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An innovative geometric umbrella that reimagines structure, form, and aesthetics, with improved efficiency and recyclability.
1,426 backers pledged $142,940 to help bring this project to life.

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Progress Update #21: November

18 likes

Hello everyone,

Happy holidays! As we roll into this festive time of year, we bring good tidings for the Sa epic! Let’s get into it!

For those looking for a quick summary rather than the full read, skip ahead to the end of this update.

Production Progress

First, a quick recap of our last update. For the sake of expediency and efficiency we had just moved production oversight, engineering, and prototyping duties over to our new Korean engineering team, with our Chinese team remaining on in an advisory role. Following this, we had reworked quite a few elements of the design, such as the rib construction and magnetic closure, as well as a few other components in which we felt the construction needed to be strengthened. Following our prior update, we planned to move directly forward and update our 3D models with which we would then directly order our production-level prototype molds. Following that, we would be making a number of smaller adjustments to insure everything is up to ideal specifications before rolling onwards into mass production.

I am very pleased to say that we have stayed the course and and all has moved forward as expected! With that being said, I am very pleased to announce that we have a fully functional, production ready Sa umbrella in the office! Yes folks, we are here at last! Our new Korean team has been fantastic to work with and has come through as promised! Of course, we had plenty of hurdles and speed bumps to overcome in the interim, but we are very much on track and moving forward as expected!

So here you have it! In the first photo you can see the completely assembled, fully functional umbrella with our pre-bent rib design. The only components not featured in this photo are the magnetic closure parts and fabric. We have tested the magnetic closure and all works well, but at the moment we are finalizing the fabric assembly process with our ultrasonic welding supplier and fabric colors/compositions with our fabric mill, so we couldn't include those in this photo.

You’ll notice also that the rib bending seems quite extreme without the fabric, but don’t let that fool you, the final appearance will be exactly as anticipated. We need to wait until our fabric weight and application methods have been locked down in order to calibrate the offset angles properly to give us a fully flat appearance.

In the second photo, we’ve removed the pre-bent sections of the ribs so you can get a closer look at just how cleanly and efficiently everything has come together. I am extremely pleased with the results and cannot wait to get this out to all of you!

One process that ended up costing us about 4 weeks worth of time between this and the last update had to do with the two central poles. These are both made with extrusion molds and then the appropriate holes are then carved into them. This process takes about two weeks per part, however, because of two tiny, almost comically simple errors, we ended up eating up a lot more time than expected.

In the first prototype parts we received, the screw holes were drilled vertically. So, if you imagine the pole lying lengthwise on a table, the drill bit would be coming from the top downwards. However, upon assembly we realized that the screw heads could not be inserted fully since the pole's surface was still rounded! We then had to re-order the part with the screw holes drilled horizontally. By doing this, the cut into the pole will have a flat surface relative to the screw and allow for a tight, flush closure. So, problem solved!

However, as we were assembling the umbrella with this newly adjusted part, we noticed something else was amiss. The parts were not aligning. We went back and looked at the schematics and noticed a very simple human error. The length of our pole was slightly too long! Apparently a pole of 601.5mm was ordered instead of a 605.1mm pole as required. So, simple mistake, easily fixable, but time consuming nevertheless. Thankfully after adjusting that, all went smoothly thereafter and our assembly worked out just fine.

Finally, here is a photo of our beautiful all-aluminum handle. We have just successfully tested our powder coating finish, which can be seen on the left. I had been eagerly awaiting to share this with all of you since this is the very first umbrella in the world with this kind of finishing. This photo doesn’t do the silky smooth surface texture any justice, but suffice it to say that I am very much pleased our results! The final coating will actually be a tad more matte in appearance and will, of course, come in the proper colors.

One other reason for testing the powder coating finish at this stage was to see if it would have any affect on the operation of the umbrella and require any adjustments for production. While we did preemptively cover most bases, this test did reveal that we needed to make two small changes in order to allow for a more optimal result, so it is good that we took the precautionary step and tested this earlier in the process.

The Final Stretch

Now while we currently do have a fully functioning and producible Sa umbrella, as mentioned in the previous update, we will now be entering an “adjustments” stage. Essentially, we are now optimizing all of the elements within the umbrella to get them up to their ideal specifications before beginning mass production. This includes an array of minute improvements from spring tensions to wall thicknesses and so on.

For example, we noticed that the spring which is used to auto-rotate the handle back to it’s start position is a bit too intense and that the spring which pulls the handle back up after the canopy is closed is too weak to properly engage the hydraulic dampener. These are relatively easy fixes and should take very little time to change.

We also felt that the rib material was a tad on the brittle side, but thankfully that can be adjusted easily by changing the rib's material composition. Essentially, the ratio of carbon to other elements can be adjusted to adjust the flexibility or rigidity. Since we already have the mold completed for that part, we can very quickly prototype the same shaped part simply with a new blend of material.

One other thing that we are doing is hollowing out the handle to reduce weight. Even though aluminum is very light and our handle wall thickness is generally minimal, we estimate that we can take off about 300-350 grams from the overall weight by hollowing out this part, while still maintaining the same robust strength. The only challenge in this case is that, in order to succeed, we need to make a few other small adjustments to the complimentary internal parts and slightly revise our assembly process. The handle itself however is another quick fix since it is CNC milled and does not require any molds.

Some other adjustments we will be making however are a bit more time consuming, such as those that require adjusting molds or those which affect multiple parts at once. Of course, we want to move forward as fast as possible, but such changes are inevitably necessary. For example, we have a headless screw that connects a few internal locking components, but we need to slightly change its dimensions. In order to do this, both poles and three internal components need to be adjusted accordingly. So, ironically, due to its nature, this kind of tiny adjustment of a few millimeters is what amasses the most time rather than a significant change to our handle weight.

Now, moving forward, since we have entered into the “adjustments” stage, it’s only a short matter of time until the Sa will finally be hitting the production lines! This stage typically takes between 2 weeks to 2 months, however, now knowing the type of adjustments that we need to make, I believe it will be the later since we need to adjust some of the molds, which are the most time consuming to adjust. In any case, please rest assured! The umbrella is DONE! We are no longer exploring big concepts, we are refining already working components to optimal output.

I would also like to reiterate how very pleased I am with our new Korean engineering team and how much smoother everything has been running since we made the move from China. The quality of our parts has been superb and they are coming out lightning fast! It’s truly staggering how much faster things get done with our new team. We have been receiving newly ordered parts in a matter of days compared to the 1-2 months it often took out in China.

So, now we enter the final stretch! Here is what out future looks like moving forward: First, I will be back on site in two weeks, where we will be locking down the fabric assembly process and going over our more recent adjustments. I will then be back in Seoul again in early January and remain on site until we roll over into mass production a few weeks later.

After we wrap up all adjustments, I will post an update in which we will be sharing the final production model Sa umbrella! As in, get ready to pop the champagne bottles! This will be in either late January or in February, depending on how quickly we are able to finish the adjustments.

