Virtual engineering with Fusion 360
Last night I worked way into the wee small hours, tinkering with AutoDesk Fusion 360. Besides this whole 3D printing of a custom enclosure for the TaNC field units, I'm also looking into off-the-shelf or custom metal enclosures - just to hedge my bets.
I found a likely candidate from a Japanese manufacturer, and the dimensions of their standard profiles are really close to what I'm looking for. To avoid unnecessary and potentially costly mistakes, I tried to "fit" a 3D model of the motherboard I intend to use inside a 3D extrusion of the Japanese enclosure - straight from the CAD drawing thy helpfully posted. And... it fits! Including internal standoffs and mounting screws.
Today I contacted a regional reseller to get a price estimate for this enclosure, reduced in length to match my motherboard.
As an alternative, I've also contacted a local aluminum profile manufacturer to determine the cost of producing my own (adapted) version of this enclosure. This would only make sense in larger numbers: engineering the extrusion die is one thing, but the minimal extrusion order is by weight - ca. 1000 kg of material, enough for 8000 enclosures!
Oh well, let's just dream about the time I manage to sell 8k TaNC units...
More 3D filaments
After some discussions with Jones, I ordered more filaments for the production of the custom enclosures, as well as the special presentation stand.
This came in via UPS this morning:
Two reels of Ultramarine Blue PLA/PHA for the enclosures, one reel of special "copper fill" for the presentation stand and some samples of brass and bronze, for Jonas to experiment.
Apparently these metal-filled filaments can be used to print structures which can be polished to a shine!
By the way, all these filaments are produced in The Netherlands so the material mileage is lower than those cases from Japan.
Preparing for the critics
Today I wrote a lot of content for the presentation website, in part in preparation for the submission of my startup to the people at The Next Web, where I hope to get selected into the Bootstrap program. But even before that submission, I had my wife and daughter look at the content as well as style and layout. They were both favorably impressed, I hope the The Next Web people feel the same...
Playing around with 3D design software
In the coming months I intend to visit potential partners as well as a networking event, to show off my wares, so I've been discussing the creating of a display stand with Jonas. This weekend I spent some time on Autodesk Fusion 360, trying to visualize what I was thinking about. This is the result so far:
The first technical video is up!
In an effort to explain the technical features of the tnw suite, I've created a set of PowerPoint slides with detailed animations. With a lot of tinkering and tweaking, I think these animations look pretty cool too, showing off the company logo and colors as well.
I'll split these animations into short animated GIFs as well, so I can add descriptive texts on the website for the really, really interested people.
New 3D printing filaments came in
My 3D-printing partner Jonas expressed an interest in new printing materials, from FormFutura. Although most are not applicable to this project, these new materials are actually quite revolutionary: there are multiple kinds of wood, gel-like materials and even sandstone!
Further integration with social media
At some point I will have to start addressing my people network. I'm a regular user of MailChimp, so I set up a profile there for this company. Getting my existing contact details in, proved to be a bit tricky. For example Facebook does not provide a direct export facility. Following a tutorial on Youtube, I managed to get it working, but only with a lot of manual work in Excel and such. LinkedIn was much easier - they do have a direct export to CSV, which MailChimp can read.
Now a new challenge pops up: with FB and LI combined, I'm approaching the maximum list size allowed in my unpaid MailChimp account. I need to weed out duplicates before I start spamming my friends - and I will!
Apparently it is possible to add a signup form to the MailChimp list on the Weebly site (in addition of course to Facebook and LinkedIn pages. I'll be looking into that later.
Everybody enjoy the Easter Weekend, I'm trying to avoid my computer for a little while - stretch my legs, get some fresh air.
I'm working with a 3D-printing specialist to create the unit enclosure, and we recently produced the next prototype. 3D-printing is a very exciting technique in this phase of product development, as it offers several cool options (construction, material selection and of course rapid turnarounds), but it has some challenges as well. Slowly we're finding out where these challenges are surmountable and so far it's going well:
This box incorporates the (optional) WiFi antenna (the motherboard supports 802.11b/g/n), as well as a single status LED. One of the team members is working on a multicolor LED to provide multiple visual signals. This RGB-LED won't protrude as much as this red one (preferably it will be flush with the enclosure.
Jonas was able to put the company logo recessed on the top of the box, and the name recessed/raised on the side.
I contacted several people to help out on the various software development challenges, but haven't made much progress. I'll keep looking...
As part of a series of interviews to gather feedback on the TiNC Works! concept, I recently spoke with several network specialists and managers, as well as representatives from Managed Network Providers (no names!). I received very useful feedback, most if not all VERY positive. We even set a tentative date for an alfa deployment sometime later this year. Very exciting!
Even though the company is far from a "real" business, I want to share this adventure with my friends and colleagues - so I'm linking up this site with those social media I use myself, i.e. Facebook and LinkedIn. To do this properly, I need to create/update pages on those systems as well as improve the company home site. So, where to start?
I made some changes to the main site before republishing so any new visitor will see a clean site. I added "social buttons", so to fill these in correctly, I had to build a page - first on Facebook, then on LinkedIn. The main challenge: what content to put where? For now I'm just making up content and copying left-to-right.
Weebly UI considerations
Weebly is a cool tool to quickly build a website - but not to build a shop! Besides being limited to 5 products in the unpaid version, modifying these products is slow and cumbersome. I couldn't even get the correct price to show up for our main product. Eventually I just hid that main product from the shop - wouldn't want to give away the secrets too early, right?
Besides this, I need to get used to some of the interesting ways Weebly handles language settings as well as what some element settings are called - and how they work. But I'm learning quickly...
Any self-respecting business or project needs a web presence: to invite people, to inform, to share. As a new venture, TiNC Works! is no exception to the rule: all of the preliminary ideas, concepts, visualizations need to become visible - to potential customers, backers, friends.
Today I'm starting this process by setting up a new site - not by slaving away on HTML and CSS, but by clicking away on Weebly.
First of all, I really don't want to do hardcore web development - that's not what this endeavor is about. The point-and-click of a service such as Weebly's hides all that. Instead I get to choose a professional theme so I can focus on content rather that technology.
Secondly, at this point in time there is no revenue for the nascent company, so a free trial is just as well. This still allows me to focus on content development without worrying too much about up-front cost.
Thirdly, I already have a Weebly account, to run my existing business Tirion Networks & Communications.
So far, so good. Please feel free to take a look around - I couldn't stop you if I wanted to: that would require a paid account.
The next couple of days I'll slowly fill in the pages I've defined so far - both to experiment with Weebly's features as well as to clarify the message I'm trying to send to all visitors.
Feel free also to drop a message on the blog pages, or send me a personal mail at email@example.com. I'll enable a better mail account soon, to fit with the company's domain @tinc.works.
Jeroen J.A. Tirion is a networker by training. After "discovering" computers in 1982, he has been working in the field of computer networks since 1990 - with a particular focus on performance as perceived by the end-user.