Earlier this year we were contacted by Mega-Lite, an intelligent lighting hardware and software company out of San Antonio, Texas. Mega manufactures lighting, LED, and audio products right here in the US, and were interested in OEMing a MIDI/DMX controller for use with their Enlighten DMX software. We OEM hardware controllers to a number of companies, but this was the first DMX controller we have designed, and it were really excited to have the opportunity to create one. We worked with their software division to create a control surface that gives lighting designers the physical controls they need to control lights at a fraction of the cost of using large dedicated hardware like the GrandMA. The result is the Mega Enlighten Wing, a comprehensive and portable control surface for stage lighting. Using this system give you the flexibility of a portable computer based system, with the power of a full lighting rig. You can literally carry this system with you to multiple locations, something you just can’t do with bulky hardware only systems.
We are also able to proudly provide this technology to a “Made in the USA, Made in Texas” company with the same tagline. The Enlighten Wing was developed, designed, and manufactured right here in Austin, TX. It’s a beautiful controller made from anodized aluminum with faders, encoders, jog wheels, and LED backlight buttons. It has USB, MIDI, and DMX connections. Mega-Lite is a company to keep your eye on, I think this controller with their software will revolutionize the professional lighting market.
Earlier this year we released our Builder series of parts and components for do-it-yourself controller building. These include: perforated circuit boards, parts, rubber keypads, micro controllers, and a lot of documentation thanks to our growing community of users. The hardest part of making your own devices is finding the right pieces so it doesn’t end up looking like something made using Radio Shack parts. A lot of interesting projects have come out of it like user Fox’s amazingly comprehensive controller. We were contacted by Ape5 a Block owner and monome user who was looking to use our button pads to build an arduinome. Well it turns out Ape is part of an entire group looking to buy our buttons, but they were also in need of faceplates and enclosures. After putting together a fairly large group dubbed the “Starfire Group Buy”, we created three versions of their designed enclosures for a 64, 128, and 256 arduino controller using our button pads. Here is a video showing the outcome of their project.
We are glad that we were able to help this DIY group bring their project to reality by providing some fabrication services and components. The enclosures were made with mahogany and hand cut on our table saw, the plastic backings were cut with our CNC machines, and the faceplates were cut from pre-annodized aluminum using our Millbot metal CNC machine. The beauty of having our own manufacturing facility is so we can not only make our own products in house, but we can assist other makers and DIYers with the support needed to create small, but important projects.
We recently completed manufacturing an interactive video kiosks for Whirlpool. They had an interactive video to display for their new line of washers and dryers and didn’t want to use an off the shelf touchscreen, so they contacted us to design and manufacture a completely custom display unit. This point of sale kiosk can be found on their Cabrio line of washer and dryers and can be seen in the appliance section of Lowes. The kiosk was designed for standalone operation and can be placed behind appliances as shown here behind Whirpool’s Cabrio dryer.
The kiosk is fabricated with a steel stand, base, and housing. An backlit acrylic bezel with low voltage LED’s and an anodized aluminum bezel finish of the front of the kiosk where the monitor is viewed. The housing holds a touchscreen computer and has speakers holes in the back for presentations with audio. We manufactured and assembled this kiosk in our Livid Industry shop in Austin, Texas.
After about a year in development we are pleased to announce the Ohm64, and adaptable, programmable MIDI control surface. This is an evolution from our first Ohm and was redesigned from the ground up.
This controller is class-complaint so there are no drivers. It is also completely bus powered so only a single USB cable is needed. The bi-directional communication allows you to control the LEDs on the clip bank to do a number of things. Here is a demo of it being used with Ableton Live.
We are proud to say we manufacture and assemble everything in house, including the circuit boards, wood bodies, and metal faceplates. Everything from the rubber pads to the sliders and knobs were custom designed in house by us.
Crumley New York saw that we know what to do with a piece of wood, and asked us to do a new line of high-end jewelry. Founder Brian Crumley just located an office here in Austin, TX , and premiered his new designs on the runways of New York during fashion week. Now they’ve made to the cover of Numero on the wrists of Giselle Bundchen: nice work Brian!
From Travis’s email (he’ll start posting on his own some day – sometimes it’s just easier if I do it, cuz you can’t blog from a pick and place [yet]!)
“The designs started out as paper templates that I converted to CAD drawings. After playing around with the shapes in virtual 3d space, we then converted the CAD designs to tool paths for the CNC machine. As an Instrument maker for almost a decade, I had an excess of small scrap pieces of exotic wood laying around. As a bit of a wood monger, I can’t even toss a piece of 4″ sq. piece of coco bolo. I figure that tree spent a lot of time growing and I might as well make something beautiful out of it. Crumley’s jewelry is the perfect use.”
