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An innovative geometric umbrella that reimagines structure, form, and aesthetics, with improved efficiency and recyclability.
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 #19: April

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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.

Progress Update #16: June

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Hello everyone,

As summer rolls in, the Sa project continues onto the final chapters of it’s journey to fruition. Let’s get straight into the latest news!

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

 

Production Progress

Let’s start the update with a quick recap of our last: We had just moved production from Xiamen to the Shenzhen area for a number of factors and switched lead engineers in doing so. Following the move, we had also concurrently begun production for a number of components, but hit a snag because of an unexpectedly long lead time for some of the magnetic components required.

 

 

First, let’s start with some great news! The magnetic components work perfectly! I am very satisfied with the finishing and execution and really couldn’t be happier with our results. You can see it on the left pictured above. This prototype you see was hand milled and assembled to exact specification in order to prove that our design was viable to move forward with. Since that is the case, we are happily doing so! The final version of this part that will find its way into each Sa will actually be built to different specs, but this prototype was able to prove that it can successfully be manufactured.

So where does that leave us with production? First, it will make a bit more sense to explain that the Sa has been undergoing production from the inside out. So, that is to say, we had begun with the internal components and have been working our way outwards. Within that process we have also been prioritizing components with which the production specs have been firmly locked down. It is both costly and wasteful of time to change any of the molds which have already been tooled, so we want to be absolutely certain with every component design before moving forward to the next.

Also in the above photo, on the right, you can see some of the production components in this assembly with which we have already locked down production for. Aside from the very top component, which is what connects to the bottom of the magnetic assembly and will be henceforth finalized, all of the rest of this assembly has been completed! The components included in this part, along with many others that have now been completed bring us to our next bit of exciting news!

Although it may seem a straightforward statement at this point, the umbrella works! As in, it quite literally functions as intended! This may seem like a weird thing to say, but it marks a great landmark in the production process. It’s on par with designing a car’s engine, then finally turning it on for the very first time. So as you might imagine, our lead engineer was ecstatic! For myself as well, it marks a great achievement and was tremendously relieving.

Up until this point, we had been using 3D printed parts and hand-made components, which didn’t have the strength to handle real-world testing conditions. A single test with the real spring strength required would have likely shattered our old prototype to pieces. So with our production parts installed we were finally able to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that all of the functions work. So the twist to open, pull to close, even the auto-return rotation on the bottom handle portion are all totally working!

As it stands, most of the internal components of the umbrella are complete with production, save the magnetic component, which should be ready in a few more weeks. Since we have been working from inside out, and we wanted to prove the magnet functioned as intended before moving forward too far, from here onwards we will be producing the remaining parts in outwards order. We’ve essentially finished the Sa’s “engine” and moving forward we will complete the poles, connection components, ribs, then finally the fabric components.

As we move forward with production, we also have the opportunity to reflect backwards and see how successful the parts we’ve already created are functioning in a real world environment and how well they are getting along with the other components. In our case, the internal components are all working as expected, which is fantastic news! One ironic finding we had at this step was that the springs we embedded inside the handle are too strong!

Having the springs too powerful however was actually an intentional mistake, since it is important to first prove the maximum potential of power within the confined space of the inner handle. We will be finding the appropriate spring at the very end of the production process since we need to consider the exact weights and interactions of each component to do this successfully. So our over powerful spring is especially great news because it means that we will indeed have adequate spring strength within our confined space. Had the result been the opposite, it would have been quite problematic.

One other discovery we were able to make at this point in time was that we needed to strengthen the design for some of the rib connection components. Such changes are very easy to adapt at this stage since they are only minor changes, like wall thickness adjustments and such, so thankfully they will have little affect on our timeline. Now that we have a very clear idea how the production level mechanism operates in practice, we can apply any such results towards the rest of the umbrella. It is also the key reason why we design the umbrella from the inside outwards. Once we complete this process we can move onwards to arrange the logistics of the assembly process and then finally on to mass production!

 

The Future!

Production is moving forward! I am very happy with our results, and can’t wait to have the Sa done in the very near future once and for all! It has been a very challenging journey, but the time and effort we have put in is finally paying off. Seeing it all coming together truly feels unreal after so long. Especially after these last developments, I really am overcome with relief to see the production level parts actually functioning exactly as intended. Having overcome this hurdle, it proves that it is no longer a struggle of if, but only a matter of when before the project will be completed.

