Meetup recap: Talking prototyping and Kickstarter

November Bay Area Ponoko Meetup RecapStarting this past November, we have established a new format for Ponoko Bay Area Meetups. After relaxed conversation over drinks and nibbles we then kick into 4 short presentations on a theme.

November’s meetup was centered around prototyping, and as we were fortunate to have two speakers with hugely successful Kickstarter campaigns, the discussions looked into that as well.

I kicked off proceedings by discussing the prototyping process for my recent Rocket Ship Project – which you’re welcome to download all of the files for and make or elaborate upon yourself.

Ryo Chijiiwa told the story of how he designed and prototyped a small solar charger device, which he then put up on Kickstarter, where he raised over $30,000 for his first production run of the product. You can read more about his project and purchase one of his solar chargers at

Shandy Brown was next, passing around some of the exquisitely engraved hexes from his Boardcrafting project. He talked about the process behind developing the initial idea, developing the final design and then also having wild success raising funds on Kickstarter to optimize the product and begin shipping it – raising over $44,000.

Finally, Josh Reuss presented a wide variety of prototypes for the Sunburst Clock project he is currently working on. He talked about the key considerations necessary when approaching a product idea and his process for developing, refining and perfecting a design. I myself was so taken with his clocks I’ve now got one in my kitchen.

Our next Ponoko Bay Area Meetup will be held in February, and will focus on maker businesses and creative entrepreneurship – the challenges and rewards of making and selling products yourself. We’ve got two super exciting speakers already lined up, and are still looking for a couple more. If you’d like to join us, RSVP now! If you’re interested in speaking, please be sure and get in touch with us.

If you’re interested in hosting a Ponoko-supported meetup in your own city or town – register your interest on our Ponoko Meetup Everywhere page. If you work out a date and location, we’ll be happy to assist you in promoting the maker gathering and making it a successful event!

Help make this 3D printed skull the most funded sculpture on Kickstarter!

4 Days left to help fund Crania Anatomica Filigre

crania front

I covered this unique Kickstarter 3D printed sculpture project by Josh Harker several weeks ago. Harker is now in a final push to get within the top three most funded art projects before his Kickstarter timer runs out. To do this Crania Anatomica Filigre must raise at least $75,691 in pledges.

In order to achieve his goal, Harker has added additional rewards to appeal to new backers and those who may want to upgrade their backing dollar amount. Including a special skull within a skull variation for top tier backers.

If your keen to support this project, please visit the Kickstarter project page.

David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes a weekly article on personal fabrication for Ponoko. You can follow him on Twitter @dizymac

3D printed skull sculpture — a Kickstarter project

Artist’s Kickstarter project aims to put more art in front of more people

Crania Anatomia Filigre is a 3D printed sculpture by Joshua Harker who is using Kickstarter to launch the art piece and to reach a more global audience than is possible with galleries and exhibitions.

This delicately designed sculpture is based on drawings Harker made about 20 years ago, and now finally technology has caught up to the artist’s ideas.

Harker is full of praise for 3D printing, claiming what was once impossible to produce in sculptural form is now in the realm of reality:


Desktop CNC machine for $300 — an open hardware project on Kickstarter

Help make the ShapeOko DIY CNC machine a reality

When Edward Ford told us about his plan to launch a Kickstarter project for his self-built CNC machine — made with SparkFun electronics and laser cut with his Personal Factory — we jumped at the chance to support his project.

The ShapeOko is a complete, desktop CNC machine that anyone can build for about $300. And its all open-source!

From the ShapeOko Kickstarter page: “From CAD and CAM software to the CNC controller; every step has an open source solution. Did we mention the entire project itself is open source? Every nut, every bolt, every belt, fully documented with part numbers and vendor list. Do with it as you please!”

The goal is to finalize the ShapeOko design, make it repeatable, and then freely distribute it under an open source license.

Once the design is complete, you’ll be able to create a fully operation ShapeOko CNC with your Personal Factory — all the lasercut and 3D printed parts, plus the electronics. Only some easy-to-find hardware parts need to be purchases separately.

And project funding will go to finishing the design (purchasing materials, paying for laser cutting time, testing new designs, and exploring ways to drive the final build cost even lower than $300)

This project needs just $1,500 by July 26th.

