Experimental Tinkering

The Golden Mean and the Flying Spaghetti Monster have something in common after all.

New Zealander Nick Taylor was inspired by Ponoko to start turning ideas into products.

How did you come across Ponoko?

The Internet told me about [Ponoko]. Repraps met with Clay Shirky in my head, and I suddenly became incredibly interested in the 2nd Gutenberg Shift… and started writing about it. A lot. Ponoko is part of this landscape.  Ponoko is absolutely an artefact of the 2nd Gutenberg Shift. A prime example of the quickening of the memosphere – the escape of the memosphere into the physical.

What type of products do you make with Ponoko?
Most of it is experimental – laser-cut acrylic looks cool and futuristic (I’m from the 1970s), so I tend to experiment with that the most.  Unfortunately I’m a LOT more interested in making things than selling them, so most of the stuff that I’ve made has never been… published.  The only thing that I’d call a “product” would be the Golden Mean Calipers – basically because people seem to like them. I sold a flying spaghetti monster once, other than that all the sales have been calipers.

How would you describe your creative process?

Throwing spaghetti monsters at a wall and seeing what sticks?  Chaos and distillation in other words… iteration – nothing ever works perfectly the first time – but eventually things start to come together (or don’t). You can kindof tell when you’ve “got it right” – the design does seem to gel. To thine own materials be true.

What materials do you use have you used and why?

Acrylic because it looks cool and futuristic. I want to live in a UFO.  Stainless Steel because it offers really high tolerances – which I need for the calipers. I quite like doing things with metal as well because it gives me a chance to get away from the screen and sit there polishing and hammering like a proper hobbit.

Have you been surprised by anything in the Ponoko process: positives/negatives?

The gulf between “having it worked out in your head” and what actually happens.  Even with something as precise as laser-cutting, experience is everything. Reality has a personality and sense of humour all of its own. I’m not really used to reality. I’m from The Internet. We don’t always see eye to eye.

Do you have any tips for other users?
… I’ve found it really useful to talk to proper, grown up engineers.  They’re wizards of the material-plane these people. They have secret knowledge and can offer you little tricks that make the difference between impossible and easy. Again, experience is everything. Talk to people who have it. They love it. They love it when you ask them.


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