What did I take away from the project?
This was a huge undertaking and it pushed my then design skills to the limit when it came to optimizing the designs for cutting. When you design and build prototypes you start with a blank page and very few limits. Only when you get to the large production do you start to worry about the limitations of the hardware and packaging. Things that were 1 piece now become 2 because they are two large to cut or ship. Other things like replicated parts or minor layout changes come into play. It is amazing how moving 1 or 2 parts can take a 4 page cut down to 2 or how grouping the engraved pieces across 2 sheets toward the middle of the pages speeds the process and takes a 30-45 minute engraving down to 20-30 minutes. Even simple things like a shift in grades of plywood can speed things up because the supplier can pre-size the materials so you don't have to all go a long way in a project this massive. This was a great leaning experience and I would not trade it for anything.
The most important high point has been all of you. Yes it sounds sappy but without you this project wouldn't have happened. From the happy emails of "My package arrived." to the not so fun, "Where is my package?" or “I am missing a part.", it still brings me a little bit of joy that I was able to help you through it. I am glad to have had a chance to work with all of you throughout this process.
Supplier nightmares are an ongoing problem. Finding good ones is hard when you are buying in what they consider small quantities. So when you find a good one you stick with them. There is no such thing as a good shipping scale. Boxes are not all the same. Just stick with the US Postal one and you are won’t have any problems. Budgets can change in a heartbeat. Little things like tape and plastic bags don't go as far as you think. Keep your optics clean! Lasers are water cooled and hose clamps can work loose over time.
The Strangely Fun:
Lasers are heavy, 400 lbs. heavy so having large friend that work cheap is a wise idea. Did you know that birch plywood is great for making s’mores? Tape guns can walk unless you tie them down. Not all colors of acrylic use the same cut settings. Cutting in batches only works if everything is identical. If the room is full of smoke chances are you didn't open the damper on the exhaust fan. Sponge Q-tips should be bought by the gross not the little box. The same for lens cleaner. Google splinter removal before you start preparing large sheets of wood on the table saw. Change/sharpen fine tooth saw blades often or the splinter thing will be really important. Network switches need to be on a UPS too in order to work if you have a brown out. Hand delivering orders from time to time is well worth it.
- 100+ rolls of 3" masking tape
- 8 rolls of 3" blue masking tape, which stuff won’t even stick to itself
- 100+ rolls of 3" packing tape
- 5 tape guns, I told you those things have legs
- 2000+ Plastic bags,
- 300 more plastic bags all too small, they need to make the check boxes on the order form bigger
- 1 2.5" CO2 laser lens
- 3 laser cleaning kits
- 1 gross of sponge q-tips
- 3 fine tooth saw blades
- 1 fire pit, already had this so not a business expense
- 1 propane torch
- 3 large garbage cans
Thank you all again now get building, painting and rolling dice. The game tables are calling you.