A Case Study in Collaboration with Aleph Objects, Inc
“What do you get when you combine E3D’s popular Titan Aero Extruder and HotEnd with our peerless design standards and quality manufacturing? You get the next generation of versatile, user-friendly LulzBot tool heads that can now print with BOTH solid and flexible material – the TAZ Aerostruder, and the Mini Aerostruder” - Lulzbot ®, 2018
Aleph Objects, Inc. are a fully globalised firm serving a selection of markets within the additive manufacturing industry; the most successful of these being their Lulzbot ® 3D Printers. As a testament to their own quality, Lulzbot 3D Printers consist of 3D printed parts made in Aleph’s ‘printer farm’ by over 100 other Lulzbot 3D Printers.
Being open-source grants the community the ability to use and experiment with Aleph Objects’ catalogue freely, which in turn provides powerful feedback. It is the utilisation of this feedback which has allowed Aleph Objects to employ a continuous improvement strategy so successfully; because who better to show you how to improve your range of products than that of the community themselves? Powerfully, this also acts as a continuous experiential marketing campaign for Aleph Objects; challenging users to create and cooperate on community projects.
Collaborating in this manner has arguably been most successful with the Lulzbot 3D Printer range. As it stands today, Lulzbot 3D printers are the second highest rated desktop printer in the world, come recommended by 98% of customers and are sold transnationally from fulfilment centres located all over the world.
Ever since the second TAZ edition, Lulzbot have employed their continuous improvement strategy to the design and production processes of each new 3D printer release. Lulzbot’s HotEnds underwent the exact same treatment from TAZ 5 onwards - their commissioned Hexagon HotEnd would receive several upgrades over its life span. It was here that Aleph Objects became aware of a trend in the community. Many users of TAZ printers were removing the prefitted hexagon HotEnds to replace them with E3D HotEnds. In fact, this was the community’s most popular modification for Lulzbot printers. This suggests that the community believe that E3D HotEnds were the superior HotEnd.
Why Did They Choose E3D?
- Could print flexible materials (the Hexagon HotEnd required an entirely new toolhead to print them reliably)
- Experienced less clogging in the nozzles
- Printed cleaner and more accurate prints (less stringing and blobbing).
- Provided an improved, smoother, surface finish on top faces.
Turning to the HotEnd Experts
As a firm who continuously take opportunities to improve their product range, Aleph Objects wanted to upgrade their printers with a new next-generation HotEnd; but unfortunately, lacked the in-house expertise to design and manufacture one. It was here that Aleph Objects sought a collaboration with E3D Online (who’s experience and expertise with developing impeccable HotEnds remains second to none) who were eager to help "it was a conscious choice to choose the best reviewed and reported HotEnd that our customers have experimented with…everybody loves E3D" – Brent & Tyler, Lulzbot ®
Aleph Objects provided E3D with a set of features that they wanted to achieve with the newly designed HotEnd. Aleph Objects had access to both E3D’s signature technology and adept expertise in pursuit of their vision - a powerful, high flow-rate HotEnd similar to the E3D Volcano, but able to keep step with the rapid speeds of TAZ 3D printers. It would also have to conform with Lulzbot’s tongue-in-cheek branding protocols. The MOARstruder was a success and was met with such acclaim Lulzbot decide to come back to E3D for further tool head collaborations. Before the end of 2016 E3D had collaborated on four separate tool heads with Lulzbot each more impressive and unique than the last. As a result, E3D’s partnership with Lulzbot has grown strong and fruitful.
It’s a brisk winter evening, Sanjay Mortimer is sipping tea in his Oxford office in the E3D headquarters, everyone has else long since left the office.
But this doesn’t trouble Sanjay, who is deeply lost in the complex flavours of his cup of Assam (1 milk, 2 sugars). Until he is suddenly jolted awake by his ringing phone.
“Why, hello Brent Imhoff – Product Specialist at Aleph Objects, how the devil are you?.. Design you another tool head you say? Hmm, yes, we’d be delighted to.”
Brent explained that this time Lulzbot were after a tool head modelled after the Titan Aero that:
- Was capable of printing both solid and flexible materials
- More compact and lightweight that previous Lulzbot tool heads
- Was capable of the impressive cooling methods achieved by the Titan Aero.
- Prints smoother and more even layers than previous Lulzbot tool heads
As E3D is UK based and Lulzbot US, forging a global team was vital. This allowed collaborative workflows by making use of connectivity technologies and compromising for time difference affecting other members. Members of the global team included: E3D’s accomplished engineering division; E3D’s seasoned directors; Roger, a personal account manager and Rory, an elite E3D engineer who collaboratively planned, forecast, oversaw and reported progress on the project at every step of the way.
E3D deliver a unique style of collaboration uncontested by others in the industry. Their standard for excellence has been achieved by a continuous desire to build and improve the community as a whole through:
- Breaking barriers with futuristic innovations
- Improving easability for today’s individuals and businesses to print anything they desire
- Supplying their product range of industry favourites to other OEMs in the community much like Lulzbot
They owe this success to following their winning formula of the E3D’s 4Ps of service. (This is in no way inspired by Phillip Kotler’s outdated ramblings about how businesses fail if they are poorly located.)
For informational purposes it should be noted: E3D Online spent its first few months of its life successfully operating from Dave’s bedroom… in the Isle of Wight
Our 4 P’s of Service
Eager to get stuck in, E3D worked efficiently with Lulzbot from day 1 and as a result were able to create an initial specification in less than two weeks. E3D handled the prototyping effectively and turnaround was complete in less than a couple of weeks.
E3D provided an Account Manager to handle the entire process, ensuring all legal, financial and logistical needs were met. E3D strives to make collaborating with them an easy and exciting experience. For instance, during this collaboration all testing and iteration was performed independently in-house and only supplied Lulzbot with any crucial findings.
Out of E3D’s many established proficiencies, Aleph Objects sought their innovative engineering and production abilities. On behalf of Aleph Objects, E3D:
- Designed two new nozzles
- Scaled these up to manufacture
- Provided production, assembly and shipping of several hundred HotEnds right to Aleph Objects' doorstep
- Provided a state-of-the-art quality control process measuring assembly integrity, reports and quality control logs.
Alongside the production of specialist tool heads, E3D implemented a new innovative design idea. Each pre-assembled HotEnd would be rigorously tested throughout assembly, logging data such as: heater power, heat up time, cool down time, sensor accuracy, and electrical insulation.
Final results of this ‘titan proportioned’ collaboration delivered not only the TAZ Aerostruder tool head, but also the Mini Aerostruder tool head to market. With neatly organised wiring and an innovative 360o active cooling system (a first for the Lulzbot brand), these new tool heads are expanding the capabilities of Lulzbot printers all over the world both have experienced universal praise and when the toolheads share the same USPs and internals as E3D’s iconic Titan Aero- success was basically inevitable.
E3D and Lulzbot have now collaborated on five different toolheads, The MOARstruder, the TAZ Dual Extruder, the TAZ Aerostruder, the Mini Aerostruder and now the recently announced Aerostruder v2 Micro, which brings the USPs of E3D’s Titan Aeros to the Lulzbot ecosystem.