Tuesday 6 October 2015

End Game

Since my last post there have been many expressions of sadness in the comments here and here. I'd be lucky to get so much mourning at my funeral I think! Yes it may be sad for potential customers that missed out, but not for us. Fortunately we are at a stage in life where time is more important than money to us. It does feel a bit weird though as the house is now silent after having three or four machines printing solidly for about five years.

The harsh reality is we always planned to stop selling kits before demand dried up completely because otherwise we would be left with unsold stock. In order to to get volume discounts and cover long lead times we needed to carry around £12,000 - 15,000 of stock.

As we didn't hire premises or staff, and had enough capital to cover cash flow, the only business risk we had was being left with stock. It was very hard to predict future demand because it fluctuates wildly with currency changes and, with a new 3D printer coming out nearly every day, there is a risk sales could suddenly dry up if a better cheaper kit emerged. For example, a £40 Prusa I3 from China with 2 rolls of filament and LCD, bargain!

In the end the issue with Dibond made the tricky decision of when to stop for us. This happened a few months ago and we synchronised most of our stock to all run out together.

Yes we could have used other sheet materials, solid aluminium and steel were suggested. However, these are more expensive to buy and machine, much heavier and therefore more costly to ship. Although they are a bit stiffer there is no real advantage to the frame being stiffer because the forces due to accelerating the axes is along the plane of the sheets, where almost any sheet is very stiff indeed. As long as the machine sits on a solid work surface it doesn't flex at all when printing, unlike some of the triangular prism machines.

The good thing about an Open Source product is that the design and instructions will always be available, so people can still self source, or another company could pick up the baton. We will always be able to supply printed parts and, fastener kits, wire and sleeving, hobbed bolts and the extruder PCB. See the RepRap forum for prices. Everything else can be self sourced.

Friday 2 October 2015

No More Mendel90 kits

We sold our last Mendel90 kit today. We found it increasingly difficult to get Dibond that wasn't scratched and after going through four different suppliers we eventually gave up and synchronised the rest of our stock to the number of good Dibond sheets we had managed to get.

The problem is we don't have room for an 8' x 4' router, so we get the sheets cut into smaller blanks that fit on my A2 router. The sawyers that cut them keep forgetting that, unlike other materials like wood and acrylic, the aluminium chips that come off Dibond are sharp enough to cut through the protective film and damage the surface. That means that all the chips need to be cleaned off the cut pieces before they are stacked. You would think that companies whose main business is selling cut to size sheets for decorative use would know this, but they all seem to make the same mistakes over and over again, wasting my time and their money.

Many thanks to all our customers for all their kind words and recommendations.

Back to experimenting and blogging ...