Hello, everyone! Steve and Brad here, with a Touchfire update.
Manufacturing and Shipping Update
Right now we are in the final stages of getting Touchfire into mass production. All of our molds have been delivered to our factory, and we are in the process of debugging them. Touchfire is manufactured in a clean room.
Here is a short video showing the very first test runs of our silicone keyboard part (Brad is narrating):
Brad did finally manage to get into the clean room; here he is with one of the first test parts:
Here is one side of one of the molds used to make Touchfire:
Debugging the tooling is going well, but we aren’t quite there yet; we probably have another week or so to go.
Once we have reached the point where are running at full production, we will know a very important metric – how many Touchfires we can make each day. We will then be able to give you an accurate estimate of when your Touchfire will be shipping. We have to first fulfill our Kickstarter backers, but then we will start fulfilling your reservations.
When we know when we will be able to ship your Touchfire, we will send you an email with your gift certificate code. You will then apply your gift certificate to your purchase, select a shipping method, and finalize your order.
We thank you for bearing with us as we get Touchfire into production!
Touchfire – Now Made in the USA
When we first started looking for a manufacturer, we tried pretty hard to manufacture Touchfire in the US, but ultimately couldn’t find a US manufacturer who would give us a reasonable bid or a reasonable timeline. So we moved forward with manufacturing Touchfire in Asia, where something like 95% of iPad accessories are made today. We were pretty far down that road.
We were in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign at that point, which meant publishing updates that anyone in the world could read. Right about the time we were racing to beat Chinese New Year in February, a fellow named Rod Trujillo sent us an urgent message; he needed to talk with us right away. It turns out Rod is the CEO of a US manufacturer that specializes in challenging silicone projects. He said: “We can make Touchfire, and we can compete with any Chinese manufacturer”.
Rod’s company, International Rubber Products, is in Los Angeles; we flew down to Southern California to check it out. The most critical first step in manufacturing is to get tooling made. An important aspect of our trip involved meeting with the tool builders. Our first visit took place during the week between Christmas and New Year. The tooling engineers were on vacation that week. But Rod convinced them to come back early to meet with us. People were flying in from all over. After several hours of technical discussion, the tooling company agreed to make our tools in half their normal time. The fastest turnaround we’ve ever seen.
We now had a very difficult decision to make. Stick with the Chinese manufacturer who we had been iterating the tooling design with, or take a huge leap of faith and put our eggs into a US basket. We decided to give the go-ahead to US tooling, but kept going in China. This was a costly decision financially, but we felt that if there was a possibility of making Touchfire in America, it was worth it.
The tool builder came through with the mold for the keyboard in record time. That is what we showed you in Update 14. And that is when we decided to pull back from China and fully commit to building Touchfire in the USA.
The last month and a half have been a mad dash to the finish line. We’ve had to put together an entire supply chain for all the parts of Touchfire – cover clips, sticker pads, packaging, etc. Since we’d gone so far down the road in China, we had a very good idea of what each component should cost. Piece by piece, we’ve found that if you work hard and if you find the right partners (or if they find you), it is now possible to make an iPad accessory in the US that is as competitive as doing it in Asia.
So, we invited USA Today to come down to Rod’s factory and check out what we were up to. They published this awesome article, which also ended up on the front page of the print edition:
Steve and Brad