Ponoko, the site that lets you build (and sell) products from homegrown design schematics, is about to make its service even more accessible. Under a new program called Photomake, you’ll now be able to produce tangible objects from doodles on a piece of paper – just snap a photo of your masterpiece, choose a material, and Ponoko’s laser cutters will do the rest. It’s a great idea, and I can’t wait to immortalize my favorite doodlings in black acrylic.
There are a few restrictions, but they are all reasonable. The demo video below explains that drawings should be done on clean pieces of paper, and photographed under good lighting conditions (fair enough). After submitting the photograph to Ponoko, the site will generate a preview of what the laser-cut design will look like. The video explains that this should look very similar to the original design, but there may be some subtle differences – this is likely Ponoko’s software determining what elements of the submitted design are actually possible to create using the company’s lasers. And because of the nature of the service, designs won’t be in 3D (unless you create interlocking parts).
Prices vary by the type of material (the site offers varieties of acrylic, wood, and a number of others) and the thickness of the design. The cost of two custom coasters printed in the demo was around $25, which seems perfectly reasonable for something that would make for a great gift.
Photomake may not be able to build anything as complex as a chair (though Ponoko’s main service could), but it has endless applications and a low barrier to entry. I could easily see it being used by children to make their parents gifts for the holidays, or by office workers looking to give their cubicles some character – I wouldn’t be surprised if it grows to become the most popular part of Ponoko’s business.