That being said, in the next update we should know within a fairly tight margin of error how long it will take to finish with mass production and how quickly we will be shipping. We are ordering our custom fabrics and powder coating colors ahead of time to minimize any delay during this stage, but depending on how quickly we begin, we expect to ship by late February or March.

Please keep a close eye out for our next update since we will be announcing final dates by which we will need to know any address, color choice, or order changes. We will send out at least one more update as a reminder before shipments begin and then we will have one more update posted once shipments are sent out.

We want to once more humbly thank all of you for sticking with us throughout this long arduous process. It has been a long journey and certainly not an easy one, but the fruits of our labor are soon to be enjoyed. Thank you all again for your enduring support!

Summary:

We have been moving full steam ahead since the past update and now have a fully functioning, production ready Sa umbrella! Albeit producible as it currently stands, as previously planned, between now and mass production can begin we need to make a few adjustments and improvements to optimize the final product. There are no major changes left to be made, so the adjustments we are talking about are tiny, such as changing spring strengths, screw sizes, or wall thicknesses. We will also be finalizing the assembly process during this time. In any case, we anticipate this process should take about two months, after which we can begin mass production!

Please keep an eye out for our next update, which should be posted in late January or February, in which we will be sharing the final production version of the Sa! In that update we will have a firm grasp on how long mass production should take, so we will also be announcing delivery dates, which we anticipate will be in February or March. We will also announce a final date by which anyone applicable should notify us of any address, color choice, or order changes. Following that, we will have another update posted as a final reminder before delivery commences, and one more following that after deliveries have been sent out. Thank you all for your patience and we can’t wait to finally be shipping you all your Sa in the imminent future!

Progress Update #20: August

20 likes

Hello everyone,

We hope that you have all been keeping cool in this particularly long and hot summer! We are back again with the latest installment of the Sa saga!

For those looking for a quick summary rather than the full read, skip ahead to the end of this update.

Production Progress

To begin, a quick recap of where we last left off: We had finished up all of the components of the umbrella, but had run into an issue with our ribs sagging too much under the weight of our fabric. In order to solve this problem we had put out an order for some new prototype rib components made with high-grade ceramic composite materials, called zirconia and alumina, and had been eagerly awaiting to test the results!

In this photo you can see the new alumina and zirconia rib prototypes. Although their appearance looks identical in this photo, they actually have fairly different physical properties. However, the unfortunate news is that, despite our high hopes of success with these materials, both were not able to stand up to the rigorous testing we put them through.

While both materials did perform very well in general, and were indeed extremely strong, the issue came down to brittleness during rapid flexion. Ironically, while the rib can handle an immense amount of stress when applied slowly, rapid flexing, even in less extreme amounts, snapped the ribs. This unfortunately proved to be a deal breaker for us, since a sudden powerful gust of wind, or more likely, the rib getting stepped on or slammed in a car door might have the potential to break it.

So, with even heavier hearts than before, we went back to the drawing board and set out to prototype our pre-bent rib design. Just to refresh everyone’s memory on that design, it is one in which we would have the rib shape curved slightly so that once the fabric is applied it will give a flat appearance. The challenge with such a design was more from a manufacturing standpoint rather than a conceptual one. In any case, it was after our meeting about the ceramic ribs that we finally had some significant changes happen!

As we have mentioned in the past few updates, we had been collaborating with our team of engineers in Korea who would be stepping in from June in full force to assist with the remaining aspects of the Sa and the Sa Compact. We had several discussions about what would make the most sense in terms of moving forward with their cooperation.

Having both the Chinese manufacturer and the Korean team working at the same time could prove challenging for a handful of reasons. Of course, the language barrier and need for a translator makes things difficult, but beyond that, the need for frequent trips, management of the latest physical prototypes and 3D part models, as well as deciding who would oversee the tooling of the molds and assembly, required us to simply choose one team to manage the project, while the other maintained an advisory role.

So with that in mind, we made the decision to have the Korean team completely take over the project and to have the Chinese manufacturer advise. There are a plethora of reasons behind our decision, but it essentially came down to the fact that the Korean team’s superior abilities in engineering would allow them to be able to create an even better Sa from a technical standpoint, and their ability to prototype quickly within Korea promises even faster results!

Now, jumping back into the timeline, as soon as the Korean team fully took the reins on the project in mid-June, we had an important meeting and decided how things would be moving forward. First, and most importantly, we decided to change manufacturing of the umbrella primarily to Korea. We decided to do this because our Korean team has many resources in Korea with whom they can quickly interact with and get reliable results from, whereas working back and forth with China would require more time and effort.

Of course, we may still have our team in China handle some parts, and perhaps take over more of the process in the future, but the first Sa batch out the door will be made in Korea! Making this change will mean that this first batch will cost us a bit more to create, since there are no pre-exisitng umbrella assembly facilities in Korea and a specialized team must manufacture and assemble them. However, creating them in this way will ensure that we can closely oversee the process to ensure a smooth and reliable production run for the first batch of Sa.

We also decided in this meeting to change one aspect of our production strategy in order to speed up our time to market. This step was crucial to shaving off a few months on our ETA. Essentially, up until this point we had been making one-off prototype parts which would then, once finalized, be created with expensive molds capable of producing at least 100,000 units or more for mass production. Such molds take quite a long time to make, often 2-3 months per mold per part.

In order to avoid such a delay, we decided to change our strategy and use a different type of mold for our parts. Such molds are equally as high in quality as the mass production molds we had been considering, but can be produced much quicker and cheaper. The caveat, however, is that they can only be used about 3,000 to 5,000 times before they are no longer usable.

However, the distinct advantage is that such molds can be interchangeably used for prototyping and production! In other words, if we keep our first batch size within the aforementioned unit range, we can directly jump from prototype to production and shave off 2-3 months of time! Since our first batch is going straight to all of you, and that quantity is under that threshold, this strategy makes sense for us!

Beyond that, it also means our next prototype will be made to real spec! Whereas many of the one-off molds are only able to make approximations or substitutes for the real parts, since they often use alternate processes to achieve their results, these new molds will actually give us the real production parts to test with! So, that means that rather than another quasi-functional prototype, coming up next instead we will actually have a real deal, fully functional Sa umbrella, ready to hit the production lines!

So, with a very optimistic path ahead we happily handed over control of the project to our Korean engineering team! We will get into the new projected timeline a bit later in the update, but along with tackling the rib issue they also wanted to completely reassess the current umbrella design to make sure it was up to their standards. This whole process took about a month and a half, but was well worth the time spent. I went to Korea shortly thereafter and we had a week of meetings to go over their findings and to finalize decisions on moving forward.

First, they noticed a handful of parts that they felt were not as strong as they should be in the older prototype design. To solve this, they went back in and strengthened a bunch of components across the entire umbrella. Then next, they came to the conclusion that the magnetic closure system, while being fine in principle, did not provide enough outward magnetic force to function as desired.

