There Will Be No Aluminium Cases


At least for the Pandora. The project started by one of the community member in the course of last year, after the Pandora CAD designs were released to the public, did not come to fruition. An announcement earlier today put an end to a project that did not show much movement at all since it was announced.

I wanted to leave a trace here of another failed project. Just for reference, the said cases were supposed to be made by October-November 2014 in the first place. This project was just a big showcase of a lot of talk and not much being done at all – and an excellent example of poor communication. I hope this shall serve as a example for anyone involved in any projects from now on. The least you can do is COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE.

Note that I am not interested in pointing fingers here. I simply believe that whoever ran this project should have done a better job at providing news on a regular basis and making sure people saw some actual progress, and stop giving dates one cannot guarantee with great confidence. It just creates a LOSE-LOSE environment for everyone involved, and gives space for people to doubt whether they have been fooled again.

The project seemed to be on its way, however, by August 2014.

August 2014 : I will start the design and Production as soon as I got the mockup (a fully equipped but not necessarily functional Pandora).

Then, no news until.. September 20th – I’m not sure when he got the actual Pandora, though, but by September it was clear he already had it.

September 20th: We already started the redesign of the housing parts and hopefully we can order the aluminum blocks later next week. Depending on the time the material needs to be delivered, we can start milling early October and finally ship the whole stuff to ED by end of October – early November. So, if nothing goes too wrong, you will have the “tough cases” before christmas.

Then no news until… November! Are we not in the digital Age where it only takes like 3 minutes to send a message to tons of people at once? Note that the design and production should have started “as soon” as the functional Pandora was received, but it’s very clear that nothing happened at that time.

November 7th: Yes, we are still working on the Pandora and will deliver the cases (hopefully) by end of November. Anyhow we need to utilize a new CAM software for translating the model into a CNC milling program. Programming a case on the CNC itself is somehow possible, but not really an option (much too complex). The problem is, that the CAM Software (ZW3D) and especially its Postprocessor still tries to ruin my CNC milling centre by choosing toopaths leading through the machine table. Before this problem is solved, we cannot start production. Unfortunately we depend on the software supplier to get a proper CAM Postprocessor.

The next update did not come too long after however…

November 20th: As stated before: We still do not have a CAM-Processor, but I wasted the full (to-)day with a salesman from another company offering such CAM software – and his Postprocessor worked pretty well in the first trial. But they recommend a two weeks training (7 – 9 working days) before you can use their program properly. Also I cannot swap the contracts so easily (have to wait another 2 – 3 weeks before I can return the license of the software I already ordered). And we are talking about Software with a 10 – 15.000 Euro price tag on it (+ monthly maintenance/update/support fees). And – no: I did not order the Aluminum yet, because I do not want material worth thousands of Euro sitting on the floor longer than necessary. But I can get the material within a few days, as soon as I am ready to process it. There is definitely no shortage of Aluminum.

So, no raw material anyway to start the production (the Aluminium was supposed to be ordered by end of September!), and you can therefore guess the “End of November” production windows was as good as gone. This was followed by a technical tooling post on the 23rd, not really relevant to the Pandora case however.

Then no news until… end of January 2015. This is just mind-blowing that after November, there was no news at all for 2 months. Why ? Why didn’t we get any updates? And the new update is to announce another 2-4 weeks delay ?

January 29th: Unfortunately I have to announce another 2 – 4  weeks delay, as our CNC crashed yesterday due to a defectively programmed CAM-Postprocessor. We will see the service technicians on Monday but we still do not know how many parts need to be replaced and how long it will take to get the spare parts installed.

2-4 weeks delay compared to what deadline? The End November one ? Oh wait, that time had long past by now, so basically the whole deadline was a moving target by now. Of course, 4 weeks later there was no update. You get the idea how bad things were turning out. The next update only came in early March 2015.

March 7th: After the crash damages on the machine had been fixed, the 5-Axis kinematic was completely faulty (about 3 – 4 mm), so a week later the technician had to show up again. He gauged the machine with a 15.000 Euro equipment and reprogrammed the axis calculation vector with his software. […] Since then the machine runs 6 days a week 16 hours a day (06:00 – 22:30 h) to catch up with the orders’ deadlines […] And, unless “The 2 months™ Pandora curse” strikes again, the Pandora cases will be in production by week 12/2015.

I’m not sure what you think by now, but at that time this gave me the impression that he was throwing technical details and big figures numbers just to “drown the fish” and avoid talking about the fact that he had not delivered anything at all until now. Obviously, no update arrived in 2 weeks that followed – are you surprised by now ? We actually had an update from ED instead who was in touch with the guy in charge of the aluminium cases:

March  26th: Half of the company is ill (flu and stuff like that) and they’ve got two important jobs with deadlines they need to finish first. The first one has been finished a few days ago (he just sent me a mail after that in the middle of the night from work!), the second one is being done, then it’s Pandora time.

So close, and yet so far. You could think from the last message that the production was just a couple of days away, or maybe a week? Final update earlier today:

April 14th: Just right now, I contacted ED to cancel the Aluminum Case project (and he agreed). Evil Dragon will start giving back the money right now; I will bear the costs for back transfer (as there is PayPal fees, and credit card transfer fees). This means that every preoder will be repaid within the next few days readily. After a long discussion in my company, we came to the conclusion that we do not see a terminal date when we can promise to deliver the cases. At the moment we have so many orders from industrial customers which we can process with little construction work (whereas “little” is still a lot), that we cannot find the time to reconstruct the Pandora case and set it onto the machine. Even worse, my construction assistant is sick for an indefinite time, so we already work at the maximum load.

I am sorry, but after all this seems to be the best way to deal with the whole case.

So, at this stage I’m not sure if anything happened at all, or if we were simply supposed to wait for another couple of months before things started to happen. All in all, this is very disappointing, for a number of reasons:

  • Yet Another manager who does not deliver on what was promised. You don’t want to be that person. Nobody is gaining anything from that. 
  • Infrequent communications in a community already worried about the lack of follow-ups.
  • Giving new delivery dates that never happen to come true.
  • Showing no sign of anything being actually done.
  • Makes preorders look like the wrong way to do things – again -.
  • The aluminium cases were a genuinely good idea.

This happens (again!) in the same community. Talk about “bad luck” ? Or is there something else at work here?

The only positive thing is that ED acted properly here by ensuring people’s money would not be wasted in case the project did not follow through. By having the money blocked on his side, the ones who preordered the cases at least avoided the risk of losing everything.

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It’s a shame this never materialized. Still, at least everybody *should* get back everything they paid this time.


Glad you found time to write this very necessary and objective article.