MARKSMITH Titanium | The Best EDC Marker You'll Ever Own

Created by Daniel Bauen + Microfacturing

Carry the world's first titanium retractable permanent marker every day to make a bold statement on surfaces that a pen can't write on.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Gr5 Production Update
2 months ago – Mon, May 10, 2021 at 08:50:54 PM

Production Update

The machine shop said that they needed a little bit more time and will complete the GR5 by May 15th. Fingers crossed that there aren’t more delays with those.


Why is it so difficult to make these?

The deep hole (referred to as a 10X hole because the depth is approximately 10X the diameter of the drill) is the biggest challenge of production, particularly in titanium. The depth of the hole makes it more difficult to properly remove the chips, and if the chips don't clear out fast enough, then it will damage the inner surface, grab the drill body and wear out the cutting edge. The drilling process requires coolant that passes through the center of the drill to keep the cutting tip cool and clear the chips. Ideally, for titanium, a high-pressure coolant system in the range of 1000 psi at the correct flow rate will clear the chips, and keep the cut cooler by breaking the vapor barrier that envelopes the high temperatures at the cutting edge. It's basically a pressure washer blasting the chips and heat away. These high-pressure coolant systems are not very common though, since most CNC machines only come with ~50psi coolant pumps, and a factory-installed high-pressure upgrade might be 300 psi.


From the very beginning, while Marksmith was still in the design stage, I identified some high-end insert drills by one of the world's top toolmakers that would be able to drill the hole quickly and have a reasonable service life, so I knew that I wasn't designing something that was impossible to make. 

High-end insert drill bit example with carbide inserts

There's also the possibility of using a gun drill which is typically used for 10X and deeper holes (like gun barrels after which the drill is named). These are highly specialized drills, so you have to find a shop that has experience using these, and then they may not be good at other aspects.

This is a gun drill.

I discussed the application with the tool maker's drilling specialists who confirmed that the insert drills I chose would work well (with proper coolant pressure and flow). The downside is that the upfront cost of the drills and inserts is very expensive compared to non-insert carbide drills, but if you look at the cost per part, it's well worth the time saved.


Initially, I did not advise the machine shop, because they should be the "experts", and experts don't like to get advice. However, they kept complaining about how long it was taking to drill the holes (20X longer than the insert drill can do), and how aggressively the Gr5 titanium wore out the drill bit. That’s the main reason they claimed for why they switched to the Gr2 material. That's when I recommended the insert drill, but they replied that they are experts in machining titanium and have resolved the difficulties with drilling that hole. Whatever... as long as they can provide the quality I'm looking for and deliver. Otherwise, if you're not willing to innovate, you're going to get left behind.


What about the other machine shop?

In a previous update, I talked about another machine shop that we were working with to have a second source. They were initially confident that they could do an even better job machining the Gr5 titanium, but once they actually tried making the parts, they ran into similar issues with the deep hole and after trying different techniques, they almost gave up on being able to make it altogether. They wanted to redesign the marker such that the hole could be drilled from both ends. This explains why almost all titanium pen bodies are tubes that are open at both ends, and the top is capped off with a screw-on piece. Although I agree that might be a better solution for manufacturing in the future, it messes up the current design. I recommended the same insert drill tool to them, and they gave it a try. SUCCESS! They have now been able to consistently drill the hole without breaking drill bits and at a reasonable amount of machine time. I have seen pictures of progress, and have yet to get samples in hand from them, but we're one step closer to having a backup production shop.


Now that the machine shops have finally optimized drilling out the body to make the marker in the way that I designed, it will remain a unique design due to the inherent difficulty of making it (in Gr5 Ti). Although I have revealed some of the magic behind the making of it, it just won't be worth it for someone else to pursue making an imitation of the exact same design.  If someone else is going to try to copy this, they will opt to drill the body out from both ends, which will affect the overall design.


Thanks,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

Still have Gr2 ready to ship. New Screws Have Arrived!
4 months ago – Sat, Apr 03, 2021 at 01:49:55 AM

A Limited Amount of Gr2 Marksmiths are Ready To Ship. Claim Yours Now!

First, there are still some Gr2 Marksmiths available from the 100 pcs batch, and those are ready to ship now that the replacement screws arrived. If you've already claimed one of those in the previous update, then you're on the list and yours will be the first to ship out. If you would like to claim one, please leave a comment below stating that you are cool with the Gr2. They are really nice markers, fully functional, and the difference is minute compared to Gr5. We spent a lot of time working on them and refinishing them to make sure that they meet our standards.


