About this project
Tracer360 Illuminated Safety Vest in Action!
Tracer360 and Torch In the Media
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About Our Project
The Torch Illuminated Sports Vest
The need for the Torch kicked off this whole process for us. We were playing night ultimate (Frisbee) and the games were so fun and unique. Sure you are playing the same game that you do in the daylight, but playing in the dark delivers this whole new awesome experience. Which leads us to the problem: there were no products out there to light up teams worthy of this experience. Glow bands are dim, one-time-use, and not designed to be worn during intense games. For us it felt like playing in the Superbowl with a Nerf football.
Our Solution. The Noxgear Torch. An all-season fiber optic sports vest that is incredibly bright, durable and so lightweight you’ll forget you’re wearing it. It's a game-changer.
The Tracer360 Illuminated Safety Vest
Whether you’re training for your next race or simply staying in shape, you need to be able to hit the pavement on your time with that sense of comfort and security. If that time is before dawn or after dusk, staying visible to traffic is an important part of your workout. Today, cyclists, runners, and walkers alike are competing for the attention of drivers distracted by their smart phones, especially at night. Eye-catching illumination is the key to maximizing your visibility. Bright and reflective materials, while important, are only effective when headlights are pointed at you. The problem: the need for full coverage, eye-catching visibility in a safety vest built for exercise.
Our Solution. The Noxgear Tracer360. A uniquely designed all-season, super bright fiber optic illuminated safety vest built for intense exercise in the early morning or after dark, rain or snow. The Tracer360 contains several 360-degree illumination modes that pop, blink and burst to alert even the most distracted driver. Your safety is paramount.
This video shows our current Tracer360 illumination modes. We will provide updates to this throughout the project.
Video of Latest Tracer360 Illumination Modes
We've added a NEW FEATURE: Solid Red Illumination Mode (not yet shown in video)
Meet the Torch Illuminated Sports Vest
Meet the Tracer360 Illuminated Safety Vest
Torch & Tracer360 Features:
Super Bright and Efficient LEDs
All our products use state-of-the-art super bright and extremely efficient LEDs from Cree®. The LED’s emitting angle, wavelengths, power, size, and optocoupling were all carefully studied and selected to pipe as many lumens into our optical fiber as possible. No photon is spared or misdirected.
Super Side Light Emitting Optical Fiber
For more than a year we’ve been working with optical fiber suppliers to create and test a solid gel core optical fiber optimized for our application. The technology is heat and electricity free, and in our application, extremely efficient at transmitting and emitting light. With the PMMA solid gel plastic core and Teflon clad shield, the fiber is both flexible and extremely durable. This allows us to use the optical fiber not only to illuminate, but as an integral structural component for securing the vest to the user. Yet another reason our vest is loved by the minimalist.
All Weather, All Temperatures, All Season
Because of their uniquely minimal design, the Tracer360 and Torch wear comfortably with a coat, jacket, or t-shirt. The adjustment takes seconds and you’ll forget you’re wearing it. The Tracer360 can co-exist with your hydration belt, riding shirt, head lamp, or most of your favorite running or cycling gear. Rest assured, they don’t mind the rain, snow, mud, or sweat as long as you don’t. Fabric is kept to only what is necessary, allowing for minimal contact with the body and preventing sweat from being trapped and building up, so there is no washing necessary.
High Quality Sports Materials
You might be surprised how much work goes into researching and testing all of the different sports materials for our application. But we think you’ll agree that we’ve selected the highest quality sweat resistant elastic belt, sports mesh, and edge binding. Everything is Chafe Free, even if it becomes wet.
Fit, Feel and Function
We’re especially proud of everything that goes into making our vests fit, feel, and function great! First, it’s simple to put on and take off with an easily accessible single quick-clip buckle right in the front. Second, a quick one-time adjustment to the slides on the elastic belt and a few tugs on the optical cable over your shoulders and your vest is on. Third, these easy adjustments allow each vest to fit most everyone, big or small, coat or t-shirt. Forth, the vest feels like… well not much of anything, you’ll forget you’re even wearing it. Fifth, everything is controlled by a single button, carefully recessed into the enclosure to prevent inadvertent pressing. Finally, you’ll be amazed at how these vests stay in place and don’t ride up or down during the intense twisting and contorting of game play and certainly not during long runs.
Ready When You Are
A lot went into selecting how to power these initial products. But in the end, we kept coming back to availability. There is nothing more frustrating than going to use something, only to find out that it needs to be charged. Whether you wake up early for a run or you’re squeaking in a ride or a night game after work, we want the Tracer360 and Torch to always be ready for you. That’s why we decided to use three (3) AAA batteries. They’re low cost, readily available, and with our single action battery door, can be replaced in seconds.
Our Torch can last over 20 HOURS and the Tracer360 lasts over 40 HOURS. Our electronics are engineered to sip power while driving these LEDs at maximum brightness. The digital boost converter regulates power to each LED thousands of times a second to maximize efficiency and brightness, which combined with the smarts of our microcontroller leads to seriously long battery life.
