A Due Company Update …..
Two months into the new year and we felt a company update was needed. 2021 was an incredible and crazy year for many of us. The past 2 years have been a true test to a lot us as humans. For us adults still playing with toy cars its been a real test. But as humans we find ways to make our lives stronger, healthier and happier.
With the changes we faced over the past year it showed us that our determination to bring race proven products was increasing. Building on the OCD for designing things racers can use and not just making sales, we were able to really put a small name like ours into a wider light. Also with that we saw some of our weakness’s bite us at times.
When orders started coming in strong and fast I decided to get some help on the shipping side. Basically just someone to help me get orders out. My own day job picked up and left me less time, honestly tired at the end of a day. This also took the personal time away trying to keep up. I took the help from some one to basically pack, label and ship items out when I couldn’t. It didn’t work out as well at times and I found myself chasing orders that I didn’t have a hand on. I apologize for that, it hurt the delivery time frame I always pushed for. We have remedied this slip and continue to look for more ways to improve it.
Also with us using PayPal as a preferred payment gate we used them for shipping labels as well. It was to easy not to, they linked right to USPS, we could print labels and tracking was right there. We didn’t use any shipping setups from the site. Well PayPal switched to their own label company and to be honest, its been nothing but nightmares. Our International stuff seemed to suffer the most and virtually all the time.
Little run down is I would print the label through PayPal, it directs me to their shipping label site and I print the labels there. It did raise the shipping expense for us a little but it wasn’t something I was going to pass on since its a cost of business. USPS International orders would print with the customs and declarations and USPS handles it at the ports. With PayPal’s new service they still use USPS but International seemed to be sitting at the ports due to PayPal’s shipping not turning packages over to USPS. Unacceptable in my opinion and tracking proved to be even more difficult.
Also PayPal has switched up so much on the business end of things its really hard to use them still, but that’s on us as a company and not the consumer. I still prefer them for buyer security and its just a cost of business we absorb for customer comfort. We are searching other avenues of payment portals that will streamline things better but PayPal is still our preferred gateway.
Shipping expenses are rising every where on everything. We have been fortunate enough to be able to absorb a lot of it for International and even our own material expenses. Its getting tight with the start of the new year. For example an order of carbon fiber, various sizes, went from roughly 65$ shipping summer last year to 90/100$ at the end of the year and my first order this year it has climbed to almost 200$. Thankfully our supplier has been able to keep our material cost on a slower rise for the time being.
The increase in shipping has raised our cost per part anywhere from 3-8$ each. I cant do that to our customers, in my opinion absolutely nuts. Being a small company with little overhead compared to a lot of the big ones we all use it helps me pass our increase on in a smaller exchange. Some items saw a 2$ and some a 3$ increase on the smaller items. Bigger items like chassis’ and custom work I cant see us doing that and force my pricing to stay on the lower side like they have been. In truth yes I’ve passed on our increase but at a much smaller scale just to help lesson the hit to future product work.
In seeing the uptick in business this alone was good to see our flaws. It has caused me to start looking at the product line we carry and how we carry our inventory. Its bringing me to clean up the slow movers from in stock to an on demand type in some cases and how we bring new things from design to sale.
Now our custom work will still be there, the ones and twos of things that people ask us to cut will always be there. I know how it is when the odd stuff to make an idea work is hard to find. We wont stop trying to help. Whether it be designing it and making it or just cutting a file you already have, I will always offer that.
I have had customers over the last year come to us with ideas that we should make. Something that it seems already exists. Its a tough spot with things like that. First off I don’t rip product. Yes we make the same items but the bulk of them are items that we saw the ability to, in our opinion, improve on. Its hard to use design time, machine time, material and marketing for something that is the same as another brand if that other brand works and is easily available. It’s time and material we could be using to improve something else, design something useful or be testing ideas. Its easy to sell anything on the internet these days, everyone wants a slice but morally its not the right thing to do. Improve on existing – Yes …. rip it to make a sale – No ….. Sorry.
Leading that to another aspect of being a small company, its hard at times to get product out quick enough. Ive tried that first to market pull the trigger get it done now route. It hurts, it hurts all of us but it hurts me the most. I would rather see us come out 3 months later with something similar then be the first on the block to have it. We’re not a design to cut to production company. We are a design to prototype to test then refine before production company. When a product hits our website you can be sure it has gone through a few drivers, one being myself, and refined before its publicly available.
One example is the Mi7 when we released chassis for it. We offered 3 versions depending on track surface, High Bite for black carpet, Center Flex for low/med carpet and a CF version for asphalt. There are actually 16 chassis designs on file combined before we released those. We design then we test then we refine. Our Mugen chassis had 11 different versions on file and currently the one we offer had proved the best for racers. We are very fortunate enough to have some daring drivers out there who are willing to want our test parts and very thankful for all the feedback they give me. Even the feed back we get from customers about experience and bad stories all go into the notes.
Now thats not to say mistakes wont happen, but we will always stand behind our product. If its a material fault – We Will Handle It! If its a machine fault – We Will Handle It! We are always available for contact fastest through the Facebook page for Krazed Builds.
