Hi everyone, and welcome to an overdue update wherein we have quite a bit of info to drop.
Firstly, a cool thing spotted a while ago was Marc Sigl using the Vectorlink multi controller adapter to play the Vecribbon demo with a Guitar Hero controller! Epic 🙂 For more info, see his post here; you’ll need to be a member of the excellent Vectrex Fans Unite group to see the post.
Parting ways with our Printer
Sadly, just as it looked like we had a final solution for overlays our relationship with our printers fell apart.
For another project, they had invested in tooling to do a high-gloss clearcoat on printwork, and as per our last post, it seemed like this was just what we needed to be able to get the gradient effect working with sufficient clarity.
We were very disappointed when we went for a production run and, after several huge delays, received the following back.
You can see several glaring issues. For one, there is no gradient print! And while they’re the correct thickness, the overlays are extremely deformed.
Despite experimentation with different ways to flatten them, there’s no way to effectively return them to flat, making them useless. The next problem is just as bad and renders the overlays completely unable to mount in the Vectrex overlay mounting slots — they are several millimeters too short!
Here they are shown against one of our earlier previews (from the generation where they were correctly-sized and gradient printed, but too fuzzy):
The slots on the Vectrex are of a really tight tolerance, and there’s no way an overlay will fit when it’s so far out of spec.
Finally, the opaque white latex layer has a lot of unacceptable sputtering; note the white dots near top-left:
Obviously, this production run did not result in anything we would feel at all comfortable shipping.
For a while, we were close to just refunding everyone — and indeed, anyone who feels they have waited too long for this project, we are very happy to refund on an individual basis — but we decided to try and find a new company to work with on overlay printing.
The NEW Printers!
Scarlet was lucky enough to locate a great little print shop who are actually local to him – so local that he can pop in and see them, which removes so much iteration delay and general misunderstanding.
They’ve been in the business since 1992, are able to print on the 500-mike polycarbonate we require, can do latex layers — AND can do perfect gloss finishes.
Therefore, we are thrilled to present our latest production samples from our new partner. Check it out — CRYSTAL CLEAR GRADIENT!
This represents a huge step forward. The gradient printing is so strong that in the right-hand pic, you can see it tinting the garden behind even in bright daylight. We’re super happy with this, but do require one final design tweak, as there is a little too much latex mask visible around the two musical notes towards the bottom-left of the overlay.
Here is another pic which really shows the difference the clearcoat makes. Both these samples are from the new printers, and both have the gradient print; only the one on the right has the clearcoat.
The clearcoat works like magic, and we believe we’ve finally unlocked the ability to do overlays of completely arbitrary colours on standard transparent polycarbonate. Brilliant!
Where to next?
With this major hurdle finally conquered, we will next fix the final design issue explained above, and expect to require another couple of sample iterations to ensure that the corner and thumb cuts are absolutely correct (as there are various options for different ways the printers can do this, which do have trade-offs).
Aside from that, we will shortly show packaging samples. Stay tuned for pics of the boxes and printed materials, which are also being handled by a company close to Scarlet for speedy iteration.
As soon as we have the packaging stuff finalised, we’ll be able to run final production and get these babies shipped to you.