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Using the chilly weather to test

The deep freeze across the Midwest has been all over the news and we thought it was a perfect opportunity to test out how well BlueTipz works in the extreme cold. We set up very specific tests that measured battery performance alone, so we could get a better idea of the chemistry happening and what kinds of things would be possible to tweak to get better performance out of cold batteries.

This meant going outside every couple hours to take measurements, and as the guy who had to write in -20F with bare fingers for minutes at a time, this was not an easy task.

Yep, that's me, and it's cold outside, and I have to do all these measurements. *sniffle sniffle*

Yep, that’s me, and it’s cold outside, and I have to do all these measurements. *sniffle sniffle*

Testing battery voltages under different loads gives us an idea how much current we can source from a cold battery.

Testing battery voltages under different loads gives us an idea how much current we can source from a cold battery.

After we did the pure battery tests, we moved on to testing the BlueTipz units themselves. We ran 6 different units, each with a slightly different parameter adjustment designed to improve battery life and performance, with a control of course. Every few trials we would also test range. Strangely, our range tests did much better at night than during the day, and we don’t know why. Our best guess is that there is a lot more interference during the day from people’s electronics and smartphones and stuff, and that in a lake environment this wouldn’t be an issue at any time.

The results? Fantastic. Every one of our devices, including the control which is on shelves, performed better than expectations for the entire duration of the test, which was a few days of data collection.

It's really hard to take photos and get the LED on in more than one BlueTipz. I promise all of them are flashing and alerting.

It’s really hard to take photos and get the LED on in more than one BlueTipz. I promise all of them are flashing and alerting.


Testing 600 fish

We claim battery life of 600 fish on our BlueTipz transmitter. What does that even mean? Batteries aren’t measured in fish. So how did we get that number, WHY did we get that number, and how did we test it?

An early prototype being tested in the freezer to make sure it worked in cold temperatures and high humidity. Yep.

An early prototype being tested in the freezer to make sure it worked in cold temperatures. Yep. I was not about to stand in front of the freezer with the door open for 24 hours, though. My mom raised me right.

First, we started with math. We know what the rated life of the battery is (220mAH. This means it can source 220mA of current for 1 hour, or 1mA for 220 hours). We also know that our LED consumes 20mA, but it’s only on for 1/8 of a second every second. That averages to 2.5mA continuous. And we know the consumption of the Bluetooth module, which transmits for a given amount of time every fraction of a second. If all we were running was the LED, we would have enough battery for 88 hours of operation with the LED flashing for 1/8 of a second every second. The Bluetooth module adds quite a bit of complexity so we won’t get into it, but we promise we did the math.

It gets even more complex because after a certain period (60 seconds), we stop transmitting as frequently. And after 10 minutes, we turn ourselves off entirely. So how does that play into the equation? If we used our previous math, we’d be able to say “the BlueTipz battery works for 20+ hours of continuous transmission.”

Why number of fish?

“20+ hours of continuous transmission” doesn’t mean anything, and it isn’t right. We don’t continuously transmit for 20+ hours ever, and we don’t want users to think that they’ll have to change their battery every day. If they don’t catch any fish, they won’t use any battery. We wanted to tie battery life to fish activity.

So we said “what if we estimate how long it takes to get the alert, put on coat and boots, and get out to your tip-up to turn it off?” Then we’d know how long the device was on during a normal event. We figured 2 minutes. So we did the math for 2 minutes. That’s 2 minutes of LED flashing at 1/8 second bursts every seconds. That’s 60 seconds of rapid Bluetooth transmission followed by 60 seconds of less rapid transmissions. And we did the math to get about 600. It was higher than that, but we figured the battery voltage would drop off at the end and there’s no way we’d be able to get the full 220mAH out of the battery. So at the end of our math, as responsible engineers, we threw some slop at the end to account for unknowable circumstances or otherwise covering our butts.

Math was boring; let’s do experiments!

Math wasn’t good enough. We needed to test it. And how do you test something that takes 2 minutes 600 times in a row? We were not about to sit in the cold for 20+ hours and tip it up for 2 minutes over and over again. So we built a rig. A super scientific rig that had a little box attached to a servo, and every 2 minutes it would tip down, wait 10 seconds, then tip back up again. Another special Bluetooth Low Energy module listened for the signal, and we had software count the number of tip-ups before it stopped transmitting.

