Measuring Success: Maker Crushes Kickstarter Goal By 2,087%

The Secret Behind The Elegant Instrument That Measures The Golden Ratio

Sir Edward Victor Appleton, 1947 Nobel Laureate in physics, said: “The golden ratio is the key to universal physics.” And for Scott Onstott, founder of SIPS Productions Inc., the golden ratio is the key to a Kickstarter campaign success story that had this maker crushing his initial goal to raise $1,618 by 2087%.

The Golden Ratio Is Everywhere (Even If You Don’t Know It)

From great works of art down to the credit card in your wallet, the golden ratio is everywhere. In mathematical terms, the ratio is 1:1.618. While these numbers may not hold much meaning to the casual observer, they have been studied by scholars for centuries.

“Some of the greatest mathematical minds of all ages, from Pythagoras and Euclid in ancient Greece, through the medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa and the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, to present-day scientific figures such as Oxford physicist Roger Penrose, have spent endless hours over this simple ratio and its properties,” says Israeli astrophysicist Mario Livio. “But the fascination with the Golden Ratio is not confined just to mathematicians. Biologists, artists, musicians, historians, architects, psychologists and even mystics have pondered and debated the basis of its ubiquity and appeal. In fact, it is probably fair to say that the Golden Ratio has inspired thinkers of all disciplines like no other number in the history of mathematics.”

Kickstarting The Golden Ratio

Scott has followed the work of these thinkers in his use of the golden ratio. A graduate of University of California at Berkeley with a degree in architecture, he has written and self-published seven books about the Secrets In Plain Sight, a series that documents his ongoing research, unique discoveries and sacred geometry artwork. He has also produced a Secrets in Plain Sight film series profiling patterns found in art, architecture and the cosmos—which has now been viewed by millions.

“After having written two books on the golden ratio—the first an introductory illustrated book, and the second revealing how Leonardo Da Vinci used the golden ratio as the underlying structure of his paintings—I wanted a way for people to discover the golden ratio in the natural world, in human-made artifacts surrounding them, and to purposefully encode the golden ratio in the things people make,” Scott explains. “I created a unique set of golden ratio calipers, The Proportioner, which does exactly that.”

Due to its precise geometric design, the Proportioner’s middle pointer always proportionally indicates the golden ratio with respect to the width of the outer arms (aka, the whole).

Like many makers, Scott wanted to test the demand for his product before going into full production. So he started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Proportioner to life.

Not knowing what to expect, he started with a modest goal—$1,618—a nod to the number that started it all. With a funding period of August 29 – October 1, 2016, Scott raised $33,772 from 543 backers in that brief 33 days—totally crushing the original goal by 2087%.

Building The Perfectly Proportioned Proportioner

While the Proportioner may seem like a simple tool, making this elegant instrument was far from easy.

Scott initially considered 3D printing, CNC or water-jet cutting to make his golden ratio calipers with a unique magnetic hinge, but none of these manufacturing options were as well suited as laser cutting for what he wanted to make.

“High quality laser cutting turns out dimensionally accurate parts every time,” Scott says. “My device has interference-t magnets where the tolerance is a few hundredths of an inch. The magnets must fit perfectly every time. There is no way to replicate this by hand or by using woodworking machines. Because of these extremely precise small-scale details, laser cutting was the obvious choice.”

And while he did try other laser cutting services before finding Ponoko, he made the switch because of the easy-to-use web interface and choice of materials. “None of the other laser cutting services had the right material for what I wanted to make,” Scott says. “I like the feel of wood rather than metal or acrylic in the hand, and Ponoko has the 3.5mm thick premium veneered MDF that suited my project perfectly.”

Scott determined that using the premium walnut veneer surrounding a medium density fiberboard core on top and bottom was the best option for his calipers. “This materials ‘sandwich’ is far stronger and dimensionally stable compared to Baltic birch and other plywoods,” he explains. “The hard veneer layers help the Proportioner arms slide smoothly and they are quite attractive. The MDF core doesn’t warp, bend or twist like plywood does, an important consideration for the long slender arms in my device.”

Once he had made the materials decision, the next challenge for Scott was figuring out how to pack the maximum number of parts needed on the given sheet size to keep his costs in check. “The arms of the Proportioner are complex curves and optimally tiling them is non-trivial,” he says. “Having no automated way to do this, I did a lot of trial and error in AutoCAD until I ultimately was able to fit 25 Proportioners per sheet.”

