Because we make cases for so many musicians and bands, we are really good at instruments and accessory cases. We have built many different styles of mic stand cases for both rock ‘n roll and the military. So when Loyola Marymount School of Film and Television sent me this picture with a request to build a case to take its place, I was ready for the challenge. As you can see, it serves a purpose. But it doesn’t hold any of the stands with tripod or round bases. And it certainly cannot be shipped anywhere in this state. And truthfully, it’s kind of ugly. So we had many conversations back and forth about how big and what absolutely had to fit. Because it’s a school, the kids don’t always put things away the right way. They frequently do things the easy way. So we needed to find a way for everything to fit without having to take anything apart. So all those big heavy bases had to stay attached. After several rounds of drawings and discussions we hit on this: This made the most sense. The round based stands could hang or stand in half the case. The small tripod stands could hang in the other half, while all the rest of the stands would fit into compartments. This allowed for separating the two halves when needed or shipping the entire case when needed. A win win all around. And some make shift labels for some of the stand compartments. We are a small company and couldn’t do our jobs unless we all work together. And we all wear many hats. My main job is to design a case to make the customer happy. Our CNC programmer also does double duty as our drawing engineer. He is the one responsible for the wonderful drawing above. He takes my down and dirty sketches and turns them into something the customer can relate to. And he does them all the time for all of us. It really helps the customer understand what we are talking about. So here is the final product all packed nicely with the stands. I think we did a fine job with this one!
I always say I love the difficult to design cases. That I am tired of the guitar and amp cases. Sometimes the easy to design cases look difficult because they have lots of drawers and partitions and table legs. In reality, these are not difficult at all. They are very time consuming for the shop to build because there are so many pieces and parts to them. But they are formulaic to design. The hard part is making sure you remember all the little details because these cases are used at trade shows. They don’t just get the product to the show, they also display the product and function as work space to demo the product. They have to perform.
Lime Crime came to us wanting pink cases to use as their trade show shipping and display cases at the Makeup show in New York. The idea behind the pink was to make them stand out among the sea of black cases that everyone else uses. I am in on this big time because pink is my favorite color. Although I confess I didn’t understand pink when Lime is in their name. As you can see by the picture, the pink is perfect.
Makeup is their trade. And makeup is usually packaged in small boxes. I mean, look at how small your eye shadow is! And they take hundreds of these to the show. And these little boxes are time consuming to deal with at a trade show or venue – simply because there are so many of them. You have to make sure the drawers are not too big or too small and can be used for a variety of items. You have to make sure you have dividers to keep things organized. And you need to make sure that when they arrive at the show, all the boxes stayed where they were put. If they arrive at the show and all the boxes are in a jumble, they will waste valuable time putting everything where it was and should have stayed while in transit. As products are redesigned and repackaged they might not fit if we are not diligent about getting the drawer sizes right.
And with makeup, the visual is everything. So when it all comes together it has to look as perfect as the employees and their customers do. And it also has to protect the product so it arrives the same way it started out.
I love making sure my customers are happy and get what they want and need. So while I might not always have the challenge of designing a difficult case, I always have the challenge of making sure I get it right so my customers are satisfied with our product. A&S Always Satisfied!
This is the best job in the world! Where else can you use all your creativity to design something perfect that is also completely practical? And take the customer’s original wish list drawing and turn it into reality? And not sort of or kind of like the original either! Check out the pictures! I have done guitar and amp cases forever. Bor-ing! It wasn’t drudgery when I was new at it because I was still learning a craft. But 27 years into the craft and guitars and amps are drudge work. Yes, I know they are your babies but cut me some slack! You don’t want to play the same song eight hundred times either. One of our customers, VirtualGT, makes racing simulators. These are super high-end machines that actually have the look and feel of driving a real race car. They sent us a composite drawing of what they wanted. Seemed like a no-brainer since we have done them before. But wait, even though it is 56” wide we need to fit it into a trailer that is 43” wide. Seriously? As you can see from the first set of pictures, (which are blue and ended up red then black) the LCD was originally supposed to ride in the case in the useable position. This makes the case around 56” wide. However, the trailer the case was to travel in required the case to be no wider that 43” outside. This first picture was done by VirtualGT to show me what they wanted the cases to look like and how they wanted them to function.