Although that news was less than great, it is certainly fantastic that they were able to catch that ahead of time. Likely the Chinese manufacturer simply lacked advanced knowledge when it came to implementing magnetics, since this project would have been their first time working with such technology. In any case, at our last meeting we were able to workshop the magnetic closing tech and we came up with a much better solution!

Instead of a central magnetic switch, we were able to revert back to something closer to the original design, which simply used a loop of magnets embedded in the panels themselves. The change we made, which enabled us to utilize this solution, was actually to relocate the structural component originally along the outermost edge of the panel to a position where it is perpendicular to the rib and meets at the tip of the panel when folded.

If you will remember back quite a while now, we had intended to essentially use a “frame" of structural elements to create the planar design of the Sa panels. If you imagine the umbrella closed, but not yet wrapped shut and thereby leaving a triangular shaped folded panel, these “frame” components would be the rib, then components along the bottom and top sloping edges. However, rather than using two edge parts, we can also generate this same planar design by putting a single component perpendicular to the meeting point of the bottom and top edges and adjacent to the rib. Since this design also allows the component to wrap evenly upon itself, it also allows for us to succeed with our magnetic design!

In any case, it was a huge relief to succeed with that unexpected magnetic issue! However, the best news of all is that we finally succeeded with our rib design! The Korean team came up with a fantastic solution for our dilemma. Basically, using the same principal as the pre-bending design, they were able to compensate for the fabric weight and sagging by creating a three-staged rib.

In this photo you can get a sneak peak of this design. Basically, the rib is split into three parts, all short enough so as not to sag over their own length and made just long enough so that we can manufacture them with a high success rate. A single long rib would require another manufacturing method and/or be prohibitively expensive or unreliable.

These three components are then attached with connectors which are able to fix the angle between each section. By doing this we can compensate for the material weight as the distance from the supporting element becomes greater. So, for example, the first connection point might compensate for 1 degree of angle since it is closer to the support point and experiences less sag, while the second connector might compensate for 3 degrees to account for more displacement. These connectors will appear flush within the material and the rib will give a completely flat appearance when the fabric is applied!

The Path Ahead

So there we have it! The Korean team really did live up to their reputation and all of our lingering problems have been solved! Within our short two months together we were able to solve all of the lingering issues and put together a path towards an even better, faster result! So, with that, we are now moving forward to prototype aka put together the final Sa umbrella by the next update!

Since we have now changed our production strategy to use the prototype molds for our first production batch, we first need to rigorously test and then improve our 3D model to make sure it is completely up to spec for production before sending out for our such new molds. That should only take about 2-3 weeks.

Next, we need to contact our now Korean affiliate manufacturers and arrange for them to make our new prototype molds capable of producing our now smaller initial batch size. Some of the parts however, like the hydraulic cylinder and magnets, we may still be getting from our Chinese affiliates. This whole process should be completed in about a month.

Then finally, we expect in early to mid October, we will have the first real, fully functioning and made to spec Sa completed! As in two months from now, and in our next update! However, the Korean engineering team expects that we will need to make some very small adjustments at that stage. This is very typical, as not everything can be predicted completely accurately via computer model that will matter in the real world. It’s at this point in which we can do some fun wind tunnel tests also! In any case, any changes we make will be small, like strengthening magnets and springs, rounding edges, thickening parts, but all in all, nothing major or very time consuming to adjust. For that reason we expect it will take as little as two weeks and as long as two months depending on what needs to be done.

So, given that, we can expect to begin production as early as November, or as late as the year’s end. However, unlike previously, we do not need to wait 2-3 months for tooling massive molds, but rather can begin production straight away! It takes about three weeks to accumulate and prepare all of the raw material necessary, then it should take about three weeks to coordinate the assembly line process and begin manufacturing for all of the umbrellas. We anticipate we can produce about 100 pieces per day, and we will be shipping umbrellas the second they come off the production line straight to all of you. Given that, the umbrellas should finally be getting sent out to all of you within this upcoming Winter season, ideally closer to the year’s end.

It’s also worth saying that the new Korean team we have been working with has been nothing but professional and has been consistently realistic and punctual with the schedule they have laid out, especially when compared to our Chinese counterparts who were perhaps a bit too eager to please and overly optimistic with their estimates. That being said, I do firmly believe that the time estimates given in this update from our Korean team will hold true and that the Sa will finally make it’s long awaited debut as mentioned. I really want to thank you all again for sticking with us throughout all of this process and for your ongoing patience and resilience! It is much appreciated!

Summary:

We left off the past update having just sent out for new rib prototypes made with the high-grade ceramic composite materials alumina and zirconia, to see if they would be a suitable solution to overcome the sagging we had experienced with our older prototypes. Although proving very resilient and overcoming our sagging issue, the new prototype ribs were not able to handle the most rigorous of testing, so we went back to developing our pre-bent rib design, which is a design in which the rib is curved in such a way so that the weight of the applied fabric will compensate and leave it with a flat appearance.

From mid-June our very talented Korean engineering team stepped in and took over the majority of development, with our Chinese team continuing on in an advisory role. Beyond that, we have decided to move production for our first batch of Sa to Korea so that our team can closely supervise the process. Thanks to their advice we have also been able to shave off about 2-3 months of production time by switching the type of part molds we will use, going from a larger capacity to a smaller capacity mold, while not sacrificing quality in any way.

With the new team’s help we were able to solve our rib issue once and for all! Based on the pre-bent rib concept, the solution we came up with is a three-segmented rib which uses connectors to offset the angle as the distance is further from the support point. Furthermore, upon a reanalysis of the design, the Korean team made a few adjustments to strengthen the build quality of the umbrella and noticed an issue with the magnetic closure’s strength, which we were able to come up with a solution to.

Moving forward, now that the design is complete, we have about 2-3 weeks of 3D model testing and prepping before we send out for our production-level prototype molds, which will take a month to create. This puts us in October for a fully assembled, functioning, and up to production spec Sa! Although we can begin mass production from that point onwards in theory, our engineers expect that we may need to make small adjustments to refine the design at that time, such as strengthening springs or adjusting wall thicknesses and so on. This should take as little as 2 weeks or up to 2 months depending on what we need to accomplish. Then finally, once we begin manufacturing it will take about 3 weeks to prepare the materials and 3 weeks to organize the assembly line. We anticipate we should be able to produce about 100 units per day once we begin, so we should have the Sa all shipped very quickly thereafter. In other words, the umbrellas should absolutely be shipped by this Winter, ideally around the year’s end. Thank you all again for your patience and endurance throughout this process!

Progress Update #19: April

22 likes

Hello everyone,

We hope you are all enjoying the pleasant Spring weather! We’re back again with the latest on the Sa development!

For those looking for a quick summary rather than the full read, skip ahead to the end of this update.

