3D printing around the clock
The short version: Going strong! We are on schedule and halfway our first production run with almost all sunglasses now 3D printed (after some thorny technical hiccups). Next week we will start to laser cut the lenses and start with assembly, by hand, one by one. If we have no further machine breakdowns and the custom cardboard boxes arrive on schedule, then we will be able to ship on time in 2018, yeah!
The long version: We are slowly getting there! In this update you can read all about the successes and technical challenges that we encountered the last weeks.
3D printing almost 300 sunglasses has proving to be an endurance test for our patience and creativity. Almost all the parts of the sunglasses have now been 3D printed and are ready for the next step: assembly.
We now have, thanks to your financial support, nine large 3D printers in our microfactory. Running all 9 machines simultaneously at full speed feels a bit like directing a mechanical symphonic music orchestra; it’s exhausting and noisy but very rewarding.
For every technical challenge, there is a creative solution.
Printing with 9 machines also means that every small mistake gets multiplied by a factor of 9. These are some of the technical challenges that have given us sleepless nights:
1. Some of our recycled PET frames came out slightly skewed with two lenses of unequal size. After a few days of testing we found that the speed by which the frames cool down after printing affects the size accuracy; so we optimised the airflow over the printers and solved the problem.
2. The complete first batch of black ABS frames (from recycled car dashboards) ended up with peeling surface issues after polishing (photo 2.). This turned out to be caused by new 3D software that we started using since October. So we switched software and started printing, again, the whole first batch. Don’t worry, all the failed frames will be recycled.
3. The automatic calibration system of a critical 3D printer broke down in October. We use this sophisticated printer to 3D print the text on the inside of the temples with recycled fridges, a very sensitive process. With great support of our supplier we eventually found and solved the problem so we started printing again end of November. We are now printing almost 24/7 with this special printer to catch up with the delay. In case we run into further problems we will use a different technique to print the text on the inside of the temples; there is always a plan B.
In the past 2 months after the Kickstarter campaign, the project continued to be featured with more articles in the media (e.g World Economic Forum, Brussels Airlines Magazine, Stad Antwerpen, NINA, Pebble and many others). The conversation is just getting started.
So what’s next? We plan to finish 3D printing everything before Christmas and then take a short holiday (our first since march; yes we dearly need a break). The first of January we will continue with the manual assembly; if all works as planned we’ll be able to ship on time!
Stay tuned and happy holidays!
By the way: the new batch of cork cases have arrived, have a look!