Share this project


Share this project

TouchFire is a thin, feather-weight device that puts the "touch" back into typing - it makes your iPad feel like a normal keyboard!
TouchFire is a thin, feather-weight device that puts the "touch" back into typing - it makes your iPad feel like a normal keyboard!
3,146 backers pledged $201,400 to help bring this project to life.

We Have a Little Surprise For You…

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.

So, 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:

And this article to go with it, which we think might also show up in the print edition on Tuesday or Wednesday:

Steve and Brad


Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Missing avatar

      Rene Abe on March 29, 2012

      Same frustration here. :( hope that fits my new iPad 3.

    2. Tara Johnson on March 27, 2012

      I just realized that I needed to let you know that I have a different model of iPad than I did when I filled out the survey you originally send. I used to have the 1st gen, but now I have the 3rd gen. Not sure if it's for statistical purposes or if it changes something you send, but I wanted to let you know!

    3. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 27, 2012

      @BarryG, @Zippy - Update coming later this week.

    4. ZippyFund Inc. on March 26, 2012

      Have to agree with the others in that we are getting frustrated with the delays in seeing this item. We are a firm believer in the product as well as Kickstarter with our large support but the delay's are starting to make us wonder.

    5. BarryG on March 26, 2012

      It seems that so many under estimate the time to bring the finished product to fruition. It is a little frustrating to see a December 2011 estimated date by you guys and it's not the end of March 2012 and still not any idea of when these will actually be completed and shipped. It should have been under promise and over deliver instead of over promise and under deliver. This is the 3rd one I've backed and all have the same kind of issues... I sure hope this gets done soon.. Frustrating!!!!

      I suggest you have more frequent updates and videos. 3 weeks so far since the last one. That is not very good communication and a better effort on your part would be much appreciated.

    6. Teresa Hull on March 23, 2012

      Would I love to have my keyboard NOW? Of course but more importantly I want a great product not a product that was thrown together. I am willing to wait. The frequent updates help a lot so we know you are working toward the finished product. I am very pleased that you went with an American manufactuer. While it may have set you back a bit of time in the long run it makes your product more valuable to me. People need to be patient and understand that they did not order a premade product. Watching the developement has been fascinating. Most of us never think about what goes into creating something we walk into a store and purchase. Thanks for the education as well as what looks like it will be a great product.

    7. Missing avatar

      Justin simkavitz on March 23, 2012

      You're product is fantastic, but the wait for shipping is excruciating. Thank you for the regular updates but c'mon guys it has been several months since the funding was complete? Again, thanks for the hard work but you need to ship the product. I certainly understand the delays with your selected manufacturers but at the end of the day you need to send your supporters something or they will not support future projects.

    8. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 22, 2012

      @Susan, thanks for your comment. In order for us to be able to provide you with an accurate ship date, we need to finish the tooling and manufacturing debugging process and then see how many units per day we can manufacture. As soon as we have that critical information, we will send out an update with a ship date. Expect the update sometime next week. Thanks!

    9. Missing avatar

      Susan DeLong on March 22, 2012

      I think that you have an excellent product if it works. I believe that it will work as advertised. Because the new iPad has the same form, it will be a bonus that it will work on the new iPad. However, it is not OK that we keep getting put off. Please provide a ship date and meet it. I think that it will be important for your product and for future Kickstarter products that timeframes and promises are honored. I am excited to get the product.

    10. Jeff Mcneill on March 21, 2012

      I agree with the other irritated folks. You've really got to ship asap. Go with USA for version #2 rather than version #1. Since you've got our promised money already, there seems to be a lackadaisical approach that has been introduced. I feel this is a problem not just with your project but other Kickstarter projects. You've got the money to get us the project, not just noodle away and let month after month slip by.

    11. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 21, 2012

      @Devon, we are down at the factory right now, debugging our tooling and the manufacturing process. As soon as that is complete and we are in volume production, we will understand how many units per day we can make. And that will allow us to accurately estimate delivery dates. We will then publish a big update with committed dates. Unless we hit a big problem, that should happen some time next week.

    12. Missing avatar

      Devon Nicholls on March 20, 2012

      I'm wondering if you guys are willing to give us an estimation as to when you think these will be done? You were comfortable enough to give us a December ETA, which we clearly can't lean on, so is there a new date you guys have in mind? I'd rather you be honest and say we won't have them until June rather than string us along with these "updates". As you can tell we are all getting a little irritated but I think that's partially b/c as of now the only answers we have are "soon, maybe."

    13. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 20, 2012

      @Joshua, right now we plan on shipping directly out of LA. We might add other shipping locations in the future.
      @Dennis. Thanks!

    14. denise on March 20, 2012

      Thanks for the great reading. Good to hear there are still companies willing to manufacture outside China/Taiwan/etc. ^ ^

    15. Missing avatar

      Joshua Feldman on March 19, 2012

      Will the product ship directly from Los Angeles to customers?