In addition to creating the calipers, Scott designed a magnetic stand to hold them. The stand is assembled without tools, simply by pressing the finger joint together at a right angle. Micro bevels laser-cut into the finger joint ensure a snug fit. What’s cool about the stand is that it not only provides a convenient place to store the Proportioner, but it also converts the instrument into an attractive small sculpture when not in use.

Discovering The Golden Ratio In Your World

Open any art history book, and you’ll see that many old masters structured their compositions using the golden ratio, although this fact continues to largely go unrecognized.

See how Leonardo da Vinci used the golden ratio to create Bacchus (formerly Saint John The Baptist), while Michelangelo located the divine spark in The Creation Of Adam using the divine proportion.

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But the golden ratio isn’t limited to works of art; it can also be found in the more mundane. Just look at the structure of the ebony and ivory keys on the piano, or the configuration of vinyl records. Who knew making music had such beautiful mathematical proportions.

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Scott says the golden ratio is the most succinct mathematical expression of the Hermetic concept, “As above, so below.” And he hopes that Proportioner users will feel empowered to discover the golden ratio for themselves in the natural world and in human-made objects.

Robert Lawlor, author of Sacred Geometry: Philosophy & Practice, said: “The golden ratio is a reminder of the relatedness of the created world to the perfection of its source and of its potential future evolution.” With the Proportioner, that creation just got easier.

 

Maker Changes The World One Plant At A Time

By Combining Technology & Gardening, The Plant Doctor Is Shaping The Future Of Indoor & Outdoor Horticulture

plant-doctor-potAkin Yildiz has a mission: Change the world, one plant at a time. Through the Plant Doctor, a non-profit, open-source online research laboratory specializing in electronics and plants, Akin is shaping the future of indoor and outdoor horticulture.

But he didn’t always have such clarity in vision. In fact, after earning his degree in business management, Akin didn’t know what direction to take. He was working in a restaurant, teaching guitar and taking odd jobs. But gardening was on his mind.

“Gardening was a hobby, and I always wanted to teach people about gardening,” he says. “I wanted to make it so easy that anyone could just get up and do it without any hesitation. But I had no idea how to go about it.”

The Evolution Of A Maker (And A Movement)

The reason most people don’t garden, according to Akin, is that they either don’t have time or they are scared to fail. There’s also a broad segment of the population with no electronics or programing experience. He saw a need in the market and wanted to address it.

“Plants and electronics are two very important fields of human life, yet most of us know so little about them,” he says. “I believe to truly solve this problem, we need a game-like environment where the end user learns as they complete it.”

But there were no DIY kits that focused primarily on plants and electronics. Until he changed all that in 2014 with the Plant Doctor.

The Plant Doctor offers electronics kits that teach you how to build circuits, how to program computers and how to garden—a total beginners guide to the world of plants and electronics.

Akin says that most adults have little time to learn new skills like programming to pass onto their children, so he designed the educational kit to be easy to learn and suitable for any age group (non-toxic, solder free).

“Imagine receiving a box,” he explains. “Inside you have electronic components that can communicate with plants. You put together these color-coded components, like a puzzle. Once completed, you activate the computer and learn how to program it. You are now left with an instrument that can teach you how to garden.”

plant-doctor-grow-lightsSeveral kits are available from a simple plant pot that is completely mobile to serious systems with a box that can automate the watering and lights. He has even created a device that can be attached to an existing pot that monitors conditions and will email you when the plant needs, water, light or a temperature adjustment.

All Plant Doctor instruments are open source hardware and software, so anyone in the world can use them. No previous experience is necessary to assemble, program or garden—just plug and play. In just one weekend, you can learn how to program and build circuits that can implement this automation technology to your garden or home. Check out all the plans on Instructables.

plant-doctor-electronicsAkin’s vision to bring together nature and technology in a simple, non-harmful way is catching on. His Instructables page has garnered 600,000+ views and has thousands of followers. He has started a crowdfunding campaign to further develop this project and bring more awareness to smart plant technology around the world. And he’s also consulting and teaching.