Pay attention, because when you get to the end of this blog, you will be amazed at how we really did it! It is absolutely amazing what you can create if you let your mind run amok. The actual simulator itself was no problem to fit into the trailer. True, we had only a couple inches to spare, but with a little finesse it did fit. And we custom made stairs so it makes the whole base seem wider than it really is. But it was no joke that the video display for recreating the virtual race track was around 50” wide. I love a challenge! With many days of discussions back and forth and pictures and drawings clogging the e-mail channels, I finally hit on a solution. (Ever the optimist, I always believe anything is possible. And frequently the first answer I hear is “NO!” But it doesn’t stop me – I always know there is a way.) The solution required that we build a secondary partial base that travelled with the regular case. This is a u-shaped 6” wide channel around 24” deep that would bolt to the original base and make the width 56” to allow the screen to be used in the case. The original lid was split in half and a third piece was crafted so that when latched together, the lid became 56” wide to enclose the video display. The new lid keeps the ambient light off the display and it really does feel like the road with all the vibration of a real race car. Here you can see the drawing we sent to our customer to show how we were going to solve the problem. They had some serious reservations about this kooky idea. I never doubted that it would work, but as always my first idea is not always the one that works. In this case, I didn’t initiate the idea of bolting the secondary outer piece to the case but that made it perfect. And absolutely un-tippable! You can see by the pictures how talented the people in our manufacturing facility really are. And because we all work as a team we are able to create these fabulous designs. This picture shows the cases almost completed in the factory. Even though I have been doing this for a long time, I am always amazed when we get to the end of a long and difficult project and see the finished product. I am amazed that I really got it, that I was able to put it on paper so that the shop understood what the customer and I wanted and actually built it. In this case, the guys out back were able to make suggestions on how to build this to make it better. And indeed as you look at these final pictures it was awesome! You know if we are able to create something this large and complicated we are surely able to take whatever case you have dreamt about and turn it into a reality. This picture proves that not only is every case we make Always Superior but Amazingly Spectacular as well.
I have heard of shredded beef, shredded chicken, and shredded lettuce, but shredded foam?
A while back, a man came in with an old 2” foam lined shockmount rack case. He said the foam needed to be replaced. I had never seen anything like the destruction of his foam. It was truly shredded. As I stood staring at the foam in confusion, he explained that this was in his home studio and he had cats. Aaaaah! Another crazy cat person!
I have always been fond of cats. From the time I was a little girl and my big orange tabby let me dress him up in doll clothes and wheel him around in my baby buggy. (For those of you who are young and don’t understand baby buggy, think old fashioned stroller…) I always figured I would end up like the crazy old ladies with 37 cats. But I never realized there are people who like them as much as I do.
But there is a solution for shredded foam! While I cannot prevent your cats from shredding your furniture or carpets, there is an easy solution to the foam for your shockmount racks.
Enter the airack. Or, for those of you who think it isn’t a shockmount if it doesn’t have foam, the Kriz-Kraft. Both of these would have solved the problem of the shredded foam.
The Kriz-Kraft original goes back 30 years or so and the company changed hands a couple times before A&S purchased it in 2005. This case was a 6 sided box with front and rear door panels instead of lids. There was 2” foam inside and a half inch ply inner rack shell. There were 4 latches – 2 on each side of the lids. It is an exceptionally strong case because it is 6 sided so it can’t wobble or flex. We have changed the latches and added door hangers as pictured in the Kriz-Kraft airack. This allows the front and rear doors to be removed and hung on the side of the case so the lids have a home. We have also allowed the option of the airack to be installed in the Kriz-Kraft Case. We just use larger isolators to get past the Kriz-Kraft door jamb. The Kriz-Kraft covers the foam so the cats can’t shred it!
The airack is a lightweight steel frame that is installed inside the case with rubber isolators. This allows for better shock and vibration attenuation and better airflow since there is no inner shell to impede it. This air flow and shock attenuation works on any style airack whether it is Kriz-Kraft, Slam! or A&S Style. And there is no foam to be shredded. This also allows for much better airflow which is better for the gear.
Change is inevitable but it doesn’t have to painful. Here at A&S we are always looking for a better solution. As technology advances there are better and better ways to build things. And that allows us to give you a better product!
