Spend $50 or More at Ponoko, Get a FREE $50 Making Voucher

An Independence Day Deal For The Independent Designer

Independence Day Promo - Laser Cutting Promo

The independent designer’s favorite deal is back! This summer, let’s celebrate Independence Day with a FREE $50 making voucher.  

To Get Your $50 Making Voucher:

  1. Log in to your Ponoko account. If you don’t have one, sign up for free here.
  2. Place a $50 minimum order at the Ponoko US or NZ hub.
  3. Type ‘JULY16’ in the coupon box while checking out, and we’ll email your $50 Making Voucher.

Things You Should Know:

Offer good for making stuff with laser cutting at Ponoko. Showroom or sample store purchases do not qualify. $50 minimum does not include shipping. Other coupon codes or vouchers cannot be used with this offer. Offer good at Ponoko US and NZ only. Offer also valid for Ponoko Prime accounts. Offer starts 8:00am Pacific Time on June 4, 2016 and ends at 11:59pm Pacific Time on July 4, 2016.

About The Free Making Voucher:

Promotional voucher redeemable until Sept 4th, 2016. Promotional making voucher is good for a future laser cutting order, not the initial $50 order. One promotional voucher per account. (Making Vouchers are good on making costs only.)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #40

Laser Cutting for Memorial Day

laser cut and etched american flag

Taking a moment to step back and honor the fallen on Memorial Day brings US citizens together on the last Monday in May each year. Amongst the paraphernalia that goes along with this sombre event, perhaps none is more powerful than the American Flag. The iconic Stars and Stripes make a bold statement that is instantly recognised across the globe, and the clean graphic composition of the flag lends itself well to visual reproductions using laser cutting.

Sharing in a show of National pride can take many forms, and through laser cutting we are able to add creative and eye-catching mementos to the Memorial Day caché.

Laser Cut Flag Stencils

memorial day laser cut flag stencil

Pictured above, the READYMAN American Flag Card is a no-nonsense, seriously tough keepsake made from 301 stainless steel. It can be used as a tracing template or as a decorative object in its own right. Continuing on the theme of using laser cutting to create an American Flag stencil, there are numerous clip-art options available for free online. We thought this dynamic flag-in-motion (below, left) captures the mood well. Another approach from Hollywood Toys & Costumes (below, right) is to make three stencils, one for each color of the red, white and blue.

memorial day laser cut flag stencils

 

Laser Cut Ornaments

memorial-day-laser-cut-2

While The Laser Place has a neat hanging ornament featuring the US Flag (above, left) on their Etsy store, amongst their other products you can find mementos of different branches of the armed forces. Laser etched cork coasters (above, middle) provide an example of how iconic Service emblems and badges can be incorporated into your celebrations. Also from The Laser Place, the laser cut wall plaque (above, right) is a more permament fixture that has been laser cut and etched with a layered 3D effect.

What other Memorial Day mementos can be customised for your clients 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.

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3 New Materials To Inspire New Projects: Peel & Stick Veneers

Sticker Products

Need something new to inspire your next laser cut wood project? Can’t find the right material that offers flexibility and versatility? Check out our latest additions to our material selection. The wood design on these peel & stick veneers offer incredible detail.

The premium grade real wood veneer has a pressure sensitive adhesive backing. The veneer is quite flexible along the grain and can be applied to curved surfaces. They’re great for jewelry projects, to stick on to acrylics or to create amazing 3D stickers. Your imagination is the only limit to you how you can use the walnut, bamboo amber and bamboo blonde peel & stick veneers for your next laser cut wood project.

Click on the images below to get all the details on our new premium peel & stick veneers.

Peel & Stick Veneer – Walnut

Walnut has rich, chocolate hues, auburn undertones, and beautiful grain patterns that make it appealing as material for projects that need stronger color contrast.

laser cut wood veneer

Peel & Stick Veneer – Bamboo Amber

Bamboo has a beautiful fine grain which may have some visible joints on the surface to break up the grain — giving it a unique appearance. The Amber version has a  golden brown color, a great choice for neutral-looking jewelry projects.

laser cut wood veneer - bamboo amber

Peel & Stick Veneer – Bamboo Blonde

The natural occurence of joints on this other new bamboo is also a welcome break from the fine grain. It has a golden color that is a few shades lighter than the Amber version.

laser cut wood veneer - bamboo blonde

 

 

We’d love to know your ideas for things you can make with these new materials. Comment them below.