“We have been offering in-person and online workshops to ages between 6 to 60+,” he says. “People who have never programmed or built circuits are now able to walk away from a two-hour-long class knowing enough to automate their homes, greenhouses, workshops—experiencing programming and circuit building first hand. “

The Bigger Picture Of Sustainable Food Production

Akin says his vision to teach the world how to program, build circuits and garden has gained attention over the last year and resulted in many conversations around the globe. Both experienced DIY greenhouse farmers and total beginners in plants or electronics are discussing the bigger implications of combining gardening with programming.

plant-doctor-future-vertical-garden“Imagine a giant building in the middle of the city, a building just for plants and to grow food vertically,” he says. “Vertical farms are the future of gardening. They require less resources, less space and yield higher crops than regular outdoor gardening methods. These buildings will become more common in the very near future.”

With smart plant technology getting more attention everyday, Akin says that automated food production will become more available to residential housing. “This technology will offer many new jobs in the near future,” he says. “This is why we offer our DIY kits so the next generation can grow up knowing how to program and control this technology. And by making it open source software and hardware, we are able to make it more accessible to a bigger population worldwide.”

The Plant Doctor educational tools are a glimpse to what the future holds. And what an interesting—and hopefully green—future it will be.

 

Maker Finds Success In $300 Billion Wedding Market

How THE little BLUE CHAIR Differentiates Itself By Branding Weddings

Weddings are big business. BIG. In fact, the global wedding industry is topping $300 billion (and growing every day), with U.S. spending contributing $58 billion of that. So how does a budding company differentiate its offerings and really standout in this crowded market? With some creativity—and great design.

Finding Passion In Printing

Hope Johnson, founder of THE little BLUE CHAIR (TLBC), has always been inspired by an old world, organic touch. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she incorporates her southern surroundings, organic textures and textiles into a suite of wedding products that includes semi-custom and full custom wedding favors, table numbers and stationery.

While Hope says she has a strong appreciation for the handmade, an unearthly attraction to the handwritten and an undeniable love for love, she didn’t set out to be a stationary designer. No, her initial major at Louisiana State University was something much less artistic: Business.

But after nearly failing freshman economics, she changed her major to Fine Arts, which evidently was not a surprise to her friends and family. She focused her course training in printmaking…and spent a lot of time in the basement of the LSU print lab. From silkscreen to lithography to intaglio to bookbinding and letterpress, a labor of love was born.

Bringing A Couple’s Story To Life

Fast forward, and Hope acquired a couple letterpress machines and built a studio where TLBC creations come to life. But designing wedding stationary is a highly competitive business. That’s why Hope takes a different approach (perhaps those business courses were beneficial after all). She thinks bigger, beyond providing the tangible invitation.

“Every day, I am faced with the task of bringing a couple’s story to life,” she says. “My clients are often creatives themselves, bombarded with inspiration from every angle—an overload even. My job is to dig deep to the roots of the couple’s story and put that on paper.”

If that sounds like a daunting task, it is. An endless amount of creative energy is put fourth for each project, fabricating inspiration from beginning to end.

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“I call myself a stationery designer, but really, and maybe not officially, I’m a wedding branding designer,” Hope explains. “I brand the wedding from start to finish with much more than just the invitation.”

Much more indeed. TLBC offers custom stationery design, specialty assembly, fine cotton papers, letterpress printing, “will you be my bridesmaid?” cards, wood etched address stamps, hand painted detailing, vintage stamps, silkscreen, wedding day gifts, vow prints, wedding party accessories—and all of the other things brides forget they need.

Hope says that couples often use aspects of what she has created to have other key pieces made for their big day. “I help curate a ‘collection’ of items to bring that brand, that story, to life,” she says. “I often bring a second layer of texture on top of the paper with specialty made wood-cuts. Those same familiar pieces may be found in and around the big day.”

What started with just paper has turned into a number of pieces—from cake toppers, wedding-day signage and reception décor—that help orchestrate a couple’s story from engagement through the big day. And that’s where Ponoko comes in.

Expanding Product Offerings With Laser Cutting

Adding customization makes TLBC products standout among the hundreds of other wedding stationery suppliers, and Hope’s creativity plus unique sense of style needed the right supplier match.