New Screws Arrived

The replacement screws of the correct length have arrived. We'll be using these new screws to replace the original screws that were too short in the first 100 Marksmiths that we received (and the machine shop is replacing them in the thousands of Gr2 they made and fixed).

Here's what a bag of 2320 titanium screws looks like. This is just part of the 10,000 screws needed for the first production run of 5000 Gr5 Marksmiths.

New screw on the left, old too short screw on the right.

The new screws have 5 visible threads sticking out of the clip, which will ensure that there are at least 3 threads of engagement into the bolt slide for proper retention. At this length, it does not interfere with the bore of the bolt slide which was an issue with one of the sample runs before production.

New screw vs old screw. Now you can see that there are at least 3 full threads of engagement for proper retention.

All Marksmiths will have the updated screw length. Even the completed Gr2 ones that the factory still had have been retrofitted with the longer screw.


The Gr2 bodies we have are ready and we are reassembling them with the new screws. The screws will be Loctite into place so no worries about the clip coming loose. So those are ready to ship. If you've already claimed one of those in the previous update, then you're on the list, and yours will be the first to ship out. If you would like to claim one, please leave a comment below stating that you are cool with the Gr2. Again, they are really nice markers, fully functional, and the difference is minute compared to Gr5.


I was actually surprised that the earlier delivery Gr2 versions weren't snapped up right away. It seems that most backers are willing to wait for the Gr5 to be complete.


Grade 5 Marksmith Production Update

The same machine shop that previously made and sent the Gr2 has been working very hard to regain our trust. Since the last update, they shipped replacement screws of the correct length to fix the Marksmiths I had already received, and I have received samples of fixed and improved Gr2 Marksmiths with DLC coated bolt slides as a solution to improve the feel of the motion (It works! DLC is an extremely wear-resistant coating).


They are expecting to complete the Grade 5 Marksmith production by the end of April. They said that they have resolved the machining difficulties (drilling the deep hole) that initially led them to use Gr2. The deep hole (referred to as a 10X hole because the depth is approximately 10X the diameter of the drill) is the biggest challenge of production, particularly in titanium.


Thank you,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

MARKSMITH Production Update - First Production Run
5 months ago – Wed, Mar 03, 2021 at 07:48:14 PM

The first batch looked great upon initial inspection so we sent out the surveys such that we could begin shipping asap.


As we prepared them for shipping we noticed that the bolt slide motion was not as smooth as the samples or prototypes. It was downright rough, and I knew that you would not be pleased with it.


Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the interior of the marker bodies was left quite rough after the drilling process.

Rough inner bore surface

I was not pleased with this and notified the machine shop that the bores needed to be refinished and made smoother on the ones that they still had. They started fixing them immediately.


The proper way to drill a hole like this is to drill it slightly undersized first. That first drilling step can leave a rough finish because chips can get caught between the drill and wall, scratching it. Then a finishing drill or reamer is used to cut the final dimension of the bore. If the finishing needs to be even smoother, it can be sanded or honed.


It was clear that no finishing was done to the bores.


We disassembled all the Marksmiths we had already received and used a reamer to clean out the bores, followed by honing to further improve the smoothness of the bore. Watch the video for the whole process.

This is what a cleaned-up bore looks like after we reamed and sanded them. We could only remove a small amount of material, otherwise, the bolt would be too loose inside the body.

As we disassembled them, I also noticed that the screws holding the clip to the slide were only engaging by about 1mm. Normally you want the thread engagement of a screw to be at least 1X the diameter (2.5mm in this case), and the absolute minimum is 3 threads of engagement. You also have to consider that the threads don’t start right at the tip of the screw, or the opening of the hole. There’s usually a small chamfer before the threads start. Therefore, the screws are only holding on by 1-2 threads. The screws are supposed to be longer to take advantage of the full depth of the hole that they thread into.

Although 3 Threads are visible, the first ¾ or so of thread at the end of the screw, and the first ¾ or so of thread at the opening of the hole that the screws thread into are truncated, so your only looking at about 1-2 threads of solid engagement, which is not enough, especially when there's more threaded length available in the hole.

Even though the clips were held on well, the short screws and reduced thread engagement can compromise long-term durability as the clip is used repeatedly. The last thing I want is clips coming off due to screws that are too short.


I’ve requested longer screws be sent to replace the screws on the ones we have already, and that all future Marksmiths have the correct length screws. Since these are custom-made screws, we are currently waiting on the new screws to arrive.

