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By Kevin Landolt
From Fort Collins, Wyoming
Mar 3, 2011
What's the word with CCH? Is anyone going to buy them and start making Aliens again? Wasn't there a rumor Mad Rock was interested? What's the deal?

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By vincenzoolllllllo
From VT
Mar 3, 2011
I think its more likely that someone else (BD or DMM) will start making "aliens" themselves. BD dropping the price of C3s to $59 tells me something is up.

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Mar 3, 2011
as of January, Nadia was still holding out for her original asking price despite several offers (which i assume were much lower than what she wanted).

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Mar 3, 2011
John Wilder wrote:
as of January, Nadia was still holding out for her original asking price despite several offers (which i assume were much lower than what she wanted).


Pretty tough to stick to that high price as time goes on, aliens have been out of production for a long time now.

+1 for what JLP said. Hard to see what a buyer is getting for the money. Sure you get drawings, designs and know how, but nothing is stopping anyone from just reverse engineering the things.

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By Roots
From Tustin, CA
Mar 3, 2011
I thought Metolius bought the design and are already producing a like cam? Am I remembering this incorrectly?

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By Evan1984
Mar 3, 2011
John Wilder wrote:
as of January, Nadia was still holding out for her original asking price despite several offers (which i assume were much lower than what she wanted).


What did she want for it?

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By Erik W
From Bay Area, CA
Mar 3, 2011
North face of Ama Dablam - taken on approach to Kongma La.
Roots wrote:
I thought Metolius bought the design and are already producing a like cam? Am I remembering this incorrectly?


I don't think they bought the design, but I do remember rumor about them trying to reverse-engineer aliens but being unable to reproduce the "benefits" of aliens while still meeting Metolius's own quality controls. Again, possibly just rumor.

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Mar 3, 2011
Roots wrote:
I thought Metolius bought the design and are already producing a like cam? Am I remembering this incorrectly?


metolius did not buy the design, they simply used the Alien as a base model for their Master cam.

the original prototypes of the Master Cam looked exactly like Aliens- I was semi-disappointed when I saw the production version, as the trigger set-up was inferior (imho) to the prototype (but stronger...although, how strong does a trigger need to be?).

as for what Nadia wanted...well, cant say- you'd need to contact her and ask, i suppose. rumors were that it was absurdly high, though.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Mar 3, 2011
Bocan
It's really too bad overall...quite the flawed business model for a moderate sized company. Single proprietorship, but under the monkier of a LLC. It happens, but you should attempt not to have your company go belly up in the event of a death.

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By Ice4life
From SLC, UT
Mar 3, 2011
GYM
I apologize in advance for possibly asking a dumb question knowing nothing about business etc...

But, why doesn't someone make the exact same unit? Are there patents in the way? Don't patents run out over X amount of years? After all, DMM made the dragon cam after BD's patents ran out on there C4's correct?

I remember someone saying on a different forum that aliens weren't cost efficient to make? How was it that Dave was making them then? Either way, I really hope they go back in business.

I need my green RELOBED!

I tried contacting Nadia to get them relobed and got no reply after several emails.

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By Aric Datesman
Mar 3, 2011
Ice4life wrote:
I remember someone saying on a different forum that aliens weren't cost efficient to make? How was it that Dave was making them then?


That someone was quite possibly me as I generally mention it when the issue comes up, but there were others saying it too on occasion. Short version: lots of little, fiddly parts all requiring hand assembly makes for a high cost of manufacture and when one of the gear companies I spoke with costed it out they were looking at $120 retail. I suspect that CCH being able to do it for $65 had something to do with being out in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming where there's a low cost of living and any job is better than no job (read: willing to work for peanuts). I've also heard that CCH offshored at least part of the production to Chile (Argentina? I forget...), which would help keep costs down. That tidbit came from a post on ST by a guy sitting the parts for a hundred or so Aliens he'd not yet shipped and Nadia apparently isn't interested in. Shouldn't be too hard to find that thread...

