Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #25

Wrapped in a Living Hinge: Laser Cut Clutch

laser cut living hinge bag michael harwood

There is something almost magical about the way a flat sheet of rigid material becomes flexible when laser cut using the ‘living hinge’ technique. This method of achieving a 3D shape from 2D material is ideally suited to laser cutting, as it exploits the natural tendency for stiff materials to flex around voids or notches. With a distinctive visual identity, the functional design elements can also be quite eye-catching.

The result is a smooth, organic curve that can be controlled rather efficiently if you are willing to either put your head far enough into the mathematics of how it works, or simply enjoy the prototyping process through several rounds of trial and error.

About living hinges

Learn more in our post on How To Design a Living Hinge where the mathematics behind this construction technique are revealed. While many examples of living hinges use simple lines as the decorative and functional element, it is in fact possible to adapt complex graphics (such as icons or company logos) to achieve a similar physical manipulation in the material.

See the following examples of patterns increasing in complexity, and how they respond when they are a part of a living hinge. To the left is a basic staggered line element, similar to the clutch bag design featured above from Michael Harwood. Moving through to chevrons, larger voids in a plus symbol and then the more detailed Space Invader sprite, it is clear that visually recognisable icons can indeed become living hinge elements.

Applying this technique to your brand

Staggered lines are an excellent starting point when looking at living hinges, as the behavior of the material is much more predictable and therefore easier to control. To keep things interesting, we do also encourage exploring more complex designs for maximum impact. Consider both the form that is created when the material bends around the living hinge, and how best to incorporate brand identity.

Have you bagged the perfect fashion accessory using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

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

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All Facets of Laser Cut Animals

Laser cut animals, rulers, spaceships, and California!

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Above are geometric animal coasters. They are laser cut and etched into maple wood, like‘s own Premium Veneer-MDF, and come from The Campbell Craft.

After the jump, rulers, spaceships, and California… (more…)

Laser Cut House Cats!

Laser cut  houses, and cats!

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Above is a Pop-Up Village. They are laser cut and etched into wood, like‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Thea Starr of 6 By 6 Arts.

After the jump, some cats… (more…)

How To: Laser Cut Wooden Keyboard

Using a Laser Cutter To Customize Your Keys


lazerwood macbook keys

With all of the time people spend at their personal computers, there is a growing demand for new ways to give these devices a more natural, human touch. One popular solution to complement the cool sheen of the portable computer is to create custom keys and removable keyboard decals.

The laser cut and etched example pictured above faithfully recreates the features on the buttons, from the classic fonts all the way to proportion and composition. It also pays to experiment; if you get the laser etched details just right, there is even scope to allow for light to pass through from the backlit keys below.

This is an effective way to give your computer added tactile and visual warmth. If you don’t have the means to make your own, you can see if the full Lazerwood example suits your needs. For those who would like to try their own design for keyboard customizations, try this instructable as a starting point. Load in the design files to your Ponoko Personal Factory and you’ll soon be typing away on an individualized upgraded keyboard with some serious creative flair.

How To Create Strength Using Origami and Laser Cutting

New structural options from everyday materials 

In recent years, the boundary between art and engineering has continued to blur with scientists and researchers turning their formidable minds toward traditional craft techniques. The results are starting to get quite exciting, with surprise breakthroughs such as the Japanese origami-inspired ‘zippered tube’ featured above demonstrating that there is still much to learn about how we use familiar materials.

This example highlights a novel process of combining thin flexible sheets of material that have precise cuts and folds in them. The location and combination of these elements enables the material to become rigid when assembled in specific configurations, gaining structural integrity far beyond the original material’s capacity.

The research that developed this construction technique emerged from a collaboration between University of Illinois grad student Evgueni Filipov, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Glaucio Paulino and professor Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo.

“…we’re starting to see how it has potential for a lot of different fields of engineering” – Evgueni Filipov

Filipov and his colleagues focus on an origami technique known as Miura-ori folding, where a tube is constructed from two precisely folded ziz-zag strips. Individually, the strips are highly flexible but when combined the resulting tube has a remarkable rigidity and controllable degree of compression or folding.

What does this mean for Ponoko users? While much of the focus in the origami research is currently centered around potential uses in architecture and for space exploration; many of the options from the Ponoko Materials Library would be a great fit for this approach to assembly and construction.

via Georgia Tech News Center


Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #24

Delicious decorative details

laser cut sushi

For a tasty treat that is as much a feast for the stomach as it is for the eyes, laser cutting opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The precision and intricacy enabled by laser cutting is perfectly suited to many delicious everyday ingredients, as is demonstrated with the laser cut maki sushi rolls pictured above.

