Transcript of Within Tolerance Podcast Episode 94 Ft. Michael Sargent
Welcome back to within tolerance podcast, a podcast for machinists by machinists. I’m your host, Dylan Jackson from Proteum Machining. And this week I'm joined by Michael Sargent, of Sargent Research, Gear Fur, Carbon Tactics, and now Flux Workholding. So welcome, Michael.
Thanks, Dylan. It's great to be here. I think you covered everything there.
So for those who don't follow you on social media or any, or haven't seen your products, where can they find you online? So they can pull this stuff up and follow along
Fluxworkholding.com is the main place because that's our line of machine vises. That's probably most relevant to everybody listening right now. Also carbontactics.com, which has our line of tactical belts and gearfur.com, which is our line of high-end dog leashes.
Yeah, definitely guys pull that up and you're on Instagram as well, right? It's @carbontactics, @gearfur, and @fluxworkholding.
Awesome. So yeah, pull those up if you want to check his stuff out and if you haven't before and, let's jump into it. How did you get into manufacturing? Because you've got kind of an interesting path into machining and manufacturing and I think it's a really cool story.
So my background is actually in engineering originally, I'd say I'm 50% engineer and 50% machinist. I actually think the line between those two things is kind of blurring as time goes on. Oh, it's great for me. I'm in just the right spot, I think, but I can explain a little bit more later why I think that is, but I have a degree in aerospace engineering and I'm a self-taught machinist. I actually started my business doing engineering consulting originally. I was working in the UAV industry, designing drones, and then I also did quite a bit of consulting work in the semiconductor industry, doing motion control systems, some really, really high precision in a vacuum at cryogenic temperature nanometre type tolerances. Oh wow. Stuff. Yeah. Definitely learned a lot from each of those industries. But as time went on, I continued doing consulting, which is basically just being a freelance engineer. But as time went on, I started developing my own products and selling them online. And over time that escalated ended up taking over the business. And today the product line that we just launched is Flux Workholding, which is our line of quick change machine vises. But we didn't just start making machine vises. The machine vises were really a solution to the problem of how to make a whole bunch of small parts really quickly as a one man shop.
I know I came by your shop a week or two ago, and it was super cool to see your shelf of kind of the evolution of the Flux Workholding vise line. You know, it was, I really think, I mean, that might be a good social media post or something because it was really cool to see how your mind worked kind of in creating, you know, you, you had that first set that was just like the collapsible ones and then you had more hardened ones and it's been really cool to seeing how that has kind of evolved into your current line.
Yeah. So the vise has really started with, as a lot of things do a Kickstarter project. About five years ago, I launched a product called quicky, which is a magnetic tactical belt on Kickstarter. And we set the goal at $25,000 because I figured that was kind of the minimum amount that I needed either to make it economically viable, outsourcing the parts to a, another machine shop or getting my own machine. And we ended up surpassing that goal by quite a bit. And that basically enabled me to put a nice down payment on a brother Speedio CNC.
So let's step Back a little bit before quicky, even. So you started with a desktop machine though. So what initially, you know, you were doing all this engineering contract work, what initially wanted you to buy a desktop machine and then how did that kind of come about?
I was doing a lot of on the designing, the drones. I designed a lot of composite parts, you know, carbon fiber wings and fuselages and things like that for small drones. And I wanted to be able to make the tooling, the molds for making those composite parts as well. And the little three axis CNC router that I got was able to do that basically using a tooling board for the molds. And it actually works surprisingly well. Awesome. When I bought the, the router, all the examples I found were like just 2 D machining, flat parts, but I assumed I could do a mold. And if you're really, really patient you can.
So what kind of router was it?
It was a Romaxx. I don't know if you're familiar with those, but I think I've seen it in the community or online. Yeah. And that was, I got that router when I first started the business. So it was about 10 years ago. So I basically just use that router for probably around four years or so. And I actually, you know, the first products I sold through Kickstarter, I made on that router, I designed products that could be made on that router, which was my first product was a minimalist wallet called flexy that was made from carbon fiber.
Oh really? Okay. How many Products did you have before you got to Quicky?
I think I'd have to look, I think it was two or three little products. Like we had the wallet, we had a Cinchy, which has a carbon fiber belt with carbon fiber buckle that we also made on the router. And then we had Switchy, which was key holder that it was also carbon fiber. There's kind of a trend.
Well, you knew what your router could do well, and you stuck with it. I totally understand that.
Yeah. Yeah. And I got into Kickstarter mostly just for fun because you know, back then there was a guy that had launched a potato salad on Kickstarter. Like literally give me money to make a potato salad and he raised like 50 grand or something.
I remember that. Yeah. It was pretty crazy. So what about Quicky? So how did you come up with the idea and how did you have that mental leap of like, oh, not only can I make something for Kickstarter, but like let's make something where I can buy a full-on CNC. How did that kind of come about?
Um, well I think CNC has always been, it was always in my mind, you know, even, I mean, forever basically, but you know, buying, I didn't create the product to buy the CNC, but I was hopeful that it would lead in that direction. You know.
Did you have like a string of bad belts that you were unhappy with that kind of spurred on that development? Or, or was there a, a story that you can remember that really steered you in that direction?
I just didn't see much, much innovation and the belts that were out there for tactical belts, you know, there were quick release belts, but I just wanted to make something that was cool and worked well. And that I thought people would like, it was really just, I thought it was cool. I wanted it. So I, I made it in hopes that other people would want it too. And it worked and it totally worked. You know, the, I, I think I told you when you were over at the shop, the first prototypes, you know, I paid about a thousand dollars to have Protolabs make those prototypes, but they couldn't machine the undercuts in them that were necessary for the buckles to work. And so I said, okay, well, make them anyways, I'll put in the undercuts and on my little flimsy router in order to cut those undercuts because the machine was so flimsy, I was physically, you know, OSHA's not listening, but I was physically holding the spindle as it was cutting those undercuts, you know, I had safety glasses on like that helps a little bit, but got the job done. I only had three or four prototypes to work with. I didn't scrap any. And I was able to use those prototypes, then take pictures and video and launch a Kickstarter project. So well, that's awesome.
