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Reinventing The Wheel

Behind the scenes with Bike Engineers and Entrepreneurs. Fortified Bicycle Alliance.

Pre-Production Samples are not perfect.

We sent Bruno back to Shenzhen to fix it.

Here’s the flow:

  1. Fortified makes final prototype
  2. Factory makes tooling (molds)
  3. Factory makes Pre-Production samples out of the tooling
  4. Fortified gives feedback
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until we get a perfect sample which is called the
  6. Golden Sample
  7. Pilot Run with 300-500 units to hone in the process
  8. Full production run of 5,000-10,000 units

Steps 1-6 took three months. We’re on Step 7 and we’ll be on Step 8 in about 1-2 weeks. Here’s the scoop:

A few days ago this magnificent present arrived from Hong Kong:

Bike Light 1-2

Aren’t they lovely?

Bike Light 2

But they have two big problems:

PROBLEM: It’s hard to open the Secret Battery Chamber
CAUSE: The Powder Coating paint layer is thicker than expected
SOLUTION: Mask the closing mechanism so that it doesn’t get painted


Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.44.26 AM

PROBLEM: The Lens Button is hard to push and has no tactile feedback
CAUSE: The gasket is too firm
SOLUTION: A lower durometer (more squishy) gasket

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.44.50 AM



Slava & Team Fortified

The Brick Wall That We Broke Through

Where we last left off, Bruno, Fortified’s Henry Ford, was on the factory floor setting up a production line and working toward the Golden Sample Bike Light. The Golden Sample, as you may recall, is the gold standard of which
50,000+ Aviator and Afterburner bike lights will be built.

Bruno’s job is to take a complex prototype and build a manufacturing line to make 50,000 of them. And the quality must be such that these bike lights last forever. The 300 lumen LEDs are driven by a PCB and the brains of the PCB are an integrated circuit (IC). It’s the chip that controls the LED and tells you if the battery is low. During production, each IC is programmed in a fraction of a second.

Here’s the brick wall: the code for the IC works perfectly in the prototype, but it didn’t work on the factory floor. And the guy who wrote the IC code was 12 time zones away. Bruno doesn’t code, but after a few days of frustration and setbacks, Bruno broke through and the video below shows sweet victory.

Bruno also dialed in the tooling and the powder coating for a perfect, durable finish.

Raw Diecast Pieces

Unassembled Light

But we’re still 99% of the way there. We need to refine the haptic feedback of:
1. The on/off button so it clicks perfect
2. The locking battery mechanism so it closes smoother

Brian, our MIT MechE is working on this as we speak.

We estimate shipping to be in mid-September.


Slava + Team Fortified

5 things you definitely didn’t know about bike sharing



Americans Have Taken 23 Million Bike Share Rides and No One Has Died

Let us explain it in numbers

Here’s 5 things didn’t know about bike sharing, by the numbers:

  • 2007 TULSA: the year and the city with the first bike share.  Not Portland or SF, but, Tulsa.  That’s in Oklahoma (we think).
  • 14% DROP in head injuries in bike share cities. Counter to predictions, head injuries have gone DOWN. Why? More cyclists on the road makes cycling safer
  • 28% DROP in overall injuries for the very same reason
  • 23 MILLION Americans Have Taken Bike Share Rides according to Yahoo.
  • ZERO deaths despite no helmet requirements

Now here’s three ways we’re going to make city cycling even safer:

  1. Helmet-less bike sharing is a time bomb – it’s only a matter of time before the zero deaths number changes.  Companies like Helmet Hub are working on this.
  2. Brighter, more rugged safety gear, like our urban bike lights.
  3. Better cyclist-driver relations, as we described on our bicycle blog.


What other things will make biking safer?


Blame, Frames and Automobiles


Ask a city driver to describe the average urban cyclist and they’ll probably describe a tattooed messenger/clueless college kid hybrid. And to the cyclist, cars are unpredictable, door flinging Godzillas hell bent on destruction. There’s plenty of mistrust to go around, but cyclists can seize the opportunity to change the way drivers perceive us and lower the heat on city streets:

  • Ride up, Ride Out Ride in an open way, be assertive rather than aggressive. You have a right to the road, so make your intentions clear, move out of the door zone and into traffic if you have to, remembering that there is a human being behind the wheel of that car, and so:
  • Make Eye Contact If we want to make cycling safer we have to stop looking at drivers as the enemy. This means making eye contact and letting them know that you’re about to turn, stop or cut in behind them. Use gestures, engage them, demystify yourself. At times none of that works so make it your policy to:
  • Let it Slide The world isn’t perfect and cycling on city streets reflects that. You’re going to get cut off, forced out of your lane and cursed at. Resist the urge to settle a score and opt instead for a One Love Marleylike vibe, smile, and keep riding.

