Introduction: Custom Laser Cut Metal Business Cards
Today, I’m using my creativity (everyone knows I love to make things with lasers) to help promote my maker business. I’m cutting metal for the first time and designing some custom metal business cards I can give to my most valued clients and why not?
Now, I'm not expecting you churn out copies of my business card (although I'd be really pleased if you did...), so I've put this instructable together to help you create your own.
Step 1: Getting Started
The materials you choose depend on a mix of your personal aesthetic and your budget. I opted for stainless steel for my most prestigious clients (they work out at just under $8 each, plus postage), and a design that doubles as a key-ring, so that it spends more time in clients' possession.
Templates & Designs
When you've selected your material, you'll need to design your cards.
I used Ponoko to make my metal business cards, so I've attached their basic template to this step for you to work in - the template also has handy reminders on what colour in your design looks like in the final card. I've also attached my own design, purely as an example of what can be done.
You'll need to think of a number of things in your design;
- Your logo (I used a fraction of my logo in the corner of the design)
- Shape (after playing with a lot of different proportions and shapes, I settled on a square with rounded corners - it fits in the wallet, won't stab you, and can double as a key-ring thanks to the hole I put in the corner).
- Contact details (who's name is going on there? What email address? Will you add a physical address as well as a URL?
- Avoid overly-fine details and thin fonts (when you're working on metal, small or intricate fonts can become indistinct. Think minimalist, and shorten contact details where you can, so that they can be in a larger font). I used Bitly to shorten the links to my profile here and my Etsy store; bit.ly/Kiteman is far easier to fit on a business card than https://www.instructables.com/member/kiteman/
- You will need to leave 5mm between your business cards, and make sure they are attached to the waste metal by a 1mm wide tab, or you risk losing your precious cards into the guts of the Ponoko process.
- If you look at my design, you'll see that the bottom row of cards is upside-down - that's just to move the tabs away from the thin outer edge my design has left. I don't know if it's necessary, it's me being paranoid about losing my cards.
Once you have finished designing your business cards, you'll need to save your design as a PDF file (that's the only format that the Ponoko process can accept.
Ponoko has it's own detailed help page for designing in metal as well
Cutting the Metal
Once you've finished your design, you're ready to start making.
But before you can start start cutting, you'll need to set up a free account at Ponoko.com.
Once you've opened your account, you upload the PDF file and you're ready to start cutting metal.
Once you've uploaded your design and chosen your materials you will get an instant quote for the job - Ponoko's metal pricing process is different to other materials - there is a one-off cost for the sheet of metal, but nothing extra for the details (for other materials, the cost is related to the length of time the laser is actually lasering). That means it really does pay to squeeze things into every corner of the sheet - if you have a chunk of space that doesn't quite fit another row of business cards, consider shrinking your cards a little to fit that extra row in (just don't forget your 1mm tabs and the 5mm spacing).
For the business cards, the only bit of work that needed doing to the cards was to file off the tabs - snapping the cards out of the sheet leaves a small sprue. I found that a few strokes with the fine file on my Leatherman did the job nicely...
Step 2: Stare Meaningfully at the Mail Man...
Once you've uploaded your design and finalised all your choices, all you can really do is wait a while (the time for delivery will depend on your location and the postage choices you've made).
Once the business cards arrived, I realised that I had an unusual problem - they are almost too nice to give away!
Part of the "problem" is, of course, the relatively high cost of these unique business cards, which means I restrict them to customers who can put the highest-value business my way.
If you have the same problem, you can compromise the same way as me...
Step 3: The Budget Version
If I'm giving out large numbers of cards, I might opt for a design in two-colour acrylic or matboard, so that the price comes down to pennies per card.
For novelty's sake, you could even opt for thin bamboo with an adhesive backing to turn your contact details into an eye-catching sticker!
You will need to edit your designs for other materials - the colour-coding is different, and the thickness of lines has different significance. For these much-cheaper materials, the cutting time is also factored into the cost, which means the detailing of your business cards affects the final cost - you'll find out by how much when you upload your new files and get the automatic quote.
Not to worry, though, Ponoko have a help-page for that!