The Good News: We signed off on Touchfire going into volume production; hooray! Our factory will start making Touchfires next week.
The Bad News: We had to order tens of thousands of new magnets, and it will be about 4 weeks before they get here.
More Good News: By the time the magnets arrive, the factory will have made a lot of Touchfires!
Even More Good News: We were able to come up with a single version of Touchfire that works for all generations of iPads. In fact, we were forced to….
The Full Story
Getting Touchfire into production has been a wild ride, but the last few weeks have been the wildest of all.
Touchfire Released To Production
Our factory did a test production run a few weeks ago:
Which was very exciting. But to our horror, we found that our magnets no longer fit in the completed keyboards.
The sidewalls of the magnet receptacles were now too small by anywhere from two thousands of an inch to six thousands of an inch on each side. To give you a perspective on how big this is, a human hair is four thousands of an inch on average:
These variations are not visible to the naked eye. They occurred this time because we had to place the chin and ears on the opposite side of the keypad tool in our last revision. The chin and ears expand and contract in small, hard to predict ways as they undergo the heat and pressure of the silicone keyboard molding process.
We are very happy with every other aspect of the design, so we have decided not to make any more changes to our molds. We tried all sorts of material and production variations to solve this problem. But none of them worked.
So we ended up having to order new magnets. The samples came in today, and they fit great. So we gave the go-ahead to our magnet supplier to make 80,000 magnets. And then we released Touchfire for production in our Los Angeles factory. Needless to say, this was a big day!
Our factory will now send our tools out for Teflon coating and anodization to get them ready for mass production. This will take about a week. And then they will dive into making lots of Touchfires. Three shifts a day, seven days a week.
The magnets will arrive in 4-5 weeks. At which point our factory will have made all the Touchfires. They will then insert the magnets, seal up the magnet wells, and ship you your Touchfire. So, we are looking at shipping out your Touchfires around the end of June.
iPad 3, Revisited
We bought two iPad 3’s to test Touchfire on, and as we previously reported, quickly discovered that the polarity of the speaker magnet was reversed between the iPad 3 and the iPad 2. We switched the polarity of some of the magnets in Touchfire to match, resulting in a Touchfire version for iPad 2 and a different version for iPad 3.
A few weeks ago, a friend came by with their new iPad 3 and we put Touchfire on it for a test drive. OMG! The speaker magnet in this iPad 3 was the same polarity as an iPad 2. What was going on here?
We headed out to the Apple stores in the Seattle area with Touchfires in hand, and tested about 40 iPad 3s. We found that the iPad 3 speaker magnet polarity was completely random. This is pretty unusual for an Apple product, and it was feeling like a catastrophe for us. The iPad 3 version of Touchfire was dead unless we could find a way to make one version of Touchfire work for all iPads. So we went to work.
We tried micro-Velcro, suction tape, etc. as alternatives for retracting Touchfire. But nothing worked as well as magnets. And then we hit on the answer. If we changed the size and power of the affected magnets in the chin, we could have a balanced solution that worked with both polarities of speaker magnets. And since we were ordering new magnets anyway, this solution would work out.
So, there will now be just one version of Touchfire for all three generations of iPads.
As always, thank you so much for hanging in there with us. Touchfires will be rolling off the assembly line at last!
Steve & Brad