EDIT- Found it: supertopo.com/climbing/thread....

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By Roots
From Tustin, CA
Mar 3, 2011
..well regardless of all these rumors and assumptions, one ting is for sure; small Aliens are badass cams. Hope someone gets them back up and for sale.

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Mar 3, 2011
There's more than one reason it hasn't been bought, and it isn't simply complexity/cost of manufacture and assembly and the asking price. I briefly attempted to negotiate with her to buy just the assets of the biz I wanted and after a couple of weeks of back and forth, wrote her off as someone I had neither the patience, nor the desire to work with. YMMV.

All Metolius would have to do is slightly alter their trigger wire design (turn it 90 deg), use 5/32" 7/19 strand main cable, and cut their cam lobes out of 6061-T6 at a 16 deg cam angle on the mastercams...viola, an alien replica.

People talk about the wire going through the lobe being a great design element to reduce head width, but on the smallest aliens (blue and lback IIRC) they don't actually do that, they're just like other cams and they're much wider than something like an equivalent C3.

Why Metolius is so married to the 13.75 or 13.25 or whatever they use, is beyond me.

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Mar 3, 2011
Will S wrote:
People talk about the wire going through the lobe being a great design element to reduce head width, but on the smallest aliens (blue and lback IIRC) they don't actually do that, they're just like other cams and they're much wider than something like an equivalent C3. Why Metolius is so married to the 13.75 or 13.25 or whatever they use, is beyond me.


Yeah, the black and the blue aliens aren't as good as the green, yellow and red, which is the range where aliens really shine. In the smaller ones, the C3s and TCUs are competitive.

Not an engineer, but the metolius cam angle really is perplexing. The range is so limited and very noticeable alongside camalots or aliens, even in bigger sizes.

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By jamboni
Mar 3, 2011
The reason that the master cam triggers are the way they are is because that allows the stem to flex easily parallel to a crack which helps minimize walking. The Kevlar trigger wires also allow the trigger to rotate so it can work in a horizontal crack. The cam angle, while reducing range, creates more outward force which makes its effective "stickiness" just as good as aliens while being much more durable.

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By mattm
From TX
Mar 3, 2011
Grande Grotto
Will S wrote:
There's more than one reason it hasn't been bought, and it isn't simply complexity/cost of manufacture and assembly and the asking price. I briefly attempted to negotiate with her to buy just the assets of the biz I wanted and after a couple of weeks of back and forth, wrote her off as someone I had neither the patience, nor the desire to work with. YMMV. All Metolius would have to do is slightly alter their trigger wire design (turn it 90 deg), use 5/32" 7/19 strand main cable, and cut their cam lobes out of 6061-T6 at a 16 deg cam angle on the mastercams...viola, an alien replica. People talk about the wire going through the lobe being a great design element to reduce head width, but on the smallest aliens (blue and lback IIRC) they don't actually do that, they're just like other cams and they're much wider than something like an equivalent C3. Why Metolius is so married to the 13.75 or 13.25 or whatever they use, is beyond me.


The 3 biggest things that make MasterCams sub-par to an Alien (assuming proper build quality) are:

Trigger Design: Everyone Knows it's not as good as the Alien "tube"
Lobe Material: You want the softer 6061 stuff ala Wired Bliss
Cam Angle: I HATE, HATE the 13.25 that Met uses. Yeah, it holds more BUT the lack of size overlap in their sizes leaves GAPS that stand out. Blue-Yellow and Orange-Red Gaps are the ones that jump out (Green Alien and Red Alien Sizes - the best!)

I have serious doubts about the assembly cost claims. Aliens are no more complicated than a C3 and probably less so. Modernizing the trigger wire terminations (which always seemed to "change") would help. COMPLICATED is a Totem cam, hence their $80 DIRECT cost. Look at the Wild Country Zeros - They're cost competitive as well.

