Laser Cutting For The Summer!

Laser cut chicks, cows, hats, cats, and koozies!

Above is a multi-dimensional poster of two birds on a swing hanging from a heart tree. It is laser cut acrylic and it comes from Red Berry Guest Book. Ponoko‘s Premium Veneer MDF – Cheery would make a beautiful background.

After the jump, cows, hats, cats, and koozies!

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Ponoko’s Google Cardboard Gives You Virtual Reality For < $10.

Virtual reality from Google, with laser cut parts from Ponoko

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality kit that starts with a simple viewer anyone can build or buy. It works by turning your phone into a virtual reality headset using a sheet of cardboard, two plastic lenses, a magnet and a bit of velcro.

Using laser cut parts from Ponoko, you can get started with Cardboard for less than $10.

So far there have been a ton of apps released for the platform including test drives, roller coaster rides, and mountain climbs. But it’s not just games and rides- People are finding new ways to use the kit – from campus tours to marriage proposals to vacation planning.

Anyone can build their own Google Cardboard – there are no official manufacturers and the whole kit is open source. Want to engrave a VR code that opens up your app? Go for it. Want to add custom branding? No problem. Want to design a shiny gold mirror headset? The sky’s the limit.

Since the kit is made up of inexpensive cardboard, it’s perfect for experimenting and creating your own version using laser cut parts from Ponoko.

To get you started, we’ve put together a handy instructable that walks you through how to laser cut your own Cardboard headset with Ponoko for less than $10.

Got an idea for your own custom-made Google Cardboard compatible headset? Let us know in the comments below!

How To: Design a Living Hinge

De-mystifying the ins and outs of laser cut curved surfaces

For the most part, laser cut objects consist of flat panels that are either cut or etched before being assembled into a final configuration. There is another way to use laser cutting to create 3D objects from flat materials, and it uses a clever design element called a Lattice or Living Hinge.

It is more common to see makers and hobbyists using Living Hinges in laser cut wood, because the properties of this material allow for a significant degree of flex before the material fractures. There are also examples of Living Hinges successfully being implemented in acrylic enclosures, which demonstrates the versatility of this technique – because without using heat to assist bending, acrylic tends to be notoriously brittle.

We’re going to take a look at two approaches to designing a living hinge – starting with the more accessible trial-and-error method, and then diving in to an overview of the mathematics behind how flat materials can become bendy.   (more…)

Laser Cutting Can Be Hypnotic!

Laser cut coasters, blocks, canoes, and reindeer!

Above coasters from The Spiral Series. They are laser cut 3/16 basswood and these hypnotic graphic creations come from Five Ply Design. This would be a perfect job for Ponoko‘s own Bamboo.

After the jump, blocks, canoes, and reindeer…

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Facets Of Laser Cutting

Laser cut mandalas, horses, ferns, and gems!

Above is a wood mandala necklace. It is intricately laser cut and etched from layers of wood and comes from the always amazing Sugar & Vice. To create this unique design you could use Ponoko‘s many different wood types, laser cut and etched with different radial patterns.

After the jump, horses, ferns, and gems…

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #12

Laser Cut and Engraved Name Tags

Attending a conference or event involves many layers of social nuance, and the ubiquitous name tag is one way to help people connect. As these laser cut and laser etched examples show, with a little creativity and planning in advance you can find all kinds of ways to make personal identification novel and memorable.

Pictured above are samples from the Engraved project by John T Kim. Although they are business cards and not ‘name tags’, the clean graphic impact of this design and the way that it has used the precision of laser etching are a good reference point.

Click through for several traditional examples plus a few that come at the idea of identification in a whole new way. (more…)

The Most Advanced Peanut Butter Mixer Ever

Arduino-Controlled Peanut Butter Mixer from Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder has an awesome writeup of Ponoko over on Foundry – the show and tell site for makers.

If you’re a fan of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, you’re familiar with the natural separation of oils that occurs after opening your jar of peanut-buttery goodness.

Made from laser cut bamboo from Ponoko – Mark’s Arduino-powered invention helps stirs the yummy ingredients back together for smooth spreading.

