Elliptical Laser Cut Boxes

Using Inkscape plugins to round out those boxed corners 


We all agree that laser cut boxes are handy to use as enclosures for DIY electronic projects and for storing little keepsakes. Adding your own personal touch gets a whole lot more interesting when you can break away from the traditional rectilinear form to create elliptical laser cut boxes.

Once again, the magic happens thanks to some clever programming in the form of a freely available Inkscape plugin. Instructables user Bas van der Peet has compiled an extensive guide to using this plugin, with a number of fun examples of what you can achieve when you round off a few corners here and there.


If breaking out of the box sounds like fun to you, head over to Instructables and follow Bas’ guide, then let us know how you go with the plugin in the comments below.

Make your elliptical laser cut boxes using the Ponoko Personal Factory.

Elliptical Box Maker via Instructables


How to Decide When the ‘Price is Right’ in your Retail Strategy


Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 3.44.45 PMPricing your products can be an exciting time as you begin to imagine the cash registers ringing. But when you actually get down to it, the initial excitement often gives way to doubt and nervousness.

Suddenly your mind is racing with questions and explanations – What if you price too low? You might make a ton of sales but still end up alarmingly short of money to cover your expenses.

On the other hand, what if you price your product too high? You might convince the market you are a high-end, luxury manufacturer. It might even begin to draw a financially upmarket range of customers. The high cost may offset your smaller sales figures, but what if the market shifts? What if a change in manufacturing or a new competitior can match your level of quality and reduce the price? Can your businss compete and survive in a price-sensitive market?

Such questions and more will always be floating around and no one strategy can magically address all your pricing doubts. However, by being aware of the options available for retial pricing, you will be in a position to choose the one which suits your business when the time comes.

Before we go into specifics, there are some basic overarching categories which classify individual pricing strategies. These include:

  1. Demand oriented strategies: In a retail environment, you don’t always have to depend on your skills as a marketer to attract customers. Some porducts, or even categories of products, have such a magnetic pull that setting the retail price for them can be done simply by observing demand.
  2. Cost oriented strategies: This is a more common format for calculating retail pricing and revolves around the relationship and ratio of merchandise costs, operating costs and expected profits.
  3. Competition oriented strategies: These strategies involve observing, analysing and responding to market changes to maintain the perception of competitive pricing at all times in a given market.

Let’s begin by looking at some common demand oriented strategies:

Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
As the name suggests, this is a price manufacturers recommend retailers use to sell their products. This strategy is used by manufacturers to standardize prices of products across multiple locations and retailers.

However, MSRP can also be used in a market where there is high product demand. In such a market, by sticking to the manufacturer’s price, the retailer can drive higher profit sales and determine what the price levels of certain products will be in his store, irrespective of the consumer’s bargaining power.

Demand Ceiling Pricing
In this form of pricing, the retailer takes into account the maximum a consumer will pay for a certain item and as far as possible, try to keep the price up to that level so as to maintain a demand momentum for that product.

Demand Floor Pricing
Here, the retailer takes into account the lowest he is willing to go on price to meet demand for a particular product. This is usually done on lower cost items where a retailer might go lower on the cost to keep the volume of demand constant for longer.

Odd Pricing
Studies have shown that when customers spend money, they actually feel a sense of loss. But if you help minimize this feeling of loss, it is possible to nudge customers into making a purchase. In retail, you can do this by ending the price with an odd number like 5, 7, or 9. For example, using $8.99 instead of $9.00.

Also if you want to know the ideal odd number to pick, it’s 9. A study conducted at MIT and the University of Chicago ran an experiment on a standard women’s clothing item with the following prices $34, $39, and $44. The item priced at $39 outsold even its cheaper counterpart price of $34.

Zone Pricing
It’s no secret that certain suburbs or geogrpahical areas house more affluent people. In such areas, the demand for certain types of products or categories will always be high, simply due to their increased ability and propensity to spend. Using this tactic, retailers can map out certain areas where they can get away with charging more for the same stocked item as compared to stores in other locations.

Now, let’s examine some cost oriented pricing strategies:

Multiple Pricing
This is a common pricing strategy wherein you can sell more volumes of smaller itesms simply by grouping them together. It’s a strategy you normally see in grocery stores and even across clothing brands espcially for smaller things such as socks, underwear and T-shirts.