And then that's led you to now where you have, what three belts.
Well, we have several, it's hard to keep track because we have various different, we have so many different combinations. I mean, there's literally hundreds of combinations, but our main, our main bestsellers are epoch, which is a trigger style, quick release belt. And that's the one that is going to be in the upcoming James Bond movie worn by Daniel Craig. And then we have the quicky. Well, yeah, we have, the quicky has kind of been replaced by another belt, the cipher, which is another magnetic belt that it's kind of the ultimate evolution, best magnetic belt I can make version. Well, thank you. I mean, yeah, it just, it works really well. It's magnetic. It latches itself. It's quick to take off its main features. You don't have to adjust it. It keeps its adjustment it's made. So that one side of the buckle slides through your belt loops when you take it off. So when you put it back on, it just snaps back into place and unless you gained weight or lost weight, you don't ever have to adjust your belt again.
Yeah. What I love the, uh, The blurb on your website, that's like, yeah, you want to have to adjust it unless you gain weight or eat too much. Or, you know, somebody was saying that on the discord about your vises too, that all of your, I guess copywriting is very real. And then that's something that's kind of rare.
Yeah. I think it's the only way to be these days. You know, you can't, you can't out corporate speak the corporations, you know? Yeah. So when you're a small guy, you gotta take the other route and people appreciate it. And it's so much easier to just be real with people than to try to put on some kind of corporate facade that everyone knows is fake anyway.
You started this first Kickstarter. That's what started you down the industrial CNC route? How did you end up with the lathe you have?
The lathe was really because of the existing relationship that we have with Yamazen. So we had bought the Speedo through Yamazen and now we're really happy with the service. And I looked at various options and there, there were a couple that were kind of on the same level and the service and experience with, with Yamazen and just tipped me to the Takasawa. And it's been good for us.
Was there a specific product that you bought it for, or that you used the Kickstarter to buy it?
Not specifically, I'm kind of crazy like that, you know, just like the first ruck CNC router that I bought. I, I didn't have a strong particular use for it when I bought it, you know, I thought, you know, I'll use it for molds. I might use it to develop some of my own products, but nothing from, it was kind of the same way with the lathe. So yeah, let's, let's, you know, kind of jump off the cliff and figure out how to build the airplane on the way down kind of mentality. Well, it's worked out for you. Yeah. But you know, you need to lathe, you know, if you, if you want to design products, you need CNC machine, you needed a 3D printer, you need a lathe, welder, a bunch of tools lathe. That's just one of those things on the list. You know, our lathe gets used very little, but it's there when we need it.
Yeah. And now it's kind of an integral part of making your vises.
Yeah, absolutely. And it does really well. It holds some tight tolerances. We found out that the on our vises, the little locating studs that are very important to be precise and round that we were, we were better than the gauge balls that we had to measure them.
Oh, wow. That's pretty fantastic.
Because we, I purchased a couple gauge balls that had a 1/10th tolerance and it turned out that they were a 10th under size. And I, you know, I measured a locating, said a couple of days ago and I measured the gauge, but I'm like, oh, what's going on here? And you know, turned out the gauge ball was the 10th under and we were right on when you compare it to a calibrated gauge block and check it on a surface plate.
Oh boy. Oh man. Well, that's Pretty good that that's a, a strong, a endorsement for the Takasawa.
Yeah. And it, you know, you do have to, it does move around a little bit as it warms up and everything it's yeah. Yeah. It's not like it's liquid cooled ball screws and all of that stuff. It's, it's still moves a little bit.
Totally. Let's get into some questions then. Cause we've kind of touched on a few of them and I didn't want to kind of jump into them, but T5, he joined us on Patrion and he's got a whole bunch of questions that I think are going to be pretty interesting diving into your flux vise systems. What sets it apart from other systems. And we also had Paulson performance say the same thing.
Okay. So the first thing is it's small enough that you can put a whole bunch of them on your table at the same time. So you can machine a lot of parts at once. Like when I was originally doing the quicky belt buckles, my original plan was to throw a Kurt vise or two on there. And as I was a one-man shop at the time and I realized pretty quickly I was going to spend all my time machining if I did that. So I decided to go the other way and see, well, how many vises can I throw on the table? How small can I make the vise? And so the flux workholding vise is three inches by six inches. And it has various interchangeable jaws where you can, the jaws can go wider all the way up to six inches wide and it can work as a double station vise or a single station vise. So if your parts are small enough, you're going to put twice as many parts on the table with a double station devise, as you will with a single station vise and compared to the size of a typical Kurt or orange vise or whatever, you can put four or five of our vises in the same space on your table. So, so
Let's talk like your products. How many can you fit on an S 500 tables? So people have kind of a real Size reference
for our epoch buckle. It's about the same for quicky too. Our Machine 40 parts at a time. That's 10 vises on the table on the little S 500 Speedio. And like our cycle time on that is 37 minutes.
Oh man. You're like, even with that kind of density, you, you I'm sure you wish you had double that kind of cycle time.
Yeah. It's okay. It's not so bad now because I'm not a one man shop anymore. So yeah. I got JC helping me now and having someone else. Yeah. You definitely want to get for any employer, employee is going to be useless doing anything else if they're having to change parts out every five minutes. So it's good to get that cycle time up so they can do other things run other machines, but now it takes me zero minutes per cycle because I don't do it anymore.
Well, that's great. That's such a way to expand your business for sure.
Yeah. So that's the, so that was the main, the main motivation was get it small. So you put a lot of parts on the table and then after that it was okay, well, I want to use this across different product families. We have different kinds of buckles. So the jaws really need to be interchangeable, ideally. So I could just change the jobs out and switch from doing our epoch buckle to our cipher buckle, to our bezel buckle. So I made the jaws. So they were quick change and that works pretty well too. Cause we tend to run, you know, a few hundred parts at a time or buckles at a time, I guess. So each buckle usually has two or three parts, so we can, you know, you can take an hour to set it up and it's completely justifiable cause you're going to run it for a day or two.