At this point, I would like to make my own prediction in terms of delivery, and try to be as realistic as possible, rather than relay what our production team estimates, which happens to be August. As you have all come accustomed to at this point, our production team always tends to be a bit too optimistic about our completion date. Despite their efforts, they tend to forget how different the Sa project is from all others and just how challenging it is.

Personally, I expect that the Sa will be complete as early as the very end of Summer if we don’t have any unexpected delays, but more likely it will be complete in the Autumn. In any case, there are no realistically foreseeable factors that would lead it not to be done before the end of the year. I wish I could be a bit more specific than that, but it really is just a bit too hard to tell at this point. Once we have production complete we should have a much clearer idea. At that point it is only a matter of final testing then mass production and delivery, all of which are fairly straightforward and predictable.

We can’t thank everyone enough for their ongoing support and enduring patience with us. It has been a very challenging yet enriching experience, and I certainly hope everyone has enjoyed it despite the bumps. In any case, we really appreciate the journey you’ve all taken with us, and look forward to overcoming the final hurdles yet ahead together and finally delivering the Sa once and for all in the near future!

Summary:

Since the past update we have successfully completed the magnetic components and production for a majority of the inner mechanism components. We have also proven that the Sa mechanism works as expected. From now onwards we will be completing production on the remaining connection components, ribs, then finally fabric and exterior components before moving onto assembly logistics, testing, and then mass production. We estimate that a realistic ETA is for delivery could be as early as the end of Summer, but more likely during the Autumn, but definitely before the end of the year pending drastic unforeseeable circumstances.

Progress Update #15: March

19 likes

Hello everyone,

We hope everyone has had a pleasant first week of Spring. Let’s get into the latest and greatest news of the Sa project!

 

Production Begins!

Let’s first travel back in time to where our prior update left off. It was the turn of the New Year and we were wrapping up all aspects of the project in order to transition into production immediately following the Chinese New Year break. We had some big meetings in the two weeks left to us and discussed every small detail of the umbrella. This thorough process included specifically what processes we would be undertaking for each specific part, such as molding, extruding, etc., how we would be assembling each aspect of the umbrella and in which order, the quantities and materials we would be sourcing, and then finally where we would be undertaking these processes.

One important decision we made before the break was to move the bulk of the production process from Xiamen, which is where we had been developing the project, to the Shenzhen area of China. This was for a handful of reasons, but in a nutshell, the manufacturers in that area are better suited for a project such as ours. Specifically, a project which steps far out of the traditional mold and requires some cross-industry collaboration. We had previously strategized to make this move for the Sa Compact, since our lead engineer for that project is based out of the Shenzhen area, but we decided to just go ahead and move the standard Sa production out as well.

After the long break, we came back and got straight to work. Our lead engineer in the Xiamen region, who had been supervising the development thus far, got in touch with the relative suppliers as soon as they each came back from the break respectively. In general, this process is pretty straightforward, especially between companies that have worked with one another on frequent occasion. The process involves communicating all of the details of the part you want produced and then coming to an agreement with the supplier in terms of how it will be created, the quantity, the quality you expect, and an expected delivery schedule, in addition other aspects. As long as your engineering team is efficient and understands the production process and capabilities of their suppliers very well, it is typically a smooth procedure.

In our case, this process was pretty straightforward for the most part. A majority of the parts for the Sa can be manufactured using familiar manufacturing methods to the umbrella industry. Despite the fact that this is the case, the aspects of the Sa which are new to the umbrella world, such as magnetics, proved to be a bit more challenging. The magnetic assembly we are using in the umbrella, for example, is quite unique. Even though our lead engineer understands magnetics well and knew the capabilities of the our magnetic supplier beforehand, it was his first time working with such a complex component, so one aspect of the magnet manufacturing process slipped by him: the lead time required for such a custom prototype. Or, in other words, the time it takes for the supplier to provide us with a viable sample of the component for testing.