My biggest pet peeve these days is the lack of service companies provide. In the old days (I know I say this a lot but I am old), service was the number one priority for every company around. If you needed something they didn’t offer they would find a way to provide it for you. And they did it happily and courteously. Today they offer whatever they want you to have for the moment. No one cares what you want. Your only choices are what they want to offer – too bad if it just doesn’t work for you. And since all the big box companies emulate each other, no one steps up to the plate to serve the customer.
Here at A&S we still offer great service. We have a very large selection of standard cases – all of which you can see on our website. There are cases for every product imaginable. But more importantly, we will make you any case you need, for any item you have, for any purpose you can imagine. If it is physically possible, we will build it for you. You can see many examples of these cases in our gallery photos. From sound carts, to specialty trade show cases to in studio rolling mixer carts to broadcast editing stations there isn’t anything we can’t do. And we love the opportunity to make your case dream a reality.
We pride ourselves on our ability to meet the needs of our customers. We offer lots of solutions to every issue. And we do it happily and courteously because we love doing it. It is great fun to search for a solution to your case need. We want our customers to be happy when they leave with our case. We want the case to make a hundred round trips and protect the gear it is meant to protect. And if there is an issue, we take it personally. That is why we are Always Superior.
A while back I talked about laminated wood and the types of laminates we use when we build cases. We also build cases using wood that is not laminated. I don’t mean wood that is bare but special types of wood that have the coating applied when the layers are laminated together.
Generally, we use ACX Fir Ply wood for our cases. It is strong and reliable. And it has to be laminated so the bare wood can be made road worthy. But there are some terrific birch woods available that are super strong, have more layers, and are just as good as or better than ACX Fir Ply.
Much of the phenolic birch available comes from Eastern Europe. It used to be called Finland Birch but now a lot of it comes from Latvia. It has more layers than traditional ply wood and the layers are thinner. It is also measured in millimeters as opposed to inches. When the layers are laminated together, the top and bottom phenolic coatings are applied as part of the laminating process. And that process is done with a marine glue so the resulting wood is water resistant. They make the phenolic with a smooth surface, but the better option is what is known as a “diamond” or “hex” pattern. It is the same wood but the look is different.
Every type of laminated or non-laminated wood has its own set of issues. ABS is a plastic material and can bubble if it gets hot or sits in the sun. Fiberglass has a great long life, but scratches really easily. The phenolic resin is very durable, but if it gets whacked with a forklift, you can lose a chunk out of it.
There is also a Chinese knockoff of the birch ply that is really poplar wood. You can tell that it is not birch because there are much fewer layers and the layers are thicker. It also tends to warp so the sheets are not straight.
Here at A&S we use only the best materials so you know your case will always hold up on the road.
In the old days (I say that a lot) we designed cases on paper and the shop cut and routed the wood by hand with a saw and router. While the guys who did the work were masterful, it was very time consuming and not always exactly the same. A few years back we purchased a CNC router and hired a CNC design engineer to cut the cases with it. Over the last couple years we’ve improved upon this design process through the challenges that have arisen in meeting our customers’ needs. Here is just one of the excellent examples of this – a prototype we created because we did not have access to the item.
Sometimes things just turn out perfectly. And sometimes you have to make an adjustment or two and it is magic. Such is the case of the A&S Kriz-Kraft Studio & Road Airack®. Everyone had a version of them ten years ago. Then it seems like the need went away or perhaps they didn’t work as well as they should have. The need is there again and we here at A&S have made magic without sacrificing any of the quality our cases are designed to have.
Sound suppression and heat removal are the two most important things for a studio/road rack system. Sound suppression is relatively simple because it can be done with foam and being able to keep the doors closed. (You will understand more about keeping the doors closed as you read below about the fans.) Heat is an altogether different issue. The equipment used in editing and protools generates a huge amount of heat. That heat can destroy the equipment.
The heat needs to find a way out of the rack and cool air needs to find its way in. Seems like a simple enough problem to solve but it can be tricky. If you are working in an environment that is not cool, how do you pull in air that is? My instant answer is air conditioner because I hate the heat and will do almost anything to stay cool. Ask my dogs, they feel the same. But putting an air conditioner inside an 18 space rack makes it really loud and is ultra expensive.
So here is what we do.
The standard foam lined shockmount is necessary for the sound suppression and to channel the flow of air in and out. What we have done is made the actual rack portion of the case using the A&S airack®. This allows for better air flow. (Even in the standard version of the airack®.) Combine the A&S airack® with the fans and the channeled foam and you have magic.
