materials and proceed to checkout as usual.

That’s it! You’re now on your way to receiving some awesome metal goodies in your mailbox. Please note: The design requirements for PCM are slightly different from laser cutting with other materials. You’ll want to be sure to read through our design guides before uploading your designs.

If you have any questions about Photochemical Machining don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Comparing Stains on Laser Cut Wood

How to add a little something extra after all the cutting has been done

With all of the different material options available for laser cutting, it may seem like you are spoiled for choice. But sometimes it is nice to have a little more control over your finished outcome, and that’s were oils and wood stains can do wonders to transform the look of a material.

In this handy test-run and resulting visual comparison, Josh has taken a look at some of the popular Ponoko materials and how they perform with different finishes.

As well as putting together the table pictured above, he has noted down a few handy tips and material highlights that will help you make the right choice for your own laser cutting. Read on in the Ponoko Support Forums and learn how you can get the best possible outcome with stains and finishes on laser cut wood.

This content originally appeared in the Ponoko Support Forums.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #3

Laser cut & engraved stamp

The tactile satisfaction of a physical stamp can help give your brand a memorable impact. The example above includes a simple but cleverly designed laser cut ergonomic handle which also has several surfaces where further branding or information can be laser etched.

Whether a laser etched stamp is produced as a promotional item to be given away, or as a tool to apply branding onto media for prospective customers, there is a novel human element to it that can communicate at a deeper level than conventional printed materials.

Creative modern interpretations of seemingly superseded technologies are a great way to make use of the Ponoko Personal Factory. Don’t see laser-safe natural rubber in the Materials Catalog? Make a request here, and your wish is our command…

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I want to believe in Foxes

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #213

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above are laser cut acrylic Mulder and Scully collar clips from Sweet and Lively.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, more foxes, scarfs, flags, and a light… (more…)

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Laser Cut Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Capturing the breeze for DIY power generation

This work-in-progress from Auckland-based scientist Dr Chris Pook looks to be moving along quite nicely. The aerofoils are still being refined, but even in their current state they are able to catch enough breeze to begin generating power.

I’m really pleased with how much of this turned out. The frame, the spindle and the arms all look just like the CAD design.

To see the thorough walkthrough of Dr Chris’ design process, follow his thoughts and progress here. This is a great example of how laser cutting can be used to generate progressive iterations of a design, continually refining towards a highly optimised final outcome.

via Dr Chris Pook

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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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