Shortest newspost ever... for now!

EvilDragon

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Well, this will be really short.
I'm now boarding my plane to Greece. That's the news for now.

However, I DO intend to update this post regularly during the next few days, to keep you informed about all case-related stuff.

UPDATE 1:
And here I am, lying in my bed in the hotel.
Had a meeting with my contact and we discussed the plans for the next few days.
It's not 2am here and I have to get up again in 6 hours - however, I still wanted to post some news before.

The moulds have NOT moved yet - but wait, before you shout out loud, read on!
Everything here is being organized by my contact, and, to be honest, what he organized does make a lot of sense.
I didn't even know myself that the moulds are not yet with the new company :)
BUT: Everything has been prepared to move them right away, if need be. If need be? Yes.

When we announced that we found a new company to produce the cases, FormAction has suddenly woken up. The new material could be bought within 10 days (yes, the one we were waiting for months!) and all changes have been implemented in the moulds.

A last discussion what went wrong is always a good idea, so I wanted to visit them a last time anyways.
This will be the very last chance to show they're capable and the new material really is as good as they tell.

So, tomorrow morning, I'm first having a meeting with my contact. We'll go through everything that happened during the last two years and summarize everything.

After that, we have a meeting scheduled with FormAction where we'll discuss those two years with them, check what went wrong and why, etc. In the same time, they can show me the latest samples with the new material. If that one is fine and there are no problems, then they can at least produce the first batch of cases.
However, if that doesn't work out and they still don't have anything to show us, we can move the moulds away the same day: The logistics company is already briefed and ready to move them right away.

On Tuesday (regardless what happens at FormAction), we'll still have a meeting at the new company, just to discuss a theoretical production run with them and check out the various materials they have to offer.
Well, and maybe already produce samples, in case we decide to move the moulds tomorrow.

I think that's a pretty fair approach.
If we all are discussing that together at one table, it's a lot better than discussing things via emails and the phone, so everyone has the chance to get things right.

Let's see what happens tomorrow!

Off to bed now, see you soon!

UPDATE 2:

Sooo... we had our first round of fight today. A LOT of discussion happened... here's my update.

If you followed this thread, you probably know that the new material has not yet arrived here, which is quite a bit annoying.
Greek companies always use logistics companies which are slower than UPS or FedEx - but my contact in here told me why: A while ago, only greek companies were allowed to make deliveries (yes, seriously!) and even though that has changed, logistics companies are still a LOT cheaper here in Greece, so they're usually not using speedy couriers.

This was an interesting information (I love to know WHY decisions are being made), but it doesn't explain why they haven't bothered to tell us upfront or why they haven't tried to speed things up, as they knew I would be coming today...

Ah well.

We also have no real idea why not much has happened for the last few months - but they were moaning they had a lot of costs (like fixes to shoulder buttons, etc.) which have not yet been paid. I never received any invoices though, and most of the fixes were only needed because their design wasn't working, so that wouldn't even be costs I have to pay. As far as we found out by discussing things, it seems that the person who is doing the bookings has a bit of a mess in there... but that's something we'll discuss with her tomorrow, when we go through everything to see what's still open and what not.
Still, we have no idea why no one even bothered to tell us that... so it might've just been an excuse.

Throughout the full day we made it very clear that this is not a project that can take forever, but that we need to move ahead NOW and not tomorrow!

The material in France has not yet been picked up by the logistics company, so I decided to arrange a courier pickup. As you all know I'm running an online shop, so I got contracts and personal contact persons for both FedEx and UPS and checked back with them. They could arrange a pickup today and deliver Wednesday - so maybe still in time for a quick production run so I can take some samples with me back home.
Still, they wanted to do it themselves, so they arranged a delivery with TNT... let's see how this will work out.

What's so special about that material, you might ask?
Well, we've got some thin and complex areas in our design. Normal plastic is too thick and slow for that, which leads to discolorations and shrinking marks. This plastic is especially made for such cases (mobile devices), it has a better and more even mold flow so it should be a lot better quality wise.

Still, some power coating plus special anti scratch coating would still be needed (they had sample parts here, and yeah, it's nigh impossible to scratch them, even with a key, so you could put it into your pocket).

On the other hand, the new company has that glass-fibre enstrenghtened material which is REALLY awesome. It feels a bit soft, looks nice without any coating and is nigh impossible to break. I've received a sample of an SNES cartridge shell today and I'll make a nice video later.