What else have we been changing and doing? We have always utilized our FDM printers over the years for minor production stuff but mostly onsite prototyping. It has worked out well for us being able to print rather then waste materials or order wasteful material. Its no secret thing to FDM printing, they have been around long enough now that anyone can buy one cheap. And its even easier now to get one and instantly run to market with the next greatest thing.
Honestly FDM is just too easy for anyone now and in a way I feel depresses some of the real designers out there who put in long days to bring something useful out. Every where you turn on the internet someone is making something that 5 other people make. At times it takes the steam out of a designers desire to be creative. With that thought securely in my head that’s also why we use Shapeways and i.Materialize a lot for production pieces. Its simpler to upload and let customers pick colors and order direct from them.
Over the last year though I have been watching 3D Resin Printing closely. Reading and learning little bits here and there to try and decide if it was useable for us and if it was possible for us. If it was just to print faster test parts, nah wouldnt really make sense. If we could bring some harder FDM printed pieces to a cleaner reality of product then absolutely.
Well after about 8 months now of playing, researching and boxes of failed prints I can say Resin was worth it. Was it easy? No ….. Is it easy? No ….. Can it be usable? YES!
I started following Cyrul3dfx on their FB page. The owner Josh, some may know and some may not, is one of the best racers in the world. If you know his history then you already know lol. If you don’t then I would say Google him, his career is well known in RC cars. But he is also one of the nicest racers people in the hobby/sport I have known. I got in touch with him and messaged back and forth with questions and theories. I shared things I found he shared things he was finding and it helped make the learning curve smaller. He is doing some incredible things with NPRC drag stuff in case you’re into that part of the sport.
After getting my first machine it became almost like an addiction. At the start I went with the smaller 2k (as they call them) type #Anycubic Photon Mono machines. I didn’t know if it was something I was going to pursue so I wasn’t looking to drop the investment yet. Then black Friday sales were starting early and I was seeing the potential with these so I grabbed 2 more of the 2k Mono’s. Now 3 machines deep I wanted one I could play with trying resins or designs or just single piece things on. Boom Anycubic was having a site sale for the OG Photon they still sell. Its a smaller machine still able to mimic the 2k Mono ones and it was less then 150$. It was becoming an addiction quick.
Four machines and feeling comfortable I was starting to push for a product line. Nothing huge like wheels and such but simple things that help racers out. Fan shrouds, Alignment tools for TC’s, Battery holders for offroad cars, suspension shims for 12scale cars. Really just simple things that sometimes are hard to find or just overlooked.
The addiction grew by one more when I saw the Flashforge Foto 4K on sale. So 2K to 4K kind of explains itself if you understand about resolution. With out getting deep into the printers I looked at it like this. For what I design and make 2K resolution was smooth enough, I wouldnt justify the increase in detail for a 4K. Now a printer on sale thats 4K can be justified in my mind because with the increase in detail level comes an increase in size and speed. Could I cut my time in half over a 2K? some parts yes, some parts no but I gained build plate size so Yes.
With Resin printing time doesnt equal the amount of parts. You could print one part on the build plate in 30 minutes. If you put 5 parts on the same build plate you’re time equals your tallest part. FDM time gets consumed by the amount of parts printed. Five machines deep plus 2 FDM’s that can print nylon carbon fiber filaments, yup its an addiction.
I think I’ll save more detail info for another write up about Resin printing. What I will say now though is for what we use the parts on and what we use them for, its not as easy as just buying a ‘Tough’ resin or ‘ABS Like’ type and expecting it to hold up to our usage. Want to print a mini red devil to sit next to your car for picture day? For sure its easy but want to print that bumper for a 30mph impact? Ya its gonna take some experimenting and mixing to find the right setup.
Another interesting aspect is we have had some tracks and shops contact us with interest about stocking our product. Even though our product line is small and can seem tailored around only certain vehicles, we can and have done that. On the short side of it we dont advertise that part of things and we dont have fancy bagging and header cards. Again, small business low overhead and line cards just get thrown out. In the future more then likely we will have something fancy looking. For us its the basics, design – cut – sell – race. We also work with some shops on cutting for them, product they want and we just make it possible. So stocking Krazed Builds is something we offer as well as bringing a product you want to your inventory.
Last year we showed shots of our NPRC car we were working on. Things were starting off strong and good, got a few kits out there and some drivers trying things for us. Got some good feedback and ideas and directions to go in. Then winter hit and for us in New England it became the indoor season. Even with a milder winter it was hard to get out and see how the cars were testing. Touring car season picked up and its just been hard to get back into the files for the NPRC car.
Its tough at times being a solo dream with so many ideas and desires. Its been rougher getting back to this project but I havent dropped it yet. The car is still on the want list and conversations are picking up again with the car. I just havent been able to get much of anything on it finalized over the winter season. Thats the downside for this project so far but its still on the work books.
As a company and as a designer I want to say Thank You to everyone who has supported us since the beginning, 8 years ago, and to the new customers who have helped us grow even more. Your support is what drives us to look for things to make. Sure we could make parts to just sell them but its always been about making something drivers can use. We have new stuff coming out and love the thought of so many more to come.