People and Lasers: Portland Laser Co.

Who knew that the grip tape for Justin Bieber’s skateboard was made with lasers?! Read on to meet the crew that made his tape and some even cooler products.

Portland Laser Company was established in 2014 by two former architects turned product designers, Rich and Avik. They offer a wide range of services and work on projects that include models, products, and fine art. They are located in the lively Pacific Northwest where the maker community thrives and keeps the machines busy.

1) Can you tell me a little bit about Portland Laser Company and its history?

Rich and Avik of Portland Laser Co.

PDXLC:  Portland Laser Company was founded out of pure, genuine fascination. Avik and I used laser cutters a lot in grad school for architecture. I worked in the shop where all the laser cutting was done and was really attracted by the possibilities.

Avik and I have a separate products company called ILOVEHANDLES, and a few of our products are made with laser cutters. It got to the point that it made financial sense to buy a machine, so we thought it might be smart to start a side business to keep the machine busy. We had no trouble keeping the machine busy, consequently Portland Laser Co. became more than a side business.

2) What does a typical work day look like at PDX Laser Co.?

PDXLC:  The lasers are workhorses, so they are running almost non-stop. We spend much of our time setting up files and doing some finishing on products after the laser cutting. We spend a lot of time playing with materials and testing new cuts for new products. Additionally, we help clients design and develop their projects.

3) What attracted you to working with lasers as opposed to traditional tools of the trade?

PDXLC:  As soon as anyone sees the laser cut something intricate the first time, they are immediately hooked. In my opinion, it is even more magical than watching a 3D printer – the feature that is most impressive is the level of detail and precision that a laser can handle. We have done some insanely intricate stuff. Our lamp takes about eight hours to cut, and I have no idea how many bazillion little holes it has.pdxl-bieber

4) What makes working with lasers so unique?

PDXLC:  I think the surprising thing about working with lasers is the range of projects that you can be a part of. We work on a lot of architecture models, fine art projects, consumer products, product displays, grip tape for Justin Bieber’s skateboard…

How do you practice and enforce laser safety?

PDXLC:  The laser cutting machine is largely a closed system. We have glasses to protect our eyes and we work to keep everything clean and well ventilated.

6) Portland is an interesting city. What is the strangest product that you’ve helped create?

pdxl-niftyPDXLC:  I think the weirdest material we have cut or engraved is bone. Portland has been a huge factor in our uniqueness as a business because there are so many creatives here who have a ton of ideas about how they could use the lasers. We attribute the success of the company to this creative spirit. Everyone is friendly and loves to collaborate—and there are a lot of highly creative people in this town.

Thanks for working this interview into your schedule, Portland Laser Co.! We cannot wait to see what wonderful and wacky projects you produce next. You can get in touch with Portland Laser Co. online.  


Original Posting Date: January 23, 2017

People and Lasers: Maddy Afshar

Would you rather use a multitude of tools or one high-tech laser cutter to create the materials for one product? In the field of industrial design that decision is up to you, but you all know which tool we would choose…

Maddy Afshar is an industrial design student at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. Fueled by a passion for design and creation, as well as a love for the environment, Maddy is hoping to change the way that people view products. As a future industrial designer she hopes to design and create products that will last a lifetime and have little impact on the world that we all love. 

1) Can you give us an overview of the field of industrial design?

MA: Industrial Design is the application of design in the world of mass produced products. Industrial Design Society of America describes ID as “the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value and appearance for the mutual benefit of user and manufacturer. Industrial designers develop products and systems through collection analysis and synthesis of data guided by the special requirements of their client and manufacturer. They prepare clear and concise recommendations through drawings, models, and descriptions. Industrial designers improve as well as create, and they often work within multi-disciplinary groups that include management, marketing, engineering, and manufacturing specialists.”

We do more than design, we create. We have to understand the process involved and be able to see the necessary changes to make something a good design, all while creating a product that is simple, aesthetic, and timeless.

2) How are lasers used in the field of industrial design?

MA: Lasers (specifically laser cutters) are used in rapid prototyping  – which is the process of creating many products at a cheap price point. Rapid prototyping allows product designers to create the materials for a 3D object before beginning the mass production of that particular product. In order to use a laser cutter you need to learn the cyber side of production – being able to create a 2D version of the product through a computer program and then send that design to the laser cutter so that it can be cut out. The most expensive part of industrial design is the manufacturing process, not the product material. Rapid prototyping makes a lot of room for innovation in the design process.

3) How is laser safety practiced when using laser cutters?

