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New Life For Old Machines

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New Life For Old Machines

Last week we finished up an order for Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida. Part of that order was a refit of an SMI winch from 1992 that they wanted to use with the Creative Conners control system, so they sent it to us for some updating. The original plan was to add a brake and an encoder, put on the cable plugs to fit with our Stagehands and send it back. By the time we added up the costs, we realized we could simply replace the existing DC motor and gearbox with a brand new SEW Eurodrive gearmotor with integrated encoder and brake for not a whole lot more.

Asolo Rep ended up with a quiter machine. The new motor is AC, which runs quieter than the DC, and the brake on that gearmotor is almost silent. In addition, since Asolo Rep was also buying a second Stagehand and winch, both Stagehands could be AC, so they can be interchanged.

The moral of this story is that there’s still life in those old machines. If you’ve got a winch that isn’t up to spec, don’t throw it out- for about half the price of a new winch you can have a machine that works like it’s brand new! If you want to find out what it takes to update your equipment, let me know at ian@creativeconners.com and we’ll put a quote together for you.

Gareth’s Talk at Purdue

Last weekend, Gareth travelled to Indiana to present a seminar to the Technical Theatre students at Purdue University. Besides the basics of automating scenery, they discussed electrical, software and circuit board design which appealed to this group who have a strong overlap with the Purdue Engineering department. They dove deep into the design of the Stagehand OEM, the heart of our system, covering both the initial design decisions and the specific chips & circuits employed. It was a great talk, and Gareth got a chance to hang out with the next generation of leaders in the industry.

Gareth was excited to report that the Purdue students were enthusiastic and engaged and really got interested in the logic planning of software design, which always gets Gareth really excited, so it must have been pretty exciting in there!

Quick thanks to Rich Dionne for Inviting us to West Lafayette. It’s always good to get out of the shop and work in-person with the great people we interact with every day.

New and Improved Revolver Encoder Mount

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Three years ago we introduced The Revolver, our friction drive machine for turntables, and ever since it has been one of our most popular products. Over the years, we have noticed a tendency for the encoder ‘dancer’ wheel to rise and drop as it it tracks along the edge of certain turntables, causing the encoder to lose counts. The original mount was a machined block of HDPE that slid inside P1000 Unistrut and was tensioned with a spring. Unistrut has enough variance that insuring a precision fit to our machined HDPE shuttle was error-prone and time-consuming. If the turntable and encoder wheel weren’t perfectly parallel, the slop in the fit between the shuttle and the Unistrut would lead to inaccurate positioning. So we put our new Product Engineer, Royal Marty on the case. He designed, fabricated, installed and tested a slick new mount (seen here) that guarantees that the wheel will track true, resulting in more accurate encoder counts and more reliable positioning.

This is a great example of critical evaluation and constant improvement. We keep polishing products like the Revolver to make them fantastic.

Custom work at CCI

One of the great things (according to us) about the Creative Conners gear is that we’ve spent years honing the product line into reliable “stock” items. By building modular components rather than custom systems, we streamline our operation and give our customers more bang for their buck. This was the goal from the beginning, and it works pretty well.

Of course, some projects require something a little more special than our stock products. In the past, we rarely tackled custom projects because we didn’t have the space & additional people-power to give custom jobs enough love and attention. But now we have a new shop and new people, so we can dig into some of the fun custom projects while continuing to run the core operation. This week we began production on 2 custom jobs for Mystic Scenic Studios. They are both traveling exhibits with interactive displays, the first is for the NY Hall of Science and the other for Ecotarium. They both have tiny linear actuators, some buttons, a dash of AV, and an undeniable need for electronic control.

These are small, fun jobs that give us a chance to explore different technologies and do some creative problem-solving. With more people around to help keep the regular production line moving, Gareth has time to put on his Mad Scientist hat and create some cool stuff. He’s ordering custom circuit boards and doing some programming with Basic Stamps, Arduino’s, and maybe a little embedded Linux. Of course, being Gareth, he’s trying to standardize the circuit board design and make it into a stock item for use in generic exhibits. We’re excited to have the resources to do these things. Solving problems is what we love to do and it’s fun to flex our creative muscle.

Automation Workshop Details

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Our next Stage Automation Workshop is scheduled for Friday-Saturday, October 28 & 29. We now have Workshop details posted on our fantastic new website: www.creativeconners.com/workshop.

It’s a great workshop for anyone just starting out in scenic automation or has been doing it for a while but wants to take the next step. If you need more info, or if you’d like to reserve a spot, let me know at: ian@creativeconners.com.

The New Website is Up!

As we have been promising for a few weeks now, our revamped website is now up and running. We’re so excited, we can barely breathe. As usual, you can find it here: www.creativeconners.com.

What’s new? Well, the most important thing is that the blog is now on the site (instead of WordPress.com), so if you subscribe to this blog with an RSS reader, you need to add this feed: http://garethconner.pairserver.com/blog.

So what else? We have a fancy new design and an improved navigation. We hope this will improve your experience with Creative Conners, and make it easier for you to find the products, services and information you’re looking for.

We’re also introducing Starter Packages which bring together all the products you need to move scenery. Hopefully this will help people who are new to the CCI gear see what all the parts are.  And… there’s a package discount!

Next up, the new Gear Sharing Map that we told you about a couple of weeks ago makes an appearance in 2 places on the new site. The first is the Theatre Consortiums page so you can spy on your neighbors. The other place is the Our Clients page, so new clients can see all the cool kids who are using our gear.

We did this for you, so let us know what you think in the comments or email me at ian@creativeconners.com.

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