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.