While we may still be in the “humble beginnings” phase, it will become more clear everyday that we embrace the unorthodox in everything we do. Where others see a box that needs to be checked, we see an opportunity to differentiate. Why? Cuz why the fuck not?

If you have been following us on Instagram, you probably know what we’re getting at. With our A is A Double IPA now officially on sale we needed a tap handle for our retail accounts who run draught systems. Whereas tap handles are typically made of wood or injection molded plastic, and follow a pretty standard aesthetic, we had an idea to take a completely different approach. 3D Printing.

Not only is 3D printing an awesome new technology that the average person has no experience with, it also lends itself to endless iteration and forms that no other process can produce. Our goal was to create a tap handle that stood out from every other handle at the bar, first begging the question as to what it was, secondly resulting in the need to pull the handle to give the beer a try. We know our market. Neophiles… People who are drawn to what’s fresh and new.

The problem was, we don’t own a 3D printer. That and we don’t do 3D modeling. But we do have a can-do attitude, which is all you really need. So we hopped on shapeways.com and reached out to a few designers. After various communications we found two talented designers who we felt could take our rough concept and bring it to virtual-reality. With a little direction we set designers Todd Blatt and Benjamin Jefferson loose to see what they could come up with. What resulted were some incredible form studies that helped us hone in on a final design direction. Here are some of those studies.

 

To address the other issue, our lack of the means of production, we had to get creative. Concluding hours of research we identified our two dream printers that we wanted to use. On the budget side was the Prusa i3 Mk2.5, a standard FDM desktop printer that prints top-down using filament and an extruder. This guy runs about $600, but is known for being an absolute work-horse of a printer, besting printers two to three times the cost. On the other end of the spectrum was the holy grail of 3D printers. This bad boy is known as the Form2 from Formlabs. It is a cutting edge SLA printer that uses a high powered laser to cure resin in just about any form. It is one sexy machine that prints at an incredible resolution. The problem though, it is an eye popping $3,500.

With a budget of only $3k to make our first full batch of handles our options were limited, with the Form2 being $500 beyond our budget. So you may think that I went ahead and purchased the Prusa i3… But that would be the orthodox thing to do, and you know how we feel about that. So I shot an email to both companies letting them know what we had in store and asked them if they would be interested in doing some form of collaboration. After all, it never hurts to ask.

Well, as luck would have it… let me rephrase that (I can hear Gary Vee yelling “Keep that luck shit in your pocket!”). As our efforts would prove, we got a response from Formlabs! Diana, their partnerships manager got a hold of our email and saw a great opportunity in it. After a few more emails and a Skype call they offered to lend us a Form2 3D printer AND invited us to serve our beer while showcasing our tap handle at a two-day conference they were holding in Los Angeles on February 8th and 9th!

So, with our printer in transit we cracked a beer in celebration and waited for our final 3D model to land in our inbox. Todd, the modeler whom we decided to go with, seriously came through with an amazing design just a couple days later. It was like a jewel that catches your eye from every angle. Take the interactive model of the final design below for a spin!

Now, with a final model and the Form2 in our posession it was time to put it into production. Formlabs provides an incredibly easy to use program designed to prepare any 3D model for print on their machine, called PreForm. Equally as easy was setting up the printer and sending the file… WIRELESSLY over WiFI!

We were amazed at how user friendly this high-tech device was to use. Like any new technology there were a few minor bugs to work out such as an oversensitive resin sensor. But their customer service was great in providing a quick solution. Before we knew it the little laser was dancing around the orange and silver box, bringing our tap handles to life. I’m not going to lie, it was like watching the replicator from Star Trek! Except, instead of it taking mere seconds to materialize, it was more like 16 hours to print a pair of handles. However, it is only Stardate-2018. So we’ll give them time to work on that.

 

DIY Cure Box
Next up was performing a final cure on the finished models to achieve maximum structural integrity. For this we used Formlabs’ DIY Cure Box solution. I think they consulted McGyver on this one. Just $35 and a visit to Amazon.com got us a UV nail curing lamp and a solar powered turntable. Then, combined with a couple cardboard boxes, tin foil, tape and a small space heater I already had, we were ready to rock.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here is the final result.

 

The last step was to secure the brass ferrule and hanger bolt, sourced from Etsy and Ebay respectively, paint the logo and slip in the interchangeable placard. Et voila!

Finally was the big reveal at the Formlabs LA Roadshow! They found us a cozy spot in an Air Stream from which to serve our A is A Double IPA and to show off the result of our collaboration. The turnout was great, with professionals from the manufacturing and entertainment sectors. They even had the designers of the Demogorgon from Stranger Things showing their concept models of the now-iconic monster. That made our inner geeks very happy. And of course, I have to mention how awesome Diana and the rest of the Formlabs team were for hosting such an incredible event and asking us to participate. I suspect there may be more collaboration with them on the horizon.

 

We hope you enjoyed this 21st Century tale of ingenuity and gumption. Honestly, we didn’t know how it would turn out. With so many factors, players, moving parts, unfamiliar technology and a limited window of opportunity, just a single speed-bump could have derailed the project. However, hard work tends to pay off.

Be sure to sign up to our email list for more stories of innovation, and the occasional epic failure as we strive to build a brave new brewery in the heart of Orange County.

Cheers, to living life #CraftAF!


One last thing. Give our 3D designers a gander.
Check out Todd Blatt’s website custom3dstuff.com and
Benjamin Jefferson’s linkedin profile and custom built 3D software Frameworx.

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