Billing themselves as “the world’s easiest making system”, Ponoko is a hub for people who use digital technology to prototype stuff and have it made. Ponoko gives direct access through its various locations to 2D laser-cutting/engraving and through the US hub to 3D printing, and it’s super easy to use.
They’re also a marketplace for your laser-cut and 3D-printed work – buying or selling. (I am having a total geek-out moment over the piece shown above, by Ponoko user ‘digits’ – click the photo to be taken to the product itself on Ponoko)
What can Ponoko do for me?
Well, apart from having some really awesome stuff in their marketplace if you want to do a little shopping… they can make things for you!
I’ve been using Ponoko for years now and I love it… I’ve made things from product pieces for my jewellery (my spirographs engraved and cut from acrylic, little bamboo-ply sakura and more), earring stands and displays for markets, through to templates, tools and stencils to make my everyday work a little easier. If you’re lucky enough to own a hydraulic press for jewellery (something I really want in the future!)… you could have your matrix dies for press-forming cut by laser from acrylic sheet up to 8mm thick (I’ve already done this but have no press to test them on. Am I keen on this press thing or what?)
Depending on the hub you choose, the materials available include acrylic (plexiglass), some non-precious metals, leather, thick felt, card, polypropylene (great for stencils) and more.
I use Illustrator, following the templates and guidelines they give for laying out cutting and engraving lines. (Other vector programs / file types are accepted as well, but Illustrator is what I was used to.) I generally try to fit as much into one piece as I can to minimise materials wastage and reduce the shipping cost per item cut… the P1 size (about 18x18cm of usable area) can fit nearly fifty small pairs of earring pieces and costs about $6 to ship to me in Australia from New Zealand, which is rather inexpensive.
Material costs vary with what you want to use, with a small sheet of acrylic starting at a couple of dollars. Making costs depend on whether you’re on a free plan or a monthly subscriber to their Prime account (US$39/month) and are charged based on laser time, simple outlines on thin materials will have lower making cost than intricate pieces with heavy engraving.
What’s the favourite thing you’ve had cut?
At the moment, I’d have to say the simple shape stencils I had done in polypropylene. They were under about $10 per P1 size sheet (with Prime membership pricing). I got a bit sick of printing my simpler pierced shapes onto paper and then gluing the paper to silver sheet to get my cutting lines… so I use my scriber with the stencils I had made instead.
The earring screens I made for my market display received nearly as many comments as my jewellery in February, and they’d run a close second.
So, that’s a bit of a rundown on a company that I think really adds something to the indie scene :) If it’s set your cogs to moving, why not drop me a line in the comments and let me know? ^_^