Turing Tumble Progress Update #11: We are in Production!!!
That's right! We are IN PRODUCTION! I can't tell you all how good it feels to say that.
More precisely, I should say we are now all the way in production. We actually began production of the box, the book, the vacuum trays, and all the other non-plastic parts a little over a week ago. But now, every part of the game is ready to go.
Before I tell you the story, let me start by saying that since we have finally entered into production, we're going to charge credit cards for add-ons and pre-orders. So please make sure the credit card you used on BackerKit is current. We'll charge them all for any add-ons and pre-orders tomorrow.
Since the 3rd round of plastic parts...
You might remember the third round of plastic parts had a few serious problems. The biggest problem had to do with the ramps: the hole in the center was cut too small, making them not quite fit onto the pins on the board anymore. Since it's not possible to add metal to a mold (to make the holes bigger) it looked like we might have to remake the mold, delaying things even more.
Speaking of molds, I thought you might appreciate seeing some pictures of the injection molds. I asked Sky (you'll hear more about him later) to take pictures of the molds while he was at the factory. Here's one of the molds:
This is called a "family mold" because it makes several different types of parts in one shot. Notice how there are multiple cavities for some parts. That way, they can make all the parts needed for one copy of the game in a single shot.
At first glance, the mold seems pretty simple, but they are surprisingly complicated. I found a great video on YouTube that explains more about injection molds. It's definitely worth the 10 minutes to watch it.
Here's another one of the molds:
See those shiny circles on each of the gear teeth? Those are actually pins that run all the way through the mold to the outside. They're called "ejector pins". After plastic has been injected into the mold and it's cooled, the mold is pulled apart, and those pins are pushed forward to pop the part out of the mold.
On the other side of the mold, you can see little dots sticking up on each of the gear teeth. They actually added those little pins after the first round to help reduce "sink" in the plastic when it cooled (more on that later).
The ramps were also made in an 8 cavity mold like the one pictured above. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of mold for the ramps. The problem was that the pins sticking out of the mold (that formed holes through the ramps) were all too small.
And here is where our hero enters. Sky is the name of our engineer at LongPack and he really stepped up. First, he spent a long time trying various approaches to solve the problem without making drastic (risky) changes to the mold. He was able to get 5 of the 8 cavities to work that way, which was good, but not good enough. So he decided to make one last-ditch attempt to fix the problem. If it failed, they'd have to remake the whole mold.
He attempted to cut out the little pins in the center of each of the ramps, and then replace them with new, slightly larger pins. I'm no machinist, but this seems extremely difficult to me. The pins he cut out looked a lot like this pin:
Cutting the pins out without damaging the surrounding metal seems difficult enough, but then somehow attaching a new pin in the correct position at the base of the hole seems ridiculously hard. And they had to get it perfect all 16 times (8 pins on one half of the mold and 8 pins on the other half).
The 4th round of plastic parts
Well, they did their best, and this morning I got the 4th round of plastic parts from LongPack, including the new ramps.
I opened up the box...
The very first things I tried out were the new ramps:
Along with the ramps, LongPack sent two sizes of counterweights for the ramps: 6.1 mm balls and 6.35 mm balls. They thought it might be worth trying out both sizes because they found in some cases it was more reliable with the 6.1 mm balls. In the following video, the ramps on the left side have 6.1 mm balls and the ramps on the right side have 6.35 mm balls:
First of all, YES!! The ramps work! The holes are just the right size now. Problem solved, and we didn't have to re-make the mold.
As for the counterweights, I'm planning to stick with the 6.35 mm counterweights because the balls move down in a slower, more controlled way, and I haven't run into any problems with their reliability, yet.
Last time, we also had an issue with the balance of the ball release system. It needed a little more weight on one side to work 100% correctly. Unfortunately, adding that weight is not as easy as just adding a hunk of plastic to the mold. If you have too much plastic in one place, the inside cools slowly and the outside cools quickly, causing the inside to shrink more than the outside, leaving sunken spots on the surface of the plastic or worse, big voids. That's actually the main reason that the plastic stuff you buy isn't ever solid plastic, it's always made of thin walls with ribs - that way everything cools (and shrinks) at roughly the same rate.
To solve the balance problem, LongPack had the idea of sticking a washer that weighs just the right amount behind each of the levers at the bottom of the board. Here's a picture of the levers with and without the washer in place:
The washer solves the problem perfectly.
So that's it, everything works (even better than in the prototype), and now we're in production! The plan is to begin the actual production of the plastic parts soon after workers return from Chinese New Year at the beginning of March. During the actual production of the plastic parts, which will take about a week, I'll fly out there and hopefully just be a fly on the wall, checking once in a while to make sure the quality control procedures are working. I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures of the factory and the process to share with you all.
I guess there will be little progress in manufacturing over the next month with Chinese New Year almost upon us, but one exciting thing is that in a couple weeks we'll be attending the New York Toy Fair! I guess it'll kinda be like Kickstarter 2.0, but for retail stores and distributors...and it's 4 days long instead of 30. We've been working hard on our booth the last couple months and today we finally loaded it onto a truck bound for New York. We are anxious and excited!
Also, thanks so much for your patience and words of encouragement. The molds took WAY longer than I expected to finalize, but we really appreciate how encouraging you all have been. It made a big difference for us.
Paul and Alyssa