Tools For Enhancing Your Laser Cut Product Photos

If you’re trying to sell your laser cut products online for the first time, there are a few things you need to know. Factors like having the right content for your product description and having amazing pictures can greatly influence your success as an online seller. Whether you choose to sell your products on Etsy, in your own store or any other online seller, it is important to remember that your potential buyers only have images and words to rely on. If you’ve made your laser cut prototype with Ponoko, you’re already on the right path. Having that physical product (or at least a photo of it)  to show your potential buyers is a must-have.

So, let’s get started with getting your product photos to look stunning. After all, they say pictures paint a thousand words. These tools — both free and paid — can help you highlight your products:

  1. PicMonkey – This free browser-based tool can do a lot of things — it makes it super easy to add filters, effects, text and do some awesome overlays. One of the more useful features for product photos is collage, which you can use for showing different angles of the same product in one frame.PicMonkey - Laser Cut Product Photo Editing
  2. FotoFuze – Clean up the background of your image and set it against either black or white. This way, the focus is on your product and nothing else. Plus, an all-white product makes it look more professional. FotoFuze - Laser Cut Product Photo Editing
  3. FotoFlexer – Another free tool you can use by uploading images to the web where you can easily retouch photos or add effects. Aside from the usual choices such as posterize, grayscale or sepia, you can also use lomo, comic, patchwork and more. FotoFlexer - Laser Cut Product Photo Editing
  4. Fotor – It’s cheap at $39 per year and you can use it directly on your browse. You can also try it for free if you’re not sure you want to pay an image editing tool just yet. It has some pretty amazing features such as the High Dynamic Range (HDR) tech which brings out the true colors of your photos. The HDR tech also lets you combine photos with different exposures into one cool image.
  5. Pixlr – This is a popular tool that can be used on the web, as an app or downloaded on a computer. It can be used to work in layers, transform objects, add overlays, borders and more.
  6. GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP is the free equivalent of Photoshop. While it doesn’t quite have all the bells and whistles as Photoshop, it’s good enough to help you with basic image clean-up. This needs to be downloaded to your computer.
  7. Photoshop Express – Who doesn’t love Photoshop? If you do but can’t really afford the license, get the next best thing: a free app! If you’re shooting your product photos with your phone, this can help crop, fix red-eye, reduce noise and more.

There you have it! A short but sweet list of free/nearly-free/you-gotta-pay tools to help you come up with professional or fun-looking photos for your laser cut items.

Modernizing Vintage Crafts With Laser Cutting

There is a certain beauty to vintage crafts.

One of the hard-to-beat old-fashioned crafting techniques is paper tole. This is the art of constructing three-dimensional images by cutting and layering elements from identical images. So essentially, you are building a 3D image using 2D prints. This style is also known as papier tole and 3D decoupage.

The simplest types of paper toles are those you’d see in pop-up books or old 3D cards. Even with just two layers, it seems to bring out an entire magical dimension to the paper craft. The more popular use of this technique is to produce a decorative framed print where the image is set in a deep wall frame and the finished product is displayed as wall art.

Vintage Paper Tole Card

The exact origin of paper toles is unknown. Traces of the art can be seen in Italian furniture in the 16th century where cut and shaped paper was shellacked to furniture. The same was used in 17th century France, where furniture craftsmen used varnish to protect the delicate paper cut designs. It has evolved into an artform called “Vue d’Optique” where paper sculptures are used to create three-dimensional pictures. The craft as we know it today, further emerged during the Depression-era USA. In the 1930’s it was common for households to receive multiple Christmas cards sold by charity agencies and contain the same image. Innovative crafters used these cards to create what is the current art form. The craft really surged in popularity in the late 70’s to the early 80’s.

Much of the focus of paper toles was on the artistry — layers were lovingly and skillfully hand-cut to create depth, contour and perception. However, since it consumes time and the complexity of the process requires a degree of skill, it has become a dying art.

Modernizing Paper Tole with Laser Crafting

 

This is where laser cutting can save the day! It can revive the nearly-lost art of paper toles by taking out the excruciating part of the process — the cutting. Now before you think that this simply destroys the art — hold that thought! There’s much more to paper tole than just cutting. This is the very reason why paper tole kits began populating the market in the 1980’s. Pre-cut kits became available to those who love the assembly process but do not have time for the cutting process.

Modern-day paper tole with laser cutting

Essentially the process is the same as in the traditional way it is done. When designing a laser-cut paper tole kit, the maker needs to look at the 2-dimensional image and visualize a foreground, a middle-ground and a background. It’s not really the cutting that makes it special, but rather the shaping. Sculpting each cut-out piece gives the entire picture a natural perspective and a touch of realism.