• Pledge $1 and be part of an awesome project.

• Pledge $5 or more and you’ll be entered to win a ShapeOko CNC mill and get a big ole Thank You

• Pledge $50 or more and you’ll get a $50 Personal Factory making voucher + be entered to win the mill SOLD OUT

• Pledge $50 or more and you’ll get a $25 Personal Factory making voucher from us

• Pledge $100 or more and you’ll get 3 stepper motor drivers AND an Arduino pre-loaded with GRBL + be entered to win the mill

• Pledge $500 or more and you just bought yourself a full ShapeOko CNC mill = the hardware, electronics, frame, and rotary tool

Note: Giving away a mill is against the Kickstarter rules. Edward is super sorry about that oversight. But just maybe we’ll order one of these ShapeOkos ourselves and make it a monthly blog giveaway. 🙂

For more info on this project, visit the ShapeOko Kickstarter page.
For more info, pics, and video of the CNC mill, visit

Keep up with the status of this project by following @shapeoko or @ponoko

SketchChair on Kickstarter: Update

Introducing the rocking stool

With only a few days to go in the SketchChair Kickstarter campaign, pledges and support continue to flow in for the team at Diatom.

Recent updates from Greg and Tiago have introduced the Rocking Stool, which will become one of the options for those generous souls pledging $300 to the cause.

This playful, dynamic piece of furniture emerged out of a collaboration with Nadeem Haidary and Defne Civelekoglu, and joins the SketchChair collection along with the friendly SketchChair Minis that have been designated as rewards for more modest pledges of $25.

Cut from 18mm birch ply, Nadeem and Defne’s rocker is yet another example of the breadth and versatility promised by the SketchChair system.

If you like what you see, there are still a few days remaining to put your money where your mouth is…

Rocking Stool via SketchChair Kickstarter Updates

SketchChair on Kickstarter

Put your money where your mouth is for some Furniture Designed By You

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SketchChair is an awesome idea. Not only is it a free, open-source software tool that enables almost anyone to realize their dreams of becoming a furniture designer; now the call is out to take SketchChair to the next phase.

The push is on with a Kickstarter campaign where customizable open-source furniture is just the start.

The goal for this project is not just to complete the software and release the source code, but also to build an online community of people creating, sharing and editing designs.

Some pretty solid thinking has gone into this, including a few nice ways to reward people who pledge their support. More modest contributors of $25 will become the proud owners of SketchChair Minis, while higher level pledgers receive full-size customised designs and even the opportunity to collaborate with Greg and the Diatom guys on their very own modern masterpiece.

Find out all about it at Kickstarter, and if you like the way these guys are democratising design, pledge your support before crunch day on May 11.

SketchChair on Kickstarter

21 Design Ideas Using 5 Materials Most People Don’t Know About

Fire Up Your Imagination For Your Next Laser Cutting Project With These Secret Weapon Materials

Secret Weapon Materials

Psssst! Want in on a little secret? There are five laser cutting materials most people don’t know about but are so super cool that they’ll become your secret weapon for making the most amazing laser cut creations. And if you sell your designs on Etsy or Kickstarter, it’s even more critical to add these materials to your arsenal so you can be different from your competitors.

Not being familiar with these hidden gems is understandable, really. The Ponoko Catalog is filled with a wide range of substrates, and we add even more new materials each month. So while classics like acrylic and wood might take up most of the spotlight, we’re going to show some love to our fave unsung heroes. We think you’ll love them, too.

Cardstock Sheets

1. Cardstock

Top Quality: Precision Details
Colors Available: Black, Ivory, Red

Intricately cut paper has a sophisticated beauty all its own. You could spend hours of your life painstakingly cutting paper by hand. But that’s way too much like work for us. Drafting up those little beauties electronically and having endless copies laser cut is so much more efficient—and fun.

Cardstock is super affordable and laser engraves really well, which is why it’s typically used for packaging, prototyping, architectural models, decorative arts, collages and crafting. Because it’s paper, its 100% recyclable and can be easily joined with glue or tape.

Maker Tip: Use a vector engraving line to create perfect fold lines.