Riding with our heads up, making human connections and shrugging off the occasional outrage changes city riding from a series of skirmishes to a guerrilla action of positive engagement; it starts the process of making cyclists and drivers co-owners of our city streets.


It has begun

Delivery Update: Shipping begins in August!

The guy all the way on the left is Bruno, our Director of Ops, and don’t let his smile or checkered sweater fool you.  Before bike lights he made rocket-science complex, brain surgery precise, die cast aluminum parts for Tier 1 Aviation.  And he has just setup a manufacturing line that’d make Henry Ford jealous.

Calculus Team Photo-1

We’ll let the photos do the talking:

Tooling comes out  of the mold

Supplier pulling a tooling mold out to cool off. Each one takes about 4 hours to build.

Bike Light

Fresh out of the tool, the first production Afterburner ever built. We’re working toward the “Golden Sample” – the perfect mass production prototype that will be the Gold Standard for the next 50,000 units.

Assembled Bike Light

Assembled view.  This first part is good but needs to be dialed in for a precision fit.


Custom jig, or fixture, for assembly.  Jigs make the assembly process faster and more precise.

Here’s the other thing – Bruno sends a daily email entitled, “Daily Update from the Shop Floor”.  You’re seeing what the company sees except we put a X in place of confidential info.  This is what you want your Ops to look like.

A. Shop Floor Walk & Production Overviews

I took a walk on the shop floor and saw all of our raw materials that had arrived. About 85% of all parts arrived, with another 5% of parts arriving tomorrow. 9% will arrive Monday 7/28, with 1 part due on Wednesday 7/30.

1. Golden Sample plan

a. Receive raw materials

-Die cast parts – all have passed initial inspection.

-P/N 0302 (Gasket)  – This part required new tooling, so these will be finished by Wednesday 7/30.

-Battery Springs – Factory workers are checking the Solderability of these new springs tomorrow to confirm they’re OK for production.

-Micro USB Connector – The bend on the connector is incorrect and cannot be used for mass production. We will use the current ones for the golden sample stage and get new ones for mass production.

-All Other materials: Before Monday

b. SMT

-Scheduled to start Monday July 28, but instead will be on July 30 due to Gasket (0302).

-To get ahead of schedule on other items while we wait for the final parts to come in, we’ll do the following on 7/28-7/29:

-Confirm one more time that the programming works as expected

-Visit vendors (die cast, IM, gasket, screws, etc)

-Adjust fixtures for mass production

-Sign off on all arrived samples by client (me!)

c. Assembly: 7/31 – 8/1-8/2

-This is where we need packaging sample dates from X – pushing DAILY. Contingency plan is Pkg @ X, starting Monday/Tuesday.

-Upon completion we can take up to 3 samples of each model (18pcs total)

d. Product Testing

-8/4 – Optical testing @ supplier

-8/5 – All other testing inside factory

-TBD – Linear testing – waiting on quotes

e. Packing arrival – 8/5 (Critical!)

2. 150pc/model Pilot Run

-8/6 – SMT (based on USB Connector new arrival)

-8/7-8/10: Assembly, Testing, and Packaging

3. Mass Production – Remaining balance on PO

-8/11 – SMT

-8/12-8/26 – FG

-Ship 8/27-8/30 (Partial shipments as needed)

4. Flow 1 Demand (second PO)

-The procurement manager will try to manufacture this at the same time as the first PO, but they need to make sure they can get the materials here in time before committing to that. Answer TBD.

B. Supplier Visits

-Die cast house: 7/28

-Injection Molding: 7/29

-Screw & Tool manufacturer: TBD

C. Cost Initiatives

These weren’t discussed yet, but quotes came in for X this afternoon. Cost is X% lower, with MOQ of 2K/model and lead time is 2 weeks. This is our contingency plan for X.

D. New Product X Discussions

I spoke with Joe about X, but nothing concrete yet. We’ll get more involved on this post-golden sample stage and when I’ve received specs from the team.


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