So - what should we do? Move the moulds or not?
I'm sure many of you will still tell me to move them NOW. However, this needs to be properly thought through.

Here are some reasons why we SHOULD move them right away:
  • They've held us back far too long already. Why should that change now?
  • The other company has 16 machines (compared to the 2 FormAction has), and I've worked with them already, so I know they are reliable and fast in production.
  • They've got that awesome material.

However, there are also some reasons why we SHOULD NOT make a rash decision to move them:
  • We don't know yet if the glass-fibre enstrenghtened material is suited for complex designs as well (we'll try to find that out tomorrow)
  • We can still move the moulds after our discussions tomorrow, but it's probably not a good thing moving them back in case something goes wrong with the new company.
  • While the new company is reliable, we have NO idea if everything will work out smoothly there (moulds still might need some fixes which are best being done by the original manufacturer, as they know their designs and where to tweak things)
  • The original contract includes that FormAction produces a batch of at least 500 sets. They would probably stick to that. So if the molds are physically okay now AND the new material works great, we should let them produce at least 500 sets. We can still safely move them afterwards. If the production is fine, we know the molds are okay and then we're 100% sure the new company can produce them as well (they can also easily order the same material).
  • We don't know yet if the new company is experienced with such small and complex designs as well. There's a difference producing parts like SNES shells or parts with tons of holes for a keyboard :) We'll also try to find that out tomorrow.
  • While we all want the cases to be mass produced as fast as possible, there's no need to rush, as we still need to finish the CPU board and mainboard before we need them. However, it's pretty clear that the cases need to be FINALIZED as fast as possible.
So no final decision could be made yet, but most probably tomorrow (or at least shortly later).
As mentioned, we'll have another meeting at both FormAction and the new company tomorrow.

Here are some key topics whether we decide to move to the new company or not:
  • The accouting and invoicing needs to be fair and clear. I have no issues paying changes that need to be done because we made changes to the mainboard, etc., but paying for fixes to things they designed that didn't work out on first try is not something I plan to pay. We paid for the full design, so it's their own fault if something doesn't work on first try.
    We'll see their reaction and how well we can solve that fair and square tomorrow.
  • We want to see the tracking number of the delivery service to see that the material will indeed arrive on Wednesday.
  • We will check on the molds to see if all changes we requested in August have been implemented. There's no reason they shouldn't have been.
  • We want to receive the quotation for the coating of the cases.
  • We want to receive the fully updated 3D data (ours is a year old and the changes done to the molds have not been implemented yet)
  • We'll take a look at other projects the new company made. If they also had some projects with small and complex parts and the quality is great, we know they're experienced with such designs. That would be a good reason to move (as FormAction is not yet experienced in that area)
  • We'll also try to find out whether the fibre-glass enstrenghtened material can be used for our designs.
So tomorrow is a VERY important day to decide whether we will move the molds or not.
FormAction has two days to fix up everything they messed up lately, and we made it very clear today that we don't accept the slightest delay.

Even if I can't take a full case set with me on Wednesday, the latest day they have to finish it is Friday (more than enough time to produce it if they receive the material on Wednesday).

If the material doesn't arrive, they've lost. If they don't produce until Friday, they lost. If they don't fix all other things we requested, they lost.

Now, time to grab a coffee... and then I'll do a video of that enstrenghtened SNES shell :D


UPDATE 3:

And here I am with an update of Day 2 in Greece.

As mentioned, we were visiting FormAction again this morning, mainly to check all the bookings and invoices but also to triple check the last remaining possible physical issues with the case (which aren't many, but there were some tolerance issues, and one issue with a too-thin wall which makes problems with the mold-flow).

Sadly, the new material won't arrive until Friday (though it has been picked up), but we didn't want to give FormAction any reason to slow down things again.
So as mentioned we discussed last tweaks and fixes and they already started to implement them into the molds today.

Tomorrow morning, we'll have a production run (with transparent material) so we can check the fixes right away together with them and make sure everything is fine now.

The most important step is to get the molds 100% finished now, without any errors.
Once they've done that, they'll produce five sets with the new material sample right away.

My contact will visit them regularly to make sure things happen now!

Well... and then?
Will we move the molds or not?