Production Progress

First, let’s start off with a recap of the last update. We last left off just before the lengthy Chinese New Year break with the umbrella awaiting finalization on a few components as well as a round of testing for our newer H-profile ribs. Ideally, we were hoping to finish all of these remaining aspects of the project before the break began in order to recommence production immediately following the vacation. We had also arranged for a new team of outsourced engineers to step in and assist for the Sa Compact and/or the Sa, if necessary, in order to speed up the process.

So, just a few days before the Chinese New Year holiday began, I headed to China to meet with the manufacturing team to make sure all was still moving forward as scheduled. The lead engineer from our newly outsourced engineering team also joined along to observe the progress and advise accordingly.

Thankfully, the manufacturing team were able to achieve the goals we had laid out for them and had successfully finished and finalized all of the remaining parts of the umbrella! This was fantastic news! Although eager to pop out the champagne already, this meeting did also come with one unfortunate setback as well.

Upon a repeated test with our newer H-profile rib design, which you can see in the photo above, this time with full fabric and canopy embedded components included, our team found that our ribs still sagged to a degree which we all agreed was not acceptable. This was really crushing news. Everyone involved, in particular yours truly, were all so eager to finally get production underway at long last, so it was with heavy hearts that we decided to head back into development on the ribs.

With this project, we are committed to delivering an exceptional product of only the highest quality and consideration. For that reason, and although the aforementioned rib was certainly close to what we were hoping to achieve, we all concluded that it was simply not adequate enough for the final product. At the same time, we want to assure all of you that we will not spend all of eternity developing this project, and are only making decisions such as this when they are truly necessary.

That being said, during the rest of our meeting we discussed a variety of options for improving our rib design. It was also very helpful to have our new outsourced engineer along as well since he brought a lot of great suggestions to the table. After our meeting, heading into the Chinese New Year break, we left with a new proposed design which was essentially a H-profile rib with an additional hollow cavity for a high-carbon steel core to be added into in order to resist sagging. However, all of this development was unfortunately on pause until the break concluded.

Eager to not waste time, I met once more with the outsourced engineering team, who are actually located in Seoul, and further discussed the rib development. We came up with a few alternative solutions, but agreed it would be best to wait and see the results from the manufacturing team before changing the plan, since any significant change in design would cause further delay.

We were both optimistic with the new rib design, however we were also reasonably concerned that the new ribs would follow suit with our other carbon fiber ribs and sag a bit too much. Despite the alteration of the shape, at the end of the day, certain materials have properties that cannot be overcome through design alterations. Furthermore, while high-carbon steel has the potential to correct our sagging issue, it also comes with it’s own unique complications and challenges.

In any case, one of our top considerations following this discussion involved pre-bending the rib. Essentially, in such a design, we would slightly curve the rib so that when the weight of the fabric is applied the rib would appear flat. This method would however require an alternate manufacturing method in order to be realized and would also require more rib components since only the lower portion would be curved. We also discussed other viable options, but in any case, we decided to wait and see our manufacturing team’s results before proceeding on any of our ideas.

Following the Chinese New Year break, our manufacturing team went straight to work and sent out for the new prototype parts. As we’ve mentioned before, these prototypes all take time to manufacture, often weeks at a time. As much as we would like to speed up this process, it is the unfortunate reality of the situation. However, during this time, in an effort to remain as productive as possible, I decided to research some potential alternate rib materials. Industries as old as the umbrella industry tend to overlook the modern array of options at their disposal simply because they are not aware of their existence.

The ironic thing about the carbon fiber ribs that we had been testing is that their great strength comes from their highly resilient flexibility. While this property is advantageous, it is also this same attribute that has been giving us issues. In order to match with our design, our ribs need to be straight and flat, whereas the carbon fiber, being so flexible, naturally sags when an outside force is placed upon it. For this reason, I attempted to find another material which would be suitable for our application.

After researching, I found a material which seemed very suitable for the Sa! In particular, I am excited about this material because it is completely new to the umbrella world! The material I am talking about is a high-grade composite ceramic called zirconium dioxide, which is commonly referred to as zirconia. This material is used in a number of applications, from engine parts to engineering applications, but most commonly you may know it as the material used for ceramic knives.

This material is fantastically strong and resilient. Compared to carbon fiber it is drastically stiffer and harder, which will give us the flat profile we are looking to achieve and will prove immensely resistant to wind. Then, it’s flexural strength is also enormous, meaning it can handle a lot of flex before reaching it’s breaking point. It also has interesting attributes, such as operation in high temperatures and anti-magnetic properties, which we won’t be utilizing, but are useful nonetheless. The one concern with zirconia is that it can be brittle, meaning that it has the potential to crack or chip under very high stress. However, with the dimensions and application we are considering, this should not be an issue.

In addition to zirconia, there are many similar high-grade ceramic composites with other desirable properties. Depending on the application, certain ceramics can prove advantageous to others. Some ceramics even find themselves in race car brakes! However, for our umbrella, aside from zirconia, the only other ceramic that would make sense is aluminum oxide, also known as alumina.

After researching ceramic options I got in touch with our manufacturing team, who had finished the high-carbon steel inserts you can see in the photo above, but were still waiting for our prototype carbon fiber ribs. The lead engineer was excited about the potential for using zirconia and also saw the merit in testing it. He began to research into it more himself and met with a ceramic manufacturer to discuss the potential for using the material in our application. Following that, we heard from our carbon fiber prototype factory that they had some issue with the construction of the cavity section in our newer rib design. After testing we also found that the high-carbon inserts were not sufficiently strong for our application.

At this point, both myself and all of the engineers involved felt that based on our expectations of results and with the potential for zirconia to prove to be a better alternative, it would rather be best to pause further development on the carbon fiber ribs and to attempt to prototype a zirconia rib at this point in time. If we were to continue with carbon fiber, it does appear that we must inevitably opt for the pre-bent design as mentioned or provide a supplemental supporting material to compensate for the sagging, if not consider altering the design in some other fashion.

So, for this reason we went ahead with the plan to prototype a zirconia rib! Beyond what has already been mentioned, another beneficial aspect about zirconia for our application is that due to the nature of it’s manufacturing, we can merge all of our rib components into a single part, whereas with our carbon fiber design, we had to bond a steel mounting bracket to the rib since the manufacturing process did not allow us to alter the shape of the carbon fiber.

With our new strategy in place, our manufacturing team reached out to a handful of ceramic manufacturers to find a good match for our project. The challenge in this case was finding one that could make an object as long and thin as our rib and in a high enough quality zirconia, since this kind of design is uncommon in existing applications. It took a while, but we did find a suitable partner manufacturer! We sent out an order for prototypes both in zirconia and in alumina. We are currently awaiting those parts, and are eager to test them once they arrive! We anticipate to have those in the next few weeks.

