will be shipping Touchfires to you the week of April 23! We will also be
publishing more frequent updates as we count down to that week.
Touchfire for iPad 3
will be coming in two models – one for the iPad 2 and one for the iPad 3. Both
of these models will also work with the iPad 1. If you want the iPad 3
version, please tell us by April 9th – just send us a Kickstarter message or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want the iPad 2 version, you don’t have
to do anything.
are finally on the other side of getting Touchfire ready for mass production,
and have dealt with some interesting and challenging issues along the way.
Here’s a recap of what’s been happening over the last few months.
is composed of a soft, flexible keypad area connected to some hard pieces we
call the ears and the chin. The chin is the main structural component of
Touchfire. It provides rigidity, holds several magnets and anchors Touchfire in
place on the iPad.
keypad area of Touchfire has been unchanged since January, when we made our
first production test run. We are very happy with how the keys work, and that
portion of the design has been completely frozen. The keypad is the heart of
Touchfire, so we were thrilled to see how quickly it came together. This led us
to believe that getting the rest of the design into production would also go
relatively smoothly. Not quite what happened :-)
keypad is made out of silicone, and we were originally planning on making the
chin and ears out of a hard version of silicone as well. That worked great for
the ears, but we could never get the chin stiff enough. So in February we
switched to a specially engineered injection-molded plastic that our
turned out to be a wonderful material, very tough and durable, and it generally
goes back to its original shape when bent.
changing material means a change to the manufacturing process; we have to build
new chin and ear molds and modify the keypad mold to accommodate them. This
takes us to mid-February.
We are back down at the factory, ready to try it all
out. We spent a couple of weeks debugging, optimizing the flow of material
through our molds and fixing cosmetic issues. Everything looks great, except …
our magnets in the chin and ears aren’t as strong as they should be. What’s
going on here?
turns out that the thermal conditions of our new manufacturing process are
affecting our magnets, which don’t like too much heat. We are going to have to
come up with a different approach for incorporating our magnets into Touchfire.
redesigns the chin and ears to accommodate this, and we send the molds back to
the mold maker for rework.
now have pockets in the chin and ears for the magnets to go into. But we need
to seal those pockets. We create some tiny covers that do the trick. Brad makes
some hand sketches, Steve takes them to a
local die maker, and we have finished prototype dies a day later.
work great. Now all we need is a manufacturer who can make a lot of them in a
short time. Luckily, we were already working with a company called Seal
Methods, which is making the stickers that go on the back of our cover clips.
We head on over to Seal, only a 15 minute drive from the factory. No problem;
Seal can manufacture the tooling for our covers and be in production in less
than a week.
forward to mid-March. The molds are back, we are down at the factory again,
ready to make our next trial run. And we have just gotten an iPad 3. All
indications are that it will work fine with Touchfire, since the screen didn’t
change at all and the iPad 3 uses the same Smart Cover as the iPad 2.
Apple made a change that nobody else seems to have picked up on – they reversed the magnetic
polarity of the iPad 3’s speaker magnet. This causes Touchfire to twist
on an iPad 3. What are we going to do about this? We sit down and try
and figure it out.
turns out that all we have to do was reverse
the polarity of some of our magnets to accommodate the iPad 3. We will need to
have people specifically order the iPad 3 version, but no other changes. And
the iPad 1 will work with either version. Hooray!
we did find another problem with the design; during the molding process
silicone is leaking into the magnet pockets. Grrr! So we head off to our mold
maker, Kingson Mold and Machine, to discuss.
Kinsgon is a pretty amazing operation. We showed you
a computer-controlled machining center cutting a prototype mold back in Update
9. Kingson has rows and rows of these enormous machines growling away.
always, they are very helpful, working with us to devise a fix. Our molds are once again in their shop.
brings us to today. We are very confident that these final changes are the last
ones that we’ll have to make. After the molds come back from Kingson we will test them out
and get them textured (texturing adds the final finish to the parts). And then we will finally get into full production. Our
schedule shows that we will be shipping out your Touchfires the week of April
you so much for bearing with us as we work through getting Touchfire into
production! Our next update will be in a week.