Making gets easier every day. Concepts: Smarter Sketching has aligned with Ponoko: the World’s Easiest Making System, to allow you to laser cut or engrave anything you design with your fingers. The process is iPad-easy: Simply sketch your design in Concepts, upload it to Ponoko, then hold your baby in your hands.
A cool idea (or time to explore a random shape). We recommend parts for your next UAV, a pretty new piece of jewelry, or maybe an architectural model.
These easy instructions.
The Short Version
Open Concepts on your iPad and create a new drawing.
Check off your Pre-Design Checklist (below). This ensures your drawing can be read by the laser.
Draw your design. We recommend using Precision Mode, Snap, and Smoothing to get the cleanest cuts and lowest price.
Double-check your design. There are some size tolerances you should stick to which are listed below.
Export in SVG and upload your design to Ponoko. Then wait anxiously for your parts to arrive!
Download and Open Concepts
Concepts: Smarter Sketching is a new player in the creative world. Created by the small-but-brilliant team at TopHatch, Concepts re-imagines Making. Combining freeform sketching with CAD accuracy, you can sketch natural ink with your finger or stylus, and out comes a fully manipulable vector object. A simple tap-and-hold will pick up anything you draw and “bring it back to life”, allowing you to change size, placement, tool, color, anything with a tap. A special Precision Mode provides design features like Snap, Measurements, and Shape Guides. Really useful, really cool.
You can use the free version for most of the drawing, but you'll need the Pro Pack to export in SVG. It is very inexpensive for an app of its quality, and well worth the price.
Once you've downloaded the app, open it and tap the “New” button at the top left of the screen.
Check off your Pre-Design Checklist
Important Note: You must use all of these settings for your project to be completed successfully.
While in the drawing, tap the Settings gear in the bottom left of the toolbar. Then set the following settings:
Under Paper Type, select Plain White.
Under Paper Size, scroll down until you see the following four sizes as supported by Ponoko. P1: 181 x 181 mm. P2: 384 mm x 384 mm. P3: 790 x 384 mm. P4: 596 x 291 mm. Note: Not all materials are available in all sizes, so before you start, double-check http://www.ponoko.com/make-and-sell/materials for the material you want in the size you want. There are over 80 different materials to choose from. The templates are slightly smaller than the materials themselves, as a safe zone to ensure your pieces are cut correctly.
Under Grid Type, select 10/100 Graph (not actually required, just makes it easier).
Under Grid Display, select Precision Mode Only (or Always Show)
Under Units, select Metric (mm, cm, m)
Under Scale, select 1:1. This scale is required by the laser machine, and will ensure that whatever you see on the screen (at 100% zoom) is exactly the size it'll be when it's cut.
Once those are set, close the Settings menu by touching the gear again. Next, we'll set up the drawing tool.
Tap the Pen tool that sits at the top of the menu next to the toolbar. Select the Wire brush.
Tap-and-hold the brush size button (just below the tool button) and enter an exact width of 0.05 mm. The Laser machine requires this width of ink to read your drawing. Always. (Since your line size is always 0.05mm, the *color* of the line dictates how deep the laser goes.)
Make sure the Opacity is 100%.
Decide whether you want to CUT (all the way through) or ENGRAVE (cut partially through) your piece. Each requires a different color of ink. (In Concepts, you can change the color of a line at any time, so you're not locked in.) Line Cutting requires Blue ink (RGB 0 0 255, HEX 0000FF), while Engraving uses Red ink (RGB 255 0 0, HEX FF0000). Tap the Color palette, then look for the HEX/RGB custom options in the top-right corner of the screen. Tap one of those, and enter whichever one suits you. You may want to add both of them to your “Favorites” by tap-and-holding the preview color, which you can then access quickly from the main drawing screen. Tap the screen to close when ready.
Here are some guidelines and hints to help as you go:
A good place to start is by tracing over a picture. Use the Import button (under the Layers button) on the toolbar to find options like your iPad's Photo Library, Cloud Drives like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, or Adobe Creative Cloud, and the standard Clipboard and Camera options.
Use Precision Mode (the Grid button). You can still sketch normally, but Precision Mode has some helpers built in like Snap-to Sketching, which automatically connects your lines with important points nearby. Also Measure, which gives you live measurement readouts on anything you draw. You can turn it off for sketching, but you'll want to turn it back on later to check for tolerances.
Pieces need to be at least 5 mm in size. Any smaller and they will fall through the grid in the machine and be lost. If you need an object smaller than 5mm, it is recommended you attach it with a tab to one of your larger pieces. Also, if your design requires small pieces, it is recommended you make extra pieces to be sure they aren't lost in the process.
Don't draw double. Meaning: don't draw over the same line twice, or if you do, refactor before you export, as double lines in your drawing correspond to double cuts by the laser, which is expensive and can cause burned edges. To remove those extra lines, just tap-and-hold over it to select the duplicate, then press Delete (the trash can) on the toolbar. Precision Mode and Snap can help a lot here, as points can connect immediately.
It is helpful to dedicate layers for each type of line you draw—one for Line Cutting and one for Line Engraving. Layers have no effect on the end result you send to the laser, but they help you to organize your design. To add or change a layer, simply touch the Layer icon on the toolbar.
Smoothing your lines can help your design have a clean, smooth edge when it is done. To Smooth a line, press-and-hold a line you have drawn and tap the Smoothing button below the Opacity button. Run your finger up or down the squiggle until your line looks how you like. A higher value means fewer points that the laser needs to hit, which increases speed, lowers price, and gives you a better cut.
For Mirror Acrylic material only, the laser cuts into the back of the material, so your design needs to be mirror opposite. Once your design is drawn, simply select the entire thing and touch the Flip Horizontal icon to flip it.
Use your material fully! Draw many shapes and fill your template to maximize your cost and design.
Text cutting/engraving is not currently supported in Concepts.
Double Check your Design
Since cutting costs real money (even if it is inexpensive), we recommend going over this list of questions before you submit to Ponoko.
Are all of your lines in the correct line weight and color? Remember that blue lines will be cut through the material, and red lines will be engraved into the material.
Are all of your lines fully connected? The laser cuts where the line indicates, so to ensure complete, smooth cuts, check that your lines are connected.
Are all of your pieces-to-be-cut at least 5mm in size? Any smaller and they will fall through the grid below the material and be lost. To check your length, select Precision Mode, choose the Line guide, and use it as a ruler.
Are all of your lines at least 1mm apart? Less than 1mm will result in broken pieces. To check your distance between lines, select Precision Mode, choose the Line guide, and use it as a ruler.
Are there any double lines? To check if you have double lines, select your object and see if it shares any edges with other objects. If so, select the offending line and delete it.
Are all of your lines within the template boundary? This is the safe zone for cutting inside the material. If needs be, you can tap-and-hold the blue template boundary to move it / reposition.
Ponoko uses SVG files to relay coordinate data to the laser. The process of sending your drawing to SVG is really easy — just tap the Export button near the bottom of the toolbar. Choose SVG as the format, Configured Size and Use Background Color.
On the next screen, you'll be asked where to save it. Open In is a popular and flexible choice, which allows you to save to Dropbox or other automatically-synced places.
Then go to Ponoko.com, create an account (if you haven't already), and upload the file. You'll get an instant price quote, shipping information, and options for sharing your creations with others.
Congratulations on Making something AWESOME! Email us at concepts [at] tophatch.com to show us what you've done!