Booboo – The Interlocking Bamboo Drone

Interlocking bamboo drones from Andy Shen

There’s a lot of buzz around Andy Shen’s drones – and it’s not just the hum of his multi-rotor quadcopters. Earlier this year Motherboard featured Andy’s drones in their coverage of the first ever drone dogfight.

Since then, Andy’s been hard at work on his latest drone, the Booboo. Made from laser cut bamboo, the Booboo’s lightweight frame can be assembled like a 3d puzzle without the need for any glue or hardware. This unique interlocking design makes assembly a snap, while keeping the total weight of the drone to a minimum.

Check out the video below to see the Booboo in action:

Andy got his start flying drones in 2012 as a way to take aerial photographs of bike races. As a professional photographer and an amateur bike racer, Andy was enthralled with the idea of shooting races from the air. Once he started flying, he immediately saw improvements he could make to the drones on the market, so he began designing drones of his own.

After creating his racing quadcopter from CNC’d carbon fiber – the Fast Forward – He got the idea of making laser cut drone frames from Bamboo. His first step was to get his hands on a laser cut sample:

“I was pleasantly surprised to find laser cut bamboo is way cheaper than CNCing G10 or carbon. It also might be pretty light. I measured its surface area by counting pixels in Photoshop, and comparing that to a sample piece I get 112 grams for the frame, which is right on par with carbon frames!”

Andy started work on the Booboo using Google Sketchup. “It helped to build it in a 3d program to make sure all the parts fit correctly.” Andy says, “It’s a great way to visualize things and catch mistakes.” After a night of feverishly designing, he submitted his designs to Ponoko, and had a working prototype in a few weeks.

Andy’s first prototype went through two months of iterations before being ready for production. Andy details his process of testing, flying, designing and iterating over on his blog. After four iterations and a handful of crashes, Andy was ready to put the Booboo into production.

To achieve the Booboo’s unique interlocking design, Andy needed just the right amount of control over his parts, while still having access to Ponoko’s designers when he needed them:

“On the one hand, I love being control: I place the order and I upload the drawings. I’m solely accountable for the accuracy of my order.” Andy says, “On the other hand, the tight tolerances of the job required human supervision, and I was well taken care of by the crew to ensure that the materials met my specifications. It was really the best of both worlds.”

Andy credits Ponoko Prime for helping him keep the costs of his final product down. “You can’t beat Prime” Andy says, “Prime brought my costs down and allowed me to offer the Booboo at the right price for my customers. The Booboo is only viable at a certain pricepoint, so without Ponoko and Prime it would never see production.”

I asked Andy which drones are his favorite, and where he likes to fly. “We have a few spots in the city” Andy says “and we also have a club out on Long Island for weekends. For pure speed I fly the Fast Forward, and if I want to zone out and feel like a bird I fly the Booboo.”

Andy’s advice for designers just starting out with their own product line? “There’s few things more gratifying than seeing your idea realized in a tangible object” Andy says “There’s tons of great tips on the Ponoko site, so read them all and go for it.”

You can read about all of Andy’s drones at shendrones.com, and you can get a drone of your own at Andy’s Shopify Site.

Inspired to create your own product line? Make it with Ponoko!

The Cute Side Of Scary Laser Cutting

Laser cut possums, cannibals, sweatshirts, and deer

Above is a possum charm to hang on your phone (do people still do that?). It is made of laser cut acrylic that has been inlaid and bonded to a thicker white acrylic backer – all made possible by the precision of laser cutting. This beautiful, graphic critter comes from Poo Kat Dino Crafts.

After the jump, cannibals, sweatshirts, and deer… (more…)

Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 4

Ponoko laser cut cost saving guide 1

Product Recipe #1 – Part 4

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 4: Make It

And now for the fun stuff…

My Final Design & Material Choice

From the price testing and cardboard prototype earlier, I decided on this final design. And from the three $2.50 material samples I bought earlier, I decided to do my first real test using the cork material:

Download design file for this step.

Make a Few for User Testing

I laid out my winning coaster design onto a template for the smallest P1 material sheet size and ordered:

Yippeee! My Final Product

A few days later I received a very special delivery. I was pretty excited!

Time for User Testing

I tested my coasters with potential customers – biking friends, my friendly bike store owner and his customers. They loved the design and I took pre-orders.

But some wanted a different material. So I repeated the process above to make some in black acrylic …

Final Product Line!

With cork and black acrylic coasters in my new product line, I was ready to sell.

Making tests in the final material choice enables you to trial your actual product with potential customers. This way, you can get a real feel for how people will respond to your design, and also make any last-minute changes in response to genuine feedback before moving ahead with the final production run. It was through this process that Jill discovered a demand for alternate material options, an important marketing opportunity that she otherwise may have missed.

