Turing Tumble Progress Update #10: The Third Sample
On Tuesday, our third sample arrived. It took longer than we expected, partly because it took a while to find the right solution to the problem we had with the gear bits and partly because the changes to the ramp mold were tricky. I'll show your our solution to that later.
This was the big one. The parts should be colored correctly, textured, and the final problems we had with the last sample should be solved. Alyssa and I opened the box.
The game box had a new matte laminate coating, so there were no scuffs on the back of the box like last time:
And inside the box, the parts were indeed colored correctly. Here is the top tray with the board supports.
The board supports were black (as they should be) and the tray itself was made correctly. It has a nice, quality feel now.
Lift that top tray out of the box and you find the rest of the parts:
This will be more or less how it's packaged in production. There are only 10 ramps in the box there, but there will be 30 in the actual game, which will fill up that tray on the right side. And colors! Did you notice the beautiful colors? We were getting a little tired of working with dirty white and gray parts. That was refreshing.
Last time there were some important problems, and we hoped to solve them all with this sample.
Gears and Gear Bits
If you remember last time, we had a problem with the gear bits as a result of the low friction. When 3 or more gear bits were connected together, they worked perfectly, but when only two gear bits were connected together, they'd flip so fast that they'd bounce back the other direction.
We thought long and hard about how to solve this problem. It was actually Cy from LongPack that came up with the best solution. His idea was to add washers behind the gear bits that add friction. The next day I went to the hardware store, picked up some rubber washers, placed them behind the gear bits, and viola! They slowed down the gear bits enough that they worked when only two were connected together! LongPack then sourced better looking washers. We'll include 10 of them with this version of the game. Here's what they look like:
So from now on, whenever 2 gear bits are connected, the washers must be placed behind the gear bits, but whenever 3 or more are connected, you don't need to bother with them.
The Computer Board
Remember last time, in the video, how a ball got stuck in that space under the lever? There was also an issue where the balls would sometimes roll on top of the levers to places they shouldn't be. Both of those problems are solved. I added little protrusions that stop those two things from happening:
Last time the crossovers sometimes fell off the board. Adding dimples to the smiles solved that problem:
Last time they forgot to add the lip that made it snap into the other pieces. This time it was there and it snaps nicely.
The Computer Board
Just one problem remains with the computer board: the factory still didn't remove all the extra plastic at the "parting line" (i.e., the place where the two halves of the mold come together). Here's an example of a hole with extra plastic where it shouldn't be:
They say this is an easy problem to solve, and that it will be completely fixed next time.
It was great to see the old problems solved, but we were surprised and more than a little disappointed to find some new problems.
I took a bit and tried to put it on the board, and...it didn't fit! The hole was too small, which was strange since I didn't ask for any changes to that part. I asked LongPack about it and they said that the molders used a different temperature when they molded them this time, and as a result, the bits shrunk more than they should have.
This problem should be an easy fix, but it worries me. If this kind of thing happened during production, it would be disastrous. I'm preparing a list of quality control tests for the molders so that this kind of thing doesn't ever happen again.
Like the bits, somehow the hole for the presser shrunk.
The presser doesn't fit all the way in anymore. LongPack is looking into why this happened. Hopefully it is the same problem as the bits, and can easily be solved by changing the molding conditions.
The Ball Release System
The balance in the ball release system was slightly different this time. It caused the levers to only rise about halfway up after being pushed down. To solve the problem for good, we'll need to add between 0.5 g and 1 g of plastic to the side of the lever with the counterweight in it.
This is the most challenging problem. You might remember that last time we made some changes to the ramps to stop them from jumping off the board. The changes solved that problem, but in the process of making those changes, the hole in the ramp (where it fits onto the pins) was accidentally cut smaller.
With injection molding, it's relatively easy to add plastic to an existing part because it just means cutting away more of the metal in the mold. But you can't subtract plastic in most situations because you can't add metal to the mold. So when a hole is cut too small, you either figure out how to make it work or you remake the mold.
Remaking the mold would take a significant amount of time. It's not our first choice. Fortunately the hole is still big enough that it fits over most of the pins. We think we can make some changes that will allow the existing ramp work for the rest of the pins. LongPack is making a first attempt at those changes today and they'll have a sample to test tomorrow.
The silver lining is that the smaller holes slow the ramps way down. In the previous videos you might remember the balls shooting through the ramps. Now I think the speed is just right.
We were able to make the ramps work in the above video (even though the holes are smaller than we'd like) by adding thin plastic washers behind the ramps. It lifted them up to a part of the pins that is slightly thinner.
So far, each round of changes has taken about one month to complete, so I think it would be safe to say that these changes will be complete at the beginning of February. Unfortunately that's also when Chinese New Year begins. So if these changes are truly the final changes, the new schedule looks roughly like this:
Feb 1: Final changes to the injection molds are complete. Production begins.
Feb 7: China starts shutting down for Chinese New Year
Mar 1: Workers return from Chinese New Year.
April 1: Production is complete. The games are loaded onto shipping boats.
May 1: The boats arrive and order fulfillment begins.
May 30: Order fulfillment is complete.
Thanks for sticking with us, everyone. It was discouraging to get this version of the plastic parts and still find significant problems. We're getting mighty close, though. We'll keep you posted on how this next (and hopefully final) round goes.
Paul and Alyssa Boswell