December 12, 2010

We’ve found a Jellypods manufacturer

Posted in 3D printing, CAD/CAM, Materials, Production, Prototyping at 12:08 pm by Kilo

A big part of the radio silence over the past few months has been to do with our everyday jobs – they keep us pretty busy.

But behind the scenes we have also been searching worldwide for a manufacturer of the Jellypods products. We’ve spoken with potential partners in Italy, Switzerland, mainland China, Hong Kong, Germany, the Czech Republic, the UK and the USA.

And with each meeting or email exchange we’ve learned a bit more about production processes in liquid silicone rubber molding, and show-stoppers in our design concepts. That has meant several loops – literally back to the drawing board – refining designs and building in new features or changes to allow the Jellypods to be made. The design has evolved considerably since the first sketch in a notebook almost 1 year ago.

So it was with great delight that we last week got the green light and quotations for supply of molds and production runs from two companies on about the 20th iteration of the design. Both have said they can make the new designs in the materials we selected, which is a big step forward. One of them even added in a surprising and pleasing process twist that takes us full circle to the original concept.

So what happens next?

Next step is to lock down the final design, which is happening over at our super CAD-jockey partner Veritas Forge, and to run off a final 3D rapid prototype before committing to the full-scale mold. Then we have to select the manufacturing partner, so there will be some back and forth over terms etc. before the New Year.

But by January 2011 we’ll go to the real prototype stage: commissioning steel molds and running some samples in various grades of silicone to see if they really work as designed. It’s almost 100% certain there will be problems in this stage that need to be solved as well; at minimum we need to settle on the two hardness grades used in the Jellypods design, which need to have strength, durability, stretchiness as well as transparency. This stage is also where the costs start to rise, as each mold will cost $10,000-$20,000 – not huge sums, but with each step we get a little deeper.

It’s fairly certain something will not work as planned, and we will need to iterate the design another couple of times to get to what web companies would call the minimum viable product. But part of the fun of this project is figuring out ways to solve those issues, and working with partners from all around the planet to bring Jellypods to life.

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