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Reinventing The Wheel

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

[HIRING] Brilliant Bike Engineer

Bike Engineer

Bike Engineer

 

Can you build a bicycle out of Q-tips and gum? Can you start a fire using only a glass of water? Then Fortified wants you! Here’s the scoop:

Fortified Bicycle launched our second successful Kickstarter this past fall, and we’re currently in the middle of production. Now we’re building more products for urban cyclists and looking for a talented MechE to join our team!

What you’ll bring:
- A love for biking
- Brilliance and creativity
- Experience with mechanical design of products in Solidworks
- Experience with rapid-prototyping
- Building prototypes with your own hands: (3D printing, wood working, machining, etc).
- Experience in designing for manufacturing
- Experience with managing overseas manufacturing is a plus (our factories are in China)

What Fortified brings:
- A love for biking
- Awesome bike product ideas
- A fun, entrepreneurial team that loves building and loves biking
- Experience in commercializing bike products
- Experience in making kick-ass Kickstarter products
- Experience in design for manufacturing and volume manufacturing
- Salary plus equity

If you want to join a fast-growing startup and bring brilliant bike products to life, let’s talk: please email bruno[-at-]fortifiedbike.com

Manufacturing the perfect bike light and The Golden Sample

We took the Aviator and Afterburner bike lights toward 99% complete – our contract manufacturer (CM) does the final 1%.  The last few weeks have been a CAD file ping pong game. Example: the CM sends us a CAD file changing the wall thickness of a part by 2mm, we push back and send a CAD file with a .5mm change. The CM compromises at 1mm.
Through this process we’ve made .1mm to 1mm changes to 8 components: balancing ease of manufacturing with design.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 8.28.25 PM

We finished this ping pong game last week and now we’re moving toward the Golden Sample.  That’s the final, “Gold Standard” prototype bike light built by the CM that Fortified signs off on saying it meets our quality standards.

Our CM finished the rubber part samples first and shipped them right away. We tested the rubber parts with our metal prototype – almost all of them worked – and here’s some of the feedback we gave to the CM:

Callout

#2 & #7 : Collar Gasket and Battery Shroud Gasket: Theses gaskets protect our bike lights from water. The CM almost got it right, but each is about 1mm too long in diameter.

#4: Clamp Shim: The CM got the size and shape perfect but it’s too squishy so we specified a higher durometer to keep your handlebars and seat post from being scratched

#10: Button Spring Gasket: When you press the lens to turn the light on/off, this gives you a resistive force. The problem with this sample is that it gives too much resistive force, so we’re thinning the part to give a more pleasant haptic feedback.

Soon we’ll be seeing the plastic parts and metal parts.  We will finalize the Golden Sample in the factory and press GO! on mass production.

Estimated ship date: Early August!

 

Slava + Team Fortified

We pulled the trigger…

Friends – WE SIGNED THE CONTRACT. This means that injection molding has finally begun, and we couldn’t be happier with our new manufacturing partners! DBG Visit They came to our office a few weeks back, and it was clear early on that they believed in our vision and understood our needs. Like everyone who believes in us, they got to take some Fortified gear home. The last few weeks has been spent working out the minutia of the contract: delivery lead times, quality control, payment schedules, supplier assessment protocol, etc. On the product development side of things, we’ve been meticulously testing beam shape based on your feedback from our winter survey. Brian, our director of engineering, has been spending his cold, dark nights perfecting the beam distribution and spread at various distances. Beam spot At close distances (<5M) the beam is focused and bright, with a secondary halo for peripheral visibility.   beam spot 2 At far distances (>10M) the beam gives consistent illumination of all surroundings. Next Steps – When tooling is complete next month, we will be traveling back to Shenzhen to oversee the initial sample run of Aviators and Afterburners. With this hasn’t been confirmed yet, a few of our lucky customers may get to play around with the first samples prior to mass fulfillment. If you’re interested in testing, please email us. Until then, the factory will be hard at work ordering parts and setting up the lines for the production run. Love, Slava + Team Fortified

14 Chinese Factories in 3 weeks: The Terrible, The Filthy, and the Wonderful.

The black 2012 Buick picked me up at my Beijing hotel at 7am.  During the two hour drive I made small talk with the engineer who shared the back seat with me, asking him, “how’s the factory?”  He paused and then laughed a sheepish laugh.  “They have dogs,” he said.

The engineer told me it was a bad day in Beijing – 350 parts per million in air pollution. Unhealthy starts at 100 ppm – dangerous is at 200 ppm.  I don’t know what to make of 350, I just know it makes me cough and the sky looks like a dense and low fog.