In the mean time, so as to be as efficient as possible, we decided to do a quick, but informative test. Zirconia has the same elasticity as steel, which is fantastic, because we can essentially preview how much a zirconia rib will sag before spending the time or effort to make a prototype. With that, we quickly found a flat steel bar with very similar dimensions to our ribs and tested it. Thankfully, and as predicted, the steel was very rigid and did not sag whatsoever, even with the added weight of fabric and other components. This is fantastic, since it proves that we will not have sagging issues with our zirconia ribs.

We have high confidence in the success of our new zirconia (or perhaps alumina) ribs. Our only concern is the potential brittleness, but we feel that given our specific application and the thickness of the material, we should have no issues. You can try and imagine how difficult it would be to break a zirconia bar twice as thick as a ceramic knife with only wind and rain in real world conditions. I am guessing it will be strong enough for me to stand on, but let’s wait and see!

Lastly, while zirconia does certainly appear to be the miracle material, it should also be mentioned that it is way more expensive of an option than anything else we had been considering. As many of you may recall, we have decided to position the Sa at a very premium position in the market, thereby allowing us to create a truly significant product without sacrificing quality or cutting corners.

This decision is what has allowed us to utilize the wide array of premium materials and manufacturing processes we will use in the final product. Of course, all of you reading this can rest assured since you already have your Sa orders in place regardless of the premium price tag to follow! We can only hope that the exceedingly high quality nature of the final product can in some way make up for the incredible wait you have all so patiently endured!

The Path Ahead

So the great news is that, as it stands, the umbrella is complete! Pending a positive result from our new rib prototype, which we anticipate, we can finally move back into production. Based on the final rib design, we may have to take the time to adjust the embedded fabric components since they connect directly to the rib, but this adjustment shouldn’t take long to accommodate.

As for how much longer this will take, it is as usual, hard to anticipate with complete confidence. If we are successful with the ribs, then we can recommence production in as little as a month from now, but most likely in June. This setback with our ribs has certainly cost us time, which is very unfortunate so late in the game. Since it has shoved us a good three months behind schedule, with still three to four months of production and testing left to follow, that should place us on track for an Autumn delivery, or perhaps late Summer if we are lucky.

The good news is that the entire outsourced engineering team in Korea will be on the Sa project in full force starting in June. Up until now they have been acting in more of an advisory capacity and were on deck for the Sa Compact. Of course, we hope we are already starting production by that time with the manufacturing team in China, but should we hit any speed bumps or snags between now and then, their involvement will guarantee results.

As we have mentioned before, they are honestly overqualified for the job, with a background including massive smart tech projects and advanced medical equipment, so I have no doubts that they are being realistic when they say that they have complete confidence that they can finish all remaining development within three months of starting and production within four months from then. They may even take over some of the production duties in order to speed up the process. Although we anticipate finishing sooner, with their involvement, we know with a high degree of certainly that we will have results by the year’s end.

In any case, once we know for certain that the new rib design works and production has recommenced, we will be able to give everyone a way more concrete delivery date. I know many of you are eager to know when your Sa will finally arrive, and I most certainly hope it is sooner than later! I really can’t thank you all enough again for having stuck with us this long. Your patience and ongoing encouragement has been very much appreciated. 

Then, we do understand that the wait is simply too long for some of you. We want to say thank you nonetheless for sticking with us this far, and we completely understand your decision if you choose to request a refund. For those individuals, please message us directly and we can help you to process that. You are always welcome to join back before deliveries commence, so please don't feel ousted if you do change your mind in the near future.

For me at least, this process has felt like running a marathon that gets another mile longer right before the finish line, over and over again. But the good news is that we are really finally approaching the end! We really are at the very last step. The umbrella sits completed with only one part left to finish. Please join me in this very last leg of the race and let’s cross the finish line together! Thank you all again!

Summary:

With just a few weeks left to go until the longer Chinese New Year holiday began, in order to begin production immediately following the break, we set out to wrap up the last remaining changes for the newer Sa components and to test out our new H-profile rib design. While we did successfully hit our goal and finish all of the remaining components, we did find that our newer rib design still sagged too much for it to be acceptable.

After a number of discussions, further research, and with the assistance of our newer outsourced engineering team, we decided to try prototyping the ribs in a high-grade ceramic composite material called zirconia. This material is immensely strong and has very high flexural strength, however, it is very pricey and comes with it’s own set of challenges. We have high confidence that it will be a good match for the Sa, and we should have a new prototype to test with in a few weeks.

Aside from the ribs, the umbrella stands completed, so once we have proven the new rib design is viable, we will recommence production straight away. Our outsourced engineering team in Korea will also be helping complete the project in full force from June. Given this, we expect the Sa to realistically be complete by Autumn, if not late Summer under ideal circumstances. Thank you all again for your patience as we complete this project once and for all!

Progress Update #18: December

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Hello everyone,

Happy holidays! As this year comes to a close, we have for you yet another installment for the epic Sa Umbrella saga!

For those looking for a quick summary rather than the full read, skip ahead to the end of this update.

 

Production Progress

Let’s start off this update with a quick refresher of our last. We had made some fantastic improvements across the board and had a path ahead of us towards integrating our revamped, stronger, and more sustainable aluminum design for all external components, incorporating an embedded hydraulic cylinder to allow for a much safer “slow close” retracting handle, and had several options to explore for improving the strength of our ribs.

 

 

Here is a sneak peak of the brand new aluminum handle design! It certainly looks minimal from the outside despite (or rather, thanks to) the copious amount of work and time that has gone into developing it! As always, we are working from the inside out, so we have first prototyped the inner sections of the handle before the exterior sections. The white handle portions you see are actually from our older prototype and have been retrofitted for testing. Since we were able to decrease the wall thickness via our change from ABS to aluminum, the newer handle design will actually be slightly sleeker than what you see here.

All in all, the new aluminum design has been integrated spectacularly! We were able to decrease wall thicknesses across the board and were able to further simplify production by combining smaller separate components into single integrated components. We only have a few small things left to adjust and then test before we are ready for production on all of these parts.

One interesting revision that we will be making is to change the very innermost pole to another alloy-based material. The pole which I am referring to is the one that comes off from the top handle section you can see in this photo. This pole will not be visible from the outside, so using a different material will not have any affect on the appearance. This change was actually prompted by the fact that aluminum degrades quickly when it rubs against itself.

Over time, if aluminum rubs against aluminum, friction will cause the surface to deteriorate. The issue with this deterioration is that the dust created by this process and the less-smooth surface will slow down the handle’s ability to glide up and down easily. For this reason, we will be switching the inner pole’s material to a different alloy, likely copper, brass, or bronze, with a much better surface for avoiding friction, and therefore, a much longer lifespan.

 

Next, in regards to the handle and inner components, we had our “slow close” hydraulic cylinder integration. So the engineer actually pulled a few tricks out of his bag and improved on this part even more than expected! Rather than integrating a miniaturized hydraulic cylinder into the design, he was able to achieve the same effect by using an air based (pneumatic) cylinder. This is great because it requires less space, less parts, and no fluids in order to function!