A Modern Alien would have a WC Zero like Head Termination, Molded Thumb Loop, Improved Trigger Assembly (plastic trigger with integrated "sheath" to plastic terminator to kevlar trigger wires? No idea there). Is there an alloy BETWEEN 6061 an 7075?. Might look at that. Then exhaustively test the 16 deg cam angle down to something like the camalot angle. See how 16 compares to other angles and pick the best one that still gets you Alien performance. Heck, 16 might be the magic angle after all given the softness of 6061. Modern Tech may even be able to come up with a better internal spring.

All of this can be done for $70 MSRP in my mind. Again, look at the C3 original MSRP. A well made, improved Alien that performed as well as or better than the original would sell like gang busters at $70.

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By Aric Datesman
Mar 3, 2011
mattm wrote:
COMPLICATED is a Totem cam, hence their $80 DIRECT cost.


Which means retail through a distributor would be $100+, which is why no one picked them up and they were forced to go it themselves.

mattm wrote:
I have serious doubts about the assembly cost claims.

Anyway, a long while back I posted a parts count for a couple different cams (might have been on ST?) and Aliens weren't even in the same ballpark as everything else. More parts = more assembly time = higher cost. No way around that short of automation, which won't work in this case. My analysis of it puts it around the $100 mark or so, assuming you pay a living wage. If you have a cost analysis that shows different I'd love to see it.

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By mattm
From TX
Mar 3, 2011
Grande Grotto
jamboni wrote:
The reason that the master cam triggers are the way they are is because that allows the stem to flex easily parallel to a crack which helps minimize walking. The Kevlar trigger wires also allow the trigger to rotate so it can work in a horizontal crack. The cam angle, while reducing range, creates more outward force which makes its effective "stickiness" just as good as aliens while being much more durable.


Not to quibble but the Alien trigger did well in both directions, why change unless there were patent issues?

I don't think (and reviews back this up) that it's a 1:1 trade off of small cam angle/harder metal vs large cam angle/softer metal.

Someone with more knowledge than me can probably get into the technicalities of force of friction, material shear loads (6061 in particular) and cam angles.

I felt that the softer metal allowed for greater initial "engagement" with the rock as it deformed around crystals etc. Kind of like how a softer rubber is more "sticky" than a hard rubber.

Cam angle plays a role too of course. Anyone have a graph of force, friction etc for different materials and cam angles?

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By Aric Datesman
Mar 3, 2011
mattm wrote:
Anyone have a graph of force, friction etc for different materials and cam angles?



Didn't Brenta poke at that a while back? I remember sending him data for something like that within the past year.

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By mattm
From TX
Mar 3, 2011
Grande Grotto
Aric Datesman wrote:
Which means retail through a distributor would be $100+, which is why no one picked them up and they were forced to go it themselves. Anyway, a long while back I posted a parts count for a couple different cams (might have been on ST?) and Aliens weren't even in the same ballpark as everything else. More parts = more assembly time = higher cost. No way around that short of automation, which won't work in this case.

Post was on gunks.com

"Gold Alien = 42 parts with 1 braze, 11 swages and 1 nut, Purple #0.5 C4 = 30 parts with 5 swages and 2 peens (the 4 axle peens are likely done in pairs), #0.5 Tech Friend = 27 parts with 6 swages and 2 peens, #1 Rock Empure Durango = 27 parts with 6 swages and 2 screws, #5 Powercam (pre-Ultralight) = 31 pieces with 4 swages and 4 brazes (IIRC the Ultralights have machined cam stops, which would drop the part count by 4)."

Parts count is not necessarily an indicator of assembly complexity. You could have 10 parts that are simple to slap together or 6 parts that require complicated procedures. OR a greater parts count could have simple sub-assemblies that go together easily vs a lower parts count that is one longer complicated assembly.


The Alien Thumb loop is basic as is the webbing.
There are still 4 lobes and 4 springs like any other cam. They might insert a bit differently but that can't be THAT much harder.
Axel/Nut termination - normal and modern termination techniques might make it less complicated.
The trigger assembly is the complicated part of an alien and I feel it's no more so than a C3. Again, a larger company with something above "garage assembly" systems should be able to improve on this.

