Laser cutting

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DIY - Hedgehog
by: decoylab
Dragonfly Wings Necklace
by: indomina
Doily Wooden Pendant
by: nevertheless
by: wydesigns


All you need to know

What is laser cutting?

Laser cutting is one of the digital making methods available through Personal Factory.

Laser cutting is a type of subtractive manufacturing that cuts a digital design file into a piece of sheet material.

A computer directs a high-power laser at the material. The material then melts, burns or vaporizes leaving an edge with a high-quality finish.

Pioneer in the make-it-yourself movement.

Business Week

Latest article about laser cutting

Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 3

Keep your laser cutting costs down with the Ponoko Product Recipe

Product Recipe #1 – Part 3

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you candownload all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 3: Prototype It

My goal was to find a happy compromise between design aesthetics (look/feel) and efficient engineering (cost).

Zero Cost Prototyping!

Before I paid to make anything, I used my Personal Factory to price lots of design iterations instantly. I learned a whole lot and it didn?t cost me a bean …


Target Production Cost = $1.88 per coaster (75% off retail).
First Quote – #1 = $5.40 per coaster (28% off retail).
Final Quote – #9 = $1.64 per coaster (78% off retail) !!

Here?s what I did to reduce my production cost, without actually making anything:

1) My Design – I reduced complexity. Result = 38% off retail.
2) My Material Sheet Size – I increased sheet size. Result = 63% off retail.
3) My Personal Factory Option – I compared Free v Prime. Result = 73% off retail.
4) My Volume Options – I scaled up my order size. Result = 78% off retail.

Here are the details …

1) My Design

I tested price by laying out some gears onto a template for the smallest P1 material sheet size:

I uploaded this design to my Personal Factory and added my material of choice:

And got an instant price:

Oh no! My first quote was $25.75 total – that?s $6.44 per coaster!!

Fine if they were for me or a gift for a friend – but I wanted to sell these for profit. I needed to get the total cost lower than $7.50 total, or $1.88 per coaster.

I noticed the ?Making? cost was the highest, so I needed to adjust my design to bring this down. (I dealt with materials and shipping later).

Here are the 5 design iterations I went through …

Zero Cost Prototype #1: $25.75 total = $6.44 per coaster (14% off retail)

My original design. I looked for areas that might slow down the laser (the making cost is tied to the time the laser spends making the design – complex and intricate shapes take longer to make):

Downloaddesign file for this step.

Zero Cost Prototype #2: $24.87 total = $6.21 per coaster (17% off retail)

I removed some curves along the gear teeth by turning them into straight lines (like a truck, a laser will slow down around tight curves):

Downloaddesign file for this step.

Zero Cost Prototype #3: $24.50 total = $6.12 per coaster (18% off retail)

Then I decreased the number and size of the gear teeth:

Downloaddesign file for this step.

Zero Cost Prototype #4: $22.48 total = $5.62 per coaster (25% off retail)

Next I reduced the size of the internal holes:

Downloaddesign file for this step.

Zero Cost Prototype #5: $22.48 total = $5.62 per coaster (25% off retail)

Finally, I tested line engraving the interior of the coasters instead of cutting them, but that was no less cost. So I decided to stop here:

Downloaddesign file for this step.

2) My Material Sheet Size

I laid out my lowest cost design on a design template for the largest P3 material sheet size ?

Zero Cost Prototype #6: $134.80 total = $3.00 per coaster (60% off retail)

I managed to fit 45 coasters onto one P3 sheet (instead of 4 coasters to one P1 sheet):

Downloaddesign file for this step.

And because the order was over $100 I got free shipping:

I was getting closer to my goal of $1.88 per coaster, but I looked for more ways to save money ?

3) My Personal Factory Options – Free or Prime Account?

Up to this point my digital prototyping has been in my Free Personal Factory. So I decided to look into thePrime Personal Factory ?

Zero Cost Prototype #7: $91.93 total = $2.04 per coaster (73% off retail)

I uploaded my Prototype #6 design into my Free account, and the Prime price was getting closer to my ultimate goal of $1.88 per coaster :-)

3) My Volume Options

AlthoughI was pretty close to my design goal of $1.88 per coaster, I wondered if I could reduce cost further. This would give me the option to reduce the retail price, or bank the extra profit, or know I have some wiggle room if a retailer negotiates hard on my wholesale price.

I found out the Prime Personal Factory automatically gives me the lowest price based on the size of my order – up to 55% off the base cost:

Zero Cost Prototype #8: $447.42 total = $1.99 per coaster (74% off retail)

Using my Prototype #6 design, I entered a quantity of 5 sheets of P3 material to make 225 coasters:

And here?s the Prime pricing I received with the automated volume pricing …

Zero Cost Prototype #9: $3,028.12 total = $1.64 per coaster (78% off retail)

Just for fun, using my Prototype #6 design, I entered a quantity of 41 sheets of P3 material to make 1,845 coasters (461 sets of 4), and here?s the Prime pricing:

SUMMARY: Zero Cost Prototyping – Target Production Cost Surpassed = 78% Off Retail!

Digital prototyping with your Personal Factory can deliver the production cost you need to earn profit at competitive retail and wholesale pricing. I spent $0 to prototype my design digitally and got the cost down from the original quote of $6.44 to $1.64 per coaster (78% off retail) – and discovered plenty of other options along the way.

Low Cost Prototyping

With my pricing sorted via free digital prototyping, it was time to see my coasters …

Keeping My Options Open & My Costs Low

Here?s what I did to see how it all worked, and to get a real life sense of my favorite designs at the lowest cost:

1. Design Variations – I wanted to see my 4 different designs. (It could be my lowest cost option looked terrible).

Downloaddesign file for this step.

2. Smallest Material Sheet Size – I laid out 4 different designs on theP1 design template.

3. Lowest Cost Material Type – I selected cardboard. At $0.50 per sheet it?s thelowest cost prototyping material, and because it?s soft it?s the fastest and cheapest to cut.

Here?s the instant online quote I got for my first prototype – very low cost …

Yippeee! My First Personal Factory Delivery

I was able to pick my favorite design from the 4 different tests, based on how they looked and the pricing work I?d done earlier:

Next it was time to start making for real …

Making the most of zero cost prototyping gives you a clear idea of whether your product is going to hit the right price point, and enables you to be more confident about your design decisions. In Part 3 of the Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide, the target production cost of 78% off retail was achieved simply by being clever about how to best use the Ponoko Personal Factory for this particular product. Moving on to low cost prototyping in the cheapest material (cardboard) gave Jill physical mockups that she can evaluate before committing to the full production run.

Part 4 of this Ponoko Product Recipe walks us through choosing materials for the final product, and testing the first round of laser cut coasters with potential stockists and their customers.

How have you made use of zero cost prototyping in your own workflow? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.