Meanwhile in the real world
Up to this point we had the design, we’d thought of all the main components and how they interacted and we’d even 3d printed to almost full scale so all we had to do was find someone to make it for us… easy!
Actually not so easy… we now began a three month search to find somebody who could build it for us. We knew that we initially didn’t want to deal with China, due to the language barrier and the delays that could cause. We scoured the UK and Europe to no avail as the design was either too big and/or too complex to manufacture.
Eventually, and following a couple of false starts, Richard Parker, our Development Director, found a company in the West Midlands called RAM Extrusion so we got in the car and travelled down to Droitwich Spa armed with a video illustration for a meeting.
When we played the video to Allan Watts, RAM’s Managing Director, his eyes lit up. It transpired that RAM had worked on a building system previously and, using our methodology, we had solved the problems they had encountered with less parts. Were they interested in getting involved? What do you think?
The devil is in the detail
Whilst the development team had a lot of experience in manufacturing in plastic they didn’t have a lot of experience with extrusion as a method. Given that it is mainly used for making simple shapes like drainpipes which don’t need reinventing this is understandable. We were about to get a crash course in the dark arts of the extrude.
In an extruding machine, plastic is dropped in the top, melted and forced through a shape using a ram and then cooled down in water baths to bring it down to room temperature.
The hard bit, it transpires, is ensuring that when the plastic contracts as it cools it retains its shape… if that doesn’t happen when you come to put two pieces together they don’t form a perfect box shape. Fair play to the guys at RAM, they knew what they were doing and only small, but critical, changes were needed to the design and it worked pretty much straight away
We could now build a wall!
The next question was whether we could make a building.