Totally. So what can you share with us about your interchangeable jaws? Because you know, you, I know there was a lot of hesitance, anytime anybody sees kinematic workholding or kinematics brought up in workholding because there's been such a misuse of that term. So, oh yeah, definitely. I mean that is that as much of a buzzword to machinists as 6061 billet aerospace grade, you know, whatever is to like car people or people out of the industry. So let's chat about what makes it a kinematic coupling. Where did you come up with the idea and then how does that implement it on your vise?
Sure. So kinematic coupling is a type of fixture that fixes a solid body in place. Exactly constraining all six degrees of freedom. So, you know, X, Y, Z dimensions, and then also rotations three rotations about those axes and call them a, B and C if you want. So traditionally kinematic coupling does that with six points of contact and generally you can perfectly constrain any part with six point contacts. And so my experience with kinematic couplings is that I've designed a bunch of them in the semiconductor industry. And I knew that they were capable of one micron repeatability all day long without a lot of effort. And you can do better than that with a little bit of effort. So I didn't originally use a kinematic coupling on the vise I use regular dowel pins. And what I found was when I would take the jaws off and put them back on, on my second ops, doing my little deeper cycles, you could see, you know, you can see like a or two on a little tiny edge break.
And I could see that, that there was that the parts were not in the same place, but like a thou or maybe 2000, I would have to update the offsets and get everything to line up. Well, I didn't want to do that. I want it to just work perfectly. So I went down the long journey of trying to figure out how I do that. And I came up with what I call the flux kinematic coupling, which uses a flat plane on a flat plane to define to constraint three degrees of freedom. So you're basically constraining the jaw in the Z direction. And then you're also constraining two rotation, degrees of freedom. And then the, in the job we have two spherical studs, which then contact a V groove on one side and the vise that's two points that constrains two more degrees of freedom. And then basically, and then the other ball contacts, another pin that acts kind of like a flat and that constraints, the final degree of freedom. And so when you put that all together, it wouldn't be, it would really be maybe best described as a planar kinematic coupling where you're relying on the good contact of two planes. So we cheated because as machinists, we know it's actually pretty easy to make something flat. That's something we're pretty good at. So if we can make two things that are almost perfectly flat, we don't feel too many consequences of kind of cheating by not having six point contacts. Instead we only have three point contacts and then two planar contexts. Right.
Well, and the thing you explained to me that made a lot of sense is that for load bearing, you needed that plane as well. I mean, you know, you try to constrain something that you're roughing really aggressively with a bunch of points and it might fail or probably will fail. Yeah.
The thing that's holding your vise in place because we have the same kinematic cut the same coupling design on the bottom of the vise as well is the friction between those two planes. It's the same thing that's holding your vise to the table. When you just hold it down with clamps or screws, that's really what's taking the, the kinematic coupling is really just locating it,
That was really cool to get to see it in person. And I had no idea that it was also in the bottom of your vises. So not only are the jaws quick change, but the vises are quick change to a plate that you can make.
Yeah. The idea is if I'm really, we designed it for people that are like us trying to make a bunch of parts at a time and you can make your own subplate very easily and you could tear down the vises, you could tear, you could take the vises off, you could take the jaws off, put it all back together and it's going to be almost exactly right where it started. And that will never be the case with the traditional dowl pin type of connection, because a traditional dowl pin relies on clearance. You must have a slip fit. Otherwise it's a pressed fit and you're not taking it apart.
It's a really cool system and I can't wait. I ordered one and I can't wait to get to play with it cause it's going to be, uh, I think for those small parts, it's going to be a real game changer.
Thank you. Yeah. I think it's just, it makes it so easy because we're using, we're using our vises to build our vises. So it's so it's so nice to be able to just take some jaws off, set them aside, put on different jobs, run a different part and not have to change a work offset and have your parts just, you know, we have, we have one tolerance that's plus or minus half a thou and it just hits it. Oh, I bet.
Yeah. Especially with that kind of repeatability.
Yeah. So what we found was, you know, through experimentation that the repeatability is under a 10000th of an inch total. So if you took the jaw off and put it back on 10 times and you took a 10ths indicator and you ran it up against the side of the jaw, it would not move more than plus or minus 50 millionths. And that sounds outrageous to machinists. And then, you know, you might say, well, what about thermal effects? All these other things that are going to overcome that yes, those things are going to happen, but the location of your vises and the location of the jaw is not something that you probably have to worry about. We're taking that part of it out of the equation. Totally.
And it's definitely a vote of confidence that you're making your vises with your vises. You know, I think that there would be some skepticism if you're using a Kurt or something to make your vise.
Yeah, well, you know, the original has to be made on something. There's no getting around it, but then once you have a few of them, you can start making your product with your product. And we actually are, um, making two of our vise bodies on each devise. So they're starting to multiply like bunnies.
Well, that's awesome. So just shift gears a little bit. Ty's next question was pros and cons of working with your wife. And I think he works with his as well. So he's probably looking for some advice.
Oh, it's, it's all pros. Well, the main thing is getting to spend more time with your family. And for me, that's my wife and my two Huskies, which for us, they're, they're basically like our children. If you think about it, you work, people listening, you and me and people listening to this podcast probably work more than eight hours a day. But let's say in theory, you work eight hours a day and you sleep eight hours a day. That leaves potentially eight hours a day that you get to spend with your family. So if you work together as well, you get to spend 16 hours a day together. So, you know, by the end of your life, I feel like it's like, you get to spend two lifetimes together. It's like, it's kind of, it's cheating the system and getting more. Yeah.
When I imagine that it kinda, I mean, I always find coming home at the end of a long day. A: I'm not very, I'm not wanting to converse all that much and I'm especially not wanting to rehash the day. And so I'm sure with her being there all day, there's, you know, you don't have to rehash. That's the day that she was there with you. True. Everything's
Already been hashed out while you're there. So yeah, that must be really nice. Yeah. You know, I'm down, you know, I guess downsides is you. you gotta remember working with your wife, that they are your partner in life as well. You can't just, you can't treat them like a normal employee. You should treat your employees well, but you don't need to, uh, care too much if they get their feelings hurt, but you need to care a lot if it's your wife. Definitely. Yeah.
So speaking of your wife, she kind of handles the Gear Fur brand. Where did the, where did that brand come from? How did you kind of jump into that?