The fans on the bottom pull the cool air into the case. The air near the floor is cooler than the air higher up because hot air rises. The fans at the top pull the hot air inside the rack up into the space between the rack shell and the outside of the case and push it down the sides and out. The fans can be set to run continuously or to cycle on and off in order to meet the temperature required. If the fans are set to cycle on and off, they will turn off when the equipment cools down and turn back on when it heats up. The heat range can be set on the fans to meet your requirements. If there is no heat demand the fans won’t turn on.
If you are working in an air conditioned environment where the temperature is in the mid seventies, the inside of the rack should remain somewhere in the low nineties. By keeping the fans cycling off and on, this allows for the equipment to be used inside the case with the doors closed. This in turn helps suppress the sound.
Sometimes, the environment in which the Kriz-Kraft Studio & Road Airack® is being used is warm. If this is the case, it may be necessary to add additional fans on the back door to help pull the warm air out. The fans on the rear door are an addition and not a replacement for the fans on the top and bottom. The fans on the door just help pull hot air out. They do not help pull cool air in. And that is essential for heat reduction and sound suppression. Also, adding fans to the rear door may be necessary because of the excess heat in the environment where the rack is being used, but it also adds to the noise level. Ideally, you want to keep the doors closed so the noise stays inside the case.
The Kriz-Kraft Studio & Road Airack® has two Kriz-Kraft doors. One is Plexiglas and the other is ½” ply wood with laminate on it. There is foam between the outside of the case and the inner shell. Inside the inner shell is an A&S Airack®. The foam has channels on the right and left side to pull the hot air out. There are fans on the top and bottom of the inner shell. We also install a power strip and a Hubble connector in the case. We can provide a rack mounted temperature gauge if you like. You can mount it near the top of the rack and see it through the Plexiglas door so you know how warm it is inside the case. This is A&S security.
Please view other photos in the Gallery.
A&S was honored to be asked to make case pieces that would be part of an art exhibit. We make cases for exhibits all the time but to be part of an exhibit, now this is COOL! When we were asked to make pieces as large as 28′ feet long and 14′ feet high, we knew we would have to overcome some challenges. Indeed the scale of the pieces makes this installation impressive. It was a joy to see our cases as part of an art exhibit. We get to be involved with cool projects everyday but there is something about being part of an art piece that is immortal!!!
When I first began designing cases in the 80’s the bulk of cases we designed and built were for the music industry. Amps, guitars, keyboards, drums, and band instruments were high on the list. Audio and computer cases were a very quick growing second. This was back in time when monitors were still CRT technology and were enormous. And laptops had not even been talked about yet. A computer was a large, heavy desktop model that weighed a hundred pounds. (I know… I’m old. You have no idea how lucky you are!) We had to figure out how to get everything into one huge case or several small cases that weren’t really small. Now, I put 10 laptops in a case that can be checked as luggage on a plane.
Some requests were very challenging because the hardware had not yet been designed or developed to allow us to do really complex cases. I can still remember the first customer who wanted casters on the end of his piano case so he could pull it like a luggage cart. There were no recessed casters in those days. So I figured out how to recess a regular Colson caster into the end of the case and mount it to an interior “casterboard”. This was not a really good solution because it was a Roland RD300 which weighed a ton. The keyboard kept bowing the interior casterboard which caused problems with the wheels. Today it would have been a piece of cake.
For a while, entertainment cases were a huge deal. This was before TV’s were 2” thin. The old ones still had a big tube protruding out the back. And we needed to fit it in there with speakers and stereo equipment. Today, the vesa mounts on the back of the TV’s make it possible to do most anything. We can even mount the TV on an electric lift so it comes and goes when you want it. Quietly.
This year, it seems the new designs are lending themselves more to television production and post production than ever before. For me, these are the most fun because they can be very challenging. Mounting several screens and mixers and gear in a case that can roll over any kind of terrain is new just because the technology of the gear is new. In ten years this too will be out of date.
I never knew designing cases could be a career. And I certainly never thought that one day I would look back and see how far case design has come over the years. A&S has always been on the forefront of new design. We always strive to find the newest and best products to make our cases better. And I think this is evident in the products we have created. Check out our galleries to see where we came from and where we are going.