Saturday, 17 September 2016

Updated Wiring Kits: More Choice, More Firepower!

We're always looking to expand the range of our kits for various blasters and as such we've revamped our wiring kit offerings. Now that we're stocking MTB Hellcat 180 motors, some of our older looms need a bit of a shake up to be able to hand the insane levels of current that these motors demand.

To that end, we've created several new lines and consolidated a bunch of products. We've merged all our semi-automatic blaster wiring looms into 2 listings: SA Standard Power and SA High Power MOSFET wiring kits. We've taken the decision to offer MOSFET kits in all cases (well, except one) for the sake of simplicity in installation. While a micro switch offers a marginally simpler circuit, a micro switch install requires a good deal of grinding and gluing to get to fit. Generally speaking, wiring in a MOSFET that uses the stock trigger to switch handle high current loads is faster to install than a micro switch and presents with far less cleaning up. Plus it has the benefit of removing high current switching gear from the trigger group (in most cases).

We have our universal wiring diagram for semi-auto blasters, just swap in the appropriate lengths of wire and the right MOSFET for your motor combination (supplied with the appropriate kit) and you're good to go.

In addition, we've created the new High Power Rapidstrike wiring kit that contains a heavy duty MOSFET to lift the amount of current demanded by a Hellcat 180 flywheel motor with Honey Badger 130 pusher. More details below.

Standard Power Wiring Kits:
These are designed for your stock, MTB Rhino and MTB Honey Badger motors on LiPos that don't have too much in the way of current demand and have been proven over the last year or so to be resilient and effective. This category contains our Stryfe, Demolisher and other semi-automatic blaster wiring kits that you might have become familiar. They use 49A rated MOSFETs and 18AWG silicone coated wire. For the first time, we've also added a Rayven wiring kit and are currently adding new kits for blasters like the Desolator. The Fearless Fire and Doomlands Incisor are also on the way.

Our standard Rapidstrike switch kit and the Rapidstrike wiring and switch upgrade kits both fall into this category and remain unchanged.

High Power Wiring Kits:
MTB Hellcats are primarily responsible for this one because they draw 22A at stall, more per motor than a pair of Rhinos combined. For these, a higher powered wiring kit more akin to the Rival Zeus wiring loom is needed so we've added a 130A rated MOSFET and 16AWG wire in order to minimise resistance in the circuit and to get the best out of your blaster.

For the first time we're also in a position to offer a high powered Rapidstrike kit in order to meet the need for the insane combination that is a 3S MTB Hellcat/Honey Badger flywheel/pusher set up. The stall current for this rig comes in at ~65A and so a beefy 130A MOSFET coupled with 16AWG wire gives you the best possible current carrying capacity and in turn response time and muzzle velocity at higher rates of fire.

Stryfe Micro Switch Kit:
We have chosen to retain the Stryfe Micro Switch kit as a mechanical option for stock motors on 3x IMRs and a dummy cell. For the novice modder, a simple switch circuit can be a good entry route into the world of electrical modding without the hassle of LiPo. It won't give you the best blaster in the world but it's a good start. This kit can handle LiPos but isn't guaranteed to, the switches have been known to melt after extended use.

So there you have it, a bunch of new products and simplified listings. The march of technology for flywheel blasters is ongoing. MTB Hellcats can average 130FPS in a Stryfe with just stock flywheels and cages, something that was unthinkable a year ago. By supplying these kits, we hope to get as many players running cutting edge, competitive blasters at their games.

If you've got any questions or need a hand, the folks over at BritNerf are always great for a chat and generally useful. If you've got a specific order enquiry then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

MD, Blastersmiths UK

Monday, 29 August 2016

Stryfe Magazine Release Levers

Release levers for the Stryfe have been around a while now and a number of different places offer them as a quick printed option. This Green Cloaks season, however, I've seen 2 of them snap and more than a dozen times I've seen accidental magazine drops because the lever is too long. To that end, I took on a client's request to produce a lever that balanced security with ergonomics. We tested it extensively during the last event of the year and I'm happy to say here it is.

It's small and mighty, doing the job. It's rock solid but adds enough length over the stock button version that you can get your mag out of there without the problems associated with a longer lever.

These new levers are also available in our full palette of filament colours ranging from grey to white with two shades of blue and green in there among others.

Versions for other blasters are in the pipeline, too. I'm currently looking at the Rapidstrike, Demolisher and Modulus. Once I get my hands on a Desolator that'll join the list, too.

Stryfe Magazine release levers are available for £3.50 per unit from our website from 29th August 2016.


Monday, 2 May 2016

Er, slight tweak to the previous... - 3D Printing Service

This has to be have been one of the weirdest decisions of my business career but here it goes: Blastersmiths UK cannot offer black 3D printed products until further notice. If you've paid for black parts and have them outstanding, you'll likely get an email shortly offering you a refund or choice of other colours.