That's so that happened when it was one of those rare days where I was at the shop by myself and my wife was home and she took our dogs to the dog park and she had a leash that she had bought on Amazon and the leash broke and one of our dogs, Hoshi, he, he got loose and, uh, she, she was able to get them. It wasn't a huge deal, but I, you know, I heard that, I thought, man, these leashes they're made and they're probably made in China, nobody knows what they are. I have a machine shop and I have industrial sewing machines for our tactical belts that we make. I'm gonna make a leash. So I came home with a, with a new leash for her. And from there I started thinking, well, how do I design the best leash? Because pretty much every leash uses about the same latching mechanism and it's not very good. It can come off accidentally very easily. So I started just trying to come up with the best possible safest dog leash with no respect to costs whatsoever. And so we launched that. We launched that on Kickstarter as well, and we sell them online gearfur.com. And one of the unique things that we're doing is for every leash that we sell, we, we donate one to a rescue or shelter organization. Oh, that's awesome. I had no idea. Yeah. You know, it's business, but it's also kind of a, kind of a passion side project too, you know?
Totally. Yeah. One, it's nice to see that like I'm on the Gear Fur a website right now. I like that, you know, you've got the climbing rope ones as well, as well as the flat leashes. Like you guys do a good job of diversifying what could be a singular SKU kind of product.
Yeah. Yeah. You know, probably should have diversified it a little less honest. That's something that always sneaks up on you. You had, you had a couple options and then just kind of balloons.
Totally. Yeah. So Ty also asked, what other machines did you consider before buying the Speedo?
Primarily, I looked at a Haas mini mill and I came across a video of the Speedo running. It was like Yamazens promo video. And I was like, tell me more. And I figured that this thing's got to cost a million bucks. Jeff, who worked at Yamazen at the time, came down to Tucson and sat down with me and kind of went through the numbers. And I was maybe too inexperienced at the time to really think of it myself. So I'm glad that he showed me the actual numbers. Now I pay a lot of attention to runtimes and whatnot, but basically the Speedio just runs circles are really to Haas. And, you know, I thought in the common argument I hear from other people and it was my argument too, as well. You know, I'm just getting started. I'm just making some prototypes. I only need to make like 500 buckles.
And then after that, I don't know what I'm going to do. And so isn't it wasteful to spend more on a machine that's so capable. And the answer is definitely not because even if you don't need to run the thing 24 7, it will make your parts faster when you do need to run them. So say if you do get a big order for a few hundred parts, instead of taking four weeks to run, it'll take you two weeks to run. And then after that you can move on with your life and do other things. Yeah, totally. It's a great machine. I, I didn't actually, I didn't know anyone that had one and at the time I think, I think I got one right. Maybe right as they were starting to get cool.
Yeah. There has been definitely a change in their market where, you know, it was like a hundred percent phone or car production kind of stuff. And then now we're starting to see them pop up more and more in people's garages are small businesses doing prototypes, doing small production runs, all that stuff. So it's, it's been cool to see it for sure. And I mean, I love the guys at Yamazen, but it is definitely not through any promotional stuff that they've been doing. It's it really seems like it's just mostly word of mouth from current owners or people who have seen videos of current owners.
Yeah. It's those rapids really sell it, I think.
Oh yeah. Yeah. The rapids, the tool change. It it's, it's a pretty impressive machine and definitely a scary machine. I couldn't imagine starting out on one. I definitely give you props for that.
Thanks. Yeah. So I just had the CNC router experience before that, but yeah, definitely. You have to be very careful and methodical about it. It's kind of like teaching yourself to fly. It's generally a very bad idea, but every once in a while someone does pull it off and it doesn't die. And so I did, I did it. I didn't die. I, you know, you, you definitely learn a lot and you just throw yourself into the deep end like that. That's I mean, that's something that most people don't get the opportunity to do. So I definitely like my engineering - I was lucky to have that kind of education. Yeah.
It definitely worked out for you. So his other question and this one actually I think, is going to be really interesting. Full- so last week my guest talked a lot about how pre-orders and I kind of echoed him how taking money before you have product in hand to sell can be kind of demoralizing mentally and just as can be not a great idea as a creator, As somebody making money. You know,
If you, if you already have all the money in hand and then not have to work for a month straight feeling like what is for free, um, it can be kind of demoralizing. So his question was, what is your process and how do you handle pre-orders like that in order to keep on track, deliver product in a timely fashion. And he added that you seem to be a Kickstarter wizard.
Yeah. I mean, I love, I love pre-orders they're so powerful. The alternative is the traditional model of making a bunch of something, getting them to a distributor, or they may or may not sell them and they might pay you half of what you really want to sell it for. And they won't pay you for 60 to 90 days after they purchase the items. So really pre-orders make for small businesses just starting out, like it's, it really opens the door for them to compete with existing, larger companies that otherwise they would have almost no chance of competing with, unless they have the, you know, the financial backing and the courage to do that.
Yeah. Oh yeah. I, I totally understand that. So how do you keep your orders straight? I mean, what kind of systems do you have in place to keep those things straight? Because it can be, I mean, we we've seen on Instagram and on YouTube, a lot of makers take the Kickstarter route and it always seems to be quite the struggle, you know, keeping all of the variations in order color changing. You've got a few different colors of every belt, how you keep all that stuff together. Do you use there's what backer kit. There's a few things like that. Okay.
Yeah, it's a lot. So I'll give you the formula. So step one is to not create more variations than you need. Okay. So do not make like 10 different colors of this 10 different colors of that, because it will explode into a thousand different things. So you can kind of solve the problem at its source. And in that regard, you know, people do like choices, but they don't need 10 choices. You know, it's not gonna make a difference. So, so that kind of that reduces the amount of things you have to keep track of at first. But then on Kickstarter, they give you a backer report, which is a downloadable Excel sheet. And we download that and it basically their answers to what selections they want. They want this color, that size. It also has their mailing address, their email address. And then we input reformat that a little bit manually, and then we import it into ShipStation.
