Playing Geppetto at Ponoko
A couple of nights ago I placed my first order at Ponoko to take advantage of their free shipping in November offer:
Since I originally didn't have anything specific in mind to produce I thought I'd try my hand at designing a simple 2D "fit the pieces together" puzzle. I created the design in Inkscape and the final puzzle version (the piece on the left) can be seen in Inkscape's outline mode here:
The smaller "P" will be a "Heavy Raster" etch while the other lines in the design will be cut through. (Feel free to assume the "P" stands for Philip or Ponoko... :-) ) Here's a sample of the "Heavy Raster" effect on the black acrylic the puzzle will be produced from:
I ended up selecting 4.5mm thick acrylic but it would have been around 25% cheaper in the 3mm thick variety—because I'm not sure of the rigidity of the material I decided to try the thicker option.
The rest of the order is made up with some mostly test designs, including the piece on the right which is designed to make a 3D "L" shaped object that includes a slot to hold the RJ45 adapter from a WIZnet WIZ810MJ module.
According to the Ponoko Manufacturing FAQ the turnaround time is "between 5 to 10 days" with shipping time on top. We'll see what happens!
The free shipping was the major motivator for trying this now, though it meant I probably spent more on cutting/materials than I would have...
My overall impression of Ponoko is it has a lot of promise but is still rough around the edges. While the site graphic design is impressively slick the design/price/order process doesn't flow very easily. If you're price-conscious and frequently want to know what a particular design change will mean to your cutting cost the upload/quote process is down-right tedious.
It would be great if Ponoko could produce plug-ins for the supported design packages to allow you to calculate the cutting cost from within the application. If I didn't already have multiple projects on the go I'd probably consider moving this from the "nice idea" stage—but I don't envisage that happening any time soon...
My unsolicted Ponoko marketing suggestion of the day: Produce a bunch of puzzles with the Ponoko logo and brand them with "Make it yourself at Ponoko" or something... Bonus points for 3D...