Laser Cut Success Stories: Akujin Corps Etsy Store

How to quit your day job and find success with niche laser cut products 

akujincorps - laser cut glasses

Robert Overstreet was once a mild mannered IT consultant with a passion for cosplay on the side, but thanks to some clever design thinking and effective use of the Ponoko Personal Factory, his Akujin Corps Etsy store has turned into a serious full-time business.

Akujin Corps specialises in laser cut acrylic glasses for cosplay enthusiasts. The designs are inspired by the dynamic characters from various anime, comics and other media – a wildly creative culture where everyday boundaries blur with fantastical action and adventure.

Let’s take a look at Robert’s journey and reflections on his laser cutting experience with Ponoko.


How did you get started as a designer and seller on Etsy?

To be honest I do not recall how I found Etsy. I expect it was mentioned somewhere while looking for alternatives to eBay.

What was the inspiration behind your product?

I started going to conventions in the mid-1990s. As cosplay started becoming more common over the next few years I noticed a lot of Vash cosplayers did not have glasses or had poor replicas. I searched online and found the official movic replicas selling on eBay for $150-$300 and the poor replicas selling at about $90. I bought up a few pairs of similar looking glasses and modified the arms and started selling them for $20 on eBay. I did not make a lot, but I made enough to afford buying more glasses to modify as well as my anime, comics and games.

What led to you try Ponoko?

Before I found Ponoko my products were very limited. I mostly worked with existing products that I purchased modified, then resold.

In 2012 I discovered Ponoko. Now I could design and cut acrylic and started making unique designs instead of modifying existing products. When business started picking up in late 2013 I had to choose between working full-time in IT for the county or my glasses. Certain circumstances came up and I put in my two weeks notice with the county and have been making glasses since.

What are the top 3 things you love about Ponoko? Why?

The simple design requirements, the great customer service, and a fairly decent number of materials to choose from.

The design requirements are easy to understand and work with in inkscape which is free. Files can be created saved edited without expensive software or conversion.
It is not unusual for me to receive product and let it sit for a few days before I need to assemble a piece from the lastest Ponoko delivery. Sometimes I find my acrylic parts are damaged under the original paper by the manufacturer. When I contact Ponoko about this issue or other issues like product broken in the mail or cut in the wrong color which both very rarely occur, I never have any trouble getting in touch with Ponoko’s customer service who quickly arrange for a replacement. The number of materials to choose from in acrylic alone is pretty great. I have only run into a few instances where color limitation was an issue and in those cases Ponoko was willing to help me with a custom order.

How did you make (and sell) your glasses before Ponoko? How is this different from your Ponoko process?

From 1996 until 2012 I worked with existing products modifying them to create new products. I believe I had about 17 unique products until I started working with Ponoko. After the discovery of Ponoko in late 2012 I went from making a few different products to hundreds of unique items in less than a year.


How long does it take to go from: (i) idea to design; (ii) design to prototype; (ii) prototype to product; (iv) product to first customer (or media attention)? How do these 4 speeds compare to doing this without Ponoko?

With Ponoko, From idea to design takes an hour or two, and design to prototype takes about a week. If the design works out I also end up with a product at this point. If the design does not work out I am looking at another hour or two fixing issues with the design and another week waiting for the revised design to be delivered. Once I have a new product listed on Etsy I usually have my first order within a week. Without Ponoko or a similar service my business does not exist.

What advice do you want to give to other designer/sellers?

Do not take criticism and feedback personally, but do not let people walk all over you either. Customer service is important but you should expect to be treated respectfully by your customers as well.


So now that you know the story behind Akujin Corps, you can find the current range of laser cut cosplay glasses on Etsy.

If you’re inspired by Robert’s success to try laser cutting your own products, head over to the Ponoko Personal Factory and start making today.


How To Make Your Own Laser Cut Precision Tools

Taking measures into your own hands

Just Add Sharks Laser Cut Caliper

How do you know if your projects are as precise as can be? While we can get a certain level of control by squeezing our fingers together and taking an educated guess, sometimes you need the cold hard facts. That’s where measuring devices such as vernier callipers come in handy to narrow down the numbers.

Inspired by some 3D printed measuring tools they had seen, the guys over at Just Add Sharks fired up their lasers to cut a set of fully functional callipers (above) from 1.5mm birch ply. The components were laser cut and glued together, and then to round things off an additional set of radius guides (below) allow for internal and external radii to be checked for accuracy.

Just Add Sharks radius guides

Looking for a fun weekend project? The files for these laser cut precision tools can be downloaded from the source article at Just Add Sharks, so head over there if you’d like to make your own laser cut measuring guides in your material of choice from the Ponoko Personal Factory.

via Just Add Sharks

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.