The pieces are milled, rough sanded, then fine sanded by hand. The finish is a four step process of two or three coats at a time with wet sanding in between. The result is a high-gloss jewelry piece made out of exotic hardwoods.
From time to time Livid is asked to build controllers and systems for touring bands and productions. This month we had the opportunity to build an Ohm controller for the upcoming Poison Tour. Mark “Fifi” Miller, Poison’s lighting and video designer approached us with an order for a Poison green Ohm controller that would be used to control the tour’s video performance. Fifi hoped we would be able to match the green color from the Poison logo. Although we do have a very nice dark green as a standard color, I decided that a Poison theme controller was just too good to pass up.
As the production manager and Hardware developer, I have built our production line and developed the Ohm controller to be produced in full production runs and yet have the ability to add customization when needed. The Livid concept of production is to have as much of the fabrication equipment and processes in-house as possible. This allows us to have a high level of quality control, very rapid development , and a wide range of variability when needed.
Back to the Poison Controller.
For inspiration I just had to look at the Poison logo. I call it toxic green with highlights. As with all other Ohm controllers, the body starts out as a solid block of mahogany and is milled to shape with our CNC machine. After being rough sanded and fine sanded, the body is ready for color. Mahogany is a dark wood and does not lend itself very well to bright colors. Fortunately, mahogany is also a very open grained wood. This makes the wood very acceptable to holding dye and color. Our finishing has developed several techniques to get bright colors out of mahogany. The first step involves whitewashing the controller. This puts white pigment down into the large open grain of the wood. The whitewash provides a nice light underlying surface for the true color of the dye to really show. We allow the whitewash to dry for about an hour. If the color is put on too soon it will be a very milky looking finish as the dye mixes with the whitewash. To get the most vibrant green color, the color needs to sit on top of the whitewash. The open grain properties of mahogany allow the grain to show through even though the color is sitting on top of the wood.
This technique allows for a very toxic green. The Poison controller was just about the color of the Poison logo. To take the project the next step we decided to add the lime green highlights. This is achieved by a process we call color spraying. Color spraying is a technique of adding dye to clear lacquer. We basically airbrush tinted clear coat where it is needed.
I had just one more touch to complete the Poison Ohm controller. Just had to get that great logo in there. We applied the black vinyl cut logo to the curved scoop in the front of the Ohm.
After getting the color just right and applying the logo, the body is sprayed with 4 coats of clear lacquer. The lacquer is allowed to dry overnight and wet sanded. We wet sand at 400 grit to get the finish super smooth. This is repeated with another 4 coats of lacquer, wet sanded, and a final 4 more coats of lacquer. As a final finish process, we wet sand with 400, 800, and 1600 grit. The entire surface is then polished with rubbing compound and then polishing compound with a high speed buffer. This leaves a super smooth, instrument grade, deep clear finish.
If it sounds like alot of work, it is. Our customers appreciate their custom controllers as much as a guitarist appreciates a custom guitar so we put every bit of care into them.
We recently added a new pick and place machine to our shop. Here are some images of the machine at work.
This new machine allows us to completely automate the assembly of printed circuit boards on demand. We can assemble boards at a rate of 5000 parts per hour. The machine has three cameras that control the placement and check the position of the parts to ensure proper placement. We are in the process of building a completely automated assembly line to automate the process of placing and removing boards for assembly. If you have never seen a pick and place machine at work it is awesome how precise the machine places the tinniest components.
The new machine is also made in the USA, making our made in the USA products made with a machine made in the USA. This helps us in our effort to support local companies and bring manufacturing closer to home.
Livid Industry offers design, development, rapid prototyping, and manufacturing for companies, artists, entrepreneurs, and individuals. As we’ve grown in production for our own products, we’ve discovered what many smaller companies have: that the overall cost of overseas production is not reasonable or sustainable. As we watched the cost of shipping, labor, and materials go up, we had more difficulty controlling quality and communication. It quickly became apparent that the best solution was to bring manufacturing home, keeping us more engaged with our designs and labor, giving us more control over quality, and bringing costs down.
We know we’re not the only small business experiencing the problems and expense of global manufacturing. Our manufacturing and assembly shop in Austin, Texas now offers a way to bring new products to market, rapidly produce prototypes, and encourage local manufacturing. Consult with Livid Industry to make best use of your resources and time, and turn your ideas into a profitable products.
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