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Celebrating 8 years

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Celebrating 8 years

It was 8 years ago today when Gareth signed the Certificate Of Incorporation of Creative Conners, Inc and kicked of his dream of building awesome and affordable scenic automation. Let’s take this opportunity for a meander down memory lane.

The first fabrication started in the basement of Gareth’s house in Providence, RI. Gareth had to stand by the washing machine to get cell phone reception and fight with the cat for bench space. But from the forge of these obstacles was born the Stagehand, Avista, the Showstopper and the Pushstick. In 2007 the Conner Clan relocated to Barrington, RI and Gareth was able to spread his wings with a 2-car garage, and even some semi-regular help with electronic fabrication. This was when Avista was reborn as Spikemark, we added the Revolver and the Stagehand FX, and the Stagehand AC was redesigned from the ground up.

But things really took off last summer. First, more space was needed and we found an awesome shop in Warren, RI. The company added a sales guy (yours truly) and a Product Engineer, Royal Marty. And with the help of the awesome marketing firm Tribal Vision, we built a new website and re-tooled our marketing and branding. It’s been a great year – we’ve sold more gear than in any previous year, we’ve added the Curtain Call to our machine lineup, and put a new focus on communicating with our customers. But the biggest change has been in machine fabrication. With the new shop and additional staff, we can now make our own machines giving us control of the process and making protoyping new products easier. We still get water-jet cutting and tricky machining done by our friends and partners at Mystic Scenic Studios, and we found a great powder-coater nearby, but we do the rest ourselves, which is helpful when we have the biggest 2-month stretch of machine sales that the company has ever seen!

But, of course, we couldn’t have done any of this without our customers, more than 150 organizations who have trusted us with their ever-tightening budgets to deliver automation products that will move their scenery for show after show for years to come. So we celebrate with you as we blow out the candles on our birthday burritos (Royal’s a vegan) and even as the company grows, we’ll always put our customers first. Thanks for 8 years of changing the automation game.

 

Showstopper Hub Redesign

Big product news today – Our redesign of the Showstopper Hub is finished, tested and shipping this week!

Our Showstopper Cue Controller can handle up to six Stagehands, but if you’re running more than that, you need to add in a Showstopper Hub, which can handle an additional six Stagehands. The redesign is mostly in the case – the Hub is now housed in a 2U-sized rack-mountable enclosure (same as the Stagehand FX), with redesigned front and back panels. We also changed the layout so now the power, the input, and all the outputs are on the rear of the unit, to keep your automation setup tidy and organized. We went with a rack-mount case for our customers who already use a rack for their Stagehand FX’s and rack-mount ethernet switches. This will remove one more piece of gear from the table top.

The Showstopper Hubs are in stock and ready to ship, so give us a call if you’re looking to get your hands on one.

 

Spikemark Tip: Overspeeding Your Motors

Front panel of Stagehand AC

Have you ever wished that your machine was faster? A quicker pull across the stage for a pallet or a faster rotation for a turntable? Of course, you could always re-gear your machine to get more speed out of it. But wouldn’t it be cool if you could just make the motor go faster? Well, you can. Both the Durapulse and Mitsubishi Stagehands can handle overspeeding up to 200%, so if you don’t need all the horsepower that your motor is rated for, this trick can get you that extra speed you’re looking for.

Basically, a motor has a torque rating based on the amount of hertz being delivered. In the default settings, 60 hz provides 100% of torque. Overspeeding is simply changing the settings on the Stagehand so that it delivers more than 60 hz which makes the motor turn faster with a corresponding drop in torque. So if you have a 5hp motor and you want to double its speed (and you can get away with 2.5hp), you send it 120 hz. The motor speed doubles, the torque rating gets cut in half at the maximum speed and you’re all a set.

If you have a Mitsubishi Stagehand (with the keypad on the front), you need to change parameter 252 of the VFD. That process is explained in section 4.3 of the Stagehand AC Manual 2.1. If you have a Durapulse Stagehand (keypad on the back), you will need to change parameter 0.04, which is explained in section 4.3 of the Stagehand AC Manual 1.0.