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By Aric Datesman
Mar 3, 2011
mattm wrote:
Post was on Gunks.com


Thanks. Couldn't remember which Alien discussion that had crept into.



adatesman (me) on Gunks wrote:
Gold Alien = 42 parts with 1 braze, 11 swages and 1 nut, Purple #0.5 C4 = 30 parts with 5 swages and 2 peens (the 4 axle peens are likely done in pairs), #0.5 Tech Friend = 27 parts with 6 swages and 2 peens, #1 Rock Empure Durango = 27 parts with 6 swages and 2 screws, #5 Powercam (pre-Ultralight) = 31 pieces with 4 swages and 4 brazes (IIRC the Ultralights have machined cam stops, which would drop the part count by 4)."


mattm wrote:
Parts count is not necessarily an indicator of assembly complexity.


Very true. But in this case the problem is the number of swages involving tiny, easy to drop parts that all have to be done by hand. As bolded above, Aliens have almost twice the number of swages as the cam with the next highest swage count, with all but the one on the cable being on fiddly parts that need to be exactly the right length.

mattm wrote:
There are still 4 lobes and 4 springs like any other cam. They might insert a bit differently but that can't be THAT much harder. Axel/Nut termination - normal and modern termination techniques might make it less complicated. The trigger assembly is the complicated part of an alien and I feel it's no more so than a C3. Again, a larger company with something above "garage assembly" systems should be able to improve on this.


Perhaps, but the fact that no one has kinda points to the opposite being true. In my experience this is very much a hand assembly kind of job as it neither lends itself to automation nor has sufficient volume to justify the expense of attempting to automate it.


EDIT- does MP not like nested quotes?

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Mar 3, 2011
jamboni wrote:
The reason that the master cam triggers are the way they are is because that allows the stem to flex easily parallel to a crack which helps minimize walking. The Kevlar trigger wires also allow the trigger to rotate so it can work in a horizontal crack. The cam angle, while reducing range, creates more outward force which makes its effective "stickiness" just as good as aliens while being much more durable.


uh, no. thats the reason the wires for the trigger are oriented that way, but the reason they dont have a tube design (as they did on the prototypes) is because Doug (the owner) deemed the tube not strong enough so they went with the wires instead.

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Mar 3, 2011
Doug may have "deemed" the tube design not strong enough, but I'm not buying it. The tubular material itself is plenty strong, it's the crimped-on termination points at each end of the sleeve that are weak in the larger sizes (smaller ones are soldered at the termination and plenty strong). If you soldered them at all sizes, no legit strength issues...and really, has anyone ever seen an Alien with a failure in the tube assembly?

More likely reason is the complexity of assembly...i.e. swaging/crimping termination pieces on the ends of the tubular weaved stainless piece were a weak point and a PITA during assembly, and soldering on small ones is a labor and material intensive process (silver, and hence solder, is a lot more expensive today than 5 or 6 years ago).

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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Mar 3, 2011
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.
JLP wrote:
If you're happy with a 12 pack of Bud, a little meth for your boys and a Russian bride, then the #'s might be a little different.


A+

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By Kevin Landolt
From Fort Collins, Wyoming
Mar 3, 2011
x 2

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Mar 3, 2011
JLP wrote:
... I certainly wouldn't claim I have some idea that is better than their ideas coming from a position of zero experience in the industry. Even the simplest of things are extremely complicated for the smartest and most experienced of engineers when it comes to the design and manf of a product in volume, especially for the kind of product people put their lives on.


I agree with you that those who have tried would know more about this than us out here on the internetz, but CCH did manage to make some money off them.

But hey, redesigns do take time. Remember when DMM took over 2 years to reintroduce the offset nut?

And yes, A+ for the bit about providing meth to progeny.

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