Ten tutorials on digital fabrication

Best of the blog 2011 – Tutorials

Knowledge-sharing is central to the open design and distributed manufacturing movements. Here are ten of the best tutorials from 2011: 3D printing and laser-cutting techniques, online resources, and software help.

1. Guide to optimising lines for laser cutting

David halves his lasercutting cost with a few simple line optimising techniques. (more…)

10 stories of how people are using Ponoko to make amazing things

Best of the Blog 2011 – Maker Stories

2011 was the year that really started to show the potential of Ponoko as a digital making system available to the designers and makers of the world.

People were using our digital fabrication services — lasercutting, 3D printing, and CNC routing — and turning those results into absolutely fantastic things.

From machines that let regular folks sequence DNA and devices that scramble your brainwaves to works of wearable art and products that embody beauty and function, these are the top 10 Maker Stories of people making amazing things with Ponoko in 2011.

#1 The incredible folding ukulele

Origami master and MIT celeb Brian Chan created this amazing fold-up ukulele. It was a smash-hit holiday gift this season, and Chan is looking into selling the design files as well as the lasercut kits and assembled instruments.


Five gorgeous Fashion & Textile posts from 2011

Best of the Blog 2011 – Fashion & Textiles

More and more designers have caught on to digital fabrication over the last year, and the trend is only going to continue. The mass customization aspect has not been fully exploited yet, but eventually everything we wear will probably be unique, as it once was when goods were all hand-made.

Here are five Fashion & Textile posts from 2011 that hint at what’s to come:

1. Surprisingly beautiful laser cut t-shirts

Designer Diana Eng created an amazing line of laser cut tees that are “pretty enough to wear to work”. Maybe someday the average boutique will have its own laser cutter, to make custom laser designs on-demand like a tattoo studio.


2011: a massive year for personal fabrication software

The Best of the Blog 2011: Software

2011 was a year of big developments in mobile apps, web apps and cloud computing. Again in no particular order, here are some of the highlights of 2011 in software…

1. Autodesk 123D


123D is notable here because of software giant Autodesk’s recognition of the maker community. Autodesk has developed software for use in industry and high volume production environments. The development and releases of 123D, 123D Make, 123D Create and 123D Sculpt show how serious major software publishers view the on-coming tide of personal fabrication and mass customisation. 123D Beta 8 is currently available for free download.

2. Ponoko API Version 2

app gateway

Created for developers to make Apps that use Personal Factory’s features. The API will allow people to customise products.

At the moment, the flagship app that utilises the API is as mentioned above – Autodesk 123D. I’m hoping 2012 will see many additions to the App Gateway!

3. Grasshopper for Rhino


It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Rhino. I’m also very pleased with the generative modeling plug-in for it – Grasshopper. Admittedly Grasshopper has been in development for about four years, but was recently badged as stable.  Taylor covered an article about how Nikolas Weinstein Studios were using Grasshopper in their practice.

4. EagleUp

EagleUp is a plugin that takes your PCB design files and converts them into SketchUp. This is a really important and useful link in the work flow for any product with electrical components, enabling people to visualise their projects’ components  accurately.

5. Tinkercad

The cloud and cloud based software is slowly making inroads into how we use the web. Tinkercad is one of the first solid modelers to really tackle how to do web based 3D modeling. Tinkercad is an excellent introduction for people who are interested in 3D modeling, but haven’t yet been able to learn other free modelers such as Blender or SketchUp.

David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes a weekly article on personal fabrication for Ponoko. Follow him on Twitter!

Ten excellent examples of CNC routing

Best of the Blog 2011 – CNC routing

Overshadowed somewhat in recent years by laser cutting and 3D printing, CNC routing remains a fabrication technology with enormous potential. It can be used with more materials than 3D printing and creates 3D shapes more easily than laser cutting. These ten examples show this technique at its best.

#10 Giant CNC’d Scrabble

What do you do when there is a giant CNC mill just waiting to be used? Giant Scrabble of course. This enormous board game was made by those clever students at MIT.


5 products from 2011 that you can download

Best of the Blog 2011 – Downloadable

They’re not quite as common as music and video files on the internet, but the mainstreaming of digital fabrication means that design files for physical objects are being passed around more than ever. Here are some of the coolest downloadable items covered on the blog in 2011:

1. A table with the digital design file built in

Download the design straight from the object!

This is my favourite of the bunch. There’s a project on Thingiverse for making QR code tags to stick on your creations, but this goes way beyond that by enabling downloads from the object itself! The QR code on the table in the picture is not a link to a website but instead the actual files necessary to make the table yourself!

Ten excellent electronics projects from 2011

Best of the Blog 2011 – electronics + robotics

For me, electronics and robotics are about more than just geeking out — a lot of the appeal is the art and creativity of DIY, the educational opportunities of open knowledge sharing, mixed with a bit of “wow the future is awesome”.

With those factors in mind, here’s my list of Top 10 Electronics and Robotics Posts from 2011.

1. Rich Decibels Brainwave Disruptor

My post on the Arduino-based brainwave entrainment device certainly touched a nerve this year, with more than one commenter questioning my sanity in building such a device!


Five fabulous pieces of digitally fabricated jewelry from 2011

Best of the Blog 2011 – jewelry

Jewelry achieves that wonderful marriage of artistic expression and everyday function. Here are five examples from 2011 that demonstrate pushing the boundaries of both.

#1 Wearable flora — 3D printed planters as pendants

Colleen Jordan lets you wear springs of botanical beauty with her unique 3D printed planters. Her planter pendants comes in soft round shapes or geometric angles, and each one is hand finished for a look that’s truly one-of-a-kind.


Ten intriguing Functional Art & Objects from 2011

Best of the Blog 2011 – Functional Art & Objects

Whether it’s laser cutting, 3D printing, or simply craftsmanship at its finest, there has been much to be amazed and inspired by here on the Ponoko blog over the past calendar year. We’ve gathered together (in no particular order) ten noteworthy Functional Art & Objects posts from 2011.

1. Exploring the technical and aesthetic potential of 3D ceramic printing

Professor John Balistreri from BGSU talks through this groundbreaking research project, demonstrating the ability of 3D printing to create complex ceramic forms that are impossible to produce using traditional techniques. Amongst other things, you can check out how they are duplicating handmade objects by incorporating the use of a 3D scanner.


Ten awesome tools + apps for making stuff

Best of the Blog 2011 – Tools + Apps

2011 was a big year for tools and apps that enable making. As the maker movement grows, people are creating more and more tools to enable creativity and collaboration across a number of disciplines.

3D printing-related tools dominated, including a huge spike in solutions for hobbyist 3D scanning. With the proliferation of low-cost 3D printers, it’s no surprise that people are hungry to replicate physical objects.

Here we take a look at ten great tools and apps from 2011:

1. Autodesk’s digital camera 3D scanner

Originally called Photofly, Autodesk’s 123D Catch is a Windows app that interfaces with the cloud to create 3D models based on a user’s photographs of an object. I had some trouble using my point & shoot camera with an old version of the software, but I’m looking forward to trying to latest version with my iPhone 4S and an Iron Man head that a friend has sculpted.