Short screw on the left, correct length screw on the right (ignore the different head heights. The thicker and stronger head height on the left is being used for all current screws.) The gunk in the threads is the thread locking compound.

At least a very strong thread locking compound was used that often required heating up the screws to break down the thread locker and remove them. But that was mostly because the thread locker had worked its way up into the hole in the clip and was locking the screw there also. In this video, we show how we removed stuck thread locked screws.

Even after honing the bores smooth, the sliding motion was still not as smooth as the pre-production samples. It appeared that the titanium used in production was softer than the one used in pre-production, and thus resulted in increased friction when sliding. I became suspicious that the titanium used in production was actually Grade 2 instead of Grade 5 that had been specified and agreed on as the alloy to be used for all parts.


Grade 2 vs Grade 5 Titanium… What’s the big deal?

Grade 2 titanium is known as “commercially pure” titanium, being composed of over 99% titanium. That high purity is a good thing, right? Well, if your goal is ultimate corrosion resistance, malleability, and relatively easy to machine, then yes. However, as with most metals, the strongest and hardest forms are alloyed with other elements. Grade 5 titanium is the most common strong and hard titanium alloy, which also makes it more difficult to machine. It consists of about 90% titanium, 6% aluminum, and 4% Vanadium. Grade 2 pure titanium is plenty strong for use as the Marksmith body, but it’s the higher hardness of Grade 5 that makes it desirable for when parts have to slide against each other with relatively low friction. The clip must be made of Grade 5, because of the higher flexural strength that will allow it to act like a spring and resists yielding when bending.


So then, how could we confirm what grade of titanium was actually used in production? Normally I would send parts to a lab for material analysis, but we were able to demo a LIBS material analyzer made by SciAps which allowed us to test more parts quickly and faster than sending out to the lab. This was my first time using a handheld LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) analyzer or XRF (X-ray) analyzer, and it felt like handling something straight out of science fiction, like an engineer's tricorder. Mind-boggling technology packed into something the size of a cordless drill. Press it against any material, pull the trigger, fire a laser or x-ray beam, and almost instantaneously get a full readout of the elemental composition of the material with a % confidence as to what type and grade of material it is.

We started testing samples of known Grade 5 and Grade 2 alloys purchased with material certifications. The LIBS analyzer identified them correctly as Ti-6Al-4V, and Grade 12 (which is almost identical to Grade 2, and Grade 2 was not currently set up in the material library of this LIBS analyzer). Moving onto the prototypes, which checked out as Grade 5, and then the samples which all checked out as Grade 5, except for one slide that was Grade 2.


The clip was the first part analyzed of the production Marksmith. It was identified as Grade 5, as it should be.

The clips all checked out as Ti 6-4 (Grade 5)

All the other parts of the production Marksmith were tested and confirmed to be made of Grade 2. This was a real letdown because it meant that the machine shop had not used the material that they had agreed on (Grade 5) to make the marker bodies.

The bolt slide from the production Marksmith is analyzed as TiGr 12 (basically identical to Gr2, the analyzer did not have Gr 2 in the library).
The tip is analyzed as Gr 12 Ti instead of Gr 5 that it should be made of.
The body was also analyzed as Gr 12 Ti instead of the Gr 5 that it should have been made from.

When confronted about the test results, they admitted to having used Grade 2 because it was less difficult to machine than Grade 5. They had not informed me about the change, probably assuming that I would not be able to tell the difference, and they could make more money by saving on machining time and reduced tool wear.


The machine shop agreed to remake the production run in Grade 5 and properly machine the bores. They had to order the Grade 5 material and production is supposed to take about 45 days.


What about the 100 Marksmiths that we fixed?

Currently, we have 100 pcs of Grade 2 Ti Marksmiths that we’ve fixed, but are waiting on new longer titanium screws to replace the short ones. Once those screws arrive, these will be the first Marksmiths available to ship before the Grade 5 Marksmith arrives. The Gr2 Marksmiths are functional, and look nice. However, the Gr2 will scratch easier (easily buffed out with a Scotch-Brite pad) and feel slightly less smooth when extending the marker than the Gr5. Since Gr5 Ti was the material that was promised in the Kickstarter, I cannot ship these Gr2 Ti versions to unknowing backers who may want to wait for the Gr5. Understanding the difference, if you would like to get one of the Gr2 instead of waiting, please leave a comment within this update saying you are ok with Gr2 Ti version. We will choose 100 backers at random from those comments to ship the Gr2 Ti Marksmith.


To Be Continued...

There are more details to cover, but I will end this part here and continue in another update. 