Okay. And ShipStation is, you know, pretty good software for generating shipping labels. And you know, it automatically generates the label and it pays for the label and keeps track of tracking. And it sends the tracking number, you know, confirmation email to the customer. So then we can batch print all of the labels for that entire Kickstarter at once. And then each of those labels, when it prints out attached to it, it has a packing slip, which says quantity, one of this quantity, two of that, whatever. And so we print those out and we, I 3D printed a little dispenser for the labels. So you can just pull off a label and a packing slip and break the two apart, basically kit your package, put everything in there that needs to go in there and stick the label on. And then we throw it in a bag and we take it to either USPS or FedEx.
We'd like, we show up to, we show up to those places like I do like Santa Claus, you know, I walk in and I just have bags of, you know, it's, you know, it's just, it's just $40,000 in merchandise is all on my back, walking into UPS. I'm like, okay, these are not trash, right? These are packages. We use clear bags whenever possible. So they can't be mistaken for trash. It's like, your please shove these. And it's like at U S P S we actually, we're pretty close to the hub in Tucson. So I can, I can try drive, uh, back where all the semi trucks go and I just park in a very oversized, arguing spot and I can throw my packages on the, on the dock, in the same place that they do and awesome. And 99% of the time though, get to where they need to go.
So do you guys use ShipStation for inventory tracking as well?
No, we do not for inventory. I use an MRP software called MRP Easy, which is a pretty nice, simple MRP software. That's completely online in the cloud. It's not terribly expensive. It's like, I don't know, $50 or $60 a month or something. So that communicate with ship station. We don't use it like that. It's possible. It, it wouldn't surprise me at all if it has that capability, but we don't use it like that. So when we get the, yeah, when we get the orders and for like a Kickstarter, I just do it. I basically do it manually. I can look through and see how many of this and that were ordered. And I know, okay, this assembly needs this, that, and the other part. And I just tally up the totals. And I basically, as soon as the Kickstarter is over, I purchase all those materials. I can get them in as fast as possible.
And then how do you handle day-to-day sales differently? Because you know, all your belts are more or less online now.
Yeah. So that's the beauty of that is it's automated. So we use for all of our websites, we use Shopify and it integrates with ShipStation. So when someone places an order on fluxworkholding.com or carbontactics.com or gearfur.com, they all communicate with Shipstation. And that information gets important. And every day my wife just prints the labels and they might come from three different sources, but they all get printed out the same. And then we can kit those orders and fulfill them. And like with the belts, we don't, you know, I said earlier, there's hundreds of combinations. You would never our business, the way it exists, couldn't really exist without kind of the lean mentality of not having a ton of extra inventory and not making things before there's demand for them. Because even if we stopped one of each belt, we still have hundreds of belts that who knows when someone will buy that particular combination. So we, we get the order and then we make it that same day. Yeah.
Which I think is super cool. That was one thing when I came by that I thought was really, really interesting was how lean your operation is because yeah, you've got, I mean, just for like the Cipher alone, you've got all your different types of webbing and the different colors. And I'm imagine that you'd have to have, you know, a full office full of just racks and racks of belts, if you wanted to keep any kind of stock of them.
Yeah. And it's not so bad, what you really need is you just need a certain amount of webbing and a certain number of buckles and certain amount of shipping materials and those numbers, aren't, aren't really as big as you would think, you know, you've got to kind of monitor demand and figure out how much you need to really have of each. And sometimes you get thrown for a loop. If somebody buys, you know, a hundred belts or something, that's a long day. I'm sure. Yeah. But, but it beats the alternative of having lots of valuable inventory just sitting around. Totally. Yeah.
So his last question was, could you talk a little bit about how your products ended up in a James Bond movie?
Yeah. So we paid them a million dollars. Our belt buckle on James Bond's thigh. No, they, they approached us. They, I think they might've bought a belt from us first, the movie studio. And they sent us an email and they had seen our website and on our website, I had, I had put, you know, my wife and I liked Marvel movies and all that kind of stuff. And I had put on the website for our Quicky buckle. I said, like, I think you'd have to really look to find it, but I put Stan Lee, if you're reading this, you know, please reach out. We want to give you a buckle to put in your movie. I literally put something to that effect on the website. And so one of their costume people reached out and said, well, I'm not working on a Stan Lee movie, but I've worked on Marvel movies before and we're working on something similar and we're interested in buying more of your, your belt buckles.
Can we buy on that? I'm like, well of course please. And so they ended up, you know, they ended up buying 70 or 80 of our Epoch buckles and they bought some of our Quicky buckles. They bought a little bit of everything and I sent them samples of everything I could think of as well, just in case. And they ended up using them in the movie. And so our Epoch buckle is worn by Daniel Craig playing James Bond and it's, and he might have some of our other buckles too. It's kind of hard to tell from the previews. And then what Lashauna Lynch is also wearing, are your epoch buckle? And she's wearing our quicky buckle as well. So like, it's, it's, it is amazing. Like, I, I was so stoked because I love James Bond. And once we figured out is going to be in the James Bond movie, like not because they told us, but just like using context clues of what movie they were talking about. And we kind of figured it out and we were, you know, 95% confident before it, before, you know, a few weeks later, they finally told us, by the way, it's James Bond. And we're like, awesome.
That must be quite the, Nail biter waiting for this thing to come out because I know it's been pushed back and pushed back. So you must be real anxious to, for people to start seeing that
Been delayed like a year and a half. I think so, you know, we were, we, we got an uptick in sales just because like word leaked that our buckle was in the movie, you know, before. Well, I think, yeah, the pre, when the previous came out, people spotted it in the previews. And there, there are people that are like their, their hobby is keeping track of all this stuff and figuring out, well, what is James Bond wearing work? And I buy it. How much is it? So we've actually sold quite a few belts to James Bond enthusiasts, even though the movie hasn't come out yet.
That's pretty amazing. Yeah. I know. There's whole websites dedicated to what is so-and-so wearing and this, this episode of this TV show or whatever. So I'm sure people were quickly looking to find your belt buckles.
Yeah. So if there's any costume designers out there listening and you need some cool buckles for your really reach out to me and we'll, we'll make it happen.
last question was a little bit of a tongue in cheek. Do brother owners get matching tattoos when they joined the Wolf pack?
