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.

April 30, 2010

How big is a Jellypod?

Posted in 3D printing, Design, Production, Prototyping at 5:31 am by Kilo

We got a couple of question about the physical size of the Jellypods, so in addition to the apple picture below, here are a couple of things that might help set the scale.

You can see we have carefully designed the size and shape of the basic Jellypods form to make sure travellers can fit basic items into the podlet:-

Here you can see that the side pockets have been deliberately sized to hold items like razors, brushes and combs, to keep them away from gels that you might use for personal care like toothpaste. The Jellypods will also accommodate a standard length toothbrush in a toothbrush box.

And the closure closes completely over the top of most off-the-shelf bottles and cans that will hold the maximum 100ml volume allowed by airline security rules.

One thing to note though is that this is still just the prototype of the Jellypods; the final material used will be much more flexible. For example, when selecting the softness of the material, the ability to close over slightly-oddly shaped items was also deemed to be quite important, and we are looking at materials that are very tough and durable while having also quite a stretchy capability.

The visit to various suppliers helped us literally feel the various grades of silicone mixes available, and it was quite illuminating to see their various properties in the hand – nothing beats experience.

April 28, 2010

First time through an Xray

Posted in 3D printing, Feedback, Fun stuff at 6:02 pm by Kilo

Last week we promised to tell you about something that happened as we traveled through Munich airport a few weeks back.

We were stopped at the airport x-ray scanner by security who saw the Jellypods 3D prototype in our hand luggage on the scanner (shown below scaled against an apple).

They pulled it out and were turning it around in a kind of wonder, and after swabbing for explosives, asked what it was.

When the Jellypods secret was revealed, a small crowd of 4-5 German security guards and x-ray staff gathered around saying “what a cool idea” “where can I buy it?” “what does it cost” “when is it coming out?” etc.

One of the new fans even gave us his email and phone number to get one when they come out and two of them have signed up for email updates at the website.

How nice is it that the airport security people think Jellypods are a good idea? And it’s interesting also that they didn’t raise any concerns about the design or validity of such an approach. To be honest, this is the reaction we get almost every time we show the Jellypods to people for the first time – let’s hope that level of enthusiasm translates into customers joining the Jellypods crowd at some point.

FOOTNOTE:

Another little story from the x-ray line this week on the way to Italy: one of our party was in the line with a football team on Monday morning, and not being a football cognoscenti, asked one of the be-suited players “Are you all in a football team?”

The player said “Yes. Bayern Munich.”

Our correspondent then asked “Are you going somewhere nice?”

The player responded “Lyon. Champions League semi-final.”

Our man apologized for not having a clue, but then remembered something and said “Some of my friends were quite upset when you guys beat Fiorentina recently.”

The player looked at our man a bit oddly, then shrugged and said “Yes. We won.”

The conversation seemed to have reached a natural end, and our man continued to check his hand luggage through the scanner.

On the other side he noticed the boarding pass of the player with whom he had been chatting – some guy called Miroslav Klose.

Yes. The very same Miroslav Klose who was accused of scoring the offside goal that put Bayern through against Fiorentina and into the Champions League finals…

Never heard of him.

April 20, 2010

The first full scale Jellypod prototype!

Posted in 3D printing, CAD/CAM, Design, Modelling, Prototyping tagged , , , , , , at 6:57 am by Kilo

As part of the design process we have been regularly “printing” 3D models of the first Jellypods products, to check that they look right and work as designed in practice. And here, finally, is the world’s first full scale prototype of a working Jellypod:-

What a cool toy these 3D systems are – a few days and a few hundred dollars ($650 in this case) and you get a full scale, fully functional model of the product in your hands, in a material (Objet Tango Grey) that has soft and pliable characteristics similar to the final mix we will use (but obviously nowhere near as transparent, tough or stretchy). Before you do this the first time you question the value, but it is an immensely useful step.

We are using these prototypes to check that the product will actually behave as expected in the hand, and also to spot weaknesses before we go to production. A good example is shown in the shot below: you can see all the uncured 3D material from the printing process in the box, and also a crack in one of the corners of the Jellypod prototype.

This crack was caused by handling the brittle material but it helped us identify a couple of issues with the zipper that would definitely not have been obvious without this modeling process. These weaknesses and other early stage issues have been fixed in newer designs, and these new variants are now in the hands of a variety of potential manufacturing partners based in Asia and Europe for discussion of full scale production. The confidence these prototypes give you in the final design is really quite helpful, and we are acquiring a lot of knowledge that is not simple to replicate.

This Jellypod has brought the whole concept to life, as was demonstrated when we took it on an airline trip in hand luggage. Later this week we will be telling the story of that trip – and a nice little moment when x-ray security staff saw a Jellypod for the first time…

Thanks for various photos to Gordon Crum at VeritasForge.