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…)

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…)

How To Make a Brushless Motor for Education

Exploring electromagnetism with DIY laser cut motor

laser cut brushless motor

Teaching kids about how motors work can be a lot of fun, particularly when they get to build and experiment on the motors themselves. So when engineer Matt Venn spotted a neat little 3D printed motor, he decided to make his own variation – this time using laser cut components and an Arduino to run the show.

The learning experience

Once all the kinks were worked out, the Arduino was replaced by a few cheap electronic components. This way, students have the opportunity to build the entire setup from scratch, mounting the electronics on a breadboard as they work out exactly what each component does.

The adjustable laser cut rotor has slots to hold different numbers and configurations of magnets, and this can be further extended by cutting custom rotors to suit alternate magnet arrangements.

This is a great project that encourages a hands-on approach to exploring electromagnetism by building a simple DC brushless motor. Consideration has been made to come up with a laser cut solution that can be assembled and studied within the time constraints of a science class workshop.

Matt has provided all of the files and extra info you need to get the motor up and running on GitHub, where you will also find a brief video walkthrough that highlights how the motor and supporting circuitry work.

Matt Venn via Hackaday

How To Make a Laser Cut Dremel Chop Saw

Industrialize your mini DIY production line

dremel chop saw 1

Repetitive cutting for projects that require precision parts can be a time-consuming process. The need for consistency and accuracy in making several hundred cuts from small diameter pipes prompted sculptor HTMF Metal Pizza to seriously upgrade his DIY production line.

Why not use a pipe cutter?

The usual way to cut sections from the hobby pipe is to use a pipe cutter, however this tool leaves a small deformation around the inner diameter. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but as HTMF’s process requires smooth edges on both inner and outer surfaces, the sections from the pipe cutter are unsuitable for his needs.

Solution: the Dremel abrasive disc

An abrasive disc spinning at high speed will cut with the precision that HTMF is looking for. When controlled in smooth linear movements, the cuts will be quick and clean… so armed with this knowledge he set out to optimise the cutting process to achieve greater speed without sacrificing any accuracy.

“While I tried cutting the tubing free hand, I found I needed a third hand and there was a huge variation in size which required a great deal of re-finishing.”

Introducing the laser cut Chop Saw

The solution was to build a miniaturised ‘chop saw’ mount for his Dremel cutting tool. As well as holding the Dremel and working material securely, the chop saw houses two drawers; one to store Dremel parts and another to catch the pipe sections as they are cut. He also added a scale on the cutting table that aids in achieving consistent lengths with each cut.

dremel chop saw 2

See the full tutorial on how to build a laser cut Chop Saw mount for the Dremel multi-tool on Instructables. You’ll find all the files you need for laser cutting including an adapter for switching between the Dremel hand tool itself and the flexible shaft attachment, depending on which version you are using. The thoroughly detailed assembly instructions are also peppered with tips (and supporting pics) on how to best manage the trickier steps will see you up and cutting in no time.

…and if you’re wondering what’s up with this Instructables creator’s screen name, HTMF stands for Having Too Much Fun! 


How To Make an All-Wooden Laser Cut Padlock

Keeping your treasures safe 


Knowing that your valuables are securely locked away gives peace of mind, whether you are storing the jewellery inherited from your grandma or the secret plans to your Next Big Thing. Perhaps you just need to keep someone out of your private space, or to seal off the cupboard under the stairs from monsters that lurk in the dark.

Whatever the reason is, a lock and key can be handy indeed. So instead of heading down to your local hardware store to buy one, how about building a fully functional laser cut lock of your own?

This simple and clever design from Thingiverse user PArtzzles will prevent prying fingers from finding their way into your box of treasures. The design for the laser cut lock was worked out on Inkscape, and files are available to download so that you can make a version of your own at your favorite laser cutting service. Some makers might like to adapt the lock to further boost its security credibility to a level that will stop thieves in their tracks. Well… that’s the idea, at least!

via Thingiverse

How To Use Nesting Parts in Laser Cutting

A guide to laser cut line optimisation


Discussions around the laser cutters at Ponoko continue to highlight how important effective nesting of parts in laser cut files is. Today we are taking a look at a real-world example of how optimising linework can achieve faster cuts and therefore save money. Cutting time is generally the most expensive component when ordering from Ponoko. In the Ponoko forums, people have shared their methods of saving money. Let’s take a look at nesting line work in greater detail…


This is the design we will work with – a bin. It is designed to take standard supermarket shopping bags, and was cut from 6mm thick double sided P3 corrugated cardboard. The first prototype came out to be about $40, an amount that could be considered a little steep for cardboard. However, after a few design changes we were able to reduce the cutting time by nearly half.