Ah, man, I don't know if it's a tattoo or something else. I think what you get is like carpal tunnel in your left hand from holding onto the door handle so hard. It is ready to ready to crank it, to stop the machine
Well, I, I, that is one thing that I love about my Speedo and that I have not seen it in another machine is how you can use the door as a start stop and how you can just hit, go off. You close the door again. It usually, I would be the first one to deactivate a door switch because I hate them. But it's so useful in that case that I, I love it.
Yeah. The only trick is, you know, you just want to crack it open just a little bit. Or do you get sprayed with coolant. Sometimes that happens anyways. Yeah. I thought all machines are like that.
Um, and, and maybe newer ones, but all the older ones I've worked on, they stop and restarting them. If you hit, start after a stop or a re you know, something like that, it won't restart the spindle. It won't, you know, so you'll just be running a dead cutter into a part, not spinning. So, yeah,
I that's, I figured that out when I got the Takasawa, like not only can you not stop the program by opening the door, you can't open the door. Yeah. So yeah, they should all work like that. I don't, I don't know why they don't.
Yeah, I dunno. Yeah. There's every brand has its little user idiosyncrasies. That can be really nice. And I think that this is just one that so far I've only seen it on a brother.
Yeah. It's really nice. So yeah. I'm going to go with when we get matching carpal tunnel In our left-hand.
Yeah, definitely. And then from Instagram, the CNCman asked, what's your, what do you enjoy most about machining?
I enjoy being able to go from an idea in your head to an actual product, but not just, not just a product or thing you can hold, like, you know, you could sculpt something and get that effect, but something that you can mass produce, it's like you create some value it's valuable to you, but then with minimal effort, you can then mass produce that item and add that value to the lives of thousands of other people. You know, it's really, it's the being able to basically duplicate that, that thing that you made.
Yeah. Oh, totally. And it's unlike 3D printing where a lot of the times, the only way to scale something like that is, I mean, you can load up the build plate as much as you can, but then the only way to scale that is to just start making a print farm more or less, whereas with a CNC it's, especially, you know, you created your own vises so that you could make something go from prototype to a production pretty quickly.
Yeah. And you know, I would, you know, I encourage people to, you know, that made me, you're thinking of getting into having their own machining shop to not just look at doing the job shop type of work, but think about making your own product and producing it in mass, because you'd be surprised what you can do even with, with the limited machine, if you're smart about it and you know, your, your machine doesn't actually cost you a hundred dollars an hour, that's a myth, unless you have one hell of a machine. So if it's in your garage and you don't have any overhead, it costs you the machine payment and the insurance divided by however many hours, there are in the month per hour. So you could totally, you know, if you put a little plug here, if you put 10 Flux Workholding vises on your torment walk without a tool changer on it, you're machining 40 parts at a time.
And even though maybe you have five tool changes or something, you only have to do those five tool changes for 40 parts. So maybe have a, you know, a timer on your watch or something. And you go back to the machine, change a tool every once in a while. But as long as you're in the area, if it's in your garage or it's in your shop where you're already at, it's really not. That usually deal. And now you're, your expenses are almost zero compared to everyone else that thinks they have to charge a hundred bucks an hour and you can produce some really cool desirable products that people will pay money for.
Totally. Yeah. That's a good lesson. Is that, yeah. I think people get kind of caught in the weeds on how to price machine time. And there definitely can be some interesting ways of, of how you look at the numbers so that it makes a lot of sense to just run a whole bunch of parts, especially if it's your own product. That just makes sense.
Right? Yeah. And the, and I'm on fluxworkholding.com. We have a calculator where you can basically calculate what the cost of your parts is based on how many vises you put on the table, or whether you're in these and mighty bite fixture or whatever. And you can estimate what your real cost per part is using the various methods. And what you'll find pretty quick is a lot of times you'll save enough money by using a certain method, AKA our method than it, that it easily pays for the product the first time you use it. And then you have that method of helpful to you in the future forever.
Totally. Yeah. It was actually interesting looking at your calculator because it's not too far off from what I use for quoting. Okay, awesome. So it was really interesting. Like it is a much more in-depth calculator than most work holding companies will give you. Mm.
Yeah. But you know, if you don't, I'd say run the calculator because even if it takes you an hour to figure it out, send me a couple emails, make sure you're doing it correctly. It's so easy to save thousands of dollars unless you pay yourself a thousand dollars an hour. It's probably worth your time.
Oh. You know, just run the numbers
For sure. So before we jump into shop news and new things, uh, you had mentioned 3D printing a couple of times, what is 3D printing play as a role in all of your companies and how do you utilize it for prototyping?
You know, for if we have a new buckle design or pretty much everything that we've ever made was 3D printed first, even our vises. Oh really? Yeah, because now I didn't, well, I did print most of the components of it. It's not like that has been used this vise. It was let's hold it in my hand and really look at it and see how I feel about it. See if it looks like it's going to work. And with 3D printing, the, you know, the cost of doing that is very low. You have a few parts to start them and let them run overnight and they'll be done the next day. And you can kind of have a good feeling for it. And it's, it's really important because iteration is so easy with a 3D printer. And it's a lot harder when you have a freeform surface parts that need freeform soft jaws or a custom fixture to hold, you can, you can make the design change and then check it without having to do all that extra design to fit new fixture, to fit the new part program, actually run it by tools. If, if you change something where you need a new tool now.
Totally. Yeah. That's one thing I've pushed a lot of people's, you know, it's not the end all be all for everything, but I mean, half of the time it's just designing something, you print it out and you're like, oh, it's double the size that I thought. Or it's half the size that I thought, or it feels terrible in my hands or, you know, and it's those things that you don't want to waste programming and machining time on.
I call that Solid Works syndrome when you, I use solid works primarily for, for CAD. I don't, I'll use Fusion 360 some as well, but when you just stare at apart for so long on the computer, the size gets distorted and your mind and things start to look bigger than they really are. Yeah.
