Wanted to get this installment of Desk Diary out of the door as soon as possible before things started to change too much ><
Before we continue however, you may want to check out the last installment to see how we go to the current arrangement today.
Here we cut the flash from the soft vinyl shell, assemble MiraiFrame and then fit the frame in the shell. The two boxes on either side of the tables are heat boxes which heat up the vinyl for cutting and placing the frame in the shell.
Never attempt to remove or insert the frame into the soft vinyl shell without heating as you could crack it.
This layout worked for a while but as the production line gets into full swing to make the actual products for customers, this layout doesn't work anymore and needs some optimization. Tried to move the bicycles to the other side of the room but that alone was not enough ^^
Time for a layout overhaul. You can see how I revamped the room over 3 hours taken in the following timelapse video. Was a Sunday so no other staff members around and I wanted to get it done so that folks can carry on with their tasks on Monday.
Went to Ikea 3 times in the space of 2 weeks to get a load of the SAMLA storage boxes - a life saver.
3 hours later and we are all done and very knackered indeed ><
Now we have more space to do other production related tasks. Here we are checking parts that come back from the vinyl pulling factory in East Tokyo.
Box of oppai vinyl pulls.
We also have precious space to sort out the first 1000 MiraiFrame runners that are back from the injection molding factory in Yamagata.
First we need to do quality control for the frames. 1000 frames comes in 70 boxes like this - I got no space to fit them all so...
We need to break off all the pieces from the frame then pack them in small bags.
Not too good for the hernia but also don't feel too good to always get others to do the heavy lifting ><
We use a small Ikea SAMLA box which we call Sorting Trays - the runner is placed over the tray and we break off the pieces into the tray.
Getting rid of the runners and all the pieces into separate bags takes about 3 hours for 200 sets. Once thats done, we reduce the physical mass from 14 boxes down to 2!
You can see what a pack looks like near the window.
Here are some old prototypes. The "T" stands for "Try" and each time we do a try we tweak something about the frame. The first frames took over 2 hours to put together because they were so tight - now they take about 30 mins to assemble each - we ended at T7.
A closer look around the doll studio.
I spend a lot of time down here thinking about the past, present and future of Smart Doll when all the staff have gone home ^^
The bicycles stay here as there is really nowhere else to put them and placing them on the 2nd or 3rd floor didn't make sense.
I thought we would only be able to make only a few hundred per month due to the lack of space but it turns out that we can do much more through optimization of space and workflow.
In many cases, having less is actually having more. Through the lack of space, we were forced to think of ways to utilize what we had to create something more efficient than before.
I do realize that we will reach a point where we can't optimize anymore due to the demand but by then we would have a learning to take with us to the new office location.
The Ikea SAMLA boxes come in a variety of sizes which we use to store everything from the frames, soft vinyl shell, apparel items, wigs, eyes and so on.
This cabinet used to be filled with crap but now most of it is Smart Doll production related stuff. Still need to sort out the magazines and books on the top shelf though.
My Itachari on the top and wifeys Cayo on the bottom which we ordered from the UK. We still do use them though - was out n about cycling this week in Sendagaya.
Will get the latest GoPro so I can do more videos like the one below.
The final MiraiFrame which we will also sell separately.
Looks like MiraiFrame found itself a friend.
The heat box being used to warm up the soft vinyl for flash cutting. Its made from a cardboard box with a hole cut in it - there is an electrical heater that faces down and blows hot air into the box.
Previously picked up some Tamiya nippers but was very surprised at how long they didn't manage to last for - got these instead which we use for production of MiraiFrame.
We still got the Tamiya nippers in the office but we use those for rugged work instead.
The place where we used to shower is now being used as a stock room ><
Lets now take a lookie at some of the changes of late on the 2nd floor. This photo was taken for the end card of the Happy Trooper video.
This is what my workspace looked like for a while up until last week.
Together with producers from Good Smile Company and Max Factory.
Dindins with guests - can you recognize everyone?
I spy a new figure ^o^
Sorceress from Dragons Crown with her hat back to front ><
Really nice sculpt by Alphamax - check out the full review here and if you fancy adding one to your collection then one of the trusted retailers below may have her.
All the green leaves seem to be removable for some reason.
Rich Tea biscuits that I brought back from the UK - all gone now ;-;
If you can bring some for me to Japan then you are invited to our office!
The problem with my previous desk layout is that I couldn't do any doll production work without a heat box and cutting mat - easily solved by adding them but took me a while trying to figure out how to arrange my current computing equipment.
Initially had my external monitor on the corner like this but was not too comfy.
And this is what I finally decided to go with - MacBook Air can be moved to a side on the right of the table when I do doll work. Took these photos a few days ago but its already a wee bit different ><
And here are my daily production tools.
As we are now a doll manufacturer, you are going to have to get used to seeing naked dolls here and there ><
Now we are working on various styles of wig for Smart Doll. The Smart Doll heads are a wee bit smaller than Dollfie Dream - you can put a DD wig on a Smart Doll but not the other way round.
Checking through the faceups back from the factory. Each is hand painted with face masks just like Volks and Obitsu dolls.