Read on :)

In the afternoon, we were visiting the new company.
Well, and it quickly turns out they've got a lot more experience with mold materials than FormAction.
They have the materials I always wanted to try (scratch-resistant, etc.).
FormAction offers to powder-coat the produced cases with color and add an anti-scratch coating afterwards.
While we don't have the prices yet, it's pretty clear that this additional work would double or triple the costs of a case set.

The new company, on the other hand, has shown us some materials.
For example, take a look at this picture:

IMG_20171114_144916.jpg

This is NOT painted or coated in any way. This is an actual material, mixed with some anti-scratch pellets and some special metallic color pellets.
No worries, this is not a planned color for the Pyra, it's just an example of what's possible without any paint or coating. There's no color that can rub off. I also tried to scratch it, but it's really resistant.

There's just one downside: The anti-scratch material is ALWAYS glossy. I doesn't attract fingerprints (which is nice), but it would be glossy.

Well, then there's the fibre-glass enstrengthened material you've seen in the video yesterday:

IMG_20171114_145306.jpg

It has a VERY nice matte look, is almost impossible to break and while it's not as scratch-resistant as the anti-scratch-material, it still doesn't scratch easily.
Of course, the color can be changed here as well and everything can be mixed, so we could make a metallic red fibre-glass strengthened case with or without glossy-anti-scratch material.

And yes, the material can be used for the Pyra.

THIS was the discussion and presentation of materials I've always hoped to have with FormAction at some time... oh well.

So, better material, cheaper production run, more capacities... time to move the molds, right?

Yes... but not yet.
First, the new company asked us for FINISHED molds, which totally makes sense. So the last fixes and tweaks need to be done by FormAction.

Also, as mentioned, FormAction has a contract for a production run of 500 case sets.
However, I don't want to spend an insane amount for okay-looking cases, and I also don't want cheap-looking ones.
So I will let them do the production run of 500 transparent cases.
Why? Well, you've all seen on the boards that the demand for transparent cases is there (I will also offer them without hardware, so you can put a transparent Pyra case onto your shelf or whatever).

Also, transparent cases have no discolorations, so there's no need to paint or coat them (we already have some transparent cases and they look awesome). This also means that the production run won't be insanely expensive.

These 500 cases will also be the final check that all tolerances are fine and the molds have no issues, which means they will be ready to move to a different company.

So our current plan is:
  • Check the fixed cases tomorrow (not all physical fixes can be done until tomorrow, but some critical ones).
  • Make sure the remaining fixes are implemented without any delays (that's the job of my contact).
  • Produce 5 sets with the new material sample, triple check again everything fits as it should.
  • Produce 500 sets of transparent cases with FormAction. These will be sold in the shop.
  • Move the molds to the new company. Produce some sets with different materials, check for the best one (fibre-glass enstrengthened!)
  • Do the production run for the units
500 Case sets can be produced within 1 - 2 weeks by FormAction and a lot faster with the new company (well, 2 injection machines vs. 16 injection machines makes quite a difference).
So let's make sure all tweaks are being made as fast as possible and the molds are 100% okay, and then the production should be fast.

Sounds like a plan, eh?
I'll take some more pictures tomorrow during the case production :)

Oh, and BTW one nice side story:
The son of the CEO of the new company is also working there (he's operating injection machines) - and he's a gamer.
I gave him a nice nostalgic trip back to his childhood with my Pandora (I had it with me, of course), when he mentioned he played games like Super Metroid, etc. when he grew up.
He absolutely loved it - and found the Pyra awesome as well (of course ;))
He was also baffled when he produced SNES and N64 cartridge shells for me a few months back... he certainly recognized them, but never expected to produce such empty shells ;)

So yep, he's really motivated and would be very happy to produce the Pyra as well. That was some really nice conversation we had, and it's always good to know the one operating the production machine is actually loving the idea and the device as well :)

So much for today. The post will continue tomorrow (and now it's not that short anymore ;))
 
Last edited:

sandstein

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Wow, I'm happy for you! 20 degrees Celsius, and here in Germany it is almost snowing. I hope you took shorts with you. Jamas!

Edit: Translate to englisch ;)
 

levi

Still fresh, damnit!
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It does make more sense to speak to them first and to do the swap while you're there. It's just a shame this is the first we've heard about this change of plans, but I can live with that.
 
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