“Texture plays a large role for my inspiration,” she says. “I have a very organic feel to most of my work paired with a natural color pallet. I often find a suitable need to bring in wood aspects to achieve a certain level of emotion and to get that natural, textural feel many of my brides opt for.”

To attain this authentic aesthetic, she knew mass-produced, off-the-shelf wedding items wouldn’t work for her clientele: Couples that have impeccable taste, appreciate a nicely hosted gathering, and have a vision and story to tell.

With a quick internet search, she found Ponoko. After discovering the streamlined making process, Hope could easily navigate her work into a space where she can see, quote and order in a timely manner.

“These solutions have allowed me to easily and affordably introduce custom products as opposed to the mass-produced options that scour the internet,” she says. “Since finding Ponoko, I’ve been able to introduce a new line of options for my clients, from wood cut assembly details, cake toppers, wedding signage and more. I can easily reorder, alter materials and see what works best for the job.”

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To see more of Hope’s creations, check out the collection of custom work, DIY projects, etiquette help and wedding planning tips at thelittlebluechair.com.

Setting A Foundation For Years Of Happiness

So what does a blue chair have to do with weddings? More than you think.

It began as an actual little blue chair sat on to unwrap Christmas gifts. The sentiment of unveiling and the surprise element of the package became the foundation of the business.

Hope continues to aim for the simplicity in her work, with an appreciation for imperfections. Between illustration, organic typefaces and letterpress, that goal seems to be accomplished again and again.

Her clear direction and design aesthetic have created a solid base for her business to continue growing. Here’s to living happily ever after.

 

 

Jewelry Designer Makes Magic On Etsy

The Moon Lab’s Laser Cut Creations Combine Science + Pop With A Side Of Quirk

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What happens when spirituality, science and pop culture combine forces in the universe? A little magic is made.

The Moon Lab is a unique Etsy shop with a style and flair all its own. “When starting with jewelry design, my challenge (and also my desire) was trying to create pieces that I personally had always wanted; things that don’t exist; things you can’t find anywhere,” founder Aeryn explains.

And she has succeeded at creating a collection of stainless steel pieces that have become her signature style. What’s interesting: Stainless steel wasn’t her first material of choice.

“When considering what type of material to use, I first thought about using colored acrylics,” she says. “I did some searching online, and that’s when I came across Ponoko and saw the laser cut acrylics, wood and also stainless steel. There are a lot of people selling acrylic necklaces, but I hadn’t seen the type of things I had in mind done in stainless steel.”

Aeryn thought it seemed like a great idea, so she chose stainless steel for her designs. “My first run of stainless steel pieces from Ponoko came out so wonderfully that I kept submitting designs and ordering more,” she says. “The look and thickness of the stainless steel is absolutely perfect for my products. They came out beautifully and very unique.”

An Eclectic, Artistic Mix

A graphic artist living in Burbank, California, Aeryn says her Etsy shop has an eclectic mix of themes unified by consistent design aesthetic. The inventory rotates because the things she loves varies so much, but right now the collection features a little bit of spirituality, science, old school gaming, movies and anime.

You can see her spiritual side in the Flower Of Life (left) and the Hamsa (right) necklaces.

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The Flower Of Life is a geometrical shape composed of multiple evenly-spaced, overlapping circles arranged in a flower like pattern with six fold symmetry like a hexagon. According to Token Rock, the perfect form, proportion and harmony of the FOL has been known to philosophers, architects and artist around the world.

In New Age thought, the Flower Of Life has provided what is considered to be deep spiritual meaning and forms of enlightenment to those who have studied it as sacred geometry. “The patterns recurring in nature depict space and time,” Aeryn explains. “It’s a template from which all life flows.”

The Hamsa—a symbol of an eye embedded in the palm of an open hand—has been variously interpreted by scholars as a Jewish, Christian or Islamic amulet, according to My Jewish Learning, and its magical form continues to be shrouded in mystery.

While scholars debate nearly every aspect of the Hamsa’s emergence, it is recognized today as a kabbalistic amulet and as an important symbol in Jewish art. “The Hamsa is known to protect against the evil eye,” Aeryn explains. “A powerful amulet indeed!”

Inspired By Science

Science is another theme Aeryn explores, and there’s no shortage of inspiration. She recently added three new pieces to the collection to pay tribute to the works of Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Carl Sagan.