Why is this cropping up now? Well, story time. The closure was triggered by contaminated black filament bricking our entire suite. We literally lost entire printers to a gunky mass of dust and otherwise contaminated PLA. It did all sorts of numbers on our hardware. We had to strip down, clear, rebuild and reconfigure large chunks of it to get ourselves operational again. Those printers would literally not print because of damaged parts caused by contaminated filament. We've done that over the last 2 or 3 weeks. The printers had been functioning solidly for 24 hours before we made yesterday's announcement across a range of colours. The premium black we were using was flowing fine and all was good. Then after a fixed number of printer hours, our hot ends started refusing to print black - of any brand or quality. We were able to reproduce the bug and we can confirm that our hot ends will not feed black filament past 2 hours of printer time, irrespective of contamination. They will clog, we clear them out and swap to another colour and everything prints fine. We can even switch back to black each time and get another 2 hours. The window between the start of printing in black and the first failure was ~24 hours but now we're down to a reproducible window of roughly 2 hours. Sadly rotating through colours is not sustainable as the failure often occurs mid print resulting in lots of wasted time and filament.

We have no idea why this bug has cropped up now when we've printed dozens of kilos of black filament in the past year. We are in touch with our hot end manufacturers and both filament suppliers to see what's what. The bug is sensitive to the quality of filament, too: the premium grade stuff we're using as a stop gap has a better half-life than the last of the known good bulk stuff but the bug is still there. The weirdest part is every other colour we can print does that - it prints! To that end, we can only offer non-black parts until we resolve this.

On the bright side, I've got some silver and brass filaments I'm going to be adding to the options to widen the array of colours available. I'll be looking to add more in the coming days.

As weird bugs go, this one takes the biscuit. We really are scratching our heads on this one. :D Black parts will be restored to the website as soon as we've fixed this bug...

-Mike Harratt
Blastersmiths UK

Sunday, 1 May 2016

We're back in black! - 3D Printing Service Re-opens

We're back! After 2 and a half weeks of herculean effort from our team, we're back with our full range of products with the printers ready to work flat out to fill orders. We're still clearing a bit of a back log and we're still a couple of printers down but we've got things in hand. The frames that are offline are due to come on stream in the next week and the ones that are running have more capacity than when we closed.

We are currently using emergency stop gap filament to print black but it's literally the best stuff you can buy so there aren't any concerns there. It will print until judgement day and is just lovely. We'd use it normally were it not for the obscene cost. Orange and dark blue remain unchanged and we've been able to build up a bit of stock of products in those colours while the entire suite now begins to catch up with black parts orders.

What's next? Well, as I said, we've got a couple more printers to bring back on stream in the next week. The parts for those will be here Wednesday so I'm expecting full operational capability by next weekend. That'll give me 80% of the printers (and capacity) I need to cut the lead time from 4 weeks to 2 weeks. From there, we've just bought a new configuration of extruder drive that will allow us to print using direct drive rather than using our current Bowden tubes. That will let us print faster, with more precision and less post processing to remove over-extrusion dribbles and strings. Once installed on our current frames, it should provide us the last 20% of capacity that we can use to drop the lead time permanently to 2 weeks. The best part is that it's built for exciting new materials like NinjaFlex and other flexible 3D printing filaments so we can really start to expand our capabilities in the next year or so. From there, it'll be a case of simply adding more frames to add to our capacity. We're pretty happy with the home-brew system we use and it's built to scale up perfectly to as many printers as we need.

It's been a long few months and I'm reasonably confident our bulk supplier has changed things up their end sufficiently to prevent a repeat of this mess. The breathing space this closure has given us has allowed for some serious upgrade planning in the next few months. With the new drives and a few other bits and pieces that we're working to bring to the suite, we're coming out of this in better shape than we came in.

Thank you again to everyone for their support over the last few months, it's very much appreciated.

Mike Harratt
Managing Director
Blastersmiths UK

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Update II: 3D Printing Service Closure

In an effort to keep everyone up to date as much as possible, here's another update.

First the bad news: we received a shipment of filament from our supplier late last week. Upon inspection of the batch numbers, it was from the same contaminated batch that bricked the suite the first time out. Needless to say, we were exceptionally cautious about feeding it through our hot ends and so have left it in the boxes. Efforts to contact the supplier were slightly hampered by Green Cloaks E1 at the weekend. However, I've received an email in the last hour from our guy over at the filament manufacturer apologising and promising to get us a new, non-contaminated batch sent today. That means our bulk black should be here Monday. In the mean time, I've got a UK supplier I'm going to call to see if I can get some filament from them posted to us for tomorrow. That way, I can get black printing before the weekend and the re-opening of the service. Otherwise, we are printing happily in every colour that's not black.

And then there's the good news: we've been adding capacity as we go during the closure; tweaking bits and pieces. We've made some modifications and tweaks to our existing printers to vastly improve their foot print and with good quality filament, we'll be able to increase their speed too. That means even more capacity than we were expecting before the extra frames come online.

Thank you again to everyone for your support during this difficult run. We've been working hard to make best use of the time given to us by this closure. When we open again, we should have enough capacity to start development again and bring you shiny new things.