Yeah. I like that. Actually my, my business partner, Brad has kept bugging me and I keep forgetting to bring it up in the podcast, but he wanted my listeners to think about it and come up with a word for that, because I don't know how many times him and I will look at a print and look at a model and be like, oh, okay. And then you cut the stock for it. And you're like, oh, this is super tiny. Or, oh, this is really, really big. And so I like Solid Works syndrome. If anybody else listening has a, a good phrase or word for it, what is that feeling? Or what is, what is the word for that, that scale difference between your mind and reality?
Yeah, I, yeah, they need to, they need to put more, more 3D printers and engineers cubicles so that they can experience this firsthand before it gets sent to the shop. You know, I'm sure you've, you've seen this with things designed by other people.
Quite a bit. So what, before we jump off the topic, what 3D printers do you have and do you recommend them?
I have a Creality CR10. I recommend it for sure. It's good. It's big too. You can do big stuff if, if you need to. And it has like a one foot by one foot by, I think, a little more than a foot high working volume and it works pretty well. I bought, I bought it like people started posting reviews before you could even buy them. And the reviews are so good that I bought one, like just kind of took a chance on it and then got it a month later, you know, straight from China. And I've, I think I just got lucky, but it's definitely a good choice. And I don't know if they even have the CR 10 model anymore. That might be the CR 10 S or C R 10 S plus or something like that now.
Yeah. I think they've really diversified the CR line. There's like the SC, I think they're on the two or the three at this point. There's a, a million models from quality now. Yeah. Cool. So let's jump into shop new things or shop news or new things. What have you got going on? What's the newest from all your companies?
I got to think about what I can actually say on the air. Well, let's just say that you'll probably be seeing more of our Carbon Tactics products in the media might be a year or two from now, but you're going to see more of them. And that's about all I can say on that, but really we just been ramping up our production of the Flux Workholding vises. And so far, you know, every order is basically been a pre-order. We didn't plan to do it that way, but I know I told you, we made some changes, like right after we launched it,
How's the testing been going?
Great. So, you know, we did some destructive, truly destructive testing on these things, and I decided that we could make not just strong, but I wanted to make them, like, in the words of Abe scooped them as frig. So we modified some of the geometry and we switched from, for the base, from using 6061 to using 7075 T six. So instead of having like a safety factor of five, you know, might have a safety factor of seven or eight or something now. Awesome. Because even though we're going to put a torque spec on the vise people will ignore it. Someone will hit it with a hammer and if they try hard enough even break anything, but want to make it so people don't accidentally damage the thing, you know?
Well, I think that that'll be definitely appreciated. I I'm sure most, if not everyone listening has encountered a vise that has been over torqued and damaged and you just kind of have to work around it. So having that safety factor is really nice.
The good thing is ours is our vises. So, so cheap compared to most vises because largely because it's physically smaller, there's less material. So to replace it isn't as expensive. And if someone does damage it, all they have to do is contact us and we'll, we'll hook them up with a spare part at a fair price.
Yeah. Which is awesome. And it's not like you're using cheap materials either. I mean, 7075, you've got what else in there for the pins and stuff.
The shuttles are. So the sliding shuttles are all 17-4 pH stainless steel, the dowel pins, which form part of the kinematic coupling are also 17-4 pH H 900. So as hard as 17-4 gets, and then the locating studs that are located in the jaws or that you might put in your custom sub plate are Neutronic 60. So you just,
It was pretty great. I mean, it's an inexpensive vise, but not due to lack of good materials, which is really nice to hear.
Yeah. And really tried to make it really it's, it's an economic argument to buy this vise. You know, we're trying, you buy this vise because you want to produce more parts and make more money, but you can't offset that with a really expensive vise or those benefits aren't realized as quickly. So we try to make everything work really well, but not, not just over, not just brute force overbuild, it use the most expensive materials everywhere. That's kind of the whole thing with the whole kinematic coupling. You could, you could make a subplate for this devise with a hand drill and it would repeat just well, or almost just as well as if you bought a sub plate from me, which
Is pretty cool. Yeah. I mean, it wouldn't, it might not be as straight as you want, but it'll definitely repeat.
Yeah. It wouldn't be training. You need to figure out that part, but it, it would repeat, it would go back to the same position every time. And it's because the kinematic coupling is not over constrained. The part you're not, you don't have a dowel pin that's crooked. Isn't going to change your repeatability, having a locating stud 3007 inch in the wrong place. Isn't going to change your repeatability. Like that's, that's something that a lot of people don't realize about kinematic couplings is you get that extreme repeatability without requiring the machine that made the thing to also have extreme, uh, accuracy.
Yeah. That's such a big benefit. And I think it's going to be really, really interesting to get to play with that vise, because, I mean, I told you I'm going to be loading it on a pallet on top of my orange pallet system. So having two different types of zero point systems, more or less interacting will be a kind of an interesting test for sure. Yeah. Shouldn't be for the parts that we're going to be doing. I have no doubt that it will be well above the tolerance zone or well, within the tolerance zone, but it'll still be really fun to get to play around with it. Awesome.
Well, yeah. Thank you for being an early adopter of the product line. You know, I understand I've launched a lot of different, a lot of different products and it wouldn't be possible without people that are willing to take a little bit of a, a chance on something new. So I really appreciate you. And the other people that have already bought vises from us.
Oh, it was, it was my pleasure. Like you said, the price is so attractive that both Brad and I were like, well, let's just take the chance. Like we can get it to work no matter what, you know, that's, that's our job. But if it works even half, as well as what you advertise, we'll be super, super happy with it. So that's, that was the big thing. So the last question I ask, all my guests is what did you research this week? It can be anything from baby stuff to computer stuff, to machining stuff. You know, what's been on your mind, what's been in your Google history.
So two things first is internet access at my shop. We are probably going to switch from our Cox cable connection to a 5g internet connection. Oh, really? How come the Cox cable connection? Like the reliability of it. I would rate somewhere between bad and very bad. Oh wow. Like it's not particularly fast, but the main thing is every few days it goes out for a couple hours and that's really bad when everything you do is reliant on the internet. Totally. Yeah.
Sorry. Totally. In your complex also finding that, or is it specifically your building? I don't
Know about other people in our complex, but it's not us, you know, we've, we've worked with Cox several times and it's not our modem. It's not anything on our end. I don't know what they did, but they told us that they don't actually technically even service our, our connection anymore.
