Back at SFU I ran a small business making custom plaques with my CNC. I thought that if I automated the whole process I'd be able to reduce costs and sell carved wooden plaques as a sort of novelty postcard. This year I coded it up and put it online as pinegram.com
(I was thinking maplegram.com for the Canadian angle but that domain was taken, sadly)
There's a custom WYSIWYG front-end that lets you design the carvings based on a set of templates. The heart shaped one has been the most popular so far, and the Asian-themed one hasn't gotten a single order. Probably should have expected that.
The hardest part of the implementation was in the backend. From previous experience most of my time was taken up by CAM. To fulfill the vision of a completely automated system I wrote a g-code generator that takes all the orders in the week and lays them out on a 4x4' sheet of plywood.
I wrote a windows point-and-click macro to export the ASCII table for each font at each size, then it's just a matter of offsetting and rotating them, with proper kerning, to the right place on the template.
here's a peek behind the scenes:
Demand for this type of product seems very peaky. I'm still experimenting with Google ads to try to get a more stable means of passive income.
I did get a nice boost from Hacker News though. For a few brief hours I was on the front page, that was pretty cool.