Discover more from Sticky Bits by Lauren Yoshiko
The Making of a Floating Ashtray
3D printing and manufacturing with Another Room
The Broccoli Report
Friday, December 3, 2021
Time to read: 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Contains 1100 words.
From a Broccoli Report to your bathtub: 3D printing pure whimsy with Another Room.
Earlier this year, I wrote a Report about the bathtime needs of cannabis consumers and mentioned that some kind of floating ashtray would be a literal dream come true. When Chloe Popove, co-founder of Another Room, read that, she forwarded it to co-founder—and fellow fan of stoned bathtime—Shafeez Walji, who agreed that this sounded like the perfect problem for their playful smoking accessory brand to solve.
Fast-forward seven months (to about two weeks ago): Another Room dropped The Floating Ashtray, a lily pad-shaped ashtray with a stackable flower that keeps your resting joint up and away from any rogue tub waves. The first 20 ashtrays sold out in minutes.
Curious about the intriguing process of 3D manufacturing with sustainable materials, I had to get the whole story from Popove about making the glorious Floating Ashtray and launching Another Room’s 3D Prototype Shop. We chatted over email about how taking production processes more seriously has made more room for this cheeky brand to have more fun.
So, when you and Shafeez decide to actually try and make an ashtray that can float in the tub, what came first?
Chloe Popove: After forwarding your Report to Shafeez and following up with a loud (probably shrieking) phone call, I sent him a doodle of what I had in mind. I loved the idea of the lily pad protecting the flower, literally and figuratively. Plus, the visual of a lily pad floating around in a bathtub = pure joy.
Then we began the process of figuring out how this doodle would work. A lot of sketching happened, eventually getting messy in Illustrator to create the right type of flower from the top-down. Next, that design gets brought into Fusion, a 3D modeling software platform, which turns our sketch, concept, and flat design into a 3D rendering. This is where we're able to think through alllllllllllll of the details, like: How tightly does the flower fit into the lily pad? Can someone place the flower at any rotation? How do we make sure that the ridge is big enough for any size of joint? Blunts and bubble baths, anyone?
From there, it was a LOT of screenshots of 3D renderings back and forth on Slack, before getting to printing and testing whether it would actually float. The biggest obstacle is that 3D printing is very much a trial-and-error process, which can present a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. Luckily, we both smoke weed. 3D printing is still an emerging technology, so, naturally, there are going to be bugs. We've learned that 3D printers hate doing anything of quality after 9:00 p.m.
Did that first one float?
CP: It did! Shafeez tested it with bubbles, and I tested it sans bubbles. We both got super high, took notes, sent absolutely ridiculous videos, and from there, we made a few small iterations. We made the walls on the lily pad a bit higher, and we adjusted the fit of the flower.
Can you tell me more about these sustainable plastics you print with?
CP: Right now, we work strictly with PLA filaments, which are biodegradable and derived from crops such as sugar cane, corn starch, and tapioca root. These plants go through a fermentation process that turns them into a plastic polymer, which becomes a spool of filament that we use to 3D print.
Have you worked with 3D stuff on previous AR products?
CP: Yes! We've been working with Kash, the creator of Jointlockers, for over three years now. She is a real-life magician, wizard, and 3D angel. She introduced us to 3D printing, and it's been part of our lives ever since. It’s great because it gives us the ability to create a full production process in-house (literally, in Shafeez's house).
It's so easy to have an idea that never leaves your notebook. To be able to bring those ideas into a tangible thing that we can hold in our own hands is incredible.
You didn’t just launch the Floating Ashtray this month—you launched a whole store! Tell me about the Prototype Shop.
CP: So, normally, developing a new product requires a sizable investment of time and capital to prototype, test, and eventually manufacture at mass quantities. We found that this process doesn't provide much of an opportunity for smaller, self-funded teams. This, paired with little-to-no consumer testing, can lead to an overage of potentially pointless products being produced—some of which have been our own. By inviting customers to provide feedback on the products they purchase, the Prototype Shop is our hopeful solution to all of that. Even though Another Room is an extension of who we are and what fun things we want to see in the space, it's important to us to stay connected to other humans to ensure we're building things people actually want.
That, and we have 293,847,932,874 ideas. 3D printing allows us to build those ideas into real things, like an ashtray that floats or a stable home for rolling essentials.
How does at-home 3D production affect the costs and rhythm of materials and availability?
CP: Transparently and drastically. To give you an idea: The Floating Ashtray takes four hours and 20 minutes to print—for real, that’s the print time. Magic is alive and well! That means, for right now, there will be less products available. However, that also means that through these smaller runs, we can see if these products fit the market, gather feedback, iterate, and then if everything goes as planned, we move into manufacturing in our Canadian factory. We're still figuring out exactly how we'll manage inventory, product drops, etc. Our plan is to learn as we go with the data we receive instead of making assumptions based on what we think will happen.
The Prototype Shop isn't about selling as many units as we can. We're committing ourselves to a more sustainable way to build our products. It's focusing us as a brand on slowing down and being more thoughtful about the needs of people who smoke weed. We so often subscribe to this “more, more, more” mentality—the Prototype Shop is our mini-rebellion to that mindset.
If you had your eye on a Floating Ashtray, the second round hits the Prototype Shop next Tuesday. And if you’re an entrepreneur looking for novel concepts and out-of-the-box problem solving, you’re in the right place—we’ve got plenty more product ideas, honest roundtables, and business building advice in store for the Report in the coming months. 🌸 I’ll be back with the latest news and creative launches on Monday.
Back to my lily pad,