By controlling the amount of air that can escape from a confined space within a given time period, a pneumatic cylinder can control the speed of movement in a desired direction. The easiest example of this is a basketball or handheld bicycle pump. As you pull outwards, air can readily flood into the pump’s chamber through a one-directional gate, but when you push in the opposite direction, the air is forced to escape from a smaller exit. In this case, since the needle-tip point required to inflate the tire or ball is so tiny, only a certain amount of air can escape in such a quick amount of time. In much the same way, we can use such a device to control the speed of closure on the lower handle portion!

 

Moving onwards, following the last update, we delved deeper into potential solutions to strengthen the ribs. Our lead engineer felt that, rather than to go ahead and prototype the molded carbon fiber ribs, he wanted to circumvent any expensive or unnecessary prototyping and simply move forward with the design that he felt most confident would succeed. His solution was, rather than to change the material, to change the shape of the ribs.

His strategy involved altering the rib's profile. A “profile” is essentially the shape of an elongated part at any given cross section. So, if you were to take our rib and slice it at any given point perpendicular to it’s length, you would get a specific shape. So, for example, if you took a staple from a row of staples, the profile would be what is considered a U-profile, since it looks like a capital U when looking at a cross section, albeit a boxy one. Similarly, a railroad track has an I-profile since it looks like a capital I when cut perpendicular to its length. A cylindrical pole would give you an O-profile, and so on and so forth.

As per the last update, our ribs had a flat profile, essentially like an underscore or a dash. The issue with a design such as this is, while there is significant strength across the width of the profile, strength tends to lack in the height as the part gets longer and the connection point becomes further away. Hence, our older ribs with their flat profile tended to sag as we moved further away from the support point.

Our engineer’s solution was to change our rib design from a flat profile to a H-profile. A H-profile is exactly as you might imagine, it has vertical sections connected by a horizontal middle section. By creating this type of shape, the rib will retain much greater power despite it’s long shape and will not sag despite it’s great length, which is also the reason why this type of profile is so commonly used in building construction. The other great thing about this design is that we barely need to alter any other parts to accommodate this change.

Of course, we were naturally concerned with changing from a flat profile to an H-profile in terms of shape, weight, and size. Thankfully, the shape remains the same, so we have no concerns there. Since our fabric is pulled taught over the ribs, the material will bridge the gap in the H-shape, thereby allowing our ribs to still aesthetically appear flat as with our original design.

Then, for weight, while the vertical sections do require more material relative to our older ribs, their added weight is minimal and does not represent a significant increase or concern, especially in lieu of the ample power we have to use for the mechanism. Nevertheless, we will try to remove any excess weight as we move forward with this design.

As for the size, the vertical sections do require the ribs to appear slightly thicker than our older flat profile design. Thankfully, this increase in thickness is very minimal. To be on the safe side, we first decided to test a stronger rib, with a more exaggerated H-profile, to prove the design works. After proving this, we wanted to try and minimize the shape so as to have as little excess in weight and size, while still maintaining ample strength for our structure.

Currently we have tested our first version H-profile ribs, and they were successful! This is great news! However, since we want to minimize the excess in size and weight as much as possible, we are currently testing an improved version of the ribs in an effort to strike the ideal balance. Once we find the perfect fit, we can finally move forward!

In an effort to keep the update shorter, I will wrap things up here, but suffice it to say that we have made a bunch of other improvements aside from those just mentioned! One in particular that I am very excited about sharing has to do with the fabric assembly process, but I will get into that in a future date!

 

Onwards!

Ahead we go! We have made a ton of progress since the last update and are ever closer to the final product. So what is left before the Sa is out the door?

First, as for all of the revamped aluminum parts and related, we really only have a few small adjustments to make, then we just need to test the new changes to verify their soundness and we are done! We don’t foresee any issues in adapting the remaining parts, so we expect all should go smoothly.

Next, the internals. Our new “slow close’ pneumatic cylinder design is already complete, as are all of the other internal components. To conduct real world testing, however, we need all of the remaining handle components and other aspects of the design to be finalized and prototyped. From there it is just a matter of making some very small adjustments to the internals to balance everything out. So, for example, adjusting the airflow escape rate or spring strength to get the feeling just right.

Then lastly, we have our new ribs. As it stands we are good to go with the new H-profile build ribs, but we will await moving forward until we test the newer reduced form, to see if that will be sufficiently strong enough to use in the final design. The new rib prototypes were just completed yesterday and are on their way to our main facility for testing as we speak, so we are eagerly awaiting the results!

Aside from the aforementioned aspects of the project, we have some other small considerations for the fabric assembly that we are currently integrating into the design as well as some other tiny revisions here and there. All in all, there really is not too much left between now and production recommencing! We have no major hurdles left to overcome at this point, just simply some details to finalize and test and we are good to go!

Given the current state of things, we should have no problem wrapping up all of the loose ends remaining over the next few weeks and moving back into production. But, of course, our favorite time of the year is coming up again. Good ole’ Chinese New Year! In light of the big upcoming break, we have decided to take the time between now and the beginning of the holiday to lock everything down, then start production back up immediately after the break. This lands us at an estimated Spring delivery, still within our previous estimate window, albeit towards the later end of the spectrum.

Of course, we can only ask for your patience with us as we continue onwards, and fully understand if that for some the wait is too long. Please contact us directly via message if that is the case, as we offer refunds, regardless of consequence, for any interested in that route. That being said, we certainly hope all of you stick with us just a bit longer as we finally wrap up the project and begin shipments!

Lastly, in Sa Compact news, we do not want to put any of you (or ourselves!) through another set of endless delays as we wrap that project up. We want that to be completed to perfection and much much quicker! For that reason, we have already arranged for a very talented team of outsourced engineers to step in and assist our manufacturing team with development. These guys are exceptional at what they do and have a copious amount of experience as well as a very impressive portfolio with a wide range of projects they've worked on, many of which have been for some of the biggest names in tech, so I have no doubt that the project will be done multiple times faster and very efficiently thanks to their assistance.

Should, for some reason, the full size Sa also hit a snag between now and fruition, they will also step in and assist with that. As is stands, we are so close to the end, it would likely slow things down to bring an entirely new set of eyes to the project. In any case, we just wanted to assure you all that we are committed to speeding things up, especially for the forthcoming Sa Compact.

 

 

Summary:

As of the past project update we left off with plans to develop an entirely revamped, more sustainable aluminum construction for all exterior parts, to integrate an embedded hydraulic cylinder to allow for a safer, slow-closing handle movement, and a had few options on moving forward to strengthen our rib design. Since then, we have nearly completed all aspects of the aluminum construction, embedded a more efficient air (pneumatic) cylinder in place of the hydraulic to the same effect, and have prototyped and succeeded with a new H-profile shaped rib design, which we will now optimize.