First, consider good design as being the minimum necessary. The phrase “more is less” is a good mantra to abide by. Clever designers will figure out the best way to maximise the use of materials and processes they undergo.

Look carefully at your design, is there anything that could be considered superfluous? Is there anything that if you took it away, nobody would miss it terribly?

Curved lines vs. Straight lines

Keep in mind that lasers slow down dramatically on curves. If you ask yourself ‘are there any parts that you can take away curved sections without compromising the overall design?’ and the answer is ‘Yes’, then be sure to head back to your design program of choice before sending files to the laser cutter. Several vector drawing programs allow you to simplify linework down to straight lines. If not, try to reduce the size of radiuses as shown in the image below.

Another handy tip is that if you have lots of long straight lines try to align them parallel with either the x or y axis – this means the laser’s lens is only traveling in one direction at a time, it is slightly more efficient for the laser cutting.

Check the laser won’t see double

There can be an issue with overlapping linework. The laser doesn’t know what your intention was – it just thinks you want to cut the same line twice. It may sound obvious, but some vector drawing apps are more prone to this than others, it is often very easy to duplicate or copy and paste linework on top of each other.

You usually can’t see this, but the laser definitely can. In extreme cases this will double your cutting time (and cost) and increases the chances of burning the material. Always check your drawing files for duplicate linework.

The Fix: ungroup lines and drag the vertex points around to check you have no double ups.

Nesting cutting paths

Are there any parallel lines, or semi-parallel lines you can join to one another to make one section? This will give you greater control over the order of laser cutting parts. Remember to delete any shared lines that may double up.

You can see in the bin example below we had 12 individual strips, but then we changed the design to make them parallel on both sides and placed them together. The laser splits them after it has cut around the outside with individual parallel lines.


Laser cutters don’t necessarily cut sequentially where you logically think they should. Sometimes they will travel to the other side of the material for the next line despite other linework in closer proximity.

Also, due to the slight unpredictability of the cutting order it can be helpful to upload several slightly differently nested files. Sometimes the placement of parts next to one another might help you save a few precious dollars or cents.



Different materials have different cutting speeds and characteristics. Feel free to post any tips you find on reducing cutting time on the support forums and in the comments below. There is much to learn from hearing other people’s experiences.


Remember that it is unlikely your first design is going to be the best; prototyping is always an iterative process. Plan to make several variations of your design and do small tests so you don’t waste time, money and materials. As the results show here, a little tweaking of the design can save you a lot.

The content of this post by David McGahan originally appeared on the Ponoko Forums.

How To Make a Plaster Cast from a Laser Cut Mold

Giving traditional sculpture techniques a digital manufacturing makeover


A plaster cast of your head is a great novelty, but the process of acquiring one has not traditionally been a pleasant experience. Thanks to a post by Koen Fraijman on Instructables, immortalising yourself with a sculpted bust just became a whole lot easier. How did he do it? By using laser cutting!

Scan and edit the 3D file

The process begins with a digitised scan of the subject – in this case, it’s Koen’s own head. A moderate understanding of the program Rhino is required for the next few steps, where a mold is built around the imported 3D scan. This is also the time to include locator holes, so that pins can be used to aid in lining everything up during assembly of the sliced model. Rhino’s Nest takes care of the slicing, and also prepares everything nicely for laser cutting.

It is important to choose materials carefully and make sure the layer height is correct before heading to the laser cutter. Koen decided on cardboard because it enabled a relatively easy cleanup process once the plaster was poured, and the cardboard flutes also give the model an interesting surface texture.

Cutting the sliced model

Once you’ve had all the elements laser cut at your local maker space or perhaps your Ponoko Personal Factory, the mold is ready to assemble. As a bonus, all of the inner segments that make up the void can also be stacked to give you an additional head sculpture!


Pour, clean up and then stand proud…

Making plaster can get a bit messy, but there are plenty of tips on Instructables and Koen includes a few handy hints in his post. After a couple of hours, the plaster will be set and it is time to literally unbox your sculpture. Because the cardboard is brittle/soggy (when wet) and the plaster creeps into all the nooks and crannies that it can, the cleanup can be a bit laborious – but the results, as you’ll soon discover, are well worth it:


A very distinctive permanent record of how you would look, should you be made of (in this case) corrugated cardboard! Koen’s key innovation of using laser cutting to create a mold for the plaster cast made this process quite different to the way molds are usually taken.

With the ease and accessibility of 3D printing in workshops across the globe, it is good to be reminded that some of the old stalwarts of model making and sculpture are still viable options… even if they have had a helping hand from a 3D scanner and laser cutter.

See the full process on how to make a plaster cast from a laser cut mold on Instructables.