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What attracted Aeryn to these scientific greats? “Einstein is one of the greatest minds of our time. Tesla, the inventor of free energy, is a man ahead of his time. And Sagan will take you on a trip through the cosmos,” she says. “I was tired of seeing names like ‘Jessica’ on these necklaces, so I switched it up with something a hell of a lot cooler!”

She has also tapped into some scientific symbols that serious mathematicians, chemists and fans of The Big Bang Theory will fall in love with.

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Pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, seems a simple enough concept. But as Live Science explains, it turns out to be an “irrational number,” meaning its exact value is inherently unknowable.

“Computer scientists have calculated billions of digits of pi, starting with 3.14159265358979323…, but because no recognizable pattern emerges in the succession of its digits, we could continue calculating the next digit, and the next, and the next, for millennia, and we’d still have no idea which digit might emerge next. The digits of pi continue their senseless procession all the way to infinity.”

Wearing 3.14 around your neck sounds like the ultimate expression of number love. For even more fun, Aeryn says to make sure you wear the necklace on March 14th while eating pie. Or wear it backwards because, coincidentally, it spells PIE!

If that doesn’t make you smile, then perhaps you need more serotonin—the molecule associated with making you feel good—in your life. If you’re feeling a little down, this necklace (middle) that details the molecular structure of serotonin will certainly cheer you up.

Alchemy, the precursor to today’s chemistry, is a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy that aims to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life. Perhaps wearing this necklace (right) will begin the process of transforming something common into something special.

Fantastic Pieces For Entertainment Fans

The worlds of gaming and anime are full of characters that are ideal for being turned into jewelry pieces for fans, and Aeryn has tapped into this appeal to add a whimsical element to her collection.

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For the retro game lover, the Lakitu Cloud (left) pays tribute to Super Mario Brothers. “This is the special item you always saved for World 8!” Areyn says. “Gotta get past those pesky air ships, and this little cloud made it possible.”

For Final Fantasy fans, the Cait Sith (middle)—everyone’s favorite moogle-riding, crown wearing cat—is a must-have accessory.

Kodama—spirits in Japanese folklore that inhabit trees—are “the cutest characters from Princess Mononoke,” according to Aeryn. They are signs that a forest is healthy, so wear it in good health.

A Childhood Dream Comes To Life

Aeryn has created a lot of original designs as well as ones inspired by movies or TV shows she loves. But her favorite piece is something she has wanted ever since she was a little girl: A necklace inspired by the film The Secret of NIMH.

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“It’s this amazing red medallion with an inscription on the back,” she says. “I had to hunt around for the perfect cabochon to use for the red stone, and when I finally finished the piece it really felt like an accomplishment to me.”

Magic In The Making

Aeryn says she wanted to create unique items with a touch of magic, so she started her Etsy shop to share that magic with everyone. “I feel a connection to the moon and stars, basically just the heavens at night, and I wanted the shop name to reflect that,” she explains. “I’ve been an artist ever since I can remember. I’ve always loved the ability to just create something I want to own whether it’s a shirt, a plush toy, a drawing or a necklace. To be able to craft and create things brings me joy, and I’m grateful for this gift I was given.”

What can we expect from The Moon Lab in the future? “My shop will always be an eclectic mix, because the things I love vary so much,” Aeryn says. “But right now, a little bit of science, a little bit of quirk, a little bit of pop culture, and a little bit of magic is what you’ll find at The Moon Lab!”

 

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

 

The Secret Behind Microsoft’s Giveaway For Developer Event

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When you’re a tech giant like Microsoft, status quo promotional products for an annual developer conference just won’t do. Event attendees expect more. Much more.

So the company went to the drawing board (literally!) to create the ultimate tradeshow giveaway for its Build Developer Conference—and you’ll never guess what they made.

The Challenge

Build2015 was all about going loud with Windows 10 IoT core, and Microsoft needed conference swag that showcased its platform during the launch event.

“We wanted a giveaway that would entice the community to go and try Windows10 on Raspbery Pi,” says Dan Rosenstein, a principal program manager at Microsoft. “I knew what the platform was supposed to be long term because I had been architecting and working on it for almost a year and a half. I knew what the capabilities were at about six weeks out, and I knew what the capabilities would be at the time of the conference. To put this in context, we were building platform—an operating system—a product that was all liquid leading up to the conference. This is important because I had to identify how we were going to showcase what this product is supposed to be to let customers dream and understand the value propositions of the product.”