Battery Status Indication
We know everyone has grown accustomed to checking the status of their battery on their cell-phones, so we figured you could benefit from the same feature with our products. Our Torch and Tracer360 will blink and change color to indicate how much charge you have left on your batteries.This way you can be prepared with an extra set of batteries or know to replace them if you’re going out for an extra long run.But take comfort in knowing that our Tracer360 includes some amazing highly reflective and highly visible materials, just in case. Obviously we pay a lot of attention to making sure your Torch and Tracer360 come on and stay on for you.
Lightweight and Low-Profile Nexus
The Nexus brings all of the main elements of our vests together with a light-weight and low-profile plastic enclosure. The Nexus also houses the embedded electronics, super bright LEDs, batteries, and our novel fiber optic retention system. Perhaps it was all those years we spent in the Aerospace Industry where weight was king because we’ve wrung every last ounce we could from the design. If it wasn’t absolutely necessary, it was eliminated. No frills, just the bare bone essentials. All in all, these vests weigh less than half a pound, or about as much as a t-shirt, batteries included.
Tracer360 Illumination Modes
The Road We've Travelled (Development)
The moment we had this idea was the moment we built a set of prototypes and put them on the field. It was the moment our journey began.
The Early Days
We started from the very beginning building prototypes. We had a lot of crazy ideas in the early days. Through considerable effort we worked through those concepts.
This refinement came through continued prototyping, testing and sourcing of materials. We also started to nail down some high-level design decisions.
A first generation “product” quality version was completed. This included a production-quality circuit board and Nexus (this is what we call the enclosure holding the circuit board, batteries and the start of the fiber optic cables). We also started to give more and more of our prototypes to others to test.
Even though we liked the first generation illuminated vest, we stepped back to re-examine the entire design. We listened to what others told us who tested our prototypes and identified key elements that could be improved, and then took steps to design a bright, low profile, and lightweight integrated design.
Preparation for Production
The Torch and Tracer360 require four primary production steps:
- Create plastic parts for the Nexus by injection mold
- Manufacture and assemble printed circuit boards
- Sew the vest sub-assembly: soft spacer mesh, nexus base piece, edge binding, quick clip buckle and adjustment slides to the high quality elastic belt
- Final assembly of the Nexus: battery holder, circuit board, fiber optic cables and outer cover
Sourcing Plastic Parts
We have several quotes to manufacture the plastic parts by injection molding. The part designs have already been optimized for this manufacturing process (which requires certain characteristics of the part design). Based on our communication with tooling designers and the injection molding manufacturers, we are confident of the cost, quality and timeframe for delivery of our plastic parts.
Scalable Production of Circuit Boards
We have been through a number of iterations of the circuit board design (maybe one too many - Simon's a perfectionist). The benefit of these iterations, however, has been to establish a solid process and source for producing quality boards. We work with some great people in this area and are confident we can source high quality circuit boards in whatever quantity we need.
This is one of the best parts of our story (we think). Being mechanical, manufacturing and electrical engineers, we knew nothing about sewing. We have a grave yard of needles, fabric, and thread to prove it. Several months ago we took a trip to a very rural area of Ohio and met a very nice woman running a contract sewing business. She has been great, and we've worked through a number of challenges particularly related to sewing our plastic base in to the elastic belt. We are all set now for production and are so excited to have found a great local shop to source our sewing sub-assembly.
We are anticipating in-house assembly for our Kickstarter Torch and Tracer360 vests under our direct control and supervision. However we have prepared for any possibility by writing a detailed assembly and packaging plan based on our experience developing and building these vests. This plan details each assembly step and the key elements of each step to ensure a quality build. Each vest is inspected and run through a post-assembly acceptance test to ensure proper function and maximum brightness. Finally, our assembly and packaging plan details the packaging and preparation for shipment. We feel very confident in this final and crucial element of fulfilling the rewards to you (our Kickstarter backers)...all done here in Ohio, USA.
Putting these vests on the market and starting this company is our passion. So far it has been a very challenging and exciting process and now we are here because we need you, the Kickstarter Community, to forge ahead.
On top of what we’ve spent on development thus far and plan to spend during the campaign the funding you provide goes to two main purposes: (1) the materials, manufacturing and assembly of the first production Torch and Tracer360 units and (2) start-up costs. These start-up costs include:
- Sourcing plastic parts, first articles and related injection mold tooling costs
- Fabric cutting die
- Circuit board manufacturing prep costs
We (Simon and Tom) first crossed paths in Graduate School at The Ohio State University when we took an engineering course together. We never actually meet until a few years later when we were both working at the same aerospace company. In college Tom specialized in Manufacturing Engineering and Smart Materials and Simon focused on Humanoid Robotics and Intelligent Control.
We both held an eclectic mixture of positions and lead research, design, testing and development teams. Tom focused on design and testing and Simon on systems architecture, electronics, and more testing. Over the years we really honed our skills at torture testing products to make them better and the Torch and Tracer360 are no exceptions.
