As you may recall, we tried pretty hard to make Touchfire in the US, but ultimately couldn’t find a US manufacturer who would give us a reasonable bid or a reasonable timeline. We let you know all about this in Update 12. So we proceeded to manufacture Touchfire in Asia, where something like 95% of iPad accessories are made today. As you know, we went pretty far down that road.
But doing Touchfire the Kickstarter way - letting the world know everything that goes on with the project, sometimes has strange and wonderful consequences. Right about the time we were racing to beat Chinese New Year, a fellow named Rod Trujillo sent us an urgent message; he needed to talk with us right away. It turns out Rod is the CEO of a US manufacturer that specializes in challenging silicone projects. He said: “We can make Touchfire, and we can compete with any Chinese manufacturer”.
Rod’s company, International Rubber Products, is in Los Angeles; we flew down to Southern California to check it out. The most critical first step in manufacturing is to get tooling made. An important aspect of our trip involved meeting with the tool builders. Our first visit took place during the week between Christmas and New Year. The tooling engineers were on vacation that week. But Rod convinced them to come back early to meet with us. People were flying in from all over. After several hours of technical discussion, the tooling company agreed to make our tools in half their normal time. The fastest turnaround we’ve ever seen.
We now had a very difficult decision to make. Stick with the Chinese manufacturer who we had been iterating the tooling design with, or take a huge leap of faith and put our eggs into a US basket. We decided to give the go-ahead to US tooling, but kept going in China. This was a costly decision financially, but we felt that if there was a possibility of making Touchfire in America, it was worth it.
The tool builder came through with the mold for the keyboard in record time. That is what we showed you in Update 14. And that is when we decided to pull back from China and fully commit to building Touchfire in the USA.
The last month and a half have been a mad dash to the finish line. We've had to put together an entire supply chain for all the parts of Touchfire – cover clips, sticker pads, packaging, etc. Since we'd gone so far down the road in China, we had a very good idea of what each component should cost. Piece by piece, we've found that if you work hard and if you find the right partners (or if they find you), it is now possible to make an iPad accessory in the US that is as competitive as doing it in Asia.
we invited USA Today to come down to Rod’s factory and check out what we were
up to. They just published this cool video:
this article to go with it, which we think might also show up in the print edition
on Tuesday or Wednesday:
Steve and Brad