2017-03-13 Production Update:
The Painful Reality of Drilling 36,856 Holes
The last week of prototyping has been an enlightening one; I’ve discovered a number of design fixes that need to be made, which I’ve done my best to summarize below.Change 1: Reducing the number of holes
Quite simply put, my original design called for 280 stepped holes to be drilled in the closed decks, and 167 stepped holes in the open decks. For the volume of this project, that’s more than 36,000 holes that would need to be drilled. During prototyping, it didn’t take long to realize that (a) no (affordable) bit in the world has the tool life necessary to perform all (or even a good chunk) of these cuts, which is a tall ask given the bits need to go through 20+ plys of Baltic birch with tough adhesives that kill cutter life, and (b) just the CNC machine time alone would have added up to more than 80 hours – just for the hole drilling portion of the CNC process!
So, I’ve tried to address this most challenging part of the project in two ways: first, reducing the number of holes. Simply put, 280 holes in a single deck was overkill, and while it did add slightly to the versatility, the truth is that most of you will be storing bits that have cutters wider in diameter than their shank. By reducing the number of holes and spacing them out more practically, I’ve been able to reduce the hole count by a little more than half. Secondly, there’s simply no router bit that can do these holes, in this volume. Even the most expensive Vortex long-life carbide up-cut end-mills aren’t optimized to drill holes all day. For that process, I need a proper drill bit with a high helical flute angle to evacuate chips without building up too much heat. Fortunately, W.L. Fuller manufactures a stepped drill bit with the exact tolerances necessary to drill these holes. This means I can now reduce the drilling operation to a single process, rather than four individual processes involving three different bits. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope they will have the tool life necessary, but we’ll only know once the production starts in earnest. They can always be sharpened along the way.
Here is a depiction of the production version of the SYS3 kit – so you can get a feel for what the reduce hole count will look like:Caption 1: Here is how the SYS3 kit will look, with fewer holes. I’ve also removed the periphery, dedicated ¼” holes since those bits can be securely stowed in the stepped holes.Caption 2: This picture shows what the open deck will look like, with the closed deck beneath it.Caption 3: Here’s how the closed deck will look.Change 2: Eliminating narrow material walls
Based on issues with the prototype, I’ve increased the wall thickness along the pockets, and also thickened and brought in the risers. Basically, any walls less than 5mm in thickness have been fattened, since these walls were structurally rigid but tearout did occur on the surface veneer. Increasing the wall thickness fixes this problem.
On a related note, there were issues with the “through hole” for the FOG logo as well. Specifically, the material inside the “G” was hanging by a thread. So, I’ll be changing this to a slight, 0.50 mm pocket and will paint this lettering.Caption 4: Rather than the thru-cut for the FOG logo, this detail will be slightly recessed and painted in Festool green.Change 3: Improving balance and stack-ability
I’ve added “strong man powerlifting arms” to the risers to serve as a resting spot for the sides of the stacked decks, and will also be rounding over the slots on the underside of the decks, making it easier to “find” the mounts as you’re stacking them back into a Systainer.Caption 5: The risers now closely resemble Magnús Ver Magnússon.
Due to these design changes and the fact that I’m waiting on delivery of the stepped drills, the likelihood of this project shipping by the end of March is highly unlikely. This project will now be shipping in April or, worst case, May. I’ll strive to produce them as quickly as I can, and provide regular updates as the project continues. Most likely I will be producing these a few at a time, and will ship them in smaller batches in the order I received your pre-orders.
In summary, I’m making a number of changes that will improve the quality and manufacturability of the inserts. However, I also recognize that I’m changing the design midway into the project, after I’ve already accepted your pre-orders. I understand that some of these changes may no longer work for all customers, so I want to provide you an opportunity for a full refund now. Just reply back to this email and let me know if that’s the case – no hard feelings.
I appreciate the trust (and financing) you put into these inserts. Many of you have shelled out close to $100, and I recognize that's nothing to scoff at (even at Festool prices). But I want to make sure what you receive is of Festool quality, even if these rounds of refinement take a little longer than I had initially hoped.