Typically a supplier will be able to easily make or provide a sample for testing before mass production. So, for example, we had our fabric and ribs prototyped relatively quickly and then tested them with subsequent prototypes. Now for our magnetic supplier, however, such a rapid prototype was not possible. While our supplier does have many magnets in stock, and can accurately estimate what their range is in terms of production timeline and capability, the magnet which we are using in the Sa is very specific in terms of strength and shape, so it is not the type of magnet readily available on the shelves. If you will recall a few updates back, the magnet we are using has poles on the sides rather than top and bottom and is also very long and thin. Beyond that, we are fitting this magnet within a very confined space, so we will be using an extremely potent magnetic material and process to create a strong enough magnetic field.

For such a magnet, our magnet supplier needed at least a few weeks of lead time to produce a sample to test in the Sa. This is a result of the time it takes for their manufacturing process. For cheaper or less accurate magnets, there is a process by which a magnet can be quickly fabricated, however this would not be suitable for testing in the Sa since the size, weight, and field strength of such a magnet would be significantly different than the production version. In order for the Sa’s magnetic assembly to function properly, we need to first insure that the magnet we are using is accurate and consistent across the boards.

There are a few factors at play with the Sa’s magnet that make it’s specifications so important to the construction. First and foremost, we need a magnet that has the strength to close the canopy panels and keep them closed when stowed. Next, we need to insure that the shielding technique we are using can cut the magnetic field strength significantly enough so that when the umbrella lock is released, the panels will fly open. That alone is a challenge, but on top of that, we also need to fit this all inside of the the pole within the pole within the umbrella, not to mention the complimentary components of the magnetic assembly and their linkages to the other aspects of the construction. So suffice it to say, this aspect of the umbrella has proven quite the challenge.

So, as you might imagine, if we do not take the time to be precise, there are a few combinations which would yield less than desirable results. Say for example the magnet is too strong, while this is great for closing the panels, we would need to increase the shielding thickness to an unrealistic diameter in order to compensate. The equal opposite of this scenario would result in a magnet not strong enough to keep the umbrella panels closed. Since space is limited, we can only devote so much real estate to the shielding and/or magnet components. Thankfully, with the technology available to us in the modern era, magnets have gotten much much stronger, so we can easily generate an intensely strong magnetic field in a very confined space.

Now back to production and how this one magnetic component affects everything else. So our magnetic supplier needs more lead time in order to make the specific magnet we need. Now typically in a situation like this, should it be any other part, we can just safely assume the specs of what will be produced and move forward with the process. So, say for some reason the supplier for the fabric needed more time, we know very well what results to expect whenever they deliver, down to weight, size, color, and even future quality control considerations. Since this is the case, we can go on and work on all other aspects of the project uninterrupted. Because of this, even in the case of a specific part being delayed, the project completion time may not be affected in any way since the results are highly predictable.

For the magnet however, the result is not so certain. Since the magnet we are creating is customized specifically for this project, we will only know the results once we receive our sample. This is because each supplier has their own equipment, material, and processes for creating magnets, so it is hard to accurately estimate ahead of time the field strength and resulting effect on the overall construction until we are able to test the sample directly. For this reason, it is imperative to first prove that the magnet will function as desired before moving forward on any of the other more predictable components.

Case in point, we received our first magnetic sample about a week ago, built to spec, and it was too powerful! The issue in this case is that the magnetic shielding only has so much potency per unit of density, so we would need a thicker shield than feasible in order to work with this magnet. While this, in some respects, is good news because it proves that we can create a magnet that is adequately powerful within the confines of space we are dealing with, it is also unfortunate, because we must continue to take the time to perfect the magnet before moving forward.

So, while we are making great progress in all other regards, and it should only be a short matter of time to create the suitable magnet for a balanced construction, the crumby news is, this will add a bit more time onto the expected delivery. Unfortunately, we must hold up production of the components directly linked to the magnet to insure that the specs don’t change between now and when that assembly is finalized. Thankfully, those components have been discussed and production methods approved by our suppliers, so once we give them the go ahead, we can get production in motion right away. The canopy components, such as the ribs, fabric, and structural components are all currently underway since they were not affected by the magnet.

I also just want everyone to know that our lead engineer really feels responsible for this and asked me to express his apologies for the extra time needed for this process. It was his first time dealing with a magnetic supplier in creating a highly customized component and wasn’t aware of the long prototype lead time necessary. In his talks with the supplier beforehand, he had discussed the production capabilities and the production timeline estimates, but had not been aware of the lengthy prototyping process and therefore didn’t factor that into his process. He had assumed the lead time for our prototype was similar to that of the quickly fabricated basic magnets. Despite the unfortunate expense of time, both he and the new lead engineer for the Sa Compact both strongly advised not moving forward with production on any of the magnetic related components based on estimates to insure that we don’t produce any parts that won’t later be compatible. Seeing as how our first prototype came back too powerful, it does indeed seem like we have chosen the wiser path to follow.

