Ponoko Laser Cutting Service: Front Panel Tests.
3mm clear acrylic skull inlays in black (painted) acrylic, with two 2mm red LED eyes. The red LEDs are not connected yet, but look like tiny jewel domes in the light. There are some more pictures below.
The inlays can be done in a variety of Ponoko's material combinations. I would like to play with inlays in wood, or in felt for clothes, but those are different projects.
“Make Your First Product for Free”
I totally fell for the 'sign up now' because I was thinking I would eventually need to for the coupon I won.
Anyone can sign up for an account, and to find out there are 10 days left to use a $20US discount towards a laser cutting service only, not including shipping.
That actually was not a bad deal for me. I have never ordered any cutting or 3D printing before, so I knew for sure I would make a mistake on my first design. Not wanting to mess up a $100 order, I decided to play along and jump through the hoops. I thought the OpenSCAD Skull from the Human Interface log would be easy to send off. That might have been easier if it was 3D printed, but the preferred method of this laser cutting service is colored SVG files.
Ponoko has some great instructions for first time users.
Following the design-it-yourself starter kits has to be fool proof, right? Fearing my LibreOffice Draw would be too quirky, I opted for the free Inkscape option so I could follow the directions. The good news is I learned some Inkscape in a few days. It's important to understand how lines connect with nodes, and how to watch for tricky connections and overlapping lines. The Ponoko directions in the starter kits are great, but now that I understand SVG files better, I will only be using LibreOffice.
The upper left image is the 0.010mm width blue cut line for the laser cutter (No square corners).
The other five are me playing with different line widths to get an idea of what the cut pieces might look like. The cut pieces ended up almost identical.
The second is the actual laser cut width of 0.40mm (+0.20mm on each side of the cut line.)
The third is the skull subtracted from material, then material subtracted from skull, overlaying both, and last with the 2mm LEDs I ordered.
I made two test face plates 150mm x 70mm but without the USB holes. Also some extra skulls, as recommended in the Ponoko directions with tiny pieces (<5mm can fall through the bed.) Also some circles as bases to mount the skulls. I also found How to Make Snug Joints in Acrylic helpful to prevent cracking in the corners.
Cutting the inlays the same size made for a loose fit (0.4mm on each side). Next time I will get closer by cutting different size shapes outside the panel. Another mistake was not putting through holes through the circle bases for the LED leads, just like I did on the 3D prints also.
Inkscape vs. LibreOffice Draw
Inkscape shows the instructions outside the boarder,
and LibreOffice shows the actual drawing.
Adhesive paper holds parts in place. Scorch marks on paper only. This saved almost all of the 1.6mm diameter 3mm long cylinders cut out from the eyes!
Material and Cost
Ponoko recommends testing designs in cardboard for affordability, but I chose to see the more expensive 3mm anti static clear acrylic, 181 x 181 x 3mm (P1). The edges are sharp and clean all the way through.
It was three days for processing, one day to make and ship it, two day priority mail, making it six days total from idea to in my hands. $22 is $2 over the $20 discount, plus 9.55 shipping, means the total cost was $11.55. I made a few mistakes, but now I can order custom material inlays with more confidence for a variety of projects, so I would say getting my feet wet with this was worth it.
Some more test pictures:
These LEDs looked so much bigger on the computer screen when I ordered them.
This is with the paper backing on both sides:
Stacked and extended out 3mm past the panel:
Recessed 3mm into the panel:
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