Discount Pricing

All customers love agood bargain. That’s why sales, discount coupons and even holiday deals are so popular. The only thing to consider is why you’re choosing to discount your products. If it’s for more footfalls, consider going wide with your discounts so as to attract a variety of people. If it is to get rid of unsold inventory, try setting a time limit on your discount (1 day only, flash 12-hour sale) so as to not draw too much attention to the items on sale. And if you’re trying to attract price-conscious customers, club your discounted items together to seem more appealing.

Loss-leading Pricing
If you’ve ever walked into the store because you saw a ‘too-good-to-be-true’ discount sign but walked out with three things, you’ve just experienced loss-leading pricing at work. The idea is once you get a customer in store to buy one item, just looking at other items on the shelves is often enough to drive more sales.

Finally, let’s examine competiton oriented pricing strategies:

Below Competition Pricing
As the name suggests, retailers employing this strategy use a competitor’s pricing data as a benchmark and consciously price their products below them to lure consumers into their store, instead of the competition’s.

Above Competition Pricing
While below competition seems like a no-brainer, retailers need to be cautious before using this strategy. That’s because if your competition is willing to go head to head, he might keep dropping his prices to the point where it’s no longer financially viable for you to go any lower. A good example of this is Amazon who brought the cost of paperback books so low, they put Barnes & Noble out of business.

Instead, retailers can do the exact opposite – benchmark their product at intentionally higher prices than their competition. This forces customers to stop and consider why your prices might be higher. And, not surprisingly the conclusion most arrive at is – your produt must be of higher (and therefore better) quality. A classic case of this strategy working is Starbucks, where people consistently pick them over Dunkin’ Donuts.

One of the most exciting and nerve-wracking aspects of retail is determining what price to sell your products at. However you must remember that pricing is both an art and a science. It requires an experimental attitude and an intuitive feel for how you want your brand and, by extension, your products to be perceived.

Please feel free to share in the comments below other ways you might calculate your retail pricing.


Laser Cutting – It’s Alive!

Laser cut ladies, mushrooms, and hedgehogs!

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Above is a silhouette brooch of the Bride of Frankenstien from CABfayre. It is laser cut from black and white 1/8″ acrylic like Ponoko.com‘s own.

After the jump, mushrooms, and hedgehogs… (more…)

Laser Cut Iris Clock

Time to reveal with mechanical precision

Laser Cut Iris Clock

There is something quite magical about the reveal that is the hallmark of a mechanical iris. Watching those leaves glide apart with smooth precision to neatly frame the circular opening is indeed interesting, but what about finding an application for the iris?

Over on Thingiverse, Joseph took inspiration from an existing iris and incorporated it into a laser cut clock. When you want to see the time, a small lever is depressed which activates the iris mechanism, revealing a laser cut clock face. Keeping the physical components of the iris exposed adds a layer of visual interest that invites interaction. Click through to see a short clip of the clock in action.   (more…)

Laser Cut Like New, Again!

Laser cut lamps, giraffes, and gumball machines!

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Above is the Branch Lamp. It is laser cut from reclaimed urban wood from Toronto. It was designed by LGA Architectural Partner and laser cut by Hot Pop Factory. If you don’t have any reclaimed urban wood sitting around, you could use Ponoko.com‘s own Bamboo would work well – especially if you want to stay on the greener side.

After the jump, another lamp, giraffes, and gumball machines…   (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #17

Laser cut changes in scale: How small can you go?


We have seen how taking and everyday object and making it big can really change your perspective. The same thinking can be just as effective going the other way – when large objects become interesting and engaging by making them tiny.

No-one does this better than the clever makers at Everything Tiny. As we can see in the tinysaur example above, miniaturisation is an easy way to encourage a fresh, light-hearted response to your brand. Considered use of layering and materials can also help to create more impact, and also remember that small items tend to be fragile or easily lost – so a display case of some kind would be a handy addition.

