March 10, 2012

What the heck has been going on with Jellypods?

Posted in CAD/CAM, China, Design, Luggage, Materials, Production at 5:20 pm by Kilo

So you are probably wondering what the heck has been going on with Jellypods, right? Well, despite the long radio silence there has been progress.

We are now on prototype IV, with new zipper designs, rails and materials.

Here’s a shot of the new zipper slider:

The new zipper solves many of the issues we saw in the earlier prototypes and also contains a couple of really unique features in the design – they won’t be obvious form this angle as they are internal, but they are quite cool from a technical standpoint.

It’s taken a while to get to this stage, but we are finally making some progress towards a working zipper and a Jellypod that does what we want. The drawings have been sent to Guangzhuo for the next production steps, hopefully a new update will be available soon – keep watching!


July 3, 2011

Jellypods Zipper Mk II/III under way

Posted in CAD/CAM, Design, Materials, Modelling, Prototyping, Uncategorized at 4:52 pm by Kilo

It has been a pretty quiet few weeks on the Jellypods blog, but behind the scenes there is lots of work going on to fix the zipper issues we discovered in the first prototypes revealed in the last few blog posts from the China trip.

Below you can see a shot of the first zipper molded in hard silicone, which was very bulky, unwieldy and despite looking good in CAD, did not work at all.

So after a few days of hard thinking, we went back  to an original concept from a few months back and our friends in China molded a protoype of that old deisgn to see if some new ideas and materials would work in practise.

The Mark II zipper has been moulded in a special mix of hard plastics and other special materials, and bonded to a rough of the top of a Jellypods body. This zipper was never really expected to work fully functionally, it was what Formula One teams call a “mule” – a development half-breed between a racehorse and a donkey:

Although never expected to be brought to life in final form, this mule gives us is enough solid information to move forward with the Mk III zipper, which will hopefully be a big step forward and close-to-final.

And the sketches for that design, which were worked up in a notebook  on an airplane flying between Sydney and San Francisco, are already sent to our partners for working up in to CAD and moving forward to the next steps.

Check out the next blog for more details!

May 9, 2011

Fixing the zipper

Posted in CAD/CAM, Production, Prototyping at 10:13 pm by Kilo

The biggest hurdle we face in production now is the zipper, which to be 100% honest just did not work as planned. Literally back to the drawing board….

But it’s not something to give up on. We’ve studied the issues with the zipper and come up with some nifty observations and found a couple of ways forward.

One of the studies shows how a simple thing like curvature has an impact on the useability of the zipper section. Compare and contrast these two videos:

Highly curved version

Soft curved version

Simple tests like this are key to really understanding what works in the real world and what will make the product clunky and worthless. The next steps are already underway!

April 17, 2011

Flying with a real Jellypod

Posted in Airlines, CAD/CAM, China, Design, Factory, Frequent Flyer, Luggage, Materials, Production, Security at 1:09 pm by Kilo

It’s been a  bit of a round-a-bout trip to get back, via Singapore and Mumbai over the past week or so, but we managed to get some great snaps of Jellypods in their natural setting –  going through x-ray machines, on board airplanes and arriving at the terminal:

This is the x-ray in Hong Kong airport.

A very welcome business class upgrade using a big pile of airmiles.

Arrival in Munich!

As you can see from the photos, the Jellypod is still a bit too cloudy to be fully functional – that will be fixed as we move to the production grade, high polished forms.

But it was nice to travel with the Jellypod, and it was pointed out to me this prototype was probably one of the most expensive bits of luggage ever flown!

April 7, 2011

The world’s first Jellypods

Posted in CAD/CAM, China, Design, Factory, Hong Kong, Materials, Production tagged , at 5:07 pm by Kilo

It’s been a very busy 48 hours that started with a long train journey into the heart of China’s industrial hinterland near Guangzhou.

But what awaited us was worth the wait: the first Jellypods on the planet.

The world's first Jellypods prototype

The world's first Jellypods prototype

These are pre-production prototypes, so they are not yet ready to be used properly – the moulds are not polished, the seams are unfinished, the thickness of the walls is a bit on the fat side, the transparency and colour shading is very rough and not ready for the stringent checks at an airport x-ray machine, and the product itself has several flaws in the design we still need to work on. But still it is a massive step forward and you can see the huge grin of delight in holding that puppy for the first time!

We knew most of these issues were going to be present, along with a few unknown unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld called them; it’s almost impossible to know if a product like this will work right off the press or not, and we expected some re-work and problem solving. Below you can see the team discussing one of the major issues and trying out a few ideas right out on the factor floor, and it is worth saying that the production and operations people at our partners have been really fantastic, spending a lot of time with us discussing options and suggesting alternatives and possibilities.

Brainstorming on the shop floor

What was really very nice after all this time was to be able to actually see the production process, step-by-step, and really visualize some of the core issues in what we are trying to do with Jellypods from a manufacturing standpoint. Yes, it’s a cool little silicone bag, and you’d think that would be easy to make. But our partners, who showed us some really quite amazingly complicated medical silicone products, are really stretching to find a way to make this thing – it’s not even close to being easy. 

The Jellypods body mould

But despite this issues, which we are confident we will resolve in fairly short order, it was very satisfying to finally hold a complete Mk 1 Jellypod in the hand, and feel that thing for real for the first time. It was a real feeling of success to finally have this prototype in silicone in our hands to squeeze and stretch. 

