Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October Update

Instead of editing previous updates I thought I would start again from scratch and focus on the most critical items in their order of urgency and risk. With just a couple of months to go there is considerable schedule risk on one key component - the receiver material - and that could still cause a launch delay.  The good news is that is the rest of the components are either on hand, or we have a very good design with some solid applications engineering left, which we think is just work, and not as much risk.

The Receiver

I've been talking about and posting pictures of coatings from the scanning electron microscope for those nerdy enough to want to see the details, and there are dozens and dozens more we have done. Ted, Jake and Gerry have proven feasibility of New55's unique receiver system, and we have some good examples. Now it is time to scale it up at a commercial coater.

That's not easy and we are racing to finish that formula for a projected first test coat of wide roll material on November 6!   The time has been booked at a great Massachusetts coater and they have been a dream to work with so far, but we still have work to do, and this event is only a couple of weeks from today.

The risk: We might not have the formula ready for coat. They do the coating, we supply the "juice".

If we are successful the coated roll will be slit into smaller rolls and go straight into the Sleeve Machine which is a key machine we have up and running well.

Die Cut Sleeves

After the well-working Sleeve Machine, an outside service has to make the complex curve cuts which means we have to cut to length and then send them out. The first units had ragged edges and some other problems that were not cosmetic, such as out of spec flatness. This is a worry but not a major one as the vendor has shown a great deal of improvement in his process. We decided not to bring die cutting in house because it is so widely available.

The Clip

The first pieces we got of the famous Clip worked better than any clip from Polaroid, Kodak or Fujifim.  They hold shape, are stronger, and straighter. They fly into the 545 holder and grab the sometimes-work finger like a vise. So we went ahead and OK's production of 30,000 of these little items, and they aren't cheap. But, they are worth it.

The Tongue

Des Fyler has devised a film loading scheme so practical, so elegant, so intuitive, that it is hard to believe that Polaroid, Fujifilm or Kodak never did it. The part is made in such a way that the pod and film are held in a fixed position to each other every time and that also attaches itself to the Clip using a special adhesive.  Tooling and sourcing this design is an ongoing part of our race to the finish, and it's gonna be close.

It is worth noting that the way the Tongue and the Clip work together overcomes some legacy problems associated with the 545 holder. The angle of the clip relative to the sleeve is biased in favor of the back, allowing the finger to grab the clip, while still assuring a smooth entrance and light-tightness.  If we can, we want to do things in a better way than before even though we know there is risk in change.

The Pod

Ted and co have pre-produced some pods with a new reagent for us to get started with. This will at first be a somewhat laborious and unprofitable operation which will have to be corrected by additional pod making tooling or even a new machine, which has been quoted at the alarming price of over $100,000. That's just for one unit. It means that we would have a $4 per unit tooling burden to pay down and that could drag out unless we ramped up into the 400,000 unit realm. I don't know about that, but some others around here are more optimistic.

Update: An hour after I published this I learned that the pod machine will not arrive until the following month. This could affect the pod making schedule and will delay the engineering changes to the machine, which is owned by 20x24.

The Reagent

Some of the chemicals used in the reagent are going out of production.  I hate it when that happens.

The Pod Material

The paper of the pod is special and needs to be sourced before the initial amount runs out in mid-2015. Polaroid invented the idea of pods and paper a long time ago and today we have ketchup, cosmetic, sanitary and prophylactic pods of many kinds, but few with what the industry refers to as "frangible seals". That is taken to mean "more easily breakable", in the pod world, and several strategies have evolved. Pods often have sections and some instant film products have sections where the chemicals change over time, producing pod stripes on the picture. We only expect one chamber, so any stripes will be due to other manufacturing variabilities, or the subject.

The Film

In the freezer. Works good. Special run for us and more coming in. Another freezer will be needed. Yay.

The Box

Sam has finally found a very strong box that has all the right attributes, including a price that makes sense, and is about to get these made. He needs to order a large amount, so, we will have a lot more boxes than we need. Maybe we can put something else into them besides New55 FILM.

Packaging and Fulfillment

Sam is ably developing the right methods with a fulfillment system that will be simple  - once it is set up. This is nontrivial and requires a lot of development still. Beside the actual product, it must also efficiently ship out accessories and rewards across the globe.

The Schedule

All these things and much more are supposed to converge in November when process development, production flow organization, documentation and supply chain metrics will be first established. It will be a busy time and one that will determine when we have our First Lot to Stock of New55 FILM.