Next up in Part 5 of this Ponoko Product Recipe we look at preparing the product for sale and making sure that the final pricing is right for the coasters to sell at a profit.

How have you tested your production-ready designs before moving on to the final sale item? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #11

Laser Cut and Laser Etched Awards & Trophies

Rewarding people for their hard work or congratulating team members on a particular achievement has greater impact when something tangible can be handed over. If the presentation item is good enough, hopefully it will be retained and proudly put on display to share with others.

With even the most straightforward use of laser cutting and laser etching, awards and trophies can be easily customized. Identifying the event and naming the recipient in crisp, clean laser precision adds a perceived authenticity to the trophy. We’ve come a long way from hand-engraved brass name plates glued to a generic cup!

Pictured above is a laser etched award plaque-in-progress by Epilog Laser. For more creative approaches, check out their other examples and think about how you could make the most of Ponoko’s laser cutting service to give your next presentation ceremony a memorable impact.

Have you used laser cutting or laser etching to produce an award? Let us know in the comments below.

Spend $50 or more at Ponoko, get a FREE $50 Making Voucher

An Independence Day deal for the independent designer

This summer we’re celebrating Independence Day by offering up an independent designer’s favorite deal:

Spend $50 or more at Ponoko, get a FREE $50 Making Voucher.

This is our first offer of the year, and one of only 1-2 per year, so get it while it’s hot!

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 an order for $50 or more at the Ponoko US or NZ hub.
  3. Type ‘July15’ in the coupon box while checking out, and we’ll email you your $50 Making Voucher.

Things you should know: Offer good for making stuff with laser cutting at Ponoko in the US or NZ. Showroom, Metal, 3D 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 totally valid for Ponoko Prime accounts! Offer ends at 11:59pm pacific time on July 4, 2015

About the free Making Voucher: Promotional making voucher is good towards the making costs of a future laser cutting order, not the initial $50 order. One promotional voucher per account. Promotional voucher must be used before the end of summer, ‘officially’ September 22, 2015. Promotional vouchers cannot be split between multiple orders.

Laser Cut And Make A Rainbow

Laser cut looms, feathers, flies, a log, a lamp, and Ryan Gosling…

Above is a laser cut Kumihimo disk. Kumihimo is a form of Japanese cord braiding. These disks are laser cut from acrylic and from 52 Lasers (take of look for more information – including a link to a Kumihimo disk generator).

After the jump, feathers, flies, a log, a lamp, and Ryan Gosling…

(more…)

How To Make The Most of Inkscape’s New Features

Long-awaited updates make Inkscape better than ever for laser cutting

Inkscape users have been on the edge of their seats for some time now, waiting for the feature set of  this exceptional free design program to catch up with some of its more costly competitors.

With Inkscape 0.91, the first major release since August 2010, a ton of fixes and features have been introduced… and we are excited. For a full list of the new features you can check out the release notes, but we’ve picked out a few that are relevant to Ponoko makers:

Measurement tool – The Measurement tool is a new feature for the artist to measure the elements in their drawing. To use the measurement tool, simply choose the tool, click anywhere on the drawing and drag the ruler out. The measurement tool will live-update with measurements of length and angles as you pass over objects in your drawing.

Trace Bitmap – Trace bitmap preview updates live and is resizable.

Select Same – a new feature that allows an artist to select objects that have the same properties as the currently selected object. For example, you could select an object that has a fill of blue. Then, using the new feature select all other objects in the drawing with a fill set to that same shade of blue.

OpenMP multithreading – No idea what this is but it makes Inkscape substantially faster.

New & Improved Guides – Including quick toggling of guides, changing the color of a guide & labelling guides.

Improvements to Text toolbar – Text toolbar shows full list of font style variants for that font (used to be just bold, italic and normal. Hooray for extrabold and hairline fonts!

Improvements to node editing – The tool control bar for the Node Tool features a new dropdown to insert new nodes on the selected segments.

New Layers panel – Reorder your layers by simply dragging and dropping them.

Sounding good so far? For budget-conscious professionals and makers not using Inkscape yet, consider the difference a seriously capable (and free!) software such as Inkscape can make as an alternative to, for example, the Adobe move towards subscription pricing. Don’t forget about Ponoko’s handy free Inkscape Starter Kit, a valuable resource that can really help to save time and money.

Watch the following clip for a neat overview of Inkscape’s new features and let us know how you go with the new updates in the comments below.

Discover more: Inkscape 0.91 release notes

Cats Of Laser Cutting

Laser cut cats, more cats, a safe, a comb, and a notebook…

Above is a laser engraved and cut cat face pendant. This mirrored acrylic tabby is from KatzeShop and based on the designer own cat. She thoughtfully abstracted the cat’s pattern and incorporated the hanger for the chain into kitty’s ears.