Mike Harratt
MD, Blastersmiths UK

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Update: 3D Printing Service Closure

I just thought I'd post a quick update on how things are progressing at this end with regards to our printer services. We've managed to restore 50% of capacity at this stage and it's remaining stable. We're currently awaiting parts for the other 50% and that should come back on stream week beginning 25th April. In short, in terms of capacity we're on track to re-open on 1st May as previously predicted. I'm also going to return the Rapidstrike wiring kits to the site since we've got our main printer for those back and can produce those  very, very quickly. Given that colour for those doesn't matter, they're the first thing to return to the website.

We are, however, still stuck in terms of black filament. It was black that knocked us off line in the first place. We're down to our last half kilo of known good filament and our reserve supplier can't supply enough to feed the beast as it were. Our original supplier is still over-hauling their machinery and processes to prevent a repeat of this episode. That will take sometime, apparently. I've got kilo after kilo of orange and blue filament ready to go so if I contact you with regards to your order, you will very likely get an offer to change over to another colour free of charge. Of course, a full refund is still on offer if your order is delayed and hasn't been posted or we can delay your order until the black filament situation is resolved.

So yeah, that's how things are at this end. Thank you everyone for your messages of support. It means a lot to know we have such a great community behind us that'll stick by us even in the tough times. In return, we'll do everything we can to keep the communication channels open and keep people in the loop.

Thank you all again,

Mike Harratt
Managing Director
Blastersmiths UK

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

3D Printer Service Closure: 13th April - May 1st 2016

As of today, 13th April 2016, I am closing the Blastersmiths UK 3D printing service to new orders to retail clients until 1st May. Our resellers will still be able to order stuff but we will not be accepting website orders from the general public until the start of May.

I hate having to do these sorts of posts but it's for the best at the end of the day. We need some breathing room to fix some pretty serious problems that have occurred that have been out of our control. I've detailed why I'm taking this step but the tl;dr is I need to look out for my staff and to keep the promises we make to our clients who are good enough to trust us with their hard earned money.

I ordered on [date], when will I get my stuff?
Current orders will be processed in the order they were received but the lead times might be a little elastic and each individual client will be kept up to date via email as we go. If it looks like your lead time is going to breach, you will be the first to know. In all cases, the offer of a full refund is available, no questions asked, should you wish to take that option. The only caveat is that your order mustn’t been dispatched.

What the hell happened?!
3 things. First, we're in the process of replacing our old Prusa Mendel fleet with better printers that are more reliable, print faster and print the mirror finish that can be seen on our Stryfe tray expanders, among other printers. We're in the process of migrating as the old Mendels fail and become time sinks to repair. While those are being decommissioned, we're adding new MTW printers and working out the scaling bugs. That process is putting a lot of strain on our team who have to juggle printing actual orders with printing parts for printers and routine, preventative maintenance.

Second, we're getting hugged to death by orders - even when we're adding an average of a printer a month. We've received a large surge in the last couple of days and are already pushing at our 4 week lead time for printed parts in 75% of orders. With a migration in progress, it was going to be a stretch to cope even with adding extra capacity. With my team juggling that migration and adding extras, a brief closure is good for their sanity in the long run. :)

However, the straw that broke the camel's back was a filament supply problem. Our suppliers produced a batch of black that contained significant degrees of micro-contamination that accumulated in our hot ends and rendered 90% of our capacity inoperable in the space of a few hours. The process of clearing, repairing parts and sourcing new filament has taken a significant amount of our time (on the order of 2 weeks), obliterating our capacity in the process. With our team stretched as it is so we opted for some breathing room to give us time to sort this mess out. We have human beings at this end and their welfare is my first priority followed closely by keeping our promises to our customers.

With this brief closure, my team can focus on salvaging our current capacity and adding more while we work out the issue with our filament supply. We have enough known good filament in reserve to fill outstanding orders and an emergency alternative standing by if that doesn't cover everything. We've planned for this contingency for a long time and I'm sad to have to activate it.

On the bright side, once we're back on line we should have twice as many printers printing twice as fast.

Can I still order stuff while you're offline?
It's technically just the website that is closing so yes but your lead time will start on 1st May and will be six weeks - don't expect your stuff to leave us until mid-June. If you want to order stuff during the closure, drop us an email and we'll work via PayPal invoice. I hear you ask why can you take PayPal orders but not website ones? Well, we have some limited capacity available so we'll be able to cope with a lower order volume and closing the website should stop us getting hugged to death. This way we can balance keeping a core element of the business alive while being able to recover from quite a serious set of knock backs.

What about your other lines?
Tactical gear, embroidery work, springs and motors are not affected. However, please note that the part shipping rule still applies. We've got enough going on here in the office without needing to track half-deliveries. The more we do that, the more risk of something going wrong and we hate to disappoint our clients.

If you've any questions or enquiries then please don't hesitate to drop us an email and we'll have a chat. :)

Thank you to all our clients, partners and friends in the community,

Mike Harratt
Managing Director, Blastersmiths UK