You may have noticed from the previous photo but I switched back to using the HTC ONE (review here) after my Xperia Z1 (review here) bit the dust - apparently the waterproof functionality is not so waterproof.
Took a few photos on a beach in Dubai and the SD card *and* micro USB slot bit the dust...
The HTC ONE does have a crap camera but apart from that has been serving me well with the latest flavor of Cyanogenmod.
Currently working in parallel on Kizuna's wig, eye design and apparel items. She won't be out until much later this year though and Chitose will have to wait until early 2015.
Many folks have been asking how they can get hold of Smart Doll Manual version.
I've already got a load of pre-orders from clients who are ordering in bulk who want one regardless of the final specifications.
But for everybody else, I want to revamp the Smart Doll website first before I take anymore orders. Smart Doll features concepts that does not exist in any other doll on the market and I want to set expectations before I accept anybodys cash for them.
Up until now however, I've simply not had time to work on the website - I either work on the website or the product - I don't have resources to do both at the same time right now ><
Here is a different Smart Doll on the other desk. As we use paint masks, the faceup is almost identical - slight variances may occur due to the fact that they are hand painted. This is a good thing as no two dolls will be the same.
My current setup by day.
Behind me I now have 4 staff members all working on world changing stuff.
I'm not using the VIKA table legs anymore as I wanted the other side of the office to have matching legs.
As I run the business, I still need to do a load of computing but to tell you the truth, I would rather be working on the actual production of the dolls. Have always loved to make stuff since I was a kid.
Will be making a few videos soon showing you how MiraiFrame is assembled and how its put inside the soft vinyl shell.
Currently working on a new Smart Doll box for events and retail stores - still not sure whether it will replace the previous version where she sits down inside it.
Sorting through the SD cards that we use for filming and wot not.
Have been tweaking the eye design for Kizuna for a while now but we are nearly there.
The final process to be applied to the injection mold is to sandblast areas that should be matt which are the ball joints on the wrists, elbow and ankle - this makes sure that the surface is as similar as possible to the soft vinyl.
A large % of our work is quality control - all these parts on the floor are boo boo's.
All plastic or vinyl manufacturing processes come with pros and cons and they both have their fair share of blemishes here and there. Soft vinyl is a particularly difficult material to work with ><
If you are a soft vinyl doll owner, start looking at the body more closely and you will notice that more often than not there will be slight marks or small spots which occur during the molding process - as long as the material is soft vinyl then this cannot be helped. If all parts which had the slightest mark were rejected then there would be no product ;-;
I do want to start injection molding of the outer shell as soon as possible which should eliminate most of these issues and enable us to produce millions of units at the same time.
The sofa moves to the kitchen area.
Currently our meeting and powernap space.
The pre-sales of Smart Doll have placed us in a financially better position than ever before and the cashflow will enable us to grow at a favorable rate. We will try to stay here for as long as possible learning how to optimize space and resources as much as possible before moving out.
We will most likely get an office that is also a shop too so that you can pop by anytime to not only pick up Smart Doll or anything Mirai and have a cuppa tea with the team at the same time. Location has not been decided.
This is where the TV used to hang on the wall until we moved out ><
Not worth removing the bracket on the wall seeing as I plan to move back home again so currently use it as a bag rack. The beige bag is really nice and currently my main bag which I use for my MacBook Air and to carry Mirai around - Brooks Pickwick which I picked up from London.
Took down the other posters that we sold at events and replaced them with the displays from the Wonfes.
Unless you say otherwise, the 2014 collection of posters will have a simple clean look without a background. These displays were for Smart Doll which is why it has the logo but the posters for events won't have it.
The towel that you see in the heat box is used to cover the cutting mat when working on soft vinyl to prevent it from getting dirty.
Gundam Fix Figuration collection out on display.
Linus at the controls.
Wifey has the toughest job - accounting and HR ><
Also working on some sporty type shoes for Smart Doll. I plan to ship Kizuna in her casual wear too which will be cargo pants and a T-shirt. The current shoes for Mirai don't go well with cargo pants so need to make ones which do.
Fits Smart Doll and DD dolls too without being oversized like the other ones on the market.
No more space on the Mirai Shrine.
Piccadilly Circus - where I would catch the 38 bus back home to Hackney.
Just because they are nekkid it doesn't mean that I've neglected my Dollfie daughters!
DD Saber and Mirai in Mirai's maid uniform.
The neck for Smart Doll is designed to be slender but can still accommodate a DD head with a slight modification. Will talk about this when the Smart Doll website has been revamped.
More stuff which I've not gotten round to writing about - we worked with the Japanese Ministry of Transport to come up with a map of the Kanto region (Greater Tokyo). Folks flying into Narita will be able to get the Japan map at the airport.
Mirai Cheer Girl Version.
The Doll Meister at work.
Hmmm. I kinda prefer the new posters with the simple white background.
Its just turned May at the time of writing. Its getting warm but with the windows open there is a nice cool breeze. Summer is going to be hell though as usual ><
Thats it for today - next I need to pluck photos for the next A Week in Tokyo.
Previous installments of Desk Diary listed up below.