How would you use the Ponoko Personal Factory to go really small? 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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Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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How To: Design a Laser-Cut Interlocking Box

Build your own custom enclosures 

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Boxes! Everyone likes putting things in boxes, and there is something so satisfying about making your own enclosure to neatly round off a DIY project. It’s something that electronics enthusiasts have been doing for a long time – and with the handy Box Maker web app and plugin, making a custom enclosure is easier than ever before.

Existing as an online calculator and also a laser cutter-friendly Inkscape plugin, you should be well covered to fit Box Maker into your workflow.

The Box Maker interface on Inkscape is very straightforward to use. Once you have set the size of your box, you then have control over the tab size, the material thickness and the all-important kerf (the amount the laser cuts away).    (more…)

Guaranteed Order Deadlines For Halloween!


Mod-Podge-Halloween-BannerHey there makers. If you’ve got something big planned for Halloween this year, these are the dates you’ll need to get your orders in by to ensure your goodies arrive in time:

Laser Cutting Order Deadlines:

Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Thursday, 15th October 2015.

Upgraded Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Tuesday, 27th October 2015.

Metal Machining (PCM) Order Deadline:

Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, 7th October 2015.

3D Printing Order Deadline:

Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Friday, 2nd October 2015.

Get Making Here!

Wholesale Pricing Strategies To Keep You Smiling!


Pricing for wholesale doesn’t necessarily mean cutting your retail price in half. In fact, that’s more likely to make your wholesale prices unsustainably low. Instead, when you set your wholesale price, you need to price for profit.

Pricing for profit at the wholesale rate

When planning your pricing, you first need to come up with a wholesale price that pays you for your time, labor, materials, packaging and everything related to the core of your product. This price should have profit built into it so that you are able to stay afloat and grow your business.

Once you’ve set your wholesale price, perhaps double that price to create your retail price (the suggested retail price to your wholesale customers). And when you sell your product yourself via ecommerce, use the same ‘suggested retail price’.

What to include in your pricing formula

When pricing, we suggest you consider:

Labor: This is not negotiable. Build labor into your price, so you can easily hire someone in the future.

Cost of goods: You have to include every single material used to create your product.

Profit: The margin needed to reinvest in your business. Without profit, you can’t grow, hire, or even take a break from your business.

For labor, consider what you would feel comfortable paying an employee per hour, and work out how many of your products you can make in an hour to figure out labor costs per product. Do not include your labor for ideating or designing (these go into the general expenses category discussed at the bottom of this post), only include the labor directly input into the making / assembly of each product.

The Ponoko formula for success

At Ponoko, we’ve spent years experimenting with multiple formulas to arrive at one that works best, is easy to remember and even easier to implement. Here’s what we think wholesale pricing should look like:

Cost of Goods = Product Cost (Making + Materials + Shipping + Making / Assembly Labor) + Packaging Cost.

Wholesale Price = Cost of Goods x1.5 at least (to get you started), and preferably x2 or even better x3.

Retail Price = Wholesale Price x1.5, x2 or x3 as above.

When starting out, we recommend you stick to this formula because it’s the easiest way to calculate your pricing, and all the information needed for these calculations is easily available.

Calculating overhead costs and general expenses 

It’s too tough to try and work out how much of your power bill or your ideation or design time should be allocated to any one product you sell. So let’s not try. Instead, use your near constant monthly expenses to calculate your break even point – the number of products you need to sell at the price you set to cover all of your general expenses.

For example, if your expenses are $1,000 per month (including design labor) and your product costs you $25 (including making labor), this means:

* If your retail price is set at $100 (gross profit of $75), you need to sell 14 units of your product at retail every month to break even.

* If your wholesale price is set at $50 (gross profit $25), you need to sell 40 units of your product at wholesale every month to break even.

This example shows the power of increasing your prices (and keeping cost low), because the more profit per product, the less number of them you’ll need to sell each month to break even and start making a decent profit!

Please feel free to share in the comments below other ways you might calculate your pricing …

All The Laser Cut Parts Of The Body

Laser cut Wookies, crows, teeth, and heart!

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Above is a granite coaster of Chewbacca. It is laser etched into granite and comes from So Hot Right Now. This would be great laser etched into Ponoko.com‘s Black Acrylic.

After the jump, crows, teeth, and heart! (more…)