I'm sorry that there is still more delay in getting the Marksmith in your hands. I'm equally frustrated by the delays and wish the production could happen more rapidly with fewer problems created by the machine shop. At this point, the machine shop has broken my trust by leaving the bore rough and switching the materials, but we are so close that the most rapid way forward is to push them to do their work correctly. They will have to make good on re-machining the markers and providing consistent quality to regain my trust. Starting from scratch with a new factory would reset the sample/production timeline. However, in order to cover our bases, I have engaged another machine shop that we'll be working with in parallel so that we have 2 sources for Marksmith and future products. I will find out which one can produce the best quality with the least frustration.


Thank you,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

Backerkit Shipping Surveys Will Be Emailed Within 24 Hours
6 months ago – Thu, Jan 28, 2021 at 01:51:48 AM

Backerkit Shipping Surveys will be sent out within 24 hours!

HEADS UP! Be on the watch for the Backerkit shipping survey email within 24 hours. The following summary outlines what to expect in the Backerkit surveys.


Backerkit is where you will enter your shipping address. We do not yet have any of your shipping information. If you move before your Marksmith ships, you will also be able to update your address by returning to Backerkit.


Backers who have requested to add on more MARKSMITHS to their order. You will now be able to add additional Marksmiths to your order in the Add-On section of Backerkit. You can add one extra Marksmith and refills with no increase in shipping.


Additional refills are available as add-ons. Marksmith comes with one refill installed and a spare refill. If you want more refills, you can add them on. I've had unused marker cartridges sitting around for years without drying out, so you don't have to be concerned about shelf life. Don't worry, I'll be shipping you fresh new ones.


Customize your Marksmith with an engraving

I've had requests from backers for custom laser engraving on the Marksmith, so I've added that option on BackerKit. There is also a laser engraving option if you add on a Marksmith Highlighter. We have our own laser engraver in house and can achieve a dark annealed style mark as shown in the image. It changes the color of the titanium without removing any material, so it leaves the surface smooth. The color change goes deep and won't scratch off.

Custom engraving available up to 25 characters long.

Marksmith Highlighter Add-On

In a previous update, I showed how Marksmith also works as a highlighter using Sharpie brand highlighter cartridges. If you missed it, here's the video:

There's a MARKSMITH HIGHLIGHTER add-on available in the Backerkit survey for those who want an extra Marksmith dedicated for highlighting. 

Add-on a Marksmith Highlighter to your order. Cross compatible with permanent marker cartridges too.

There are also Yellow Highlighter cartridge add-ons available for anyone who wants to use them in their Marksmith. They are compatible and interchangeable with the permanent marker cartridge.


And you asked for the highlighter assortment, so that will also be available as an add-on

Highlighter color multipack is compatible with your Marksmith.

Thank you,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

First Marksmith Production Has Arrived
6 months ago – Sat, Jan 23, 2021 at 10:06:17 PM

I have received the first small batch of production Marksmiths. This is the first 104 pcs of the 500 pcs 1st production run to do some initial inspection while the remainder wait for the boxes.

They look amazing. I'm very pleased with the appearance and finish. They function well too.

We are closely inspecting each one and will update when complete.

Some of the tips aren't fully tightened, making the connection more visible.

Schedule

Some have been requesting a [firm] delivery schedule. The recent delays in the production have been due to making revisions because of errors made by the machine shop. Every time a change has to be made, there's a lot of back and forth discussion and sharing of progress involved, so it can take time to resolve issues. We also have to analyze the design, modify parts, and test to figure out why the error is happening and how it can be solved. 


Therefore setting a firm delivery schedule date has been difficult not knowing if there will be more changes needed and how long they will take to resolve. If we set a date and miss it, then it decreases trust. I prefer to continue keeping you updated on regular events as we move forward, and trust that you will get your Marksmith. We want to deliver a marker to you of the highest quality to build confidence in our future titanium product designs.


I'm happy with the progress that we have made to a quality marking tool. I'm not happy with the time it has taken to arrive at this point because it means that we are still not able to sell them outside of Kickstarter, and it pushes back the launch of new products like MARKSMITH Ultra-Fine. Fortunately, MARKSMITH Ultra-Fine development has progressed in parallel to this one due to the similarity and will be able to begin the production of that one during the future Kickstarter campaign and deliver quickly after.


As of now, we have ~100 pcs in hand that require close inspection, and ~400 more pieces to be shipped soon with packaging. Once the 100pcs are inspected, then I can move forward to approve the next production run, and start shipping out the first batch.


Thanks,

Daniel and Team Engineerable