Here is the first in a series of write-ups of how we made the various items in CONTAINER.
After a couple of false starts, A&P settled on the idea of an information graphic of the North & South pole etched into a piece of stainless steel with a cut-out circle.
I looked at both photo-etching and laser etching stainless steel and we settled for laser etching because it could reproduce lines of 10 microns. Stephen Heath, the designer at A&P even produced a test artwork to see what different point sizes would look like.
Unfortunately, my regular laser etchers in Sheffield couldn’t accommodate an A5 plate, so A&P suggested some people they knew, Boundstone Engineering in Farnborough to make the steel plates.
Unlike the print industry, which uses the same software as the design industry, engineering firms use PC-based CAD software, which doesn’t automatically mesh with Mac-based software and so, a frustrating period of many weeks ensued while we batted files back and forth trying to get to the bottom of why the artwork wouldn’t process. At one point, Boundstone admitted that it had blown up one of their machines in one vain attempt to read the file.
Sometimes, there is only so many emails and calls you can make, so I collected a rather bleary-eyed Stephen from his house at 6:30 and headed to Farnborough to sit in front of the engineer to see what was getting lost in translation. It was a worthwhile visit as it turned out the CAD software was reading a bunch of extraneous detail hidden in the Illustrator files.
Distracted by the metal drama, we’d not yet gotten beyond a vague notion of putting it in a Colorplan envelope. So, I managed to get the boys at A&P excited about matching the cut out in the metal with the envelope—meaning you could see straight through it.
But this needed precision to get right and had we made a CAD cut prototype, there would have been too much variation when we came to manufacturing, so we decided to make all the plates, then make the wallets to fit the finished plates and then laser etch the finished wallets after they were made up (going through both the front and the back simultaneously). It was a risk, but it worked beautifully and sometimes it’s worth the risk of not seeing a dummy.