So what kind of giveaway would be substantial enough to accomplish all of Rosenstein’s objectives? He had a great idea, if it would work…

In 2014, Rosenstein attended RobotsConf, a small conference about Node.js being able to power robots. While there, he saw a small wooden sumo robot used for a giveaway—and that planted the seed in his head for what happened next.

The Build For ‘Build’

Rosenstein credits Pawel Szymczykowski, the designer of the original sumo robot, as the foundation on which the Microsoft robot plans were built. “I started working with him, making sure it was ok to use his conceptual design,” Rosenstein notes. “Obviously the design that we ultimately used for the mechanicals was not the same as what he had, but our robot was definitely designed and inspired based on the open source plans that he had created.”

Microsoft Sumo Robot

He combined Szymczykowski’s concept with his experience with First Robotics as well as his experience at RobotsConf when coming up with the final plan. “Knowing what the platform was, knowing what resonates with people and knowing our developer audience, I believed we needed to build a little robot,” Rosenstein says, “and we needed to do a giveaway of this robot at the Conference.”

But it wouldn’t be easy. He had never created event swag like this nor designed a custom giveaway on this grand a scale. In fact, many of his peers didn’t think it was possible to pull off the project in the timeframe available. There were so many moving parts, the platform was liquid, the timeframes were light and he was running up against budgetary constraints.

Undeterred, he set out make it happen.

“I had to design electrical, mechanical and software for this little thing plus get it approved by all the stakeholders (and when you’re talking about Microsoft’s Build Conference, there are a lot of stakeholders!),” Rosenstein explains. “Next, I had to prove the technology on the liquid platform, rally the whole organization to get it built and complete the testing needed to make it work. Then I collected the data to be launched at ‘Build,’ created the plans and videos to actually go big with it, produced the marketing materials, and found suppliers (including Ponoko) that could help me visualize it and also be able to put the kits together.”

Whew!

But the outcome was totally worth all the extra effort. Check out the Sumo Robot in action:

The Result

During the event, Microsoft used the Sumo Robot in numerous ways:

1. A special area was created for event attendees to look at the code, see how the code worked and try it out with the robot.

2. More than 500 robot kits were used as a giveaway that included all the software and hardware, instructions, electrical components and tools for attendees to be able to build it at home.

3. Microsoft’s Steve Teixeira included a demo of the robot as well as an online showcase of the project in his presentation.

Rosenstein is still surprised at how the project came together. “I don’t know how you did it, but you absolutely made it in the timeframe we had. We (Microsoft) started the discussion six weeks out—and it wasn’t approved until four weeks before the event. To pull off something like this in four weeks was frankly a miracle. It was only because I got lucky on a couple of suppliers, and one of them was Ponoko.”

Forget Boring: Cosplay Goes Custom With VIP Event Badges

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Name badges are essential to any event. And because of the number of attendees and logistical needs for being able to print badges on site, most conventions opt for paper badges slipped into plastic sleeves. Functional, of course. Yet, unfortunately, boring.

But boring isn’t really an option for the creatives behind the Cosplay America convention, an annual event that debuted in 2014 to bring together all levels of Cosplayers to form a community that shares and celebrates the art and craft of Cosplay.

Cosplay, the combination of “costume” and “play,” gives fans of anime, comics, manga, movies, television and video games an opportunity to dress as their favorite characters and celebrate the creativity within the genre. When this group gets together each year, it’s anything but boring.

The Challenge

“I was looking into something more we could do for our VIP guests,” explains Iris Chen, art director and designer for Cosplay America. “I wanted an item that was unique to the event and small enough to have during the event—all while being a nice takeaway gift for afterward.”

Since the Cosplay America Convention encourages and promotes the DIY attitude of Cosplayers, the tradeshow giveaway had to be interesting enough to appeal to this group of talented people from around the world.

“This lead to us experimenting on how we could do badges a better way for upper-level staff and VIP guests,” Chen says.

The Result

Chen says she was given free reign on the project and didn’t have any specific criteria in mind when she began. But she did have previous experience with laser cut badges and liked the results.