See how these six makers are using cardstock in their laser cut products:

Need a personalized housewarming gift? Frame an ornately laser cut last name like this one from Etsy seller LuccaWorkshop between double pane glass. When it’s hung, the contrasting wall color shines through. Perfect for gifting to a loved one for a special occasion or adding to your family heirlooms to pass down for generations.

Laser cut cardstock name from LuccaWorkshop

Sometimes an off-the-shelf greeting card simply won’t do. Create a birthday keepsake like these laser cut cards from Etsy seller pogofandango that will be appreciated for years.

Laser cut cardstock greeting cards from pogofandango

Weddings are all about making memories. Start the fanfare with save-the-date cards like these from Etsy seller MakersCompany that guests will surely remember.

Laser cut cardstock wedding save-the-date cards from MakersCompany

Continue the laser cut theme beyond save-the-date cards to also include wedding invitations. These invites from Etsy seller from KatBluStudio feature Papel Picado, a Mexican folk art where cardstock is cut into elaborate designs. What was once only used as decoration can now be custom designed into wedding invitations.

Laser cut cardstock wedding invitation from KatBluStudio

Celebrate the happy couple with personalized laser cut cardstock lovebirds. Check out Etsy seller MayContainGlitterUK for inspiration.

Laser cut cardstock personalized lovebirds from MayContainGlitterUK

Stationary designers Cutture have a passion for design and architecture that can be seen in the bespoke pieces they create for events. The result is exquisite invitations that people wouldn’t want to say no to, plus table decorations and accessories that maintain that excitement throughout the event.

Laser cut cardstock invitations and table decorations from Cutture

Leather Sheets

2. Leather

Top Quality: Tactile Appeal
Colors Available: Auburn, Black, Dark Brown, Mocha, Natural Russet, Tan

If you think leather is just for footwear, luggage and handbags, think again. Leather is a versatile material for laser cutting and one that’s certainly underused. Working with leather requires skill but is incredibly satisfying, provided you have the right tools. In the last few years, laser cutting has become more and more prolific as a tool for manipulating leather. Now you’ll see it featured prominently in crafts, jewelry, wallets, cuffs, belts, placemats and coasters.

Maker Tip: Leather turns brown and powdery when engraved in large areas, so design products with line engraving to produce crisp results.

Get inspired to create laser cut leather products with examples from these four makers:

Contain business cards or other small items in style with laser cut leather cardholders. This one from Etsy seller StAnderswo features a geometric diamond pattern laser cut into the leather.

Laser cut leather business card holder from StAnderswo

Time spent with cats is never wasted. We couldn’t agree more. Whatever you’re passionate about, laser cut jewelry can showcase your message. See what we mean with this cat shaped necklace from Etsy seller ZoraDesign.

Laser cut leather cat shaped necklace from ZoraDesign

If you really want to make a statement with laser cut leather jewelry, check out this symmetrical art nouveau inspired statement necklace from Etsy seller ShopElenaDesigns. It’s wearable art.

Laser cut leather statement necklace from ShopElenaDesigns

Laser cut leather can also be turned into high fashion, as illustrated by this Louis Vuitton dress.

Laser cut leather dress from Louis Vuitton

Delrin Sheets

3. Delrin

Top Quality: Durability + Functionality
Colors Available: Black, White

Delrin may not have the same polish and shine as it’s acrylic cousins. But what it lacks in appearance, it more than makes up for in strength and durability.

It possesses high tensile strength, creep resistance and toughness. Delrin also exhibits low moisture absorption. It is chemically resistant to hydrocarbons, solvents and neutral chemicals. These properties along with its fatigue endurance make Delrin ideal for any application where durability is a must: Machine parts, drone components, hardware mounts, washers, gaskets, electronics enclosures, guitar picks and stencils.

Maker Tip: Engraving on Delrin doesn’t have as much contrast as acrylic, so use a combination of line and area engraving for the best results.

Need design ideas for making with this durable material? Check out this Hackaday post on how to make anything with using laser cut Delrin.

Laser cut Delrin from Hackaday

For musicians, these Delrin guitar picks from Reverb are easy to maneuver, have great dynamic control and are great sounding in the lower mid-range.