This ingenious tool not only helps solve the mess associated with mixing natural peanut butters, it’s a great example of what’s possible when you combine the precision of laser cutting with a bit of creativity.

You could say that ingenuity & laser cutting compliment each other like, well, peanut butter & jelly.

Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 5

Ponoko Cost Saving Guide

Product Recipe #1 – Part 5

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 5: Sell It

With my product line ready to go, it was time to make some money …

Packaging Your Product

Time to consider packaging. l wanted it to look great, but be very low cost. After a bit of experimentation, I came up with this for the cost of $1 per package:

Setting a Profitable Price

With all costs now calculated, it was time to finalize my retail and wholesale pricing.

To start, I used a simple ‘cost plus margin’ pricing model to ensure profitability …

First – Calculate Your Total Production Cost at Various Order Volumes

Total Production Cost = Making + Materials + Shipping + Packaging Costs:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Material Sheets 1 x P1 1 x P3 5 x P3 45 x P3
Free Account Cost $18.64 $123.67 $618.33 $5,070.33
Prime Account Cost $15.69 $91.93 $447.42 $3,028.12
Prime Cost / Set $15.69 $8.36 $7.99 $6.56
Packaging Cost / Set $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56

Second – Calculate Your Profitable Pricing

My rule of thumb is 1 : 2 : 4 … $1 of cost means a $2 wholesale price, means a $4 retail price. In other words:

Profitable Retail Price = 2 x Wholesale Price = 2 x Total Production Cost.

Hence:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Wholesale Margin 50% 50% 50% 50%
Wholesale Price / Set $33.38 $18.72 $17.98 $15.12
My Retail Margin 75% 75% 75% 75%
Retail Price / Set $66.76 $37.44 $35.96 $30.24
Overall Profit 50/50 62.5% 62.5% 62.5% 62.5%

To profit, this shows my retail price needs to be between $30.24 and $66.76 per set of 4 coasters to retain a profit margin of 62.5% assuming a 50:50 split in sales across both retail and wholesale channels.

Third – Set a Retail Price that Feels About Right

The information above coupled with knowing the market price ranges from $15 to $50 per set, I decide that my original retail price target of $30 per set is a good place for me to start.

Hence my profits will actually be:

Sets of 4 Coasters 1 11 56 461
Retail Price / Set $30 $30 $30 $30
Total Cost / Set $16.69 $9.36 $8.99 $7.56
My Retail Margin 44% 69% 70% 75%
Wholesale Price / Set $16.69 $15 $15 $15
My Wholesale Margin 0% 38% 40% 50%
Overall Profit 50/50 22% 54% 55% 62.5%
Prime + Packg Cost $16.69 $102.93 $503.42 $3,489.12

This third table tells me a few important things:

1) My Minimum Order Size – To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 11 sets of coasters at $102.93 per order. This is a good place for me to start my business.

2) My Most Profitable Order Size – To hit my goal of a 62.5% overall profit margin, I need to order & package at least 461 sets of coasters at $3,489.12 per order. This is a good place for me when I get a reliable stream of retail and/or wholesale orders.

3) Minimum Wholesale Order Size – To hit a 54% overall profit margin, I need to sell to retailers in a minimum batch of 10 sets of coasters at $150.

4) Tough Retailer Negotiation – To retain my profit margin, a retailer will need to order at least 461 sets of coasters to get a wholesale price less than $15 per set.

5) Taking a Tiny Step First – I know I can order & package just one set of coasters at $16.69 and sell them retail at a 44% profit margin, which is really nice to know if I do not want to spend the next level up at $102.93. But I also know that I can not sell this small order size at the $15 wholesale price because I will make a loss.

Of course, if I’m just getting started I can relax some of these 1:2:4 pricing ‘rules’. But they’re a great place to benchmark what is actually going on with my cash.

Without profit I can not continue my passion of making things for others. With profit I create new possibilities for myself :-)

Profiting from On-Demand Inventory

Continuing on my theme of keeping costs low, I decided to keep my stock digital until I had customer orders. This way I have zero cost until I make a sale and collect the cash.

