Shrink-O-Matic (Or, Making Products at Scale)

By Glowforge

Challenge: Change a product's dimensions while maintaining quality and function.

Understanding scale and object size is an important component of manufacturing everything from tools to vehicles. In this challenge, you’ll explore the complex relationships between size, scale, and manufacturing processes by creating two versions of a Glowforge Catalog design — one full size and one scaled version — while maintaining its quality and effectiveness.

Facilitation Guide


Think about when you’re looking for the right tool at the hardware store or in the tool box in the workshop. You may be looking through the aisles or drawers for the right Allen wrench or ratchet socket to construct your project. Without having the specific size for your hardware, your tool won’t fit properly and you’ll be left attaching pieces by hand, an insufficient and ineffective solution. Instead, using scaled pieces, you’re able to use the precise 3/8” wrench or 6mm socket that your project needs.

Just as William G. Allen and J.J. Richardson scaled their wrench designs in the past, you’re going to manufacture, test, and refine a scaled version of a product or design while maintaining — or even improving — its functionality.

Manufacturers are increasingly using 2D and 3D print technology to develop innovative solutions for consumer needs. Glowforge is the ideal tool for manufacturing scaled products. Its ability to cut, engrave, and score a range of materials into individual product components or full products makes it an ideal for versatile design and proportional scaling.

In addition to prototyping scaled designs, you can apply the same skills to manufacture other marketable scaled products. Toy cars, doll houses, kitchen sets, and Dungeons and Dragons figurines are all items that have been manufactured as full size products and then scaled into miniature models for customers. The manufacturers and makers behind miniatures commonly use a 1/2, 1/12, or 1/24 scale to maintain proportions of the original item in its new, smaller version. This allows manufacturers, hobbyists, and skilled full-time miniaturists to shrink down large items like an airplane or double-decker bus into an object that can sit on a desk or bedroom shelf.


Research and explore manufacturing techniques for scaling designs. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • What do the terms “scale” and “proportion” mean? Where have you seen those words before?
  • What are some scaled items that you use or have owned? Your classroom workshop is a great place to start observing. Are there other examples at home or at stores that you visit? It may help to think back to toys you may have had when you were younger — are any of them scaled? What was their appeal or purpose?
  • How do you scale an item in geometry? Watch this short video about scaling shapes to better understand the concept. Also try out the Scale Calculator to easily figure out proportional sizes.
  • What is joinery? How can scaling a design impact its joints and functionality?
  • What is a quality assurance inspection? Why is it important to review a product and make necessary adjustments? Explore Manufacturing Quality Assurance Process and Best Practices for a quick overview.
  • What are general manufacturing specifications that you should follow? Are there specific ones for the type of product that you plan to design? Research and compare your findings with others in your class.
  • What Glowforge Catalog designs interest you the most? Explore the catalog for designs that you would like to scale.

Explore Tip

Scaling designs in the Glowforge App is easy. Explore the Scale Designs Precisely article for an easy-to-use overview of the process.

In the next stage, you’ll brainstorm ideas for your scaled design. Before moving on, are there any other resources or techniques you want to explore?


Start brainstorming different design ideas and scaling techniques. Think of as many as you can! You don’t need to worry about whether they’re good or bad ideas — just get creative. Think about:

  • What manufacturing techniques might you use to manipulate the scale of your design? How might these techniques impact your product’s functionality?
  • What scale will you select when you alter your design? Consider starting with 1/2, 1/12 or 1/24.
  • How could aesthetic elements impact the performance of your scaled design? Consider how your finishing process, which could include your aesthetic design or assembly, could affect your product’s functioning.
  • Perhaps a peer has an idea that works well with yours — collaborate to make both of your ideas even better.

Ideate Tip

Scaling a design typically impacts its joinery elements. Explore the Glowforge Community forum or the article “Joinery: Joints for Laser Cut Assemblies” for additional joinery ideas and tips.

Reflect and Review

At this point, you probably have many ideas for your scaled design. Take a moment to reflect on the techniques and ideas you brainstormed.

  • Are any of your ideas similar? Can they be grouped together?

  • Do any of your ideas stand out as favorites? Which ideas might you disregard?