MA: Laser cutters use concentrated lasers to cut material, concentrated lasers operate strictly through light and reflection. I would say that the majority of laser safety precautions are taken by the manufacturers of the laser cutters. All laser cutter machines contain concentrated lasers that are encased in polarized safety glass – this protects from pieces of material flying out at you. In addition to the safety glass, it is advised that you wear sunglasses when operating the machine and that you do not look directly at the laser, which can be damaging to your eyes. When using laser cutters in the student lab you must always have the EVAC system on to make sure that air is circulating properly and frequently throughout the entire lab.

4) What tool(s) were used before lasers in industrial design? Why is it better to use lasers now?

MA: Before laser cutters came along industrial designers were (and still are) using just about every tool in the shop to create a product. Some of these tools are (but not limited to): band saws (in varying sizes), table saws, stop saws, Japanese hand saws, heat guns, razor blades, exacto knives, and bending tools. It is SO much better to use laser cutter machines now because an industrial designer may have to use a lot of different tools to create a product (or material) that a laser cutter could produce.

5) Is there anything about laser cutters that makes them difficult to work with?

MA: Laser cutters are fairly easy to work with once you are certified in using them. Since I am a student and still learning how to use a laser cutter, I need to have a lab coordinator present when I am using one.

6) Do you prefer working with lasers or traditional tools?

MA: I like to use a fine balance of both and I don’t want to end up using one over the other. I do tend to get more frustrated with lasers right now because I am still learning the program. I would say that lasers are way more exciting to use than traditional tools – there is no after process in production with laser cutting.

7) Why did you choose to study industrial design?

MA: I decided to pursue industrial design because it fulfills my constant need to create, innovate, and express myself all while having a direct impact on society. Everything manmade is designed, whether that is the coffee machine you use in the morning, or the shower head you stand under at night. If designed well, the environmental impacts are little, and the benefits to the user are made to be easier, more functional, and pleasing to the eye. We are artists.

8) What is your favorite aspect of industrial design?

MA: I love being able to create new products. I feel like I am always thinking about products in the context of “I can make this better” – industrial design allows me to do just that. Design affects everyone – from the pen that you choose to write with to the car that you drive. As an industrial designer I get to have a say in what design is. My design philosophy is quality over quantity, being able to find a solution to the problem of disposability is incredibly satisfying but really hard.

Thanks for working this interview into your schedule, Maddy! We cannot wait to see what you create with the help of lasers. You can see more of Maddy’s design work on her instagram feed


Original Posting Date: November 21, 2016

People and Lasers: Criss Angel

Lasers have been used in entertainment for quite some time but never quite like they are being used by Criss Angel in his new show  – MINDFREAK® LIVE!

Angel’s fascination with lasers may have started as a child going to the planetarium to see the Pink Floyd laser show but unlike most of us, he didn’t stop there.  His use of lasers has been trailblazing and as fans of both lasers and magic, we were more than excited to get the chance to speak with him on the subjects.

1) Where did the idea to use lasers in your show come from?


CA:  Lasers have been something that I’ve always wanted to incorporate into my art but what I wanted to do with them hasn’t always been possible.  Back in the day, as you know probably better than anybody, lasers were quite cumbersome.  They were big, they had to be very specifically water-cooled, they couldn’t be manipulated, etc.  As the years progressed and technology advanced, lasers have now come to a point where I was able to fulfill this vision that I’ve had for so many years.

I had a very clear vision and in my initial research, I came across a company called Image Engineering.  I explained to them what I was trying to accomplish – I wanted to take illusion and state of the art technology and put them together to create something that the audiences had never seen before.  Image Engineering has worked with a lot of big entertainment acts, such as Jay Z and Beyoncé, and they were actually able to fabricate some components for me that no one else has.  They did an amazing job facilitating the design and even some of the fabrication for it so it really takes lasers and incorporates them into the art of illusion in a way that we’ve never seen before.

2) How exactly are you using lasers?

CA: My quest for MINDFREAK® LIVE! was to manipulate and create an explosion of lasers and then ultimately to be able to float in a cone of lasers.

People tend to overuse lasers and I wanted to make sure that I stayed away from that temptation.  I use them very sparingly as part of my show.  The whole thing lasts maybe 2 minutes and it’s really effective.  I start with green and then I manipulate them to create an explosion of different colors that goes out over the audience. It then turns into a cone of lasers that I spin and float away in.

3) What is it about lasers that makes them magical?