She chose a vertical design to showcase the badges three main elements: the Cosplay America logotype, its circular graphic logo, and the recipients name and title. To add interest, the logo and the attendee name are cut through the acrylic with the other details etched into the material. Rounded edges were included for functional reasons (as to not get caught on fabric) and because they provide a more finished, polished look. Finally, the gold mirrored surface added just the right amount of bling to be noticed without detracting from any costumes.

While Chen notes that she is familiar with Ponoko and the process after making some signage and small gift items personally in the past, she says the service is simple to use as a novice. “It’s easy and efficient,” she says. “I have enjoyed seeing everything that has come out and everyone is extremely impressed.”

 

Inventor Of 20,000 Typefaces Dares To Be Different With Event Giveaway

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Whether you’re reading a book, writing an email or playing with an app, chances are you’ve viewed, typed or designed with a font from Monotype—even if you don’t know it. The company has been around since 1887 and is known for some of the most popular designs, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Optima, Gill Sans and Palatino typefaces to name a few.

But there’s more to Monotype than these font favorites. In fact, the company has more than 20,000 typefaces.

Each time a new typeface is launched, collateral is created to accompany it. The industry standard is to create specimen books or specimen pages: Printed manuscripts on each typeface showing it in use.

But since type is such an obvious visual medium, it’s much easier to show it in use rather than explain how it should be used. “For example, we try to steer away from just showing a paper book and saying this would be great for a sports typeface, for example,” says Jenn Contois, Monotype graphic designer. “Instead, we’d say this typeface is great for sports, so let’s create a specimen on rubber or leather to see how it plays on that material. This gives people a feel of how it would look in actual product scenarios.”

The challenge, then, is to create collateral this is just as unique and individual as the typefaces it supports. No two typefaces should feel similar when launched.

How Monotype Designed A Truly Custom Promotional Product

So when Monotype’s Quire Sans typeface debuted, Monotype needed some special swag to get the buzz going at an upcoming tradeshow. Since “quire” is a classical term for a signature of printed leaves, folded and ready for binding with other signatures into a book or manuscript, a bookmark was a natural fit.

But it couldn’t be just any ole bookmark. The product had to align with Quire’s sensibilities. It’s DNA. It’s a typeface for all media, and a mirror for whatever’s going on around it. Smiling but sometimes assertive. Slender but sturdy, when the need arises. And always eminently legible, large or small, on the page or on-screen.

While Monotype could have done a paper bookmark, those are too easily thrown away after an event. It needed to be something more tactile. More substantial.

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“We chose leather because it has a stronger connection to the history of book making—leather binding and leather bookmarks,” says Contois. “It’s also a nice material to receive. Recipients want to keep it and use it, and therefore your marketing efforts reach a bit further.”

How Tradeshow Event Attendees Responded

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The strategy worked. The leather bookmarks cut through the event swag clutter and got noticed.

“You could hear attendees talking about it when they got their merch bag,” says Contois. “With most things, they’re flipping through. But, to have someone stop for three seconds to see who you are and what you’re doing is a big win when you have 50-60 items in a bag.”

Why Monotype’s Strategy Worked

So why did this event swag succeed where others fail? First, the bookmark was eye-catching and substantial enough to get noticed. Second, it was directly tied into Monotype’s brand DNA. It was truly custom, not simply a decorated catalog item. The bookmark showcased the new typeface in a way that was not only thematically aligned with the typeface, but also with the company’s overall brand story—and that’s where the swag magic happens.

Moodlight, The Worlds Emotions On Your Desk

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Another Ponoko customer has exceeded funding on kickstarter in record time! Conner, the maker of the Moodlight, had originally pledged to raise $935. Within 17 hours he had over achieved funding by 139%! The current total is at a whopping $3,323 with 14 days left to go! Where it will end? It appears the sky’s the limit.

The Moodlight changes colour depending on the aggregate emotions found online. A daily sample of 2,600,000 tweets are used to help determine what the mood is.

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This is a great idea and would make a great tool for people who work in the world of Digital Media or Marketing, having a constant update of the emotion without having to stay connected to the twittersphere at all times.

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The beautiful Moodlight is constructed using 5.2mm Birch Veneer Core and 3mm Opal Acrylic from our US catalogue.

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Head over to Kickstarter and take a look for yourself, and why not drop in a pledge while you’re there.