A row of Jellypods bodies literally hot off the presses

So what are the issues we have to solve?

Well, some are major, and some are minor. On the minor side, as you can see, these Jellypods are quite cloudy and nowhere near transparent enough for the security screening process – that is mainly due to the un-polished mould being used in the prototyping process, but it will not be an issue in final production. The coloration is also an experimental stage, with too much pigment, but it gives an idea of the shape of Jellypods. And we realized we had over-engineered the thickness in several areas, adding too much weight, making the product more expensive than it needs to be, and less elegant than it will be in the final version.

Jellypods Mk 1, with and without the curvy zipper attached

One of the largest issues is the zipper section. It’s a novel design that uses a harder grade of silicone, and to be perfectly honest we need to go back to the drawing board to make it work right, because right now it doesn’t do what we want it to do. But we have a cunning plan to fix it, and that plan is already being put into action.
The next steps are to refine the design and troubleshoot the key issues we discovered, then take Jellypods forward to the Mk 2 version – high gloss, polished, fully functional, lighter weight, ready for shipping.
But we took some major steps forward in the past couple of long days, and overall we are very happy with the progress and professionalism of our partners.

March 12, 2011

First trial runs of Jellypods on the moulds

Posted in CAD/CAM, Design, Frequent Flyer, Materials, Production, Prototyping at 12:03 pm by Kilo

Exciting news from the factory floor – the first trials of the Jellypods moulds are under way and we have the very first picture of an actual Jellypod!

Below you can see a teaser shot of the very first real, live Jellypods prototype being stripped from the test mould:

How cool is that?

The colour looks quite shiny due to the high transparency of the material of the pod – that shine is the P20 mould tool steel shining through the skin of the Jellypod – and already you can see just how flexible the skin of the Jellypod is.

Already we are seeing some minor challenges in the production process, but nothing that will stop the show.

Getting to this point is a very major step for us, and hopeful in 3 weeks time we’ll be be sitting in a pile of the very first batch of these little products! Stay tuned to have the chance of being a lucky beta tester soon!

February 12, 2011

Jellypods mould tooling – first technical drawings

Posted in Airlines, CAD/CAM, Design, Luggage, Materials, News, Production at 9:50 am by Kilo

Exciting news in the last couple of days: the first drawings of the mould tools have arrived from our production partner.

Those who have followed the blog for a little while will realize that a massive part of the time over the past year has been finding a production partner able to make this product.

After talking to about a dozen manufacturing firms, many of whom said that making this product was impossible, we were very lucky to find a patient, professional and thoughtful production company.

All our interactions with the excellent staff at this partner have been extremely friendly and they have been without doubt the most responsive and helpful company we contacted. It was pretty easy to award them the business, and it is really great to now start to see the production process move forward.

A Detail from the Jellypods Mould Tool Drawings

How their engineering gurus managed to get this part into production is a closely guarded secret, so we can’t post all the details, but suffice to say that moulding this little pod-like bag is a pretty tricky exercise. The design has several issues for normal moulding techniques that needed some clever thinking and we’ve really been very lucky to find a partner willing to invest some energy into solving these issues.

The really nice thing is that now those issues are solved, the door is open to an entirely new set of products beyond the basic Jellypods, and we’ve been pretty busy working up those designs in the background. More news soon!

January 6, 2011

Refining the design

Posted in Airlines, CAD/CAM, Design, Luggage, Production, Prototyping at 11:20 am by Kilo

The last few days have been all about getting the design locked down ready for the mould to be built. We’re not expecting the design to stay this way for a hundred years, but it would be nice if the first designs we produce were as nice as possible, so a lot of time is being spent on little details.

Here’s a good example – making sure that the tabs used to help with opening the Jellypods are integrated into the mainline of the special slinky “zipclick/zippop” mechanism (this is one of the novel features of the design) smoothly, that they are big enough to get hold of and that the don’t make the whole design look clunky. Getting those curves and integrations right takes a lot of time!

Another small example related to cost saving is ensuring that any branding on the Jellypods is de-bossed rather than embossed i.e. that it sinks into the skin, reducing weight rather than  protruding from the skin and adding weight.

Hopefully today is the day that we get the final design approved and packed off to the manufacturer and by next week the mould tooling will be in full swing.

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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.

November 14, 2010

Overcoming production challenges

Posted in Airlines, Blue Ocean, CAD/CAM, Design, Frequent Flyer, Luggage, Production, Uncategorized at 9:57 am by Kilo

Now when you just naively look at Jellypods, you might think: “it’s just a simple little bag made of silicone – easy”.

And to be honest that was also our initial thinking; how hard could it be?

Well, we now know the answer is “quite hard”.

Making Jellypods involves a number of tricky steps that are non-obvious and several design considerations took weeks to figure out.

The main technical issue we face is manufacturing the huge internal cavity via a tiny opening. This creates issues in ensuring the materials being used can be vulcanized, and ultimately extracted from the machines being used to make them, and is actually the trickiest thing we have to address. We have even considered inventing a new technique called “inflation molding” to get around this issue, which is a huge problem.

Another issue is ensuring Jellypod stay closed and remain watertight. After dozens of iterations we arrived at a quite novel solution that not only offers a doubly-secure locking mechanism but that also give the user of the Jellypods a much better degree of watertight-ness.

It’s almost silly the amount of thinking that goes into these things – something as simple as the radius of a circular bump on the closure, or the opening pull tab angles – but those details are what will make this product really sing.

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