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.
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!
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!