The third table above shows that I can order just 1 set at $16.69 to fulfill a $30 retail order at a 44% retail margin. But I make nothing on a wholesale order – which tells me I need to set a minimum wholesale order size of at least 10 sets. And, in general, to maintain healthy profits I probably want to produce at least 11 sets each time I get an order, so I have a tiny stock on hand for fast delivery.

My friendly bike store owner pre-ordered 10 sets of 4 cork coasters when I was user testing in his store. He paid me the $150 wholesale price.

So I made the following design (of 45 coasters):

Download design file for this step.

I sold 10 sets for $150 at a cost to me of $93.57 (= $83.57 production + $10 packaging). A 38% wholesale profit margin to get me started ($150 wholesale price – $93.57 total cost = $56.43 profit).

Promoting Your Product

I sell my coasters to retailers and on Etsy. Here are my top tips.

Good Photos Sell

Well lit, crisp high-resolution photos of your product are a must.

Describe Your Product Well

I describe what it is made of, what the dimensions are and what it feels like. I share a bit about myself as well, so folks can identify with me as a person.

Be Pro-Active

Don’t just sit back and wait for customers to come to you. In the case of local bike shops, I just walk in, introduce myself and start a conversation. For larger retailers, I search company websites to get in touch with vendor departments. Wherever possible, I speak directly to their buyers.

Go for it!

  • Imagine it
  • Design it
  • Prototype it
  • Make it
  • Sell it

It really is that easy and low cost to make money selling your own products. You’re only limited by your imagination and determination. Ponoko can help you with the rest :-)

Laser Cut Play Time

Laser cut tables, boxes, crowns, vinyl organization, and a broken heart

Above is coffee table inspired by Minecraft. It is a take on the simple layered topo but adding the 8-bit pixelation for all the gamers out there. It comes from Martin Raynsford and there a complete run down on how to make it Kitronik. The materials that go into the project are MDF, birch plywood, and acrylic and all available from Ponoko.

After the jump, boxes, crowns, vinyl organization, and a broken heart… (more…)

Topographic coffee table inspired by Minecraft

From pixels to iconic laser cut contours

The blocky aesthetic of Minecraft has broken beyond its digital confines before, but we’ve never seen it done with as much finesse and refinement as this coffee table by Martin Raynsford. Meticulously planned and laser cut with the help of the friendly guys at Kitronik, this is one table that has been turning heads… let’s take a look and see if we can discover why.

The final item is incredible and every time I look at the landscape I see something new in the details that I had forgotten about.

It wouldn’t be a Martin Raynsford project without a thorough run-down on how the table was made. We’ve outlined the key stages of the process here, but we do recommend flagging the full article for a deeper read during your leisure time.

Making the topographic model: As a motion sickness sufferer, Martin could not actually build within Minecraft – so he turned to Cinema 4D to generate the form.

Slicing the model: The layering was achieved using a tool for 3D printing called Slic3r. This was a good choice because the construction of the layered contour table is similar in principle to the way a 3D printer deposits material.

Adding that Minecraft aesthetic: Each layer to be cut was exported as a low resolution bitmap image, and then re-worked in Inkscape to prepare for laser cutting.

Cutting a Prototype: Knowing that going full size right away means paying big bucks while risking big mistakes, Martin started off with a half-scale mockup that revealed a number of insights relating to construction and assembly of the laser cut forms, as well as when best to paint the layers.

Full Sized Construction Once he had more confidence that the final design was resolved, the next step was to make the most of material sheet sizes. With freshly laser cut contours in hand, he then applied a clever system of alignment guides that would ultimately speed up the construction process.

The table base: Knowing better than to second-guess a good thing, Martin chose Ikea’s Lack coffee table as a sturdy base. The contour section was then designed to slip over the top so that it can be removed to separate the parts again if design changes or updates occur in the future.

Sounding good so far? Boosted by a number of explanatory images, the full (and nicely detailed) run-down of Martin’s process makes for an interesting read over on the Kitronik blog.

This process is a great example of how careful planning helps to achieve high quality results. If it looks a little intimidating, you can always start small with the Ponoko Personal Factory, and then work towards larger and more complex projects.

Have you constructed a topographic form using laser cutting? Let us know in the comments below.

Martin Raynsford via Kitronik