A maker can focus on just producing a paper tole kit instead of an entire project. The kit, in itself, is a sellable item that many will still appreciate. Once the pieces are pre-cut and pre-sculpted using precision laser cutting, assembly instructions are needed to produce the complete kit. A laser-cut paper tole kit will resonate well with an audience who wants to focus on the layering or assembly part of the paper tole technique. They can layer and glue the pieces to the provided base print with a neutral cure silicone to create the 3D effect.

Another option for makers would be to create the completed paper tole artwork and sell it as is. There’s still a growing market for precision-crafted art and laser cutting makes the space all the more exciting to explore.

How To Make a Laser Cut Wobbler

Get your creativity rolling with this simple DIY laser cut project

laser cut wobbler 1

Watching things wobble has something mysterious and mesmerising about it, and when you add in the precision of a laser cutter, the results are mathematically sublime. Building your own laser cut Wobbler is a fun way to learn about the physics behind motion and inertia, or if the how and why is not as critical for you as the what, perhaps having something novel and intriguing to roll across the table is reason enough!

Thanks to Thingiverse users Greg Zumwalt and Ella Jameson, making your own laser cut Wobbler is easier than ever. You may notice from the image above (and the video below) that Greg’s design is not actually laser cut… it has been 3D printed. That’s where Ella comes in – she remixed Greg’s design to make her laser cut version, and shared the files for others to enjoy.

Simply download Ella’s .svg files (different disk sizes have been prepared for a material thickness of 3mm) and fire up your Ponoko Personal Factory to laser cut in your 3mm material of choice.

Here is a video of Greg’s wobbler in action:

So how does a Wobbler work?

The Wobbler moves so nicely because its center of gravity remains very nearly constant while rolling along, thanks to the ratio between the slots that connect the disks and their radii. This can be calculated for any round-ish shape using mathematical magic, but if equations make you wobbly, then you can cheat a little and use the approximated ratio of:

Slot Length = Disk Radius * 0.293

Wobblers can come in a number of forms, and with the repeated motion of the disks as they roll along, there is a great opportunity to laser etch onto the surfaces for further visual impact. It is also possible to apply the same mathematics to other Wobbler constructions; perhaps the most notable example of this is John Edmark’s laser cut Rollipses.

Click through for a video of yet another stunning kinetic mathematical wonder from John Edmark, as well as a collection of Wobblers presented by Tim at Grand Illusions. (more…)

Understanding Button Design

A Comprehensive Product Design Guide to Push All Your Buttons

button design for laser cutting

Even with the prevalence of touch-enabled devices in our lives, the tactile button still holds its own as one of the most important physical design elements in a product. Throughout your day, you will encounter dozens (if not hundreds) of examples ranging from the thoroughly satisfying and highly engineered through to the hastily made, poorly molded and barely functional.

Getting those buttons right can be tricky, but thanks to design engineer Christian Brown’s Button Design Showcase we are able to get our heads around some of the important considerations that can help to ensure a successful outcome for your laser cut products.

“Buttons are a chance for both comfortable ergonomics and increased intuition in your product design… Large buttons surrounded by smaller ones indicate relative importance. A volume rocker button indicates a level going up and down. A single big red button says, ‘PANIC!’.”

 

How About Button Design for Laser Cutting?

By incorporating Christian’s button design insights with the thinking behind lattice (or living) hinges, we can use these same design principles for laser cutting. Enclosures for DIY electronics projects will often have holes or cavities laser cut to allow for the insertion of mechanical switches or buttons. It would certainly make the design a whole lot more interesting if these mechanical elements can become a more integral part of the laser cut pattern!

Laser Cut Buttons: Integrated

One way to do this is to add integrated spring elements to the surface of an enclosure, enabling buttons to be a part of the product housing itself. The DIY cellphone from David Mellis shows this quite effectively:

laser cut wood cellphone laser cut buttons

Laser Cut Buttons: Materials

Another option is to use an alternate material that can be fixed to the casing mechanically, much like is done in manufactured products. Alternate materials can include:

  • – color contrast (eg: different colored acrylic)
  • – translucent (eg: clear acrylic, back-lit for extra zing)
  • – rubber/silicone (using laser cutting and/or 3D printing to make a simple mold)

 

laser cut buttons emu caseimage source: BMOW

laser cut button 3d print
image source: roland.bz

Learn About Button Design

If your laser cut designs have buttons of any kind, then you should find Christian Brown’s Right On The Button: Using Design as a Showcase for Excellence an interesting read indeed. Gaining an understanding of what goes into the button design for manufactured products can help your own workflow, and aid in using laser cutting to its full potential.