And what did we get? 640. Sweet. Yay math and experimentation!

Letting the experiment run. The cables go into the freezer.

Letting the experiment run. The cables go into the freezer. Why not test outside? We needed repeatable consistent conditions, and it was September outside.

The computer was connected to the inside and running a simple Terminal program that listened for signals from the unit inside.

The computer starts recording battery and count. The temperature wasn't calibrated.

The computer starts recording battery and count. The temperature wasn’t calibrated.

It just kept printing a very simple string, which indicated the battery as reported by the BlueTipz, the temperature (not calibrated), and its count.

Inside the freezer. There's a power supply and USB cable for data. The black box has electronics and a servo to turn the BlueTipz horizontal and vertical every set number of seconds.

Inside the freezer. There’s a power supply and USB cable for data. The black box has electronics and a servo to turn the BlueTipz horizontal and vertical every set number of seconds. The lights are mood lighting, and because we used MakeBlock to build our rig. The saran wrap is to keep humidity out of the sensitive electronics (we didn’t protect the BlueTipz, though).

The unit that runs the show. We used MakeBlock components, and didn’t need to solder anything. There was the MakeBlock Arduino clone, the MakeBlock shield on top of it, and it was connected to a MakeBlock servo module, which powered the servo. A BlueTipz was reprogrammed to act as a receiver and used the Arduino serial library to communicate with the Arduino. The Arduino’s job was to run the servo and listen to the BlueTipz and transmit to the computer outside. It was mostly simple.

Conclusions

Our math was pretty good, and the performance under testing was pretty good, too. We’ll be able to use this rig again for tests in the future and to get repeatable results. Saying the battery is good for 600 fish makes sense to explain how long the battery lasts, without being deceptive or confusing. It lets our customers know that it will last a few seasons, and shows that we’ve tested it out that far.

Changing the battery takes under a minute, and the battery costs 25 cents, so it’s not really that big a deal anyway, but we like to make sure that our customers are getting a quality product.


Programming BlueTipz

People don’t usually think about the engineering that goes into the products they purchase. It turns out that what they buy is only part of all the things that are designed to make a product. For consumer electronics, there are often many jigs and parts that are used in the assembly process. This article exposes one of them; the programmer.

BlueTipz transmitters have code running on them called firmware. In our assembly process we need to get the code onto our devices, otherwise they wouldn’t do anything. While there’s another post on how we manufacture BlueTipz, we wanted to talk specifically about our programmer in a separate post, because it’s pretty complex (and dare we say awesome).

Overview

We begin with a description of the requirements of the programmer.

  • Standalone. It had to be a box that we could set on the assembly line that was self contained and didn’t have a bunch of wires that could fall out.
  • Robust. We have to program thousands of devices on this. It can’t just fall apart, and it can’t break if there is a bad unit being programmed.
  • Easy to use. No buttons to press, no complex user interfaces. It just does one job and does it well.
  • Thorough. We wanted to test as many things as possible, while it’s programming the device.
  • Data driven. We wanted to keep metrics on how many boards successfully programmed vs. not, keep track of how long it took to program, collect data on each device programmed, etc.
  • Versatile. We have to be able to modify this in case we change designs.

Hardware Design

This is our final programmer:

programmer-1

The programmer all buttoned up and pretty.

Using tools we had available, we designed a case using laser cut material. For cool-factor, we used clear material so the internals were visible.

The enclosure was intentionally designed so that the 3D printed part (the white block) could be swapped out, meaning if we make any changes to the circuit board or start offering different products, we can easily make the programmer work for that new board.

We also tried to use as many off the shelf components as we could. The programmer itself was purchased from TI. The brains are a Raspberry Pi. There’s a simple USB hub and power supply. We also put a Wi-Fi dongle on the Pi so that we could connect to it without having to take it apart and even (if we wanted) upload our programming stats in real time somewhere.

Here are the guts spread out. We used superglue to seal much of the enclosure, but a few places have just a dot or two of hot glue so we can take it apart if necessary.

The insides spread out. From left to right, there's