In addition to the loss of torque, another downside to keep in mind is that the control signal resolution is also reduced, which makes fine adjustments more difficult.

Once your Stagehand is set to produce 120Hz, adjust your maximum speed in Spikemark to allow the motor to run faster in cues.

That’s it. Tune in next month for another rollicking good time with Spikemark!

 

 

New Pushstick Limit Mount

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Since the first Pushstick shipped to the University of Delaware in 2005, we have used a rotary limit switch mounted to drum shaft. The attachment was simple, the drum shaft has an 8mm hole bored into one end where the limit switch slid in and was held in place by a couple of set screws. This has worked pretty well over the years, but occasionally the set screws that clamped the limit switch shaft into the drum shaft would loosen up during shipping and could potentially wreak havoc if the set screws weren’t tightened before installation.

This week we started producing a new limit switch mount which is more reliable and rugged. We mill a slot in the end of the drum shaft and drive a roll pin through the limit switch. The roll pin keys into the slot and is fully captured so that it can’t wiggle loose. The pin-in-slot coupling is also more tolerant of shaft misalignment and quick enough to install or remove that folks can yank the limit switches off for shipment or storage to protect the limit switch. We are really happy with this little tweak to the Pushstick, and I personally love it when we sand off a rough edge in the products.

Below are a couple of pics of the prototype being made. Have a great week everyone!

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What’s New at Creative Conners

 

Sorry we’ve been so quiet lately – the good news is that it’s because we’ve been busy. We’ve made some great new customers and some of our existing customers have had a chance to add to their automation inventory. Here’s an update on what’s going on at Creative Conners:

Our newest customer is New York Theatre Workshop, who received a grant from the City Of New York to purchase an automation system. They are getting two Pushstick Kits and a Revolver Kit. That’s a great package, we think they’re going to like it a lot.

Another new customer is Zach Theatre in Austin, TX. They’re putting the final touches on a brand new theater and they were able to purchase two Pushstick Kits from us, and a hydraulic elevator from our good friend Adrian Davidson at Stage Machines. The Technical Director, Paul Flint, had used our gear during his time at The Alliance Theatre in Georgia and saw an opportunity to get some Creative Conners gear at his new home in Texas.

In the spring, I did a product demonstration for the staff and students at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. I guess it went pretty well, because the Technical Director, Chris Tedford called a month later and ordered his own Pushstick Starter Kit for the theatre department. They’re really looking forward to using that machine in their productions next season.

Another new customer is New Theatre Restaurant, in Kansas City, MO. They were looking for some automation and got a demonstration of our gear from Tom Gault at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, who had very nice things to say about the system. Thanks, Tom! New Theatre also purchased a Pushstick Starter Kit and are going to be using it next week for their production of Hairspray.

In the world of returning customers, Ravenswood Studio purchased two Pushstick Kits for a Houston Grand Opera production they’re working on right now. That package is heading out at the beginning of July for a trial setup in their Chicago area shop. Ravenswood has been a customer for years, and it’s been nice to hear from them again.

Mystic Scenic Studios had us re-imagine their roll-drop controller, the Roll-3. Our Product Engineer, Royal Marty (who was stuck on desk duty while nursing a finger injury) headed that up, designing the electronics, printed circuit boards and a new custom enclosure.

Milwaukee Repertory Theatre is overhauling their control setup to use Creative Conners equipment. They bought six Stagehand Minis and two Stagehand MPE’s, our 7.5hp version of our classic Stagehand AC. That package went out just about an hour ago!

If you’re keeping track, that’s eight Pushstick Kits and a Revolver Kit, which is pretty exciting for us. We invested in some new tools during the winter and now we do most of the fabrication here in the shop. I’ll post some pictures next week of what the shop looks like these days.

Anyway, it’s busy here, and it’s always great to ¬†welcome new companies into the family.

 

 

Indiana Rep’s Giant Turntable

Chris Fretts from Indiana Repertory Theatre sent us a video of their 40 foot diameter turntable in action. The weight of the scenery was estimated at 14,000 lbs so we put 2 Revolvers on it to keep it moving nice. Enjoy the video, the set designer is Russell Metheny. Thanks for the video, Chris!

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