Big  Blue Saw


General Updates

We're happy to announce today two new thicknesses for some of our existing materials, plus a beautiful new acrylic that's great for lighting, control panels, and more.

New Thicknesses for Polycarbonate and Black Acrylic

You can now order polycarbonate in 0.06 inch thickness, as well as opaque black acrylic 0.236 inches thick.

P95 Acrylic

P95 is an acrylic that we were originally tipped off to by one of our customers who uses it to make beautiful electronic control panels. But our customers have had other uses for it as well, including lighting. Also, our current generation of business cards are laser cut and engraved from P95.


As always, if your project calls for a material that you don't see on the website, just contact us for a quote. We try to regularly add the most popular materials to our growing list of materials available on the website.


Greetings, Big Blue Saw true believers.

I've got the most exciting news ever in Big Blue Saw's brief history. It's got me so wound up that I couldn't even sit still to write this blog post: it took several of the Big Blue Saw merry machining minions a minimum of 5 days just to chain me to a chair so I could tell you the wonderful news.

What could get your ol' pal Simon so juiced, you might ask? Well, just this: our good buddy Jamison Go has figured out how to use Big Blue Saw to give himself the powers heretofore possessed only by one Tony Stark, known to most mundane mortals as the invincible Iron Man! Yes, while ol' shellhead is tearing it up in Hollywood, Jamison is battling the bad guys right here in the ATL.

If you want to follow in Jamison's heroic footsteps, take a look at his step-by step instructions for putting together a dashing superhero ensemble over at Instructables. And if you can't get enough of the gallant Mr. Go, take a look at his blog.

Make your own custom parts with Big Blue Saw today, and help convert all your friends to allies in Big Blue Saw's Big Battling Slam on Banal Boring Sameness!


Google Sketchup Part for DXF Export

Many of our customers design parts using Google Sketchup, and with good reason: it's a powerful, easy to use tool for 3D modeling with a basic version that happens to be free to download and use. But the basic version of Google Sketchup has a serious shortcoming: it locks you in to Sketchup's proprietary file format.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to generate standard SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files from Sketchup, which can then be converted into DXF files for CAD software and Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

The key is to use a free plugin for Sketch up called sketchup-svg-outline-plugin. The download page has a link to a ZIP file containing the plugin. Once you have downloaded the plugin's ZIP file, install the plugin by unpacking the file in the Sketchup plugins folder. On my computer, this folder was "C:\Program Files\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins". Read the official installation instructions if you have trouble with this step.

To demonstrate how to use Sketchup with Big Blue Saw, we will first need a part that can be created using waterjet or laser cutting.

The techniques for creating such a part should be familiar to any Sketchup user. We start with a rectangle with a few circles inside of it.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

Then we can use the Push/Pull tool to give the part some depth.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

To start the vector export, you will need to select the face to export by using the Select (arrow) tool. In this case, we are selecting the top face, which looks like a drawing that can be used by Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

By right-clicking on the face you have selected, you will see the context menu for this face. The sketchup-svg-outline-plugin adds a new option to this context menu: "Export to SVG File".

Selecting a Face on Google Sketchup Part for SVG Export

Choosing the "Export to SVG File" menu item will cause the dialog box shown below to appear. The default options should be good enough for most purposes. When you see this dialog, be sure to enter a useful file name and location for the output file.

SVG Export Options In Google Checkout

At this point, you will have an SVG file which you can open in Inkscape. Inkscape can create DXF files using Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape. If you don't have Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape, you will need to install it.


Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape needs a little extra help to create a good quality DXF file from an SVG generated by the Sketchup plugin. You will need to ungroup all of the elements of the file and convert them to curves.

Select any element of the drawing. Since the entire drawing is a single group, everything will be highlighted when you click on any one part.

Modifying SVG Drawing

Ungroup the elements of the drawing by choosing Object | Ungroup from the menu or by pressing Shift-Ctrl-G.


Modifying SVG Drawing


All of the elements of the drawing should remain selected at this point. Convert them to curves by selecting Path | Object to Path from the menu or by pressing Shift-Ctrl-C.

Modifying SVG Drawing

Finally, save the drawing as a DXF by choosing File | Save As from the menu. Be sure to select Big Blue Saw DXF output from the drop-down list of file types.


Saving SVG Drawing as DXF


Congratulations. You now have a DXF file which can be turned into a real part made of metal, plastic, or a variety of other materials using Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.


If you've ordered from Big Blue Saw recently, you may have noticed that our logo is stamped on many of the boxes we ship. What you may not have realized is that the stamp that created this logo was itself created using Big Blue Saw's laser cutting.

Here is the laser cutting and engraving the 2 by 4 inch stamp from a sheet of red EVA foam. The stamp measures 2 inches by 4 inches. Our laser has a special setting for cutting stamps so that it leaves a "shoulder" to support the lettering and logo.


I also cut an identically sized piece of white acetal plastic on which to mount the foam.


The plsat


After assembling the hardware, the foam was attached using hot glue.


Finally, here's our resulting image made using blue ink.



I created Big Blue Saw based on the idea that inexpensive, customized manufactured parts should be more widely and more easily available to everyone. So I'm happy to announce today there is a new way to access Big Blue Saw's services.

I was recently contacted by the founders of a startup who wanted to add Big Blue Saw quoting to their website. (Watch the blog for details of the arrangement.) To do this, they needed a way to access Big Blue Saw's online quoting information. My solution was to create an easy to use web based API which gives them pricing and other data they can embed in their website.

Now the same API is available to everyone. Where and how it's useful will depend entirely on our users. Here are some suggested applications that make good use of the API:

  • A "Get Quote" button on a CAD drawing package that lets you instantly receive a price for the part you're designing.
  • A software package that helps waterjet shops quickly estimate quotes.
  • A price comparison website which allows customers to easily get competing quotes for custom parts, like Google Shopping does for consumer goods.
  • A website that lets you customize parts like, say, gears, electronic enclosures, or licence plate frames and gives you an instant quote for the price.


Continue reading for the technical details of how it works.