For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.
Its been two weeks since we started shipping Touchfires, and we've shipped about half of the Kickstarter Touchfires; over two thousand units. We are shipping in the order that people backed us.
Our factory is ramping up production quickly, so it will probably take less than two weeks to ship the remainder.
We have gotten lots of feedback and delivery acknowledgments; many thanks, keep 'em coming! Here are our general impressions of how its going.
- Overall, people really, really like typing on Touchfire! But there is a learning curve. For some people, it is just a few seconds. For others, it takes a few days to get used to it.
- We've created an interactive Typing Tutor Web application to help you get up to speed. It seems to be working well, but we'd love to get additional feedback on it. Go to www.touchfire.com/start with your Touchfire-enabled iPad and try it out.
- The biggest issue we've heard about so far is that Touchfire is sometimes too tacky or sticky when it first arrives. This is because a freshly manufactured Touchfire can sometimes be too clean! Silicone naturally attracts the microscopic dust particles that are everywhere, and we designed Touchfire to work well in that environment. The tackiness is a temporary condition that won't last very long. And normal cleaning with tap water will not cause the tackiness to return.
On another topic, we are launching Touchfire the company today, and announcing general availability of Touchfire at www.touchfire.com. Of course, we will ship all Kickstarter Touchfires and all pre-orders before shipping new orders.
We did send some Touchfires to journalists, and many of them will be publishing their reviews today. We have our fingers crossed!
A Time Magazine review came out early this morning. It is asking Touchfire's Kickstarter backers to chime in with their impressions. The Time article is here:
There will be other articles and reviews coming out today - you can find them by doing a Google search for "Touchfire news".
Today should be a fun day. Please join us in celebrating what we've created together!
Steve & Brad
We started shipping Touchfire yesterday (June 28). Over 300 Touchfires went out to Kickstarter backers. We will be shipping hundreds of Touchfires every business day going forward.
The final part of a project like Touchfire is completing the transition to manufacturing. Every detail, from the actual manufacturing and assembling of the product to the quality control procedures to timely shipping around the world needs to be handed off. We spent the last week down at our factory doing that. And now the hand off is complete.
Here are some Touchfires that came off the liquid injection molding machine.
They then go to an assembly line where the magnets are put in and the Touchfires are inspected and tested.
Next, the Touchfires are packed out - that is, put into their packaging, along with the other pieces like the storage case and the cover clips to make a finished product.
Finally, shipping labels are generated and the Touchfires begin their journey to you. Here we are with the first shipment:
Everyone at the factory is pretty happy that we reached this milestone. We were able to get the Touchfire manufacturing team outside for a quick group photo.
That's All Very Nice, But When Will I Get My Touchfire?
We are shipping out in generally the same order that people backed us. They are now going out as fast as our factory can make them, but it will take a week and half to two weeks to produce all the Kickstarter units. Shipping should take between 4 and 8 days. So please be patient during the final part of the process.
We would appreciate it if you'd drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org when your Touchfire arrives. We would really like to understand what actual shipping times are.
We usually sign off by letting you know how much we appreciate the opportunity you have given us to bring Touchfire to life. Well, yesterday what you have done allowed Touchfire to go from a dream to a reality. Nothing beats that!
We are still on track to ship out Touchfires by the end of this month; just a couple weeks to go. As we said in our last update, the biggest issue we faced was replacing all of our magnets. Well, the new magnets arrived yesterday; hooray!
Our factory is now running 24/7 making Touchfire keyboards. First they will make all of the white Touchfires for the Variety Packs, and then switch over to making blacks. Here’s a picture of the clean room; notice that there are now large volume production tanks of liquid silicone attached to the injection molding machine instead of the small prototyping canisters seen in previous updates.
You can also see Touchfire storage cases being made on the other side of the room.
Now that the magnets have arrived, our factory can set up the assembly line to install the magnets and magnet labels into the keyboards. We’ve been busy working with them over the last few weeks building assembly and test jigs, developing quality assurance protocols, pack out procedures, etc, etc. This coming week will be devoted to getting everything set up and running smoothly. We should be running in high gear the week of June 25th, and expect to be shipping out Touchfires to you at the end of that week.
We have gotten a lot of feedback from our international customers about the high import duties that they have to pay when FedEx or UPS deliver a package. We have looked into this, and found an interesting shipping option from UPS called Mail Innovations. Under this program, UPS flies packages overseas using their normal cargo fleet, but they then hand the packages over to the local postal service for final mile delivery. The delivery times are similar to normal shipments, but the import duties are often significantly lower and less of a hassle, since they are charged at local postal service import rates and are collected by your local postal service.
So, we will be using this service for most of our International customers. There are a few countries where the local postal service can be a little slow; we will ship using standard UPS service to those countries.
Thank you for sticking with us over the last few months. It has been quite a journey, and we are incredibly excited that we will be getting Touchfire into your hands shortly.
Steve and Brad
The Good News: We signed off on Touchfire going into volume production; hooray! Our factory will start making Touchfires next week.
The Bad News: We had to order 80,000 new magnets, and it will be about 4 weeks before they get here.
More Good News: By the time the magnets arrive, the factory will have made a lot of Touchfires!
Even More Good News: We were able to come up with a single version of Touchfire that works for all generations of iPads. In fact, we were forced to….
The Full Story
Getting Touchfire into production has been a wild ride, but the last few weeks have been the wildest of all.
Touchfire Released To Production
As you might recall from our last update, we found that our magnets were not fitting into the completed Touchfire keyboards. We tried all the alternatives we discussed in the last update, but at the end of the day we needed to go with new magnets. The samples of the new magnets arrived today, and they fit great.
So we gave the go-ahead to our magnet supplier to make 80,000 magnets. And then we released Touchfire for production in our Los Angeles factory. Needless to say, this was a big day!
Our factory will now send our tools out for Teflon coating and anodization to get them ready for mass production. This will take about a week. And then they will dive into making lots of Touchfires. Three shifts a day, seven days a week.
The magnets will arrive in 4-5 weeks. At which point our factory will have made all the Touchfires. They will then insert the magnets, seal up the magnet wells, and ship you your Touchfire. So, we are looking at shipping out your Touchfires by the end of June.
iPad 3, Revisited
We bought two iPad 3’s to test Touchfire on, and as we previously reported, quickly discovered that the polarity of the speaker magnet was reversed between the iPad 3 and the iPad 2. We switched the polarity of some of the magnets in Touchfire to match, resulting in a Touchfire version for iPad 2 and a different version for iPad 3.
A few weeks ago, a friend came by with their new iPad 3 and we put Touchfire on it for a test drive. OMG! The speaker magnet in this iPad 3 was the same polarity as an iPad 2. What was going on here?
We headed out to the Apple stores in the Seattle area with Touchfires in hand, and tested about 40 iPad 3s. We found that the iPad 3 speaker magnet polarity was completely random. This is pretty unusual for an Apple product, and it was feeling like a catastrophe for us. The iPad 3 version of Touchfire was dead unless we could find a way to make one version of Touchfire work for all iPads. So we went to work.
We tried micro-Velcro, suction tape, etc. as alternatives for retracting Touchfire. But nothing worked as well as magnets. And then we hit on the answer. If we changed the size and power of the affected magnets in the chin, we could have a balanced solution that worked with both polarities of speaker magnets. And since we were ordering new magnets anyway, this solution would work out.
So, there will now be just one version of Touchfire for all three generations of iPads.
As always, thank you so much for hanging in there with us. Touchfires will be rolling off the assembly line at last!
Steve & Brad