There are only a few small details to lock down and a series of tests to confirm viability before we are ready to move back into production. We will be wrapping that up over the next weeks and expect to recommence production after the Chinese New Year holiday break. Based on that, we still estimate that we will be shipping by this upcoming Spring. Furthermore, we have arranged for an outside engineering team to assist with the Sa Compact and/or the tail end of this project if necessary, to speed up the process.

Progress Update #17: September

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Hello everyone,

We hope you have all had a very pleasant summer and are looking forward to the milder months ahead as we certainly are! We have had a plethora of progress since the last update, so let’s get right into it.

For those looking for a quick summary rather than the full read, skip ahead to the end of this update.

 

Production Progress

First, let’s start with a quick recap of our last update. We had just completed the magnetic mechanism components and a majority of the inner mechanical components. We furthermore passed a significant project milestone, proving conclusively that the Sa’s mechanism was viably sound across the board, so we happily moved onwards towards the development for the remaining components such as the handle sections, ribs, and the fabric covering.

 

 

Here is a picture of me, happy as you can imagine, with our first fully functional working prototype! I must say, it has been an exceptionally busy as well as productive time since our last update. In fact, this prototype I hold is already a good two months behind our currently point in progress since it was fully assembled shortly after the last update! As you might imagine, in this prototype, many components are still only handmade or one-off, and the fabric covering is only a placeholder substitute for the material we will actually be using, while also lacking any of the embedded components. In any case, you can generally see what the completed Sa is looking like.

Shortly after our last update, since we are constructing the Sa from the inside out, we quickly realized two very important issues which we needed to address before moving onwards. As we mentioned in the previous update, the Sa has phenomenal spring strength within the handle. This is fantastic news since we know for certain that we will have adequate power to open and close the umbrella within the confined space of the handle. However, this spring strength also brought with it two complications that needed remedying before moving forward.

First and foremost, the spring closes the handle very quickly, just like that of the lever of a pinball machine. This is great, and a non-issue in most cases, but we were very concerned with the potential of fingers getting pinched. The potential finger pinching location I am referring to would be in the gap between the upper and lower handle portions as the lower handle is drawn back upwards after the canopy is closed. We had initially hoped the spring strength would be mild enough and that this would be a non-issue, but since the spring is quite strong, we decided that we must address this before moving forward.

In all practicality, most users will have one hand on the upper section, and a few fingers on the lower section during the canopy closure, removing the risk for fingers getting pinched. The only way one might get their fingers pinched would be if they were to let the bottom fingers on their upper hand move into that gap during closure, or to remain holding the lower handle section as it retracts and altering their grip so that some fingers ended up in the wrong place. Then, of course, there is always the risk of pinching another part of one’s body, like a forearm, or the potential to pinch another person nearby.

So, while the risk for pinched fingers may be inherently small, we were very concerned with this safety issue. Given that this was an issue we were committed to solving, I got straight to work researching on methods to remedy this matter. We had to conduct a deep assessment as to where and how we could integrate a part to solve this issue. We wanted find a solution without making any massive changes, since anything drastic would cost us both time and a massive amount of alterations.

After research, my strategy was to add a small embedded element to give the handle a “slow close” movement. I am sure some of you must have seen this before, perhaps with a sliding kitchen drawer, or with a non-slamming toilet seat. This is accomplished by using a tiny hydraulic cylinder to slow the force of movement for the entirety or a duration of motion. After confirming that a hydraulic cylinder of appropriate size and strength to fit within the Sa was feasible, the real trick was finding a way to integrate such a component into the existing mechanism.

Thankfully, I was able to propose a solution within a few weeks of research and development, and as of this last week, our lead engineer has confirmed that our solution is totally viable! I am especially satisfied with our results since we only need to alter interior parts which had not yet been finalized for production. So thankfully, this adjustment won’t cost us any excess effort in that regard. Now, we simply need to prototype this part to prove that it works as expected, then we can continue onwards.

 

The other issue relating to spring strength that we came up against was that the chamber in which the main spring is housed was a bit too weak and could potentially crack after years of use. This leads us into a topic which we have yet to discuss at all, while ironically is the subject which me and the engineers have arguably spent the most amount of time debating this past year. That being, the material for the handle and other exterior components.

I’m going to go off on a small tangent here for a bit to help explain, but essentially the problem stems from the issue of manufacturing methods and color matching. With the Sa umbrella, all exposed elements, including the handle components, connectors, and pole, are color and texture matched. Seems easy enough, but not so when it comes to the engineering. This same difficulty is also why you never see fully color matched umbrellas on the market. Without going too deep into details, the principal issue is that the pole component cannot be made with the same manufacturing method as all of the other exposed components since it is too long and narrow.

We struggled with this issue for literally months and months. The engineers wanted to make the pole with metal and the handle with a plastic, such as ABS. This was an unacceptable solution for me as the designer. It would give us either the option for no color match at all, with exposed metal, or the option for a mediocre color match at best, since there really is no truly reliable treatment method to match color and texture of two such different materials. Stemming from this issue, we agreed that the only acceptable solution was to have the same material for all components.

At this point, I personally wanted to use all metal, aluminum preferably. Aluminum, for example, is a much friendlier choice for the environment than plastic since it is more readily recycled and holds a higher yield after recycling for repurposing. Beyond that, aluminum is very light, and among other advantageous properties, it can also have equal or greater strength with much thinner wall thickness as compared to plastics, such as ABS. There are also a wide spectrum of options for both treatment and coating of metals, with the potential for a higher degree of accuracy with color and texture matching over colored plastics. That being said, it is certainly the more expensive option between the two, and comes with it’s own set of quirks when considering manufacturing methods.

However, after our lengthy discussions, the engineers wanted to use ABS plastic. This was largely due to the fact that given the nature of our design, molded plastic parts were easier to work with. Beyond that, such molded parts are considerably cheaper to produce. ABS plastic is also recyclable, however not as much so as aluminum or other metals, but all things considered, it is still a fine option to consider in regards to the environment. In any case, given what we had to work with at the time, we went forward looking for a solution using plastic parts.

So several months back, after copious amounts of debate, we were able to find a method for producing the pole section also in ABS plastic. Unlike the other parts which can just be molded, this solution entailed a two step process, with a different method of molding than the other parts, followed by a milling process. This solution finally presented us with all viable, producible, color and texture matched parts, so we moved forward.

Although I personally preferred an all aluminum solution, in an effort not to delay our progress, I accepted our decision at the time, and kept working on such a design in the background, perhaps for a future iteration of the Sa. However, months later, during the process of adapting the slow closing handle, I was able to come up with a workable solution for an all aluminum design! Despite this being the case, I really did not want to delay production in any way. Everything was already in motion to move forward with the ABS parts, and even though the changes required to adapt the design were generally minimal, doing so would still cost us time.

