Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #2

Paper Prototypes From Your Home Printer

Even if you are positive that your design is just right, it is always wise to check those details one more time before sending files to be laser cut. There is a very simple way that this can be done, thanks to your trusty desktop paper printer.

Printing out your design on paper is an ideal way to spot sizing or design errors, see whether holes or tolerances are big enough, and get a general feel for what your final result will look like. You could consider this as a free instant first prototype.

Working with digital files can be super efficient but sometimes people do lose track of whether their design will look just as good in the physical world as it does on-screen. So start your physical prototyping at home, and confirm that everything is a-ok before spending time and money on laser cutting. Once you have your details sorted, then take the plunge and upload your files to Ponoko for laser cutting.

Have you saved by making paper prototypes at home? Tell us about it in the comments below.

The next in our 10 rules for keeping laser cutting costs down is an extension of the paper prototype, but this time the lasers are firing. Stay tuned for Tip #3: Cardboard before expensive materials.

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Guaranteed Order Deadline for Mother’s Day

Ensure delivery in time for Mother’s Day day by ordering before these deadlines.

To ensure you’re stocked up in time to sell and ship your products into your customer’s hands, here are your order dates for you to run an organized ship – keep in mind, the earlier you order, the more you’ll save.

Laser Cutting Order Deadlines:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Tuesday April 21st 2015.
Upgraded Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Metal Machining (PCM) Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday April 15th 2015.

3D Printing Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Friday, April 10th 2015.

Need some inspiration? Check out these Mother’s Day gift ideas from you Personal Factory.

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Software Upgrade for Ponoko Prime

Prime just got even better.

We’ve just finished some major upgrades to the software that powers Ponoko Prime. For those of you not familiar, Prime is a monthly subscription with tons of benefits like:

• Lower cost making on laser-cutting and 3D printing.
• Free making speed upgrades on every order.
• Volume discounts up to 55% off.
• Loyalty pricing with lower per-minute rates for every month you are a Prime customer.

The bulk of the changes we’ve made are behind-the-scenes upgrades to improve stability and make for a better experience. In addition, we’ve added the following features:

• Easily check the status of your account, next billing date, and your Prime Loyalty rate all in one place.
• Quickly change or update credit card information.
• Get email updates when there is a change to your account.
• Better tools for help desk agents to assist with Prime questions.
• General UX improvements.

As always, you can upgrade to Prime at any time.

Not ready to upgrade? Still curious about the kind of savings you’ll get? Just upload any of your designs to your Personal Factory. You’ll be presented with a Prime price along with your regular cost breakdown.

Got questions about these upgrades, or questions about Prime in general? We would love to hear from you!

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #4

Laser Cut Paper Crowns

Whether you are actual Royalty or just a regular Joe, on certain occasions there can be something special about slipping a crown onto your head. As this example from Art We Heart shows, there is scope to include considerable complexity (and therefore artistic expression and identity) when using laser cutting in this way.

Laser cut crowns are a cost-effective way to transform customers into proud, willing and eye-catching roving brand ambassadors.

With the Ponoko Personal Factory, there could be heads making a Regal impact wearing your company’s brand messaging at the next big trade show or industry event! What laser cut headwear have you come across? Let us know in the comments below.

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Laser cut girls, girls, girls

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #216

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

Above are laser cut and etched cherry wood embroidery floss holders from Pie For Blackbirds.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, clocks, lamps, girls, and lips… (more…)

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Laser Cut Tie Fighter and X-Wing

Watching them take shape

Lasers and Star Wars go together like movies and popcorn, so it makes perfect sense to laser cut some Star Wars model fighters. Simon Green used these Thingiverse files to cut a model X-Wing and Tie Fighter from 3mm plywood. Watch the video above to see the laser cutter in action. Red Leader standing by…

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How To Make Glue-less Interlocking Parts

Using the SketchUp plugin SliceModeler for the best friction fit

There are several ways to create 3D shapes from flat laser cut material, and each have their merits. Many Ponoko users ask questions about how to best design for interlocking parts – making this one of the more popular choices for transforming laser cut forms into 3D objects.