Laser Cutting In The Kitchen

The laser cutting we know and love works in two dimensions, transforming any flat material into an open creative canvas. Taking this into the kitchen where so many ingredients are rolled, stretched and beaten flat gives enterprising chefs a new tool with which to win over your heart. Sheets of nori (dried seaweed) are a great example, as they respond much like thin paper when laser cut. Then when they are assembled into a sushi roll the dramatic visual impact really draws attention.

Branding Good Enough To Eat

Applying brand identities and iconic imagery to ingredients creates quite a different engagement for the consumer than if the same elements are used on printed materials or packaging. With good reason, the way we pay attention to something edible triggers a response from somewhere deeper inside… how does that old proverb go? The way to a Man’s heart… (following images via

How can you tickle some taste buds using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

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

Free Design & Quote »

#HolidaySales Tip #7: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel To Get More Sales


It’s an idea that strikes every retailer around the holidays – to invent something so unique that customers just have to flock to stores to buy it.

But like we saw in our previous blog on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, getting a share of people’s already fragmented attention isn’t always a linear path; especially around the holidays. What’s worse, in the time you take to get your ‘killer idea’ through, you tend to lose customers who simply get impatient during the holidays and just shop elsewhere in the meantime.

Here are some of the merits of working in seasonal batches over trying to develop one-of-a-kind products.

Novelty Fades Faster Than You Imagine

The era of mobile digital has fundamentally changed the way we shop.

Shopping used to be a straightforward experience – walk into a store, browse and buy. But as confirmed in Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report, it’s a completely different story today.

Now before the salesperson starts their sales pitch, people are already turned to their phone for ‘expert’ opinions. From price comparisons, research on complementary items, referring to lists, reading online reviews and using online coupons, you are light years ahead in the decision curve the minute you step into the store.


Adding to this, a Google executive said, “More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” Overall, the company also acknowledged in Q4 2014, US mobile queries (tablets + smartphones) were roughly 29 percent of total search volumes across the entire industry.

What this means is people are constantly discovering novelties. It’s practically being thrown at them every minute! In such a constant rush of the ‘instantly new’, your new product idea faces two challenges:

It May Not Make The Cut
This may sound like a harsh pill to swallow but in the race to the holidays better this pill than impending losses after the season ends. Sure, your new product idea may be great on paper; it might even look cool and have some interesting utility. But all three factors (concept, design and utility) are completely subjective. While you may consider your idea a winner (and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t) but customers may be enamoured by something shinier, something more unique or simply something quirkier than your newest idea. 

Its Novelty May Not Last

This is a genuine problem faced by every product during the holiday season. Even established products that have shown promise during the year may not be hot sellers during the holiday season. But unlike your new idea, no additional time would have been lost in design and production, thus allowing the seller to shift focus to another product that is showing more demand.

New Is Good. Cheap Is Better.

The long-standing debate on this subject has led to polarising opinions. On the one hand, there are artisanal craftsmen and handmade goods creators who feel that a price tag alone is not enough to sway customers during the holiday season. On the other hand, sellers with larger inventories and robust distribution networks are convinced a strategic drop in prices during the holiday season is guaranteed to win them a better share-of-wallet.

While neither side of the debate is wrong, one does tend to be more accurate than the other – customers are looking for the best deals around the holidays and to a certain extent will compromise on the ‘latest’ deal for the most cost-efficient one. This hypothesis is also being tested out by some of the bigger retailers, including Amazon itself. The retail monolith is so convinced that price will be the deciding factor that it has taken a punt on the idea in perhaps the unlikeliest market of all – electronics.

Right now, Amazon is selling its cheapest tablet ever at just $49 and offering them as a six-pack! In fact, to offset how ludicrous this offer sounds, it’s even throwing in the sixth tablet, free.

Now while smaller sellers shouldn’t (and couldn’t) use this example as a benchmark, there is one thing to learn from this example – the willingness to experiment with pricing.

Have A Frank Chat With Your Vendors


Setting up your inventory for the holiday season is all about being able to have the right products at the right time. There are different ways to figure out which items from your inventory during the year will make an impact to your holiday sales (we’ve discussed this in detail in our first blog of this series).

But once you have sorted out which products you want to push, the next step is to talk to your vendors to understand the production cycle for each of those items. This includes having a discussion about:

Time For Production
During the year, getting your supplies restocked may be a bit more relaxed. That’s because you have time to move those items off your shelves and you’re not competing with too many other offers at the time. But during the holidays, every day matters. So, even if a certain item seems popular but takes a longer time to produce than an item, which is slightly less popular, opt for the faster item.

Variants In Design
In case the items you’ve chosen come in multiple variants, take a long hard look at each variant and evaluate if you need to produce each of them at the same quantity you would through the year. For instance, clothing should always be produced in all its colour ways since people prefer choice when it comes to things they wear. But if you are producing a phone cover, you don’t have to offer it in say 12 colours. Just pick the top 3 or 5 highest selling ones and focus your production cycle on those items.

