This, without any apology, is going to be me gushing about how incredible my husband is. Hopefully, you'll also hear about prototyping at Good and Basic Manufacturing and how new products are born, but you have been warned.
Every product at Good and Basic starts when Joseph thinks, "Huh. I bet I could make one of those." He personally designed the wool combs, hackles, charkhas, and Irish tension wheels available on the Etsy shop.
"Designed" encompasses a few different steps. First, Joseph studies existing models and their variants, generally through pictures or videos. Imagine a montage here of about a week's worth of research. Some products, like the charkha, are harder to find online. So, he watched a black and white documentary in Hindi. (At least, I think it was Hindi. I don't speak any of the Indian languages.) He also looked up old designs and photos of book charkhas.
After the research, he builds a 3D file using design software. This step can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple of months, depending on the complexity of the design. The wool combs, for example, weren't as complex as the Irish tension wheel.
Once he designs the 3D files, he slices them using an intermediary program. It's kind of like a translator between the design software and the printer. The slicing helps him to fit the design to a specific printer bed. We use Creality Ender 3 printers, which I've named Skeeter, Ivan, D'artagnan, El Cid, Felicia, and Maurice.
Once the files have been sliced, he prints a prototype. Products can take anywhere from 4 to 30 hours of print time, assuming that they don't fail due to bed leveling, filament, or extruder issues. We've literally had prints fail on the last two or three layers. Talk about adding insult to injury. Joseph maintains each printer, replacing parts and calibrating as necessary.
Now! At the end of all that, we have a prototype.
And guess what? It generally needs adjustments. Meaning, back to the design board to tweak a millimeter here or a curve there. Then it's slice, send, and print. If we're lucky, the piece is ready. More often than not, we collect prototypes like Christmas ornaments. Finally, at the end of the process, we have a product that works.
Incidentally, per Good and Basic Manufacturing's mission to provide low-cost fiber technology to those who need it, all of the design files for the charkha and spinning wheels are available for free on Thingiverse. Yep. That's right. Absolutely free. If you have a 3D printer or know someone who does, you can slice and print your own files. You can also print files via a local maker space.
Well, wait--you might be wondering--if all of the files are free, then how do you run a business?
Carefully. Very carefully. We keep the right filaments--blue, red, bronze, and silver--in stock. Unless, of course, there's a filament shortage. Then we sweat, waiting for the filament to arrive (or even to come back in stock). Not all filaments are created equal, and the worst ones gum up extruders or crack under tension. We print or purchase modifications for the printers to increase efficiency. And, we dry out our eyeballs watching prints over a period of several hours (or several days).
Joseph tells me that anyone can run a print shop, and that he would love to see more people running small scale manufacturing at home. While I do love the ability to print anything we want, I love even more having Joseph as a maintenance technician.
But, and he would want for me to point this out, he taught himself everything he knew. Print temperatures for filament, the differences between extruders, bed leveling techniques, and all of the design software--he learned it all from free resources online. So, theoretically, anyone with those same resources could run a print farm. I mean, if you wanted to.
Since most people don't, however, that's why we run Good and Basic Manufacturing on Etsy. Anyone who wants to can have access to affordable appropriate technology without babysitting their 3-D printers. Ivan may or may not be my favorite. Don't tell the others.
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Joseph & Aubrey Bjork