News and research

Shop opening

22 February 2023  <- Previous  Next ->

Input Labs Distribution

It may not be a grand opening, and it is not really a traditional shop either. We are launching Input Labs Distribution, a portal that we will use to better organize the distribution of:

  • Free kits for testers, as part of our Testers program.
  • Review units for the media, such as Youtube content creators and websites.
  • Selected DIY kits, components and materials to everybody. (New)

Why are we opening a shop?

First and foremost because we realized that there is a significant number of people interested in the project without access to 3D-printers or soldering equipment, which may seem obvious in hindsight. We made a dedicated room on Discord (diy-share-parts) so the community members can share spare parts, make group orders, and help each other with the component sourcing. But we cannot rely on community members working for free to make the controllers to reach everyone.

The logistics and distribution to testers and reviewers consume presently a considerable part of our time and effort. We have over 30 testers now, for some of them we create parts for free but they take care of the shipping costs. Organizing this through a shop interface with 0 euros articles simplifies the process a lot.

Additionally it is not environmentally friendly (nor cheap) for everyone to place minimum orders for components. For example the minimum order in JLCPCB is 5 PCBs (2 with soldered SMD and 3 without). Similarly the minimum amount of Protopasta conductive filament to buy is 50 grams while the Alpakka reference design only needs 4 grams, so quite a waste in general. On the top of that, some of the components are almost impossible to source in some regions, for example getting M2.5 (metric) bolts in the United States.

Offering DIY kits and parts in smaller quantities will reduce waste.

And finally there is the funding reason, one of Input Labs principles is to create a stable environment for research and development. This is not easy when doing open source and Creative Commons, one of our support streams is Patreon, which is doing great, but we hope that the shop will contribute to such stability, while also giving us more insight into the actual demand.

So we are selling controllers now?

Not really, for now we are only offering some selected parts, which are more problematic for people to source or build. And even if we offer a bigger variety of DIY kits and parts later, we may never sell assembled controllers.

Our project is different because you can mix and match reference parts and custom parts for building your dream controller, where would be the fun and accessibility if you could just buy a boring standard controller of the shelf?

At some point (assuming people do not need customizations) it may be possible to buy parts and assemble the reference designs Ikea-style, but meatballs won't be included, best we can do is some finnish Salmon soup, which is clearly the superior nordic food ;)

What is the impact for people sourcing their materials from somewhere else?

Absolutely none, people will be still able to grab the designs from the web or GitHub, and build the controllers with components and materials of their choice. The DIY kits available on the Input Labs Distribution portal (aka the shop) are just another option on the menu, not meant to replace the freedom of building and modifying your controller in any way you want.

What will be the quality of the parts you offer?

For some components we will be just re-selling parts that we buy in bigger batches, for example the M2.5 bolts or electronic components. We won't post-process these in any way, so the quality is the same you could expected from the original manufacturers.

However, we will 3D print parts ourselves, so you should not expect the quality of an industrially manufactured product, such as the usual injection molded components. Since our parts are meant for DIY purposes, the final user may need to do some tweaks to fit perfectly in their personal project.

We won't test each printed part individually. We cannot guarantee it fits every project, but we are very familiar with our printers, our selected filaments, and our parts. We can assess their quality better than what you would get from a generic 3D-printing online service.

Will be there more parts available later?

We do not know, this is significantly different from just being a random open-source project on the internet, setting up the logistics and legal work required a non-trivial amount of effort and time. And will create additional workload for packaging, shipping, support, etc.

Depending on how successful this is, we may offer more DIY kits and more parts later, or we may just close the shop and keep focusing in the open source development. Only time will tell.

Also we are open to feedback and ideas about what to offer next, so please join Discord and chat with us.

Thanks a lot for the support!
- M&M <3