    16. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 19, 2012

      @Roberta - You just let us know; thanks!

    17. Missing avatar

      Roberta Domos on March 18, 2012

      Since the time I've backed this I purchased the new iPad. How do I let you guys know I don't have the first gen iPad any longer?

    18. Tara Johnson on March 16, 2012

      Thanks for the quick response :) I've been talking you guys up for months, I'm so excited to show off the keyboard.

      And thanks for finding a US manufacturer - that's awesome!

    19. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 15, 2012

      @Tara - Since the new cover clips are now only on the inside of the cover and are completely covered up by the Touchfire keyboard most of the time, we're thinking that we'll make them all in the dark gray color shown in Update #16. We tried that color against the 10 Smart Cover colors, and it works really well...

    20. Tara Johnson on March 15, 2012

      Are the clips still going to be in different colors like they show on the main page? Or since they are a different clips, did that change?

      I can't wait to play with the TouchFire on my new iPad! :D

    21. Rian on March 15, 2012

      @Steve That is really good to hear. I was really worried about it

    22. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 15, 2012

      @Ethan, @Sean, @Dorian - we didn't break a contract with our Chinese vendor. We were still at the tooling development stage with them; we never got as far as signing a manufacturing agreement. We made down-payments on that tooling, but it was never made.
      It is also very much in our interest to continue to have good relations with our Chinese manufacturer, who Brad has worked with for many years. Manufacturing is a competitive game; the smart manufacturers realize that there is always the next job, and it is never good to burn bridges. That is response we got when we talked with our Chinese manufacturer about our change in direction.

      Shipping update - all our molds were delivered last week, and we made numerous test runs. Unfortunately, we found some problems with three of the molds. They are being reworked now, and will be back in our factory next week. With any luck, this will be the last revisions we need to make. So, we are going day by day right now. As soon as we are to the point of running Touchfire in volume production, we will know what our daily production volume is, and will therefore be able to accurately estimate when we'll be able to start shipping.

    23. Ippei Nishida on March 15, 2012

      I think what you are doing is totally fraud. I'm not interested in your situation at all, but I just want the iPad soft keyboard.
      When will you ship touchfire? If you cannot tell that. you had better give the money back to me. I'll say again, WHEN YOU SHIP TOUCH FIRE ?

    24. Rian on March 14, 2012

      It is something we, as a group of backers, are proud of having been able to pull this manufacturing in US. But I agree with others. Breaking contracts are not really preferable option. But since this is Kickstarter, some explorations seem to be reasonable and required. I hope Chinese contractor was well explained about this, other than the fact that US manufacturer was more preferable. Kickstarter is open for public, regardless of nationality. I believe there will be angry backers who believe they have been offended by this particular change.

    25. Missing avatar

      Sean Shapcott on March 14, 2012

      Would love to have an update on when they may ship. I like others funded in large part based on the estimated delivery date. I've only funded two projects and both are behind and not updating with new dates. Makes me very hesitant to give anyone else money on here.

    26. Ethan S. on March 13, 2012

      We're never going to get this damned thing shipped. Honestly, this update means nothing.
      Some may be proud or whatnot that you now have an American manufacturer, but honestly, I couldn't care less (I am at my lowest of caring about that).

      You have my money already. I want the product.
      In my honest opinion, this was a crap move on your part. You entered into a contract. You broke that contract. You have now lost money, which most likely will be made up for when it goes public, after the Kickstarter community gets theirs.

      I want my Touchfire. I don't want to hear how you've switched to a US producer. I could care less if you can make it more efficiently. In my eyes, you have my money, and I don't have my product.

      And I know that Kickstarter is about funding a budding concept, so there may be delays in production. That's not my irritation here. My irritation is that you ALREADY had a manufacturer, and you chose to break contract with them, thus pushing back the date that I will receive my Touchfire.

      So in this sense, the surprise that you gave me was a very negative surprise that just pissed me off.

      And by the way, no, I don't want a refund. I want my damn Touchfire.

    27. Robert Gervais on March 13, 2012

      What is the new ETA? The person I bought this gift for is going to Europe in the next couple of months and he wants to show off the Touchfire to his Euro friends... LOL

    28. Missing avatar

      Jasmyn Bowden on March 13, 2012

      Glad to know I'm not the only one getting antsy. Considering how long it's taking, I'm wonder what on earth made you guys up a December ship date? When I purchased, I didn't know how early it development it was. I don't regretting buying it, and can't wait to get it. I just want to know when you think that'll be. Three months past the original date is not insignificant.

    29. Missing avatar

      Yoshiichiro Kawai on March 12, 2012

      Hey, guess what? I am going to go to Japan from this weekend.
      I thought I could bring touch fire with my iPod to Japan but next time. I am sure that so many Japanese people like to see "new hot item" from the US. I can wait to use it sooner..

    30. Missing avatar

      Jeff Warner on March 10, 2012

      Well worth the wait for it to be Made in the USA! Kudos to you both for making this decision. Take your time, do it right the first time...advice to patient.