CA: People are enamored with lasers and their effects just by themselves but then when you add the illusion aspect it just takes it to a whole other level.

For me, I always try to do things that people haven’t seen before and hopefully people perceive this show as revolutionary, because technically it is, and I think that’s why people are gravitating to seeing it.

4) What are other technologies that you like to mix with lasers to create the most dramatic impact?

CA: We are taking illusions and lighting and lasers and pyrotechnics and we’re incorporating them in a way that creates an experience the world of entertainment hasn’t seen before.

I have Barco 4mm LED walls, over 1000 different lighting instruments, 9 different surfaces with images that the audience can see, etc.   Additionally, we’re the only show in Las Vegas that is doing 3D immersion right now.  We have the latest, greatest technology that allows me to create the most sophisticated theatrical production in Las Vegas, quite frankly.

5) Is there anything about the lasers that makes them difficult to work with?

CA: I have to be completely on my game every time I manipulate the lasers in my hand. I cannot ever shine them into the audience because they have the ability to do a lot of damage if mishandled.  I have to be incredibly precise with my movements.

6) Do you have a favorite color of laser and if so, why?

CA: Everything that I’m doing with magic has very specific technical parameters.  Certain colors play with your eyes differently and certain colors, such as red, don’t support the technical parameters that I employ magically as well as other colors, like green.  I use certain colors at certain times based on the technical need.

For me, it’s all about the explosion of color and a celebration of life.  I wanted to start out with green, the color that I remember from my childhood, but then have it build and climax into an explosion of light celebrating life, which is what this segment of the show is all about.  It’s about celebrating life.

7) How have audiences reacted?

CA: People just go nuts for the lasers.  But it’s not only lasers, it’s the whole thing.  It just goes to show you that magic can be something that connects to people on an emotional level.  When you have the magic of emotion, where you’re able to make people cry or you’re able to creep people out, you’re able to excite them or mystify them, you can really create so many different kinds of emotions.  Like a roller coaster ride of entertainment.

I really wanted to push the envelope and take magic into the future and really connect to people and give them an experience they’ve never had before.  Everyone has a different reaction to the show and the ability to bring people to different places through my art was a main goal of mine.

I’m so excited for this show because we worked so hard and we’re really proud of it.

8) What is your favorite movie involving lasers?

CA: Hmmm, that’s a tough one.  I really don’t watch a lot of TV or movies because I’m always working!

I can say that since lasers are new for me as far as working with them, I find myself being far more aware of them when I see them now. But I’ve been pretty underground with all my work so I can’t give a good answer to this question.

Perhaps in a few years Criss can take a much-deserved break and catch up on some movies! Until then, you can find out more about Criss Angel and MINDFREAK® LIVE! on his website.

Thanks for your time Criss!


Original Posting Date: September 8, 2016

People and Lasers: Jason Lefton

Lasers and their never-ending applications for use are becoming an increasingly popular medium for artists and designers to make and leave their mark.  Fusing art and science across pretty much any material imaginable, lasers are masterful in their precision and inspiring in their possibility.

When Jason Lefton first witnessed a laser etching a design into metal, he saw the wave of possibility and immediately began saving up to buy his own laser engraver. Shortly after, he opened his shop – BIG SECRET – and has been making remarkable, seemingly impossible engraving dreams come true ever since.

After seeing some of BIG SECRET’s beautiful and incredibly detailed projects online, I had to be let in on the secret.

1) Tell us a bit about the equipment you use, the types of projects you do, and the clients you work with.


JL: BIG SECRET uses lasers to collaborate with artists, designers, advertising agencies, and other creative friends. We etch, cut, and mark a wide variety of materials such as wood, paper, acrylic, glass, and fabric but we also enjoy experimenting with non-traditional mediums such as leaves, shoes, and food. Because every job is a bit different, there’s always a pre-production and post-production phase in which we’re using other tools –  traditional woodworking tools, routers, painting, and all types of finishing work – before or after a project has been lasered. It’s been great to work with local artists, global clients, and celebrities every now and then.

2) What makes laser etching so special?

JL: The level of detail you can achieve and the wide variety of materials you can work with make the laser really magical. It never gets old watching an invisible beam of light blast into a material with such intricacy. I’ve always been very detail-oriented, so the laser is the perfect partner for bringing the digital together with the tangible.

3) What is the strangest thing you have engraved?  Any favorite projects?