Speciality Items
There will always be certain items on your list, which are complicated to produce, but are too popular to ignore. Discuss these items with your vendor and see how you can shift around schedules to fit more of these items into your next production run.

Multiple Commitments
You have to understand and accommodate for the fact that your production vendor (especially if they are based in China) will be dealing with multiple sellers’ schedules before the holiday season. Be frank and ask them to give you a realistic time estimate for your shipment, based on their other commitments.

If any of these factors run into a roadblock, be prepared with a Plan B or an alternate vendor who can take the load. Also, it’s prudent to keep one or two smaller vendors on standby to take over your production schedule just in case something goes wrong with your primary vendor.

Account For Extra Shipping Time


This feels a bit counterintuitive – why should shipping during the holidays take longer? Given the extra demand, shouldn’t it be as fast if not faster? In theory, this is correct. But the on-ground reality is vastly different. The pre-holiday season rush is perhaps the most telling on most major logistics and delivery companies with literally millions of shipments being generated and moved at approximately the same time of the year.

This makes it natural for certain shipments to be delayed, misdirected and in the worst-case scenario, misplaced by the cargo companies. While shipping may seem like it has little to do with the actual production, it still accounts for time. It therefore has to be added to the production equation and thus product decisions have to be varied accordingly.

What’s Next?

Now that you have a better understanding of managing your production runs for the holiday season, it’s time to get the word out to your followers on social. In our next blog, we’ll look at how to reach out to customers on social media.

In the meantime, just remember that picking the right products to manufacture is as important as selling them during the holiday season. And by optimising every minute of the manufacturing process, you give yourself more time to focus on selling and thus maximising your returns.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #23

Laser Cut Fashion

laser cut fashion example

The intricate designs enabled by laser cut textiles are no longer an exclusive novelty for the haute couture runway scene. The bold fashion statements enabled by laser cutting are now within the grasp of the everyday consumer, with leather, silk and other textiles ideally suited to the digital manufacturing process.

Delicate patterns reminiscent of fine lace and needlework lend themselves well to laser cutting, but as we can see in the image above, bold shapes and iconic imagery can be just as effective.

With some clever design thinking, laser cutting has also enabled more exotic materials to become wearable garments. The wooden t-shirt below by Pauline Marcombe uses laser cut panels attached together with wire, transforming what was once a rigid material into a malleable interlocking form of modern body armour.

laser cut fashion wood shirt pauline marcombe

Why would you turn to laser cutting for brand promotion? For one, the eye-catching impact of these fashion items invites attention and a healthy curiosity… but also, thanks to the laser cutting process, there is much scope for design freedom and customization at a price that is accessible to the consumer.

How can your brand stand out amongst all the other fashonistas using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

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

Free Design & Quote »

Laser Cut Self Portraits

Laser cut Frida, unicorns, boxes, signs, and a new Kickstarter!

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Above are Frida Kahlo earrings. They are laser cut and hand painted wood like‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Ave Rose Collections.

After the jump, unicorns, boxes, signs, and a new Kickstarter… (more…)

How To make a Laser Cut Local Landmark

City of Bath Georgian House flat-pack model


Miniature models of local landmarks are a popular choice when it comes to souvenirs and keepsakes. In this example, the iconic Georgian terrace houses from the city of Bath in the UK are recreated with loving attention to detail.

Available as a flat-pack kit of three neatly stacked cosy homes, you can choose from either 1.5mm card or 3mm poplar ply, and the straightforward assembly process will only take a few minutes.

Ideal for Laser Cutting
Laser cut architectural models are the ideal choice to make use of tab-and-slot construction techniques that allow for quick and easy construction, often holding together without the need for glues or adhesives. Basic elevations of the structure can be traced out in your preferred drawing program (inkscape is a Ponoko favorite) and prepared for laser cutting. Take the guesswork out of designing with interlocking slots using one of several freely available tools and plugins. For a landmark or object with a more sculptural form, 3D models can also be sliced up into panels or interlocking sections that are just right to send to the laser cutter.

Optimise for Production (and add a little extra)
Once you have the profiles and parts that make up your object, arrange them neatly within one of the Ponoko laser cutting templates and add useful notes or assembly tips as etched details. The Ponoko guide to keeping laser cutting costs down contains important information that will save you time and money, so be sure to read through before starting to avoid common (and costly) pitfalls.

It can also be nice to add a little something extra to the assembled model. The Georgian terrace kits by Bob Kann come supplied with a little light to install inside, so that there is a warm welcoming glow that completes the homely feel.

via Bob Kann