Introduction: How to Personalize BF4 DogTags With Custom Packaging =Made It at TechShop=
As a Mac user I have been privy to some cool unboxings in my time. I always know when it was designed by Apple in Cupertino because there is a unique feeling associated with HOW a user is introduced to their new e-Pal. While my packaging may not even come close to that feeling, I intended to replicate a similar feeling when the Level Battlefield (LevelBF for short :D) fans received their coveted GamerSwag.
I come from a family of Techies and when I told them that I wanted to create, compress, and stream live video for the popular First Person Shooter (FPS) Battlefield 4, most of them weren’t surprised at all. The friends I met while doing this are amazing! Honestly, some of the best people I’ve ever spoken with because they are humble, down to earth, and generous. They donated money to me for a variety of things but it never sat well with me, I needed to give more back to my community, I needed to work harder for their collective money.
In my last instructable I used the vacuum forming machine to create trays that the tags and chains sat inside of. The biggest problem with that design was that when I shipped envelopes full of GamingSwag the chain came loose and tore up the envelope something awful. I was mortified at the sight and realized that Apple would never have let that fly. They... I would have to redesign! I also took a look at the overall Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS) and realized that my tray was as expensive as the raw dogtags! In search of a cheaper shipping solution I landed on cardboard. 3-7c per each (10x cheaper than the tray) shipping container was music to my ears.
Step 1: ===Tools, Materials, & Programs Used ===
This particular instructable isn't very forgiving as far as materials and machines go, but if you have to make substitutions, so be it.
=========List of Materials used==========
-Blank anodized aluminum dog tags (I used Black, Red, and Blue)
-Good quality ⅛” cardboard
-Ball chain with connectors (I used Black & Silver)
-A scrap acrylic dogtag
=========List of Programs used==========
-Adobe Illustrator CS5
=========List of Machines used==========
- Laser cutter
- Wacom Tablet
- Cutco SuperShears
Step 2: Lets Get STARTED!
Okay, so you’ve got everything ready to go from step 2 and now its time to get things done. We must get our design in order before heading off to any production machines. I used Adobe Illustrator CS6 while at home and CS5 at Techshop but you can use any program that creates images based on Vectors.
This set of dogtags went out to the top 5 donors as a very special “Thank You” for funding our new website and thus I decided that I would produce a “Ground Assault” collection that included a Tank (T-90), a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV), a Mobile Anti-Aircraft (MAA), and an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). Once the concept was nailed down it was off to Battlefield 4 to get screenshots of the four vehicles. I then imported the images into Illustrator and got to work creating a Black & White Logo from the full color screenshots (This step honestly could be its own instructable and therefore I may do my next instructable on this step if enough people would like to see how I do it :D). After all of the “Logos” have been made in Illustrator, it was time to put them into a template (A 24”x18” dogtag only template) I created to easily engrave 50+ tags at once.
Step 3: Lets Get ENGRAVING!
Setting up your 60W Epilog laser
There are a vast amount of variables to getting this right the first time so I’ll give you this one piece of advice. Always bring 15% more material than you will need for your job. The day you show up with $10 material for a $10 job is the day you will leave unfinished and disappointed. Take a note from the Boy Scouts and “Be Prepared” for Murphy’s Law.
This is where you must be a little familiar with Adobe Illustrator (or CorelDraw). So at this point, you have to import/open your design to the template, visually inspect the digital image, and hit print. Once in the print menu you must navigate to the print drivers properties and enter the values from below for your job.
For this project I used the following raster settings for various materials*:
-Blue 60/65 raster
-Red 60/55 raster
-Black 60/80 raster
-Printing 60/20 raster
-Tag cutout 60/30/500 vectors
-Packaging 60/45/500 vectors
*The numbers listed are in the (Speed/Power/Frequency) format, but this is by no means the only values that will work.
If you have any questions about this laser step (because it is lacking a complete instructable on its own) feel free to ask in the comment section and I’ll do my best to get you rolling :D
I like to engrave my tags first and print the packaging second simply because the tags will dictate exactly how many shipping containers I need to produce after the fact. In my case I did Black, Blue, then Red tags in different batches because of the modified power levels for each color.
The cardboard packaging requires a little more explanation because I use two different settings, one for the tag holder, one to cut the shape out. This Epilog laser will automatically raster (basically printing) before cutting any vector lines so in the first pass I hide/disable/delete the shape vector and use the tag cutout vector settings so the laser doesn't cut all the way through the cardboard, only midway. After you have raster’d your image and cut the tag holders its time to hide/disable/delete both the shipping image and tag holders so you are left with only the full shape vector lines. When you are ready to cut out your cardboard change your vector settings to the higher packaging 60/45/500 values and get cuttin’!
*Keep an eye on the machine! Cutting cardboard with a laser is asking to start a fire, so be alert, have a plan to put out a fire, and be within arms reach.
Step 4: Get Your Packaging On!
Can't start working on an empty stomach right? Snacks are a must for any instructable!
Now is the time for you to see the magic of the two step vector cutting process. If all went well, you should be able to push your tags into the cardboard with your fingers. The corrugation will hold the tags in place so they don’t go all Willy-Nilly in transit to your fans. Once your tags are firmly held in place its time to get your length of ball-chain + connectors.
Getting your necklace and toe chain packaged is no easy feat, so have some patience and do what feels right here. In my case, I used 3”x6” envelopes so it worked out that I had to go around the perimeter 2x or thread the chain through the corrugation 6x. Each situation was a little unique so I used my artistic freedom to do the best I could with this packaging design. This is also where I used the Super Shears to cut my lengths of ball chain and trim any unwieldy pieces off.
Step 5: Closing Thoughts?
This little project has been really rewarding, especially since I am now documenting my experiences on this wonderful site. The feedback from the last instructable was amazing and for that I am grateful. As long as I keep finding the time to make things that give me a sense of accomplishment, I’ll keep writing about it here!
If anyone has any questions I would be happy to help, so leave a comment and show your support :D
And remember everyone, if I can do it, so can you at TechShop