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


Bitsbox monthly projects for kids

How to nurture creativity for the digital makers of the future

For many of us, learning coding simply isn’t fun – but perhaps we’ve gone about it all wrong. Two former Google employees (who also happen to be Dads) saw a way to make learning coding languages fun for kids, and their solution has gathered quite a following on Kickstarter. They call their learning system Bitsbox, and as you’ll soon see, there is more to the bits than just what’s in the box.

We don’t teach our kids how to read and write so that they can be novelists. We teach them those skills so that they can be happy, so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.

Bitsbox operates both online and as a subscription-based service that delivers boxes of coding projects in the mail to kids every month. Within minutes, kids are able to create apps that can run on a real device. The magic of the monthly deliveries is that they will keep kids hungry for more; and excited to engage with newer (and more challenging) projects as they become increasingly proficient with their coding skills.

What excites us at Ponoko is that these children will become the next generation of creative software designers and digital makers. This means that we can well and truly expect the 3D designers and laser cutting makers of the future to totally blow our minds.

Become a part of the Bitsbox community and make the most of the Kickstarter funding perks before the campaign closes.

Bitsbox via Kickstarter

Javascript Laser Cut Lamp Shades

A few lines of code to brighten your day

When Maxime Beauchemin set out to design a pair of laser cut lamp shades, he decided that it would be fun to make use of his coding skills. Already familiar with d3.js, he used Javascript to generate the vector artwork that would then be sent to the laser cutter.

This was much easier than it may otherwise appear thanks to the interactive setup at jsfiddle.net, a fantastic resource that some refer to as a ‘playground for developers’. Here is a screenshot of the number crunching that makes Maxime’s lamp possible:

This looks like an interesting way to approach design for laser cutting, with the interactive preview keeping the outcome right there on screen. Of course, a little coding knowledge would be handy to get started… but for those who just want to play, you can head over to jsfiddle and tweak Maxime’s code to make further iterations of his Javascript Laser Cut Lampshade.

via Maxime Beauchemin

Processing 2.0 released

The open source programming language for makers and creatives gets a major update.

Processing, an open source programming language and environment, has been used extensively by millions of artists, designers, experimenters, and makers since its development in 2001. It made sophisticated programming accessible both in terms of ease of use and cost (free). Recently, Processing 2.0, the first full new version, was released to the public.

Michael Hansmeyer’s vision for algorithmic design

The theory and goals behind his incredible columns.

We previously mentioned Michael Hansmeyer’s spectacular CNC milled columns. To recap, the columns were designed using a subdivision process in Processing before being CNC milled from 2700 layers of 1mm ABS plastic. He recently gave a TED talk about these columns and, more broadly, his vision for designing with computer algorithms. Using this method allows us to create forms so complex that they cannot be drawn or even imagined.


Variable speed bike sprocket

Give your single speed bike a boost with some parametric goodness

If there was an award for parametric design that made riding your single speed or fixie bike usable on gradients greater than 5 degrees for people other than Olympic athletes, then Jason DeRose would surely take it out with his variable ratio mechanical gear design.

DeRose, a software developer used Python and employed mathematics and geometry to work out the position of the sprocket teeth to craft his design. As part of DeRose’s design process, he then extruded the linework into 3D in Blender. He has also released the project files as open source on launchpad to allow others to build upon it. (more…)

Ponoko sponsored Arduino project educates kids on DIY electronics

Arduino fun for kids at Swannanoa school

Nice guy Mark Beckett (contributor to the wonderful Shed magazine) got so hooked on Arduino that he decided to pass on his contagious enthusiasm to a group of 10-12 year old school children.  Swannanoa school was all too happy to accept his time and the donated Arduino controllers, and the pupils were all too happy to play with electronics that let them create sparks of magic.

Mark approached Ponoko for the design and laser cutting of the board for mounting the controllers.  The engraved names of sponsors aren’t purely for a feel good factor; the idea is to direct students to their sites for further learning about technology related topics.

Pupils were given task sheets with instructions that had them experiment with various controllers, such as One Wire temperature sensors, photo resistors, opto-isolators, I2C communicators and others.  To encourage further learning during this school holiday project the students were even given Arduino homework – now that’s dedication not to be sneered at.

The course was a success: no one fell asleep in class, most of the students decided to buy Arduino kits for home, and there is demand to have the project repeated next year.   Judging by the smiles on the kids’ faces, they didn’t mind spending their holiday time in the classroom.  No doubt, there were some rather relieved parents who didn’t have to worry about entertaining their offspring over the break.

Ah, it’s always nice to be involved in a positive shaping of young minds.

TED: Massimo Banzi talks Arduino

How Arduino is Open Source Imagination

Arduino has arguably done more to change the DIY electronic landscape than any other open source device. We’ve often encountered this modular hardware wonder, popping up as an integral component in many 3D printers as well as being at the core of some of our favourite DIY projects.

In the trademark affable manner that he is famous for, Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi talks through the ever-widening scope of this versatile system.

“(Arduino is) …the equivalent of sketching on paper, done with electronics”

From the humble beginnings in an Italian cafe to an incredible diversity of projects being run by all kinds of hackers, makers, enthusiasts and professionals… whether it’s the pre-teen kids tinkering in their bedrooms, high-school students sending satellites into orbit or multi-million dollar global corporations pushing the boundaries of scientific discoveries; Arduino can be found at the heart of a new revolution.

Watch this neat 15 minute TED talk overview from Massimo Banzi, on Arduino’s role in the new paradigm of Open Source Imagination.

via TED

Pythagoras the drawing robot

A laser-cut delta robot that can draw better than I can

Aaron Fan is a robotics student at Georgia Tech. Over the past few months he has been regularly updating his website with details of his current project: Pythagoras the drawing robot. He covers a lot of ground, from the mathematics to the coding and hardware design.

I love this project because it ticks all my boxes: the parts are laser cut, the design is open source and well-documented, and the finished machine is equal parts ingenious and pointless. Check out this post for an overview of the project, or take a look after the break for video of the bot in action and examples of what it can draw. (more…)

Tutorial: getting started with the Personal Factory API in Python

Personal Factory is a cloud software platform for app developers to connect users directly to manufacturing devices to make custom goods on-demand.

It integrates product creation and customization apps with an established manufacturing and distribution system, so users can turn their designs into final products and have those products delivered to their door.

This is part one in a series of tutorials written by technologist Mark Schafer on working with the Personal Factory API in Python.

The full API documentation is here. All supplied examples use cURL.

The code for this tutorial can be found here: https://github.com/Neon22/Ponoko-API-from-python