  • What product are you most excited to scale?

  • What scaling techniques do you think will be the most helpful?

In the next stage you’ll narrow down your ideas to one or two. Is there anything else you want to brainstorm before moving on?


It’s time to create sketches or digital mockups of your ideas. Consider the following:

  • Which designs from the Glowforge Catalog will you focus on? What components may be challenging during the scaling process?

  • What digital tools or media will you use to create your scaled design? Depending on the design software or file, you may notice some distortion when you import into the Glowforge app. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure scaling success:

  • Designs imported as PDFs usually keep their sizes and proportions.

  • Some programs like Adobe Illustrator default to a different DPI setting, which can cause issues when importing into the Glowforge App. Watch this short video to learn how to resolve the issue.

  • Learn more about scaling considerations in the Glowforge Community discussions.

  • What tools and materials do you need to develop your design idea(s) using your Glowforge?

  • Are there any additional elements you need to create to maintain functionality?

  • What software tools can you use, in addition to the Glowforge App, to help you model your scaled design? Can you use CAD software like SketchUp or AutoCAD to help you model in 3D?

  • What manufacturing specifications exist for the product that you are scaling? Review them to ensure that your final scaled design meets or exceeds these requirements.

  • How might you include visual elements like text, symbols, fonts, and color for your scaled product?

Design Tip

Some members of the Glowforge Community suggest adding a 1” square to a design before importing a file into the Glowforge App. This lets you check the measurements of the square to make sure that it has not become disproportional or skewed.

Reflect and Review

Now that you have spent time developing your scaled design, take a moment to reflect on your progress.

  • How did you ensure that your design aligns with the manufacturing specifications that you identified?
  • What challenges did you encounter scaling your design?
  • Does your design include artistic or aesthetic elements that add personality to your design?
  • How does your design take functionality into account?

You’re almost ready to create your scaled design! Consider if there is anything you’d like to change in your design before you start creating.


Select one fully developed design. Using Glowforge, print full size and scaled prototypes of your design using appropriate materials. Consider the following:

  • How long will the two versions of your design take to print and assemble?
  • What material(s) will you use for your design?
  • Do the pieces of your scaled design fit together correctly? If applicable, do the moving parts function as intended?
  • Do both versions of your prototype meet or exceed the manufacturing specifications that you identified? Perform a quality control inspection of each component and the assembled prototype to ensure that each piece as well as the completed product meets all required specifications.

Prototype Tip

If a prototype is too complex or takes too long to print, try simplifying it. Break your prototype down into smaller, more manageable components and test each component individually. If there are decorative parts of your design, you can select “Ignore” when you are printing your prototypes. This will reduce the amount of time the print takes, and you can focus on its function. Just remember to add the elements back in when you’re ready for a final print.

Reflect and Review

Think about the prototypes you created and tested during this stage.

  • What do you notice about the manufacturing or design techniques you used to adjust the scale of your design?
  • How did the materials or assembly impact the functionality? Do both versions function equally well?
  • What might you want to revisit about your design?

Consider if there are any previous stages you might want to revisit, or if you want to rethink any part of your design before moving on to the Evaluation stage.


After creating and testing your prototypes, it’s time for feedback. Here are some sample questions to ask your peers in order to get useful and actionable feedback so you can make the needed adjustments to your design:

  • Is the final design proportional? Did all components scale as intended?
  • If applicable, does the design function as you planned?
  • Did the designs meet the established specifications?
  • How did your use of digital tools enhance your scaled design?
  • How can you further improve and refine your design?

Evaluate Tip

Record a video of yourself demonstrating your scaled design for your intended audience. Post the video on an interactive whiteboard like Padlet, or video discussion platform like Flip, to receive feedback on specific design elements or to expand your feedback audience.

Reflect and Review

Think about the feedback you received from others.

  • What aspects of your design do you need to revisit or adjust?
  • Are there stages in the design process that you would like to return to in order to make these adjustments?

Once you have completed and finalized your full size and scaled designs, share them with a larger audience!

Share your students' creations on social media! Post your photos and use the hashtag #GlowforgeEDU and tag us @glowforge for the chance to be featured.