Having been farmland for centuries, the provinces south of Beijing have seen an explosion of heavy industries in the last 10 years.  But the industrialization of China doesn’t mean that farms turned into factories.  The farms never left – they just put the factories next to them.

River (1)

The above photo shows a river of sludge next to reaped corn fields. Adjacent is a brick-making factory fueled by smoke stacks spewing black coal sediment into the grey sky.  The rivers and creeks are filled with plastic bags and sludgy water.

We drove through miles and miles of grey and until we arrived at a stone-walled compound with red gates.  Driving inside, underfed mutts growled and barked at us viciously as the factory owner approached us with a smile and a business card.

Dogs

He proudly gave us a tour of his injection molding facility – a metal roofed room overflowing with sacks of plastic and rubber resin beads.  These beads are melted into the molds to make small parts.  He showed me the current product they’re working on – rubber motorcycle pedals branded “YANAHA” and labeled “Made in Japa”.  This isn’t a typo.

Yanaha

The air smelled of melting plastic, after ten minutes and I began to get a headache.  Meanwhile, his employees have spent the last 15 years working in these conditions.

Through the translator I said, “we won’t produce at a factory that doesn’t care about its employees.” After some awkward pleasantries between the translators and the factory owner, we got in the Buick and had a long, quiet, grey drive back to Beijing.

Fortified would refund all of our Kickstarter backers and bankrupt our company before producing products in a factory like this.

Here’s the silver lining on these grey, polluted clouds.  There are wonderful factories in China.  We found one on the other side of China, in Shenzhen – a two hour plane ride from Beijing.

Much more info to come but here’s some photos to enjoy….

1. Our factory cares about its people

PCBA

Above shows the automated PCB assembly area. The working conditions are immaculate and the employees have fair wages.

2. Our factory knows quality

Mid-production Assembly

Above shows the mid-production part testing line.

3. Our factory cares about its world

Booties - reusable

We know this from speaking to their leadership about their sustainability efforts, and by the washable, reusable booties they make visitors wear.  Disposable booties would be cheaper, but reusable is more sustainable.

To say that our factory is expensive is true, but it is also short-term thinking.  Low quality factories will cost us with defects in the short run and cost our planet in the long run.

In our next update we’ll take a deep dive into this wonderful factory.

Love,
Slava

Finding the Right Contract Manufacturer – The Aviator and Afterburner

Friends – on our recent trip to the far east, we saw some horrific things. And we saw some wonderful things. Here’s the scoop…

Manufacturing Schedule: We’re way behind on our spring delivery estimate but we found an excellent factory. We’re estimating summer delivery and will know more when we ink the deal next week.

We visited 14 factories in 3 weeks. If you remember, we started with a long list of 33 factories, short list of 10, and scheduled 4 visits. Each final assembly factory we saw had their own suppliers: PCB assembly, plastic injection molding companies and aluminum die casters. So of course we had to see those too.

factory tour

MIT: Made in Taiwan

Bleary-eyed and hung-over from 27 hours of travel, I couldn’t understand why people were pointing and laughing at me in the Taipei airport. To them, my MIT t- shirt meant something different and they thought I was being ironic. Taiwan reminds me of a small ant carrying 25X his weight – every person and every square meter of land was working. Our Taiwanese manufacturing agent told me that until the 1980s, many people subsidized their income with a lathe in their living room cranking out machined parts. Rice patties are crammed into every corner.

Highway overpass? Rice patty. Your house has a small yard? Put a rice patty in it. Tend it on nights and weekends. Of the three factories I saw in Taiwan, the best was in Taoyuan – one of the manufacturing cities. They specialize in commercial lighting – Philips and Home Depot are their clients. And they’ve been making bicycle lights since 2004.

Here’s what was important to us:

1. Multi-Stage Quality Control

They tested parts (LEDs, batteries, etc) upon receipt from suppliers. They test again partially assembled and again fully assembled. These guys understand Poka-Yoke.

LED and battery accelerated lifetime testing

2. Performance Testing

Below are two optical chambers that measure lumens. This means they don’t take their LED suppliers word for specs – they test specs.

Lumen Test Chamber

3. Factory Conditions

The Taoyuan factory was state-of-the-art. Automated equipment with safety checks, excellent lighting and ventilation. It reminded me of an Intel semiconductor clean room.

IMG_4356

But this was only our 2nd best factory. We’ll show you the terrible factories and the winner next week!

Love,

Slava and Team Fortified

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