BS-joanTarragoDeck1@2xJL: We’ve worked with a number of untraditional materials including ostrich eggs, cake, film stock, pop tarts, and human femur bones. All the weird things are definitely part of the fun. It’s hard to pick a favorite project but we were lucky enough to collaborate with a few amazing designers (Kevin Cantrell and Juan Carlos Pagan) on a baseball bat for Nike which involved the challenge of engraving it from top to bottom and all the way around the sloping circumference. The final result is stunning and the bat has gone on to win a few awards, which is fun.

4) I saw laser residency mentioned on your site.  Sounds cool!  What’s it all about?

JL: Occasionally we will invite an artist to spend time with us in the studio so we can educate them about the capabilities of a laser and then create a small body of work. Barcelona-based Joan Tarrago had an awesome show with us a few years ago where we made three dimensional wooden pieces, giant cork posters, and a coffee table. The residency is a way for us to work as closely as possible with an artist and help them expBS-nike-bat1@2xlore the medium.

5) Does your furry mascot have a name?

JL: Yes! His name is Hans Theodore Gould.

Ha! Brilliant.

6) What is your favorite movie scene involving lasers?

JL: Definitely the laser heating up the popcorn in the 1985 film ‘Real Genius’. Mmmmm, popcorn.BS-nike-bat2@2x

Definitely.  Perhaps Val Kilmer-etched into popcorn should be added to the works? For more of BIG SECRET’s wonderful work, visit their website. Thanks Jason for your time!


PR: Funovation Partners with Ocean Park

This summer, Funovation Inc., pioneer and global provider of the Laser Maze Challenge, will extend its own unique brand of fun to Ocean Park Hong Kong, an award-winning theme park, at its signature seasonal campaign, Summer Splash 2016. The company anticipates making a bright splash with the attraction, Amaze-ing Lasers, which features three side-by-side mazes with different game play options. Players will be eligible to win a prize if they can keep their cool and complete the mission as quickly as possible.

The three maze design is an exciting first for Funovation and apropos for the annual, landmark event boasting thousands of daily visitors and muAMaze-ing Lasers_03ltiple wet and wild thrill rides. Opening July 1st and slated to go through August 28th, this year’s Summer Splash will feature lots of bubbly and high speed attractions like the Mega Gush, Wild Foam Zone, and Rainbow Fountain. Guests can partake in any of the three Laser Maze Challenge adventure options after wading in the water war at the Summer Splash Battle.

For Funovation, the collaboration with Ocean Park Hong Kong is indicative of the company’s growing global presence and rising popularity as a high tech add-on to large-scale branded projects. Ryan Borton, Funovation CEO, said, “We are delighted to help celebrate the summer Rainbow Fountain_02season at such a renowned, world-class amusement and theme park as Ocean Park Hong Kong. This is an opportunity for us to showcase the Laser Maze Challenge’s versatility on a grand scale while providing guests a fun reprieve from the summer heat!”

Original Press Release Date: June 26, 2016


PR: Funovation Names New CEO

To our Funovation Community and Partners,

We are pleased to announce today that Ryan Borton, currently Funovation’s Director of Sales, has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer. A proven leader, Borton brings entrepreneurial, financial, marketing, and business development expertise to Funovation, along with experience managing international teams.

"ryan funovation"

Ryan Borton, Funovation CEO

Co-founder and former CEO, John “JB” Bonvallet will remain part of Funovation’s executive team as Chief Technology Officer with Ted Ziemkowski becoming the company’s Chief Visionary Officer. The new appointments will enable Bonvallet and Ziemkowski to devote more time to engineering to further shape Funovation’s renowned maze technology and develop new technologies. Borton will be accelerating sales performance and product development while continuing to guide Funovation’s partnerships.

“I am honored to be chosen as Funovation’s next CEO and I am looking forward to tackling the challenges ahead. Funovation has built a solid foundation and reputation since opening in 2007. I am excited to expand on that foundation and lead Funovation into the next phase of growth,” said Borton.

Bonvallet added, “This is a great change for Funovation. Ryan is a wonderful person and brings a fresh and diverse business perspective to the CEO position. He is passionate about the entertainment business and Funovation’s vision, mission, goals, and values. With my transition to CTO, I am excited to be able to focus my business and engineering background on improving and developing Funovation’s products and services. This reorganization creates the perfect fit for Ryan, myself, Funovation, and our customers and the entire Funovation team is excited for his transition to CEO.”

Please join us in congratulating Ryan and our bright future ahead. If you would like additional information or have any questions, please contact us at +1.303.996.0294 or


The Funovation Team


Original Posting Date: June 27, 2016