Interlocking parts can be mechanically fastened together, but in this tutorial we are looking at how to design friction-fit connections that neatly snap and lock into place.

Pictured above is a laser cut trivet made by Ponoko user Andrew Jones. To produce this form he used the freely available software SketchUp along with the handy SliceModeler plugin. He then compiled a detailed Instructables walkthrough that outlines his design process for interlocking laser cut products.

To achieve the glue-less design, small curved bumps (nodes) are added into each slot. This extra material allows the parts to slide together with enough contact and pressure to fit snugly. This sounds easy enough, but just how to get the right size and number of nodes takes some time and patience. Slot length, material thickness and density are just a few of the factors that need to be considered.

I highly recommend creating parts with different size and numbers of nodes so you can find the best fit that works for you. You might want a very hard fit that needs to be tapped together with a rubber mallet or you might want a fit that can be assembled by hand without any tools. The only way to find the fit that works for you is try different size nodes.

Click through to the full tutorial where you will learn how to create a basic form using Sketchup and SliceModeler, add the nodes, export into Inkscape and then add the final SVG to a Ponoko template ready for laser cutting.

via Andrew Jones on Instructables

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Inside laser cut animals

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #215

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

Above is a laser cut corrugated cardboard bear from Cardboard Safari.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, sharks, cuffs, clips, and a crop… (more…)

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The Ins and Outs of Laser Cut Holes

How to get your design right for attachments to laser cut jewellery

from the Ponoko Showroom – left: madebydan, right: SuperVery

One of the most popular applications of the Ponoko Personal Factory is to make custom jewellery. This post covers advice on how to optimise your design for attachments that enable laser cut jewellery to actually be worn by someone.

Making jewellery is an excellent way to get a feel for laser cutting and try out a range of materials. Popular rigid materials include plywood, acrylic, veneer mdf, bamboo, metals; while leather and felt are commonly used soft materials.

Much of the jewellery is based on 2D shapes, so minimal prototyping is required to get the optimum result in final product. However, there are still a few problems that jewellery makers run into. Many of those are the result of not considering how other components or findings, such as jump rings, clasps, pins, etc will be attached. The other contributing factor is material durability. You have to use enough material to avoid breakage.


left: chromatophobic, right: taprobane

If you are wanting to attach a chain to your jewellery, you need to cut a hole somewhere in the shape for the jump ring that will hold the chain. But where should the hole be placed, and how big does it need to be? These details are determined by the combination of material thickness and overall design. Your design and material choice dictate the size of hole and size of jump ring to be used.

You need to leave enough material around the hole for it not to break, so it’s worthwhile checking Test Cuts photos in each of the Ponoko materials to get an idea of how finely you can cut the material. However, if the hole is too far inside the design it will not only compromise the aesthetic, but get in the way of the jump ring.

Material thickness Recommended hole diameter Recommended jump ring size
3.0mm / 0.118in 2mm / 0.079in 5mm / 0.197in
4.0mm / 0.157in 2.5mm / 0.098in 7mm / 0.280in
5.0mm / 0.197in 2.5mm / 0.098in 9mm / 0.354in
7.0mm / 0.280in 3mm / 0.118in 11mm / 0.433in

If you’re unsure whether your hole placement is functional, you can quickly draw a 1:1 cross-section of your material with different size holes and position your jump ring over the image to check the fit. The diagram below is an example.

Note how in this example, you can see that this figure illustrates how a 2mm hole in a 7mm thick material is too narrow for a jump ring to fit through.

Sometimes a circular hole just doesn’t work with the design, but don’t let it stop you. Instead, you can make the hole follow the contours of the design, which is more considered, or better yet, make it an integral design feature.


chromatophobic, Anna Corpron

This content originally appeared in a post on the Ponoko blog by Yana Skaler.

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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, and let us know in the comments below if digital prototypes have helped you save money with your own laser cutting.

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