After the jump, more cats, a safe, a comb, and a notebook… (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies and Brands – Laser Cut Flat Pack Vases

Laser Cut Flat-Pack Vase

Flowers in a vase can mean so many things, and bringing a beautiful snippet of nature into our lives has a unique magic to it. Where to put those flowers can be as personal as the choice of flowers themselves, but sometimes it can help to give people something to work with.

As we’ve seen many times before, laser cutting is a great way to quickly achieve novel 3D forms from sheet materials. These vase examples from the Ponoko Showroom by Colin Francis and Chromatophobic use a test tube as the vessel, with a laser cut structure to hold it in place.

How would you use this as inspiration for a promotional product? Let us know in the comments below. To get you started – imagine placing branding on a slot-together structure that assembles around a standard water bottle, that can then become a functional keepsake for conference attendees or clients to take home with them.

Second Time’s a Charm: The Sleep Sensei Kickstarter Comeback

5 Lessons from an unsuccessful Kickstarter

Jeremy Wilson is the mechanical engineer behind the Sleep Sensei – A sleep coaching device that sits on your nightstand and gently guides you towards a deep, restful sleep.

Last November, Jeremy set out to secure funding for the Sleep Sensei on Kickstarter. While the first campaign raised over $2,500, the project still fell short of it’s goal.

Now Jeremy is back with a new video, a revamped campaign and an updated Sleep Sensei.

So what did he do differently? What lessons did he learn? Here are five key take-aways from his Kickstarter to yours:

#1 Set the Right Goal
Being flexible with the amount of units he planned to sell was important to Jeremy, especially given how the first campaign hit only 10% of his original goal. Thanks to scalable manufacturing from Ponoko, Jeremy’s second Kickstarter goal could be more conservative: “I have plans for how I can produce 100 units, and how I can produce 1000+ units” Jeremy says, “while still keeping my costs low enough to recoup my development costs.”

One thing to keep in mind: setting a smaller goal won’t keep you from having a huge success. In fact, people are more likely to pile on once they see you’ve met your goal.

#2 Get a Hand With Your Video
According to Kickstarter, projects with videos succeed at a rate of 50% while those without tend to only get funded 30% of the time. So how do you make sure your video is a success? For starters, don’t do it all yourself. Get someone else behind the camera so you can focus on sharing your passion with your audience. This time around, Jeremy got help from his girlfriend to shoot & direct the video. In addition, he reached out to lots of friends and family to get feedback before posting. “I found it was very useful to get outsider’s opinions on these things” says Jeremy, “they could catch details that I left out, or things that were unclear to those unfamiliar with the product.”

#3 Get to a Final Design, Quick
Soon after the prototyping phase is over, most hardware founders start making plans on how to launch a pre-order campaign on Kickstarter. This has several advantages: you can get feedback from your backers before you’ve set your design in stone, and you can beat any potential competition by being first to market.

But this approach does have it’s drawbacks: “In my last Kickstarter the design of the Sleep Sensei was not finalized, so backers didn’t necessarily know what to expect would arrive at their doorstep when the campaign ended.” Jeremy says “Between the end of the last campaign and this one, I finalized the design, added a few features to the functionality of the device, and made a handful of test units to get confidence in the manufacturability and usability of the product.”

#4 Don’t Forget About Your Offline Audience
By finalizing his design early, Jeremy was able to test out and get first hand reactions to the Sleep Sensei. He brought the finalized prototype to the Bay Area Maker Faire and listened to the kinds of questions potential backers had. Any questions that came up repeatedly were added to his project’s F.A.Q.

In addition to spreading the word, getting offline input like this provided Jeremy with customer feedback and insights that he couldn’t have gotten online.

#5 Get The Word Out
Kickstarter is a chance to put your project into the world, but it won’t happen if you don’t tell people about it. “You can have the best product in the world,” Jeremy says, “but nobody will find out about it without a bit of networking and marketing. Find a local maker space, find a meetup, share your ideas with your friends, attend a convention, or find a forum online that would be interested. Get the word out any and every way you can!”.

In addition, try to get your product into the hands of as many people as you can while you’re still developing it. In Jeremy’s case, this meant running an informal sleep study with users he found on an insomnia form, and using their feedback to craft his final product.

The Takeaway:
Even if your first Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, the lessons you’ll learn will be indispensable. Sometimes, a failed campaign is the perfect way to learn how to succeed next time around.

If you are one of those folks who just can’t stop their mind racing at the end of the day (maybe obsessing over the details of your next crowdfunding campaign?) then head over to Kickstarter to get your hands on a Sleep Sensei of your own.

Was this post helpful to you? Got any comeback tips of your own? Let us know in the comments.