    31. Amy MacCallum on March 9, 2012

      So what's the eta? You are close enough to be able to be precise now, not two or three months off. If you can't be precise, you need a consultant who can help you. Please put as much effort into customer service as into manufacturing or you will lose more than just my business.

    32. Missing avatar

      Dan Freeman on March 8, 2012

      I'll pay a little extra to have it made in the USA!!!!

    33. Steve Isaac & Brad Melmon 2-time creator on March 7, 2012

      Hi, everyone; thanks for all of your comments!
      This has been quite a day - it looks almost certain that Touchfire will be 100% compatible with the new iPad. We'll know for sure on March 16.
      We are both down at our factory in LA, doing the final work needed to get Touchfire into volume production. Overall, things are going well. All molds are in place, and the various pieces are coming together. But we do have to make a bunch of tweaks in several areas. We'll let everyone know as soon as we are in production. We're going as fast as we can!

    34. Missing avatar

      Devon Nicholls on March 7, 2012

      Now that they announced the iPad3 is keeping the same screen size as the 2, does that mean y'all will quit stalling and start shipping? Haha #YouAreNotFoolingAnyone. I'm only half kidding,

    35. Missing avatar

      Stewart bracken on March 7, 2012

      First of all, I can't wait for you to finally ship these. Secondly, I backed you guys because I thought I'd get mine around Christmas. I wish you had at least told me Christmas with delay. This is a crazy amount of delay! I wouldn't normally be frustrated but I purchased this as a christmas present for my dad, but now it's looking like it will be a birthday present. Hurry up please!!!

    36. Jeff De Cagna on March 7, 2012

      This is great news! Now for the most important question: when will you start shipping TouchFires? When should we expect to receive them?

    37. Missing avatar

      Rich Puskarich on March 6, 2012

      This is fantastic. Glad to see an American company step up to the plate and make it happen. Can't wait to get mine.

    38. Missing avatar

      Christopher Howard on March 6, 2012

      That's amazing news! There truly is nothing like putting the word out.

    39. ZippyFund Inc. on March 6, 2012

      My iPad is waiting!

    40. Adam Tollinger on March 6, 2012

      This is an awesome development.

    41. Missing avatar

      Devon Nicholls on March 6, 2012

      This is great news, but there is no update on when they will be ready. ? I'm also glad to hear these guys are fellow Seattlites! Well done guys. But I'd love an update when these will be done... My iPad is lonely.

    42. Tim Moser on March 6, 2012

      Wow, this just makes this product even better. Not that going China is bad or anything, but it's great to see that money coming back into our own work-force.

      Great decision. Can't wait :)

    43. Andreas Michalski on March 6, 2012

      :-) i get 20 :-))))))))

    44. Andreas Michalski on March 6, 2012

      you know i am in germany, and i dont need to care where it is made. BUT i REALY like your decition and i fully support this. IT IS THE RIGHT WAY !!!!!! i have many customers in the USA and i hope they can see this excample and my can follow !! i canrt wait to get my 10 pices. THX

    45. Missing avatar

      Elayne Sawaya on March 6, 2012

      Bring back Manufacturing to the US. Kudos to you both and the L.A. Company

    46. Jeremie Lariviere
      on March 6, 2012

      I'm looking forward to getting it!

    47. Julie on March 6, 2012

      Good for you, and good for Rod for being on the ball. I have nothing against the Chinese, but I'm thrilled to be supporting my own community. You're doing good work, guys. There may be more hiccups, but I'm behind you all the way!

    48. Missing avatar

      smartbit on March 6, 2012

      Good to hear that there was a US manufacturer who was at least able to bid on it. Would be nice if I could show it off at the Dutch on March 26: I'm doing there a "iPad gadgets" during lunchtime.

    49. Missing avatar

      Brian Parker on March 6, 2012

      I agree with Harlan above. While I am very pleased that you found a US manufacturer to actualize the product, my concern from the beginning has been to obtain and use the product. I can't help but wonder how much of the delay in initial shipment could have been avoided by using another strategy (on-shore after initial production run). In the words of one US burger chain, "Where's the beef?"

    50. Missing avatar

      Harlan Blumenthal on March 6, 2012

      I'm pleased this worked out but can't help wonder what costs you incurred both hard dollar and soft dollar when breaking the contract you had with the Chinese manufacturer. Someone has to absorb these costs and I don't want to speculate who that may be. Also, where was this US Mfr. when you went out to bid? Did they provide a no-bid, did you not send the bid to them? Honestly, I'm thrilled about the fact that this will be manufactured in the US but would love to see you post a future update on "Lessons learned" once the product finally ships. I think that will help future entrepreneurs and your consumer base, too. Keep up the good work and let's hope to see a product in the very near future. I'm sure the next thing people will want to know is how the TouchFire will work with the TBA iPad announcement at 10am PT today.