Delrin guitar picks from Reverb

In addition to its industrial and musical applications, use Delrin to custom laser cut bokeh filters for stunning photography shots. There is even a set in our showroom you can buy to achieve the beautiful aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image created by this lens.

Laser cut Delrin bokeh filter from Ponoko Showroom

Polarizing Film Sheets

4. Polarizing Film

Top Quality: Play With Light
Colors Available: Light Gray

Polarizing film is a super thin, 0.8mm light grey laminate material that has a polarized layer to reduce glare and reflection. It’s often used in the making of sunglasses and LCD screens, but its light blocking qualities are also often used in photography and for art installations.

How does polarizing film work? Christopher Frost Photography explains the effects in this tutorial:

You can also see how polarizing filters reduce glare and increase contrast to improve detail and color with this glass squid. The left image is photographed with a polarizing filter and the right image is without.

Glass squid from Wikipedia

Maker Tip: Polarizing film has low melting point and must be laser cut with special attention. Simple shapes work best as intricate details tend to melt and be lost. Because the sheet has a tendency to warp as it heats up during the laser cutting process, make sure to allow plenty of space in between the pieces.

For the practical maker, you could laser cut your own sunglasses like industrial designer Kris Pepper on Coroflot.

Laser cut sunglasses from Kris Pepper on Coroflot

For the artistic maker, get inspired by Swiss artist Pe Lang who designed this art installation using mini motors that rotate polarized film circles to create a mesmerizing effect.

Laser cut polarized film art installation from Pe Lang

Felt Sheets

5. Felt

Top Quality: Color Variety
Colors Available: Black, Blue, Bordeaux, Camouflage, Crystal Blue, Dark Gray, Fire, Gray, Lime, Magenta, Orange, Pink, Turquoise, White

Every spring, fluffy sheep are sheared of their woolen winter coats, some of which ends up being spun into felt. Our 100% merino wool felt is dense yet soft, durable, stable and non-fraying. It has a consistent texture that laser cuts beautifully and ages gracefully. The vibrant colors are non-toxic and UV-resistant, making felt ideal for jewelry, accessories and home décor.

Maker Tip: Felt can have a strong burnt wool smell after cutting, so it’s a good idea to laser cut any felt item well in advance of them being used. The smell dissipates with time, and you can speed up the process by cleaning the felt or leaving it in fresh air. Also, the edges scorch and turn brown, which is more noticeable on the lighter colors, so you’ll want to design with that in mind.

Get inspired by seeing how these six makers use felt to create their laser cut products:

Etsy seller AmysArtWear’s unique take on geometric shapes creates an eye-catching pattern radiating from a heart center with these laser cut felt earrings.

Laser cut felt earrings from AmysArtWear

By combining new craft methods with traditional materials, Etsy seller Madimooi makes the laser cut “Prosecco” necklace from two layers of contrasting colored felt.

Laser cut felt necklace from Madimooi

Etsy seller FeltLabel uses circles to design a distinctive geometric pattern for this statement necklace.

Laser cut felt necklace from FeltLabel

Protect surfaces and keep furniture safe from hot and cold plates or drinks with laser cut felt placemats. Etsy seller MetisDeco uses a diamond pattern for a simple and modern design that adds a hint of distinctive aesthetics to any dining table.

Laser cut felt placemats from MetisDeco

These felt lace wheel coasters from Etsy seller FeltLabel give any space an update with a fresh design suitable for all décor styles.

Laser cut felt coaster from FeltLabel

Retailer Irish Design Shop’s laser cut felt placemats have a geometric design that’s a bit of an optical illusion. Part honeycomb and part three-dimensional cube, these placemats are a practical yet interesting way to add color to a table setting.

Laser cut felt placemats from Irish Design Shop

How Will You Put These Secret Weapon Materials To Work?

Fire away! We’d love to hear your design ideas on how you have used these materials or what you’d love to make in the future. Share your plans in the comments below.

Got pics of your creations? We’d love to see them. Mention @Ponoko on Twitter or give us a shout on Facebook.

And if you’re ready to make, log in and get to work!