Regardless of the situation with the magnetic assembly, we were persistent in remaining as productive as possible with all other aspects of the project. Since we had a bit more time, we managed to move the production of some components from Xiamen to Shenzhen, which we had previously expected to move after the original production run as to not waste time in the present. It will help us a lot down the road to have moved that now rather than later since now both the first run Sa and Sa Compact will be produced by the same facilities. This is important in insuring consistency for production across both umbrella models. Now we will have tighter and more consistent control over the material color and texture since it will be coming from the same producer. This will also insure that we have less issues in regards to manufacturing consistency, such as fitment and quality control.

One other topic which we were finally able to delve deeper into, thanks to the extra time afforded, is the packaging. Since the overall time required to develop and produce the package is relatively minimal from start to finish, one would typically start this process after most of the production process is out on it’s way and the testing stage is nearing. Since we had some time, we were able to get a lot of the preliminary work done on that ahead of schedule, which certainly helps! Typically I tend to go more into detail at this point, but for a change, I want to keep the packaging design a complete surprise and let everyone enjoy that once it arrives on their doorstep! I can tell you right now that it is fantastically minimal and has a wonderful color and texture to it.

 

Official Specs

Before we wrap this update, let’s get into some of the official specs since we now have the luxury of being in production! First, let’s talk dimensions. In the following image you can see the general outlay of the size of the Sa. It should be noted that with the testing, and some minor necessary tweaks for production, the dimensions may change ever so slightly, but in general,they should stick very closely to the dimensions provided.

 

  

A copious amount of effort has been put into coming up with the dimensions you see before you. For example, the length of the twisting bottom portion of the handle was designed so that it was tall enough for two fingers and a thumb to grab around for a comfortable opening grip. At the same time, it was designed to be not too tall since the bottom handle portion can freely rotate and would be awkward to hold by itself when using the umbrella. Through this design, a full grip, even at the bottom portion of the handle, should be possible, since the first three fingers, which account for a majority of the gripping strength, would fall comfortably in the fixed section of the handle. Beyond that, the taper in the handle was designed to allow for a comfortable grip for smaller hands at the top and larger hands at the bottom.

Another aspect of the design which required a lot of consideration are the canopy dimensions. The traditional domed umbrella has it’s own standards of comfort when it comes to canopy structure. There is a necessary balance of headspace within the canopy to result in an enjoyable experience. This includes the length of the pole, the positions, angles, and lengths of the ribs, and the proximity of the fabric to the user’s head.

For the Sa, however, all of the pre-existing dome shaped umbrella standards had to be tossed out the door. Since our canopy is planar in form, we could not rely on the older standards for reference. All relations between the user and the umbrella are different considering our form. We had to take this into consideration when it came to all aspects of the design. The angle and lengths of the ribs had to be adjusted from the standards to allow for an adequate and comfortable headspace. The length of the pole had to be adjusted so the umbrella sits at a comfortable height. Thankfully, our longer handle design allows for a lot of freedom of usability in that respect. The handle can be held higher up for those with shorter torsos, or conversely, lower down for those with longer torsos.

In addition, the interplay of the inner canopy gives off a very different vibe than that of traditional umbrella, and that needed to be taken into consideration for the design. The fact there is a canopy covering inside rather than exposed ribs really allows users to get a bit closer to that area without feeling intimidated or uncomfortable. Traditional exposed ribs are uncomfortable to get too close to because they can tangle with one’s hair and their exposed mechanical components aesthetically suggest unapproachability. Thankfully, the Sa is a lot more comfortable in that respect, with our covered inner canopy. At the same time, we were particularly careful to insure that a nice pocket of headspace would be created under the Sa canopy. Since the length of the inner canopy rib is directly related to the space to open and close within the handle, we worked very hard to optimize that for an ideally comfortable result. After everything, I am very very satisfied with our results, and can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks!