Then, almost as if it were fated to be, we had this issue come up with the chamber in which the springs are housed. We needed to strengthen this wall, but keeping the part in ABS plastic, would require an even denser wall thickness. Just to put it in perspective, the ABS part in reference already had a wall thickness over three times that of the same part made in aluminum! At this point, thickening the wall more was just becoming impractical and would have also required us to thicken the outer handle dimensions to accommodate. So, we decided to resort to change the material of this part to the more practical choice of aluminum.

The stage was then perfectly set for me to roll out my all aluminum design. Now that we had to alter the inner section of the handle, we would also have to alter the dimensions and connection points for all other handle components. So essentially, changing the ABS parts to adapt or changing the existing parts into aluminum would take the same amount of time. After discussing my all aluminum design with our lead engineer, he was able to approve that it will be possible! I am very ecstatic with this news, and it will now mean that the Sa is just that much nicer and more environmentally friendly.

 

 

Lastly, and I will keep this brief since the update is getting a bit long already, are the ribs. We are having one last issue with the ribs as they currently stand. Perhaps it’s hard to notice this since the issue is not that bad, but we are getting some slight curvature towards the far tips of the ribs. This is because the rib material, which is currently fiberglass, is flexible, and the weight of the fabric and the rib itself is causing it to slightly flex as the distance gets further from the connection point.

We have a slew of ideas as to how to improve this and are in the process of prototyping several as we speak. First off, we know for certain that if we change the ribs to aluminum that we will have no problem. This would be on par with constructing the ribs similar to that of the handle extension portion of a rolling suitcase, so extremely strong. However, while aluminum is very strong, it lacks flexibility. So, the key concern with this aluminum is that, if not designed very carefully, there is the potential for it to bend in extreme weather conditions, since exceptional flexion can deform its shape. We are talking about the kind of weather conditions that none of you should ever be outside with an umbrella in, but still, that small chance leaves us looking for a better option first before going down this path.

One top consideration, is to keep the current design but alter the shape of the fiberglass component and/or to extend or alter the shape of the metal part. You can see that in this prototype the small ribs on the inside are a combination of metal and fiberglass. This is the same for the long rib, but only up to the connection point currently. This is done because the more you cut or alter the fiberglass shape, the weaker it becomes. By using joined metal parts, we can keep all of the connection components attached to the metal pieces rather than damaging or thickening the fiberglass. We can also keep this basic design if we can alter or extend the metal pieces to keep the ribs stiffer until the very tips.

The other top consideration, although the most costly, would be to use molded carbon fiber sheets. This is the same material used for race car parts and super lightweight sports equipment. We expect this solution to prove fruitful since it is extremely strong and light, while still somewhat flexible, but we need to prototype and test this first. If successful, we would be the very first umbrella in the world to use such a material for the ribs, which is certainly exciting in itself!

In any case, we have no doubts that we will solve this issue, and this process should not take very long, but we need to prototype and test a few solutions first. Thankfully we have a ton of options at our disposal to solve this issue, so it’s really just a matter of selecting the most appropriate out of the options.

 

Moving Forward!

We have made a boatload of progress since the last update, which is always a fantastic thing! Since the last update we have been able to successfully integrate a slow close mechanism into the handle and change all external components from plastic into a much nicer and more environmentally friendly aluminum design. We also have assessed the issue with the ribs and have a clear path towards a viable solution. Now, what does this mean in terms of moving forward?

Currently our engineers are updating our prototype to reflect these recent changes. We are also prototyping the various aforementioned rib designs to test. Our lead engineer has full confidence that the all of the changes we are making will be successful, nevertheless, we must prototype and test everything first before we move on into production for these parts. After this, we can finally move on to fabric processing and assembly, then the Sa will finally be on lock down for full scale production!

On my end, I am extremely satisfied this latest design and finally feel an overwhelming sense of completion. Up until now, I always felt there had been a little more to be improved, a seam line here, a dimension too wide there, a part not exactly how I wanted it over there. Now, after these last revisions, I truly feel that the project is complete and ready for the world to enjoy at long last.

In terms of timeline, I want to be as open and straightforward with you guys as possible, even if the truth is not what we would like to hear. Although we made great progress since the last update, progress that without a doubt leaves the project much better off than it was before, the time spent improving the design and the time required to prototype these changes was not anticipated. For that reason, it does mean that we face a bit more delay.

In the end, this is for the better. The engineer who didn’t notice that the springs were too powerful and pinched fingers or shattered the weak inner handle, or didn’t mind that the ribs were sagging, would have made an inferior product to the one you all both expect and deserve. More delays are unfortunate, and trust me, they hurt us most of all, but they are an inescapable necessity in the process of obtaining the results which we are determined to achieve. We can only hope that everyone understands why we would prefer to take the time to improve the project rather than to rush it out the door prematurely.

We did hope to have the project shipped before year’s end, and while that is certainly not off the table, given the recent turn of events, I want to remain practical and say that it looks to be more like an early 2018 delivery, likely Winter, or potentially even Spring. We have full confidence in our success moving forward, but these things still take time. We can only ask for everyone’s patience and, of course, understand if it cannot be given. We have no doubts that those of you who do stick with us until the end will truly love your Sa and will appreciate all of the thought and effort we have poured into every single detail of the product, especially considering the investment of time it has taken.

 

One last matter I would like to address before we wrap up. Many of you have messaged or commented in regards to updating your shipping addresses. Before shipment, we will be sending out an update informing everyone when shipment will begin, followed by another reminder just before that deadline. Kickstarter should also send an automated message around that time requesting address confirmation.

To update your address at any point, you can either message us directly and let us know your new address. Or, you can update your address by doing the following:

1. Login to your Kickstarter account 

2. Click the top right icon and under the "Backed projects" column, click on "Sa™: The Umbrella Reimagined"  

3. Click the blue "My pledge" button at the bottom right of the top intro image  

4. Click "Survey"  

5. Once you are in your survey, you can view your responses (colors/model choices) and change your address at any time by clicking "Edit address"

 

 

Summary:

After the last update we completed a full scale functioning prototype, containing several production-ready internal mechanical parts. At this point, we noticed that the spring strength was very strong in the internal handle section, so we took the time to integrate a “slow close” mechanism to avoid fingers potentially getting pinched. We also changed all external components, including the handle, pole, and connector components from ABS plastic to aluminum, which is more recyclable and allows for much stronger, thinner walls. With this prototype, we also noticed that the ribs sagged a bit towards the tips, so we are in the process of strengthening them now. We have several solutions for this, some with guaranteed success, so we are simply seeing which option works most appropriately for the Sa. We have full confidence that after these adjustments have been made, we should have no further issues regarding any of these components.

These recent adjustments and alterations were not previously anticipated, so they have unfortunately pushed our estimated delivery back a bit. Inevitably, this is for the best, since we will be delivering a superior product to that which had not been improved, but the delays are unfortunate. Given this, we expect that we should be shipping early 2018, likely Winter, if not Spring. We can only ask for your continued patience and have every confidence that you will love your Sa when it finally ships in the near future.