Top Stories From 2016; Vote For What’s Coming In 2017

Time For You To Decide What We Write About This Year

Top Stories From 2016 & Vote For What’s Coming In 2017

In 2016, we published 110 blog posts. Everything from customized laser cutting for tech geeks to whether Shopify or Etsy is the best place to sell laser cut products. We launched a 12-part series on the Immutable Laws Of Event Marketing Swag. We even told the amazing story of a maker who wants to change the world one plant at a time. And of course we showcased new materials to expand your making capabilities.

The goal was to show the possibilities you have for making laser cut designs whether you sell your creations on Etsy or Kickstarter, use them as a brand or agency to market yourself or clients, or you make simply for the pure enjoyment of it.

Looking back at all of the stories for the year, we had some favorites. And you did too. Here are the six topics you loved to read the most.

So we can create more content you love, vote for what you’d like to read about in 2017. (We’ll publish results after voting closes at midnight on Monday February 13.)

Creative Inspiration: Design Ideas For Laser Cutting

Design Ideas For Laser Cutting

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sometimes you need inspiration from other makers to see all the things that can be designed and made using a laser cutter. In 2016, the majority of makers continually came back to this post about 10 Coolest Laser Cutter Stories.

For jewelry makers, it wasn’t a surprise to see the story 100 Laser Cut Jewelry Designers top their reading list.

For the tech-savvy makers who create electronic enclosures, what was their go-to resource in 2016? Making Enclosures For Electronics, naturally.

Brands and agencies wanted to know more about marketing to travel executives in this post and learned how to reinvent their promotional giveaways with The 12 Immutable Laws Of Event Marketing Swag.

Do you get inspired by articles that feature design ideas for laser cutting? If you want more stories like this in 2017, cast your vote here.

Technical Expertise: How To Design For Laser Cutting

How To Design For Laser Cutting

When creating laser cut products, the design is imperative for success. While there are a lot of laser cutting pros out there, the growth of the maker movement means there are more and more individuals making for the first time. One of the fave beginner resources last year was 6 Resources To Get You Started On A Laser Cut Cardboard Project.

For the more advanced maker, you turned to articles such as how to turn 2D designs into 3D products. Some of your must-reads in 2016:

How To Make Laser Cut Interlocking Acrylic Designs
How To Make Laser Cut 3D Forms Super Easy
How To Make Snug Joints In Acrylic

Whether you need advice for getting started or advanced tips for laser cutting pros, is this kind of content helpful? If you want to see more of these kinds of stories in 2017, rank this as your preference here.

Makers’ Foundation: New Materials For Laser Cutting

New Materials For Laser Cutting

Materials are the foundation for any project. Having a steady influx of new materials not only gives you more opportunities for creative making but also allows makers who sell their items to design something different from their competitors.

In 2016, we introduced 36 new materials: 28 in the USA and eight in New Zealand. While we love them all, there are a few that really stand out as our favorites.

Matte acrylic is wildly popular and makes anything from light fixtures to jewelry to electronics enclosures. With the introduction of matte red, blue and purple acrylic as well as matte turquoise, yellow and pink acrylic, there are even more possibilities for colorful making.

Ultrasuede is special for so many reasons. It’s soft and has amazing tactile appeal. It’s a synthetic microfiber fabric that’s made from recovered from pre-consumer waste, so it’s appealing to vegans and those with environmental and sustainability concerns. And once you see some of what can be made from black, bone and red ultrasuede, you’ll love it as much as we do.

Green glass acrylic is a hot material because it is smooth on both sides and transparent, making it perfect for projects where the objective is to have the look of glass without the high price and pesky breakage issue. It’s also appealing for it versatility. Make products from jewelry to terrariums and anything in between.

For 2017, we’ll continue hunting for new materials that not only make beautifully but are also priced right. And we’ll write about new introductions every month. If you have suggestions on what you want to read about materials, have your say here.

Smart Money: How To Reduce Your Laser Cutting Costs

How To Reduce Your Laser Cutting Costs

No matter whether you’re independently wealthy, costs are always a consideration. Being smart with your money is, well, smart! So how do makers ensure they are designing and configuring their products for maximum impact at minimum cost?

This year, you tapped into this nugget of knowledge: Top 10 Ways To Reduce Laser Cutting Costs. Additionally, the support doc Materials For Laser Cutting In Order Of Price got a lot of views.