 

 

Lastly, let’s discuss colors. As you will note, the colors are the same as before! Or while they may appear to be, all of the colors you see are ever so slightly different from the original colors described in the campaign. But why is that? Without getting too deeply scientific, colors and light have a complex relationship. Depending on the nature of the light and the material at play, color will be perceived differently. Some materials bounce light in different ways and some colors are processed by the eye differently under various lighting conditions. 

To illustrate this effect, in this image, the top color represents the color matched to look accurate on your computer screen, the second color is the true color for the parts, the third it the true color for the fabric. Despite the fact that the colors are slightly different than one another on this screen, in the real world, they should appear nearly identical to one another since the different materials have different color reflecting attributes.

Furthermore, even though the colors in the image are the technically the same as what we are producing, there is no way with to truly replicate the color of a real world material under different lighting conditions with total accuracy on a computer screen. Beyond that, each individual computer screen varies in how it displays colors. So despite the fact that on my screen the colors look accurate, some of you are seeing a yellower cyan or a redder magenta than what we will really be producing. Simply put, no matter what we do, the only way to really see the color of the Sa is to see the color of a Sa in person. For now, enjoy a close approximation of that!

You may now be asking, how do us designers deal with this color consistency issue? We get around this by using coded color systems, Pantone for example, and have to order a boatload of sample books to get it right. If the same exact color is used on two different materials, say the fabric for the canopy and a silicone for the surface of the handle, it will almost certainly not match well. This has to do with the way color is perceived on each respective material. The way to get a more accurate and exact color match is to order a sample material book for each in use and to visually match the colors together based on perception. The end result will be a very closely color matched product, but in reality, the colors are different from one another!

One other perk of a color coded system, is that we can insure accurate color from manufacturers across the board. A manufacturer can calibrate their systems to reproduce the exact color found in a color book with high accuracy. This is great since the lighting conditions under which you are choosing the color will hold true when manufactured. For example, if you were at a manufacturer’s fluorescent light-lit facility and it was nighttime, but you are making a product to be used outdoors under direct sunlight, you can choose a color which looks good under the conditions for which you want your product to be used, rather than what looks good under alternate circumstances, in order to insure ideal results.

 

Moving Forward

Now, back to progress and where we stand. Magnetic component issue aside, production is moving forward as planned. It is indeed a great feeling to have the Sa finally on the production floor! In terms of delivery time, it is a bit hard to predict how everything will be affected by the magnet issue. As soon as our lead engineer approves of the new magnet sample, we can immediately move forward on that and the related components currently on hold. Based on the results of the previous test, he thinks the next prototype coming in just a week or two should be fine and we should be moving onwards from there. He is doing his very best to expedite this process since he knows how crucial time is to this project and feels personally responsible for the extra expense of time.

Given all of the factors, hopefully we should still be fairly close to schedule. Based on the prediction in the previous update that a direct post-Chinese New Year production run would land us in a May for delivery, and the fact that the magnet has caused a delay for a little over a month thus far, I would expect that to have a relative affect on the overall schedule. Since we did move forward on other components, it is likely not a 1:1 time relation, but let’s assume the worst and predict that is the case. That gives us a delivery for an early Summer release, perhaps in June or July.

Mr. Umbrella God is confident with the production timeline for all of the other components, so he told me to reassure everyone that we shouldn’t have any issues there. He also got a fancy new laser cutting machine to make precise fabric cuts for the project and was excitedly showing it off to me at the last meeting. His only expressed concern for any further time expenses before delivery were in regards to the logistics of the first assembly run. This is a non-issue down the road, but just for the first production run it might be slower than the standard since we are conducting this unique assembly process for the first time.

Basically, for traditional umbrellas, the assembly process is undertaken in a very standardized order, which is: full frame construction, followed by rib attachment, followed by connection of the fabric. Since the Sa has ribs that are bonded into the fabric, we must construct and assemble the canopy separately, then attach this completed piece into the frame. Or course, it goes deeper into details than this, but suffice it to say, the assembly order is not the industry standard.

We have no concerns as for the success of this process, but since it is a first for the umbrella industry, we are only concerned that it might take time to get it done for the very first batch and add undesirable time onto the delivery date. Ideally though, since we have been preparing for this process for a very long time now, all should go according to plan, and we should have the first batch of Sa out the door by early Summer. Thank you all again for your patience, and I hope you are all as excited as I am for the Sa's long awaited debut in near time!