Fictiv via Solidsmack

 

How To Make a Customized Jigsaw Puzzle

Laser Cut Educational Toys

laser cut puzzle 1

Personalised toys can make a great gift, adding something unique and memorable to show how much you care. It’s one of those things that many people think about doing, but never take the first steps to actually make it happen. Let’s take a look at how easy it can be to put together a personalised laser cut educational toy.

As you can see in this guide on Instructables, it is possible to achieve a highly resolved, professional-looking outcome even for those who are new to laser cutting. The guide, written by Ponoko’s own Dan Emery, walks through a process of creating the cutting pattern for the jigsaw pieces using Inkscape, and then building a custom map section that will become the laser etched details.    (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #39

Laser Cut Summer BBQ Essentials

Laser Cut Beer Caddy Tom Keddie

As the days get longer and the hint of Summer warmth spreads its cheer, gathering together for a BBQ is a great way to reconnect with friends and family. For those who are hosting and also as gifts for (or from) the invited guests, laser cut BBQ tools and trinkets can make any event a memorable experience. Let’s take a look at a few BBQ ideas for creative brands and agencies this Summer.

Laser Cut Beer Sleeves

Pictured above, this handy beer caddy will enable up to 8 bottles or cans to be easily transported. The design makes use of the strengths of laser cutting, with interlocking components that require no adhesives and plenty of space to laser etch company, event or personalised details. Carting drinks from place to place doesn’t need to be an awkward balancing act – a laser cut beer caddy will get those drinks to your guests in style.

Laser Etched Cutting Boards

The broad, flat surface of a wooden cutting board or cheese platter is an ideal location for laser etched brand messaging. Adding details from an event, or personalising with quirky snippets and brand messaging will make this communal table item a memorable conversation starter or possibly even a desired keepsake. Examples: Dinner is Coming from Wicked Wooden Things, Mom’s recipe from 3D Carving, Lionel Richie from Darkling Designs 10.

Laser-Etched-Cutting-Boards

Laser Cut Bottle Opener

Having carted beers to all your guests, they will need a way to open the bottles. The profiles of openers are many and varied, and as these examples show, they are well suited to laser cutting. Whether you choose to have a little fun with the forms used (Beer & Friends from Hyde HousePorsche 911 classic from Racetrack Style); or incorporate the opener into an ingenious multi-tool (Hedgehog by Zootility Tools) or maybe go super-tiny like the Pangea Pico, the potential to get really creative with this simple and handy product is fantastic.

Laser-Cut-Bottle-Openers

 

Laser Cut Coasters

The surface and outline of the coaster can also be used for creating functional laser cut bottle openers, but if you’re not going that far, simply creating interesting shapes can be more than enough. Consider the laser cut and etched street map series titled I Kinda like it here by the National Design Collective, further quirky fun from Zootility and interlocking Penrose tile coasters from PhaseSpaceDesign in the Ponoko Showroom.

laser-cut-coasters

Each of these products present both an interesting form and a generous surface area where laser etching can be applied. As customised event collateral, they make for ideal promotional giveaways because they cleverly combine the feature of having fun with the function of being truly useful. All this happens while establishing further brand recognition and recall.

What other Summer BBQ Essentials can be customised for your clients 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.

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From $1 - Order Just 1 or 100,000 - Same Day Shipping - Instant Online Quotes - 100% Re-Make Guarantee.

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Laser Cutting from a Galaxy Far Far Away

When The Force is strong

laser cut millenium falcon

When May the Fourth comes around each year, a whole galaxy of sci-fi fans kind of go nuts – well, more nuts than usual. It’s a fun time for these movie enthusiasts, and making models of the classic space vehicles from the original films can be a great way to share your enthusiasm with fellow fanatics.

Laser cutting is perfect for replicating the complex surface details of the iconic space vehicles, as has been well demonstrated by Thingiverse user Costaricaorca in the image above.

For others, the surface details take second place behind the actual shape of the vehicles. Once again, laser cutting provides an accessible way to replicate these forms and the following examples show how you don’t need much before it’s quite clear where the reference for the various machines comes from.

laser-cut-star-wars-thingiverse

Millenium Falcon by Killor; Waker by BillyMcCoy; and Star Destroyer with Tie Fighters by Breakfastsandwich

There are more like these to be found, uploaded by enthusiasts of all skill levels and experience to design community sites such as Thingiverse. Some have been made on laser cutters at local maker spaces, while others are zipped through during ‘spare time’ by employees lucky enough to have an on-site laser cutter at work. Another option that is accessible to all is to download files from Thingiverse and then have the parts cut in the material of your choice in the Ponoko Personal Factory.

May the fourth be with you…