Do you want more content developed around this subject? Have your say here and let us know any specific questions you have about cost control in question two.

Business Intelligence: How To Profit From Laser Cutting

How To Profit From Laser Cutting

Going directly to market has never been easier for makers. From opening a shop on Etsy or crowdfunding a project on Kickstarter, you can easily start a business selling custom designed products.

It’s always inspirational to see how other makers grow a business from scratch. So stories such as how this maker crushed his Kickstarter Goal by 2087% or how this maker found success in the $300 billion wedding market proved to be great educational pieces in 2016.

For those makers who sell the products they create, articles on how to price your products for wholesale and retail as well as how to keep minimal stock using on demand laser cutting were important throughout 2016. The two resources that makers who sell their products for profit tapped into the most:

10 Rules For Maker Businesses By Wired’s Chris Anderson
10 Simple Steps To Make & Sell Your Custom Products

Want more articles on how your Etsy store, Kickstarter, agency or brand can profit from laser cutting? If so, rank this as a priority here. And if you have specific business concerns that would make for great content, let us know those ideas in question two.

Digital Making: The Future of Manufacturing

The Future Of Manufacturing

When it comes to desktop laser cutting tools, readers flocked in 2016 to articles like these in our archives:

Pricing Guide To DIY CNC Mill And Router Kits
Make Prototypes For Laser Cutting At Home

This got us thinking. Does this mean you’re interested in topics such as how to design, make and sell from home? Are you also interested in downloadable designs for laser cutting? Or something else futuristic? If so, vote to have more content like this in 2017.

Cast Your Vote For Your Maker’s Reading List Of 2017

Vote For 2017 Content

Makers: Vote for what you want to read in 2017. Help us create the exact content that will help you succeed with all your making projects this year.

Results will be published after voting closes at midnight on Monday February 13.

Then we’ll have completed our content plan for 2017 – phew! 😉

Laser Cut Toys For The Big Boys

Serious Fun With Drones And Robots


What is it about building robots that is so much fun? If you ask a kid, you will likely get a meaningful answer… however when it comes to grown men the wide-eyed fascination of youth has developed into a serious pursuit of quirky techno-novelty. In recent years, drones have joined the venerable robot as one of the top projects for big boys to tinker away at.

Through laser cutting, the design process for both drones and robots is streamlined and fully functional prototypes are just a mouse click away.       (more…)

How Motion Synth Became A Laser Cut Success

Motion Synth: A Laser Cut Kickstarter Success Story

AUUG Motion Synth

When the Auug team dreamed up their novel music interface the Motion Synth, they knew that there would be a great response from musicians and enthusiasts alike. Before Motion Synth, there was no integrated system that allowed for electronic musicians to interact with their instrument in a natural, intuitive way.

The innovation that makes all the difference with the Motion Synth is in the way that it combines a cleverly resolved physical interface with the robust and technologically powerful iOS mobile device range. Motion Synth consist of three elements, all working together: the AUUG Grip, the AUUG app and the AUUG cloud.

motion synth 3

The Grip is what we’re focusing on here. Laser cut from aluminium and then CNC cold-formed, it encases an iPhone or iPod touch in a way that leaves the fingers free to interact with physically defined regions on the screen. All this happens without interfering with the intuitive process of actually playing music; no distraction from whether the device is secure, or looking to see where to place the fingers.

You may think this sounds a bit like a 21st Century Theremin, but there is actually a whole lot more to the Motion Synth. A true laser cut success story, the Motion Synth is a showpiece for the integration of digital manufacturing technologies such as laser cutting with high-end electronic devices.

Auug’s Motion Synth is a fantastic example of how laser cutting gives product developers the ability to go from concept to fully functional prototype in a smooth, efficient workflow. Already highly resolved prior to the successful Kickstarter campaign, the commercial product has also received serious attention from investors on Shark Tank Australia. By working with the available technologies and making clever use of their combined strengths, AUUG founder Dr Joshua Young is breaking new ground with the Motion Synth.

We highly recommend checking out the product videos on to see just how amazing this combination of physical and electronic components can be, and you can also learn more about the product development and public funding process at the Motion Synth Kickstarter campaign.