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CaseLabs Q&A Session: January 2015 AMA Recap

Questions 21 And 22

Q. Have you ever had a case made with Nixie tubes?

A. That sounds like a really cool mod, but I don't know about making a production case with them.

Q. When I finally make that investment I would most likely be interested in your custom design services. Are your custom design services limited to modifications to your existing designs and templates? Or are your custom services able to produce an entirely new chassis within the limits of the materials and your machinery?

A. Thank you for your admiration, but we do not offer custom services like you may think. Our cases are customizable within an option group. Meaning you can select color, door style, radiator figment..etc. The other aspect of customization we offer is with our case accessory line. Custom services that require reprogramming of parts is not something we can offer for a number of reasons. In the very early days is was something we tired, but we found out that it just wasn't a practical thing to offer. This was our official post when we decided to no longer offer custom parts;

We have made a difficult decision to permanently suspend custom orders.

In the interest of having an open dialog with the community about why we have taken this step:

There is a big difference between a mod shop and a production facility even if the production company is small (like us). It’s perfectly understandable though how it may be hard to distinguish the difference between the two if you don’t have experience in those environments. One is optimized to efficiently produce one-off parts while the other is optimized to produce many parts. The two don’t cross over well because they are run very differently.

Many of the change requests we get require altering the fabrication process. For example: adding 10mm to the height of a top cover. That “simple” change requires: (1) an extended conversation with the customer to confirm what is need, (2) Engineering/programming for the CNC machines, (3) Drawings to be created so that machine operators know what they are making, (4) Machine setup on two major work centers (taking them off-line from production work) and several minor work centers, (5) Job-tracking for a single item job, (6) Full Q/C and test fit for a single item.

Doing all that is expensive, so a part like that should cost $250-$300 (and honestly I wouldn’t want to do it at that price for the reasons below). Of course, people would balk at that and claim that they were being “ripped off”, so we’ve charged much less. I even had one guy in a very similar example get very upset because were “only adding a few dollars’ worth of aluminum” to the cost of the part. Of course, he missed the obvious, but that’s what we have to deal with on a regular basis. To be honest, it’s not worth the hassle.

The more complicated issue is that as we get more successful, the demand for custom parts grows with it. Aside from the economic issues, it would quickly get to a point where we could do nothing else. Had we not suspended custom parts last fall, the S8 would never have been produced and accessory development would come to a standstill.

Our goal has been to make our cases easier to modify, so there is less need for custom parts. We have more “blank” parts and most of our cases now are made up of individual panels that can be replaced. We’ll continue to add more options and accessories as we see demand for them.

While some changes are easier than others, the issues of playing favorites comes up (“Why did you make his part and not mine?”). Ultimately it’s a lose-lose proposition. That’s not to say that you won’t ever see prototype or “concept” parts from time to time. We’ll occasionally test the waters that way, but we control the design, so it’s a different thing.

You have all been great and I can’t tell you how much we value your support. That’s why I thought it was important to have an open and honest discussion of the issues behind this.