For years we organized ultimate games after work, which transitioned into ultimate at night with glow bands and an LED disc. Frustrated by trying to use glow bands to illuminate teams, we stayed up one night cutting up Simon's Fiber Optic Christmas Tree and soldering LED kits together. The next night game, and a whole lot of Duct Tape later, the idea for the Torch was born. About the same time, Simon was bit by the runner’s bug, often running a few hours a day, coupled with a long work day, became a few hours a night. It wasn’t long before we realized the advantages afforded to runners and cyclists by the 360 degrees of illumination from the fiber optic. It seemed Simon always had a new prototype to look forward to testing on his next night run. Soon the Tracer360 emerged.
We are proud of this company and what it represents. Our name, Noxgear, is based on the latin word for night: nox. Nocturnal, or being active at night, is also based on this latin origin. So our company name and what it represents is based on a simple idea: Noxgear is made for the nocturnal athlete.
Down the Road
We are very proud of our flagship products. The Torch and Tracer360 represent the cornerstone of Noxgear’s vision. As we grow, we plan to build on the awesome technological capability of our products. This might blow your mind, but imagine a vest that is powered by you when we build in a kinetic energy harvester to absorb a piece of the action, you’ll never need batteries again. Or tell us how cool it will be when your Torch and game piece (disc, football, etc.) are all tethered to your smart phone and you can create, customize, and play any game you dream up. Imagine a smart field where in an instant you can be swapped from one team to another or have a special ability in the game all by design, all enabled by wearing a Torch. We can.
A Well-Deserved Thanks to....
Bus'd Media (Columbus, Ohio)
Duraseam, LLC and Marlene
Night ultimate game Ohio State crew (Go Bucks!)
Katie and Becca
Dirk Klinkenberg (PCB Layout)
Chris Hazzard of Sem3DDesign (3D Modeling)
Risks and challenges
We have identified the following risks related to successfully delivering our rewards to our Kickstarter backers and the following mitigation strategies:
We're good here. During the campaign we may make tweaks to boost brightness or battery life!
Purchased Materials and Components:
Sourcing and procurement of all materials and components are considered low risk. Many of these materials are already on hand and we've heard from all suppliers on lead times and availability. The list of purchased materials and components includes: elastic belt (2 types), edge binding (2 types), plastic buckle and adjustment hardware, battery holder, rubber push button, clips and screws.
As we’ve already mentioned, much effort was devoted to matching our LEDs to the right fiber optic cable. We have a good relationship and long history with the fiber optic manufacturer and have already confirmed availability of our specific fiber optic cable. Even though we feel good about this source, given the importance of this element in our design we have taken the steps now to mitigate risk by establishing a secondary source.
Procurement of our plastic parts includes the design of the parts, material selection, source selection, tool design, tool manufacturing, first article part review and first production run. We currently have a complete design suitable for production by injection molding and have been in contact with several sources to discuss material selection, costs and delivery schedule. Over the course of the Kickstarter campaign we will down-select to a single source. To mitigate risk associated with procuring these parts we are working with a consultant who does all of this for a living.
There are several key elements of the final assembly that will be under our direct supervision for the Kickstarter vests. We have already developed a detailed manufacturing plan including ensuring the quality of the vest construction, bright illumination, and proper functionality. That being stated there is inherent risk when producing a product like this for the first time:
* Initial Inspection - we have a plan in place to test certain qualities and parameters of our fabrics, plastics, electronics, and fiber optic cable when they first arrive to verify they conform to our specifications before assembly even begins.
* Part assembly and fit – we have refined our part design using 3D printing by testing and assembling actual parts. We’ve mitigated this risk by assembling a number of final prototypes (including what you see in the video)
* Fiber optic cut, alignment and retention – The quality of the ends of the fiber optic cable are important for bright illumination and this is part of our assembly plan. We have also put in a lot of effort to ensure proper alignment of the cable (by part design) and retention (endless testing) and our plan also identifies how to do this repeatably during production.
* Solder and installation of circuit board and battery holder – By design this is a pretty straight forward production step but is critical for proper function and illumination. To mitigate any risk associated with this step we have included a function and quality check at the end of the assembly process.
We don't think this should be a concern (see explanation below), but we care what our supporters think. So we are looking at adding a constant on and soft color fade mode or modes for some special use cases. We can really appreciate this concern. We tested this regularly with others during our development efforts.
We're not going to tell you one thing, only for you to find out otherwise when your Tracer360 arrives. You will be the ultimate judge, but we firmly believe that the special flashing modes of the Tracer360, designed to capture the attention of drivers, will not be a nuisance to a runner or cyclist, even in the mist or fog. We believe that unless you're standing in front of a wall, or staring at your shoulders, you'll quickly forget you have it on.
The light radiated from the walls of our fiber optic is different in concentration than an LED device, so even when you look at it, your night vision is not diminished, as it is with most other LED products. We want you to be seen, but not blinded, and certainly not to blind a driver.
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