If you’ve got a gem of an idea and you’re looking for advice on how to make it a reality, check out the rest of the Ponoko site and feel free to ask us any questions.

Building The Ideas That Build Young Minds

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When most people imagine laser cutting, they envision quirky personal projects or grand scale commercial ones. One of the last places you would expect to see laser cut designs is in a Physics classroom. But thanks to the inventiveness and commitment of one teacher, a classroom of students are now able to grasp the more complex fundamentals of Physics bother literally and figuratively, thanks to Ponoko’s laser cut designs.  

In this blog, written by Physics professor Matthew Jacques at Pentucket Regional High School we’ll see how Ponoko was able to build the tools, which enabled him to demonstrate his curriculum and ensure pinpoint precision each time. With Ponoko’s help, ideas that were relegated to just a textbook came to life with tactility and are helping young minds experiment and learn Physics like never before.

(The following blog has been written by Matthew Jacques, Pentucket Regional High School, edited by Samantha Herald and republished here on Ponoko’s blog with his permission)

When I am teaching physics, I always find myself thinking, “I wish there was a lab accessory or device to do this or that.” Most of the time the thought lingers for a moment and I simply push on with the materials we have or ultimately discover with dismay the desired equipment simply does not exist. Such occurred when I began the year examining the core concepts of motion. The unit studies how an object change its velocity and distance from one second to the next when accelerating due to free-fall. It is challenging enough to guide the students to the conclusions through inquiry based labs, but it is even more challenging when the equipment introduces extra variables. I purchased a set of gravity drop kits that operate through an original mechanical release mechanism that drop marbles from rest through two CPO photogates. The mechanical release mechanism did not drop the marble from rest and was terribly inconsistent. If a student was not careful, the mechanism would give the marble an undue initial velocity. I instead needed an electromagnet to drop the marble consistently every time. No such mechanisms existed that could easily connect with the CPO base stands; however these could be specifically tailored by laser cutting sheets of woods.

A few years ago, I created a personal project from ponoko.com, a “maker” service that can laser cut materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and more out of varying thicknesses with, of course, laser precision. The premise was simple: a blueprint design could be created using either Adobe Illustrator, InkScape, or Corel Draw, and if a line was “blue”, it cut the material and if the line was “red”, it would engrave a line. The design process consisted of determining what type of lab equipment was needed, taking measurements to integrate it with existing equipment, and going through design iterations on the computer. Choosing a material and thickness is a critical first step since it drives the overall design and dictates how the sides fit together. I chose a wood laminate, as it was inexpensive, durable, and easily assembled with wood glue.

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The cost of any Ponoko order is extremely variable based on the complexity of the laser cutting and the types of materials being used. Luckily, I was able to have an idea of the cost by uploading designs and receiving an instant quote through the Ponoko website. The quote allowed me to optimize the project and cut down on costs. For example, if you have two objects laser cut, by sharing a “cut line” between objects, you reduce the laser time and thus the cost. Certain types of laser cutting such as engraving an area costs far more than just creating an engraved line. Because I ordered the product through my school, I was given a generous 55% discount and a free subscription to their prime service. All in all, the entire order came just shy of $160 and took about two weeks from the time of order to the date of arrival.

The Ponoko order arrived in large sheets of wood which looked like jigsaw puzzles. After removing the paper backing, the pieces lifted out easily. It was a satisfying experience seeing the design on the screen become real and tangible objects. It is most likely the closest thing we have to the replicator on Star Trek. The parts were exactly as I designed them down to the most minute detail. Aside from some light sanding on a few pieces, the majority of the project fit together seamlessly.

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The electromagnetic marble releaser (or EMR) was the most challenging of all the builds due to its technical nature. The EMR uses a momentary switch to trigger an electromagnet and a slide switch to enable an LED indicator. Maximizing its usefulness, the device can fit on either a slanted straight track or vertically on a base stand. As expected, the EMR takes out the human element of releasing the marble and produces a much more consistent release.

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Moving forward, I can only hope to think of and create more laser cut projects for class. No longer do custom solutions need to be haphazardly put together with cardboard and tape; they can instead made with laser precision. If any fellow teachers are interested in learning more or acquiring these designs for your class, please email me at mjacques@prsd.org