We're like a mile away from The Cox headquarters. And somehow like we have the crappiest internet in town. That's what, that's what monopolies give you, I guess. Yeah. That's insane. But 5g is breaking that up, you know? So we're paying like a hundred, five bucks a month for internet. The quote I got from T-Mobile is $50 a month and it's like, supposedly we'll see if they deliver, but is blazing fast.
Wow. Well, that's really interesting. That's the first I've heard of somebody switching from a wired connection to a wireless. I know I've got a few friends that are kind of diving down the whole Starlink rabbit hole right now.
Yeah. But I'd love to do Starlink, but they're not open to businesses yet. As far as I know, they're just doing last. I checked. They're just doing houses. Yeah.
I think that it varies too, depending on the state and the area. Yeah. That's really cool. I look forward to hearing kind of how it goes because our, our network at the shop, I think we have century link and it's not terrible, but it's definitely not like my 4g on my phone is probably as fast if not faster than our internet is normally.
Yeah. That's, that's definitely true for us too. So even if I only get 4g speeds, it's still good,
Right? Yeah, exactly. And it'll be hopefully reliable. That's, that's the big thing,
But you know, I'll wait, I'll wait a month. I'll make sure it's going to actually be reliable before I cancel the other connections. So I can always go back if I need to.
Yeah, definitely. So what was the other thing you said you had two things.
So I've been playing around with virtual reality lately. Cool. So I have a, I have a Oculus Quest 2 headset, which I enjoy, and I wanted to be able to look at my vises and my other products in VR. And then I wanted to throw in, say, maybe throw in my CNC mill as well, maybe throw in some other machines that I'm thinking of purchasing in the future. And so I figured out a way to do that. Yeah. And that way is to use Unreal Engine. So it's the same video game engine that's used in probably half the video games out there. And like, it's, it's the engine that powers Fortnite, for example, right. The other one is Unity. That's the other big one, but it is, it is kind of a pain in the butt to get it all set up. But once you get it all set up, you can essentially import Solid Works or Fusion 360 models or whatever into a virtual showroom in virtual reality. And you can walk around and you can pick things up and you can throw them. I can pick up a vise and I can put it on the machine table. And I put a UMC 500 in there because I was looking at that machine. I can put my head inside of it and look around and get a sense for how big it is.
Oh yeah. Yeah. I went to Autodesk University three or four years ago now. And there was a booth there that had a setup like that. And so they had a few different, there was like a office building you could go in and kind of go through the architecture of the coolest one for me. There was there, there was a coding psych model that you could pull all the body panels off, pull every screw out of every single place and blow it up and look at it and throw it off into the distance and just keep disassembling this model. And so that, that's super cool to hear that you're experimenting with that. Cause that's, I mean, that, that could be a very easy, I mean, maybe not full replacement, but partial replacement for 3D printing things even.
Yeah. And you get that sense, you know, the, the Solid Works syndrome, uh, you can break that ease in VR cause you do like, you really get a sense of how big things are and you can tell like, wow, this is way smaller compared to this other thing. That's also in my view or that I'm holding in my other virtual hand.
Yeah. That's super cool. So is there already a system in place or is this something that you're developing so that you can do this? It's really,
It's kind of like a tool chain or it's really like a checklist with probably 50 items to get it configured correctly, but I'm just using Unreal Engine. Just like any video game developer would use it. There's a learning curve. It is not Solid Works. It's not Fusion 360. It's a little different, but, but it can be overcome. I might, I might at some point need to publish my list of how I did it because there's not a lot of resources out there on how to actually set this up easily.
Yeah. I mean that, that could be a real game changer for a lot of engineers or, or people designing their own products. Just getting, especially if you don't have the time to wait for a 3D printer even overnight, you know, just to be able to finish design, push that through to unreal and then put your headset on and see it. What could be pretty amazing. Yeah.
I would, I think really, I think it'd be a great sales tool for people selling, you know, expensive items that you may not necessarily be able to see in person easily. AKA a machine tools. Oh yeah. You know, so you may not have one. The dealer may not have one on their floor. There may not be anyone in town that has one, but maybe you could play with it in virtual and they can make a half a million dollar sale. You know, that's probably worth paying a video game developer a few hours to, to set it up, you know?
Totally. Yeah. It wasn't like you said, I mean, if they give you the model of their machine tool, you can throw on your favorite vise or all of that, throw your part in there and really get an idea of like, oh, does my part fit on this? Can I get the density that I want on this machine tool before I make a half a million dollar purchase?
I I'd love to see it where you can actually run the machine in VR and train people in VR.
I think we will get there eventually for sure. Every time I've gone to IMTS, I see the idea of like AR or VR in assembly work kind of get bigger and bigger and also in training. And so I think we're, I don't know, maybe five years away from a really good solution for that kind of stuff.
Yeah. I think what needs to happen is apple needs to release their VR system. And once that happens, I think it's going to explode. Yeah. It has to go mainstream and people need to actually have the, the, the headsets at their house or at their business. And there needs to be enough of the same headsets that are compatible so that people have an audience for actually creating these virtual environments.
Yeah. It's a definitely a chicken and egg kind of situation like, so that'll be super interesting. And that's really cool to hear that you're doing that.
Yeah. I can't spend too much time on it. I got, I got vises to make, but you know, you got to sometimes change gears a little bit every once in a while and give yourself a break.
Totally well in that vein, I'll let you get back to it before we close. I've got some new Patrion. Thank you. These are all people who have joined in the last week. David Ron Spencer web Crick, Christmas Macintosh Ty from T five and James York. I really appreciate you guys jumping on board for anybody who wants to support the podcast, the patriotic patrion.com/within tolerance podcast. Again, we can find your Mike on Instagram, Carbon Tactics, Flux Workholding, Gear Fur, anything else you want to plug before we sign off?
No, just if you're thinking about buying a vise from us, go to fluxworkholding.com and buy one. We have a 30 day satisfaction guarantee. So there's no risk. It costs under 400 bucks. Just check out the website and you'll see.
Awesome. Well thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast. It's been my pleasure and thanks everyone for listening. We'll be back next week.