So, what’s been happening the last couple of days?
We added two new features to the production version of “Remote” this week (Remote is the mobile website you use to configure and interact with your Little Printer). The first is a “reprint” button in activity feed of the Remote user interface. It doesn’t look terribly pretty at this stage, but it works. And you can probably figure out what it does!
The second feature is expressions. This affects the face and the Tamagotchi element of Little Printer, whose facial expressions change according to the degree and type of activity taking place. It’s a visual link between the physical product (Little Printer itself) and the digital Remote. Plus it’s lovely! Little Printer’s smile gets bigger when you receive a direct message. I’ll ask Jack to write some more about this, because there’s a lot of interesting things going on behind it all.
btw – if you’re wondering why the Little Printer referenced in the photo above is named “Andy’s Transparent Printer”, it’s because it’s transparent. Literally.
One of the important parts of making a product is keeping a stable, low lead-time supply chain. This is the process of getting a product from supplier to consumer, and includes all the resources involved in that process, from parts to manufacturing to packaging to shipping to delivery to storage and so on. Everything has to dovetail perfectly, as a change in one area can affect other parts of the chain. That’s why Matt W and Andy sat down with the suppliers of the print mechanism this week. One of the components is being end-of-life’d 6-12 months from now, and we’ve got to make sure this doesn’t cause us problems further down the line.
Excitingly, we’ve started to manufacture the polycarbonate for the Bridge units.
Here’s the tool. It’s actually a mould, but it’s a truly serious bit of kit, made of steel and weighing 590kg (the one pictured above is for Little Printer itself, but you get the idea). It’s moved into the right place on the factory floor, then heated to above 100°C with water. The tool contains the cavity for one base, one body and two lids, which is filled with hot plastic the consistency of chewing gum. They block off the part that does the body and the base to mould just the lids in clear plastic, then rotate the sprue and flush out the clear plastic from the extrusion screw and fill it with the coloured plastic to mould just the base and the lid. Everything is cooled, then the pieces, now gleaming and Bridge-shaped, are taken out.
If that didn’t make any sense, here’s a handy diagram.
The plastic parts for Little Printer have nearly all been manufactured, and they’re currently in the factory too. They’re ready for the holes for the buttons to be drilled out. We’re drilling out these holes instead of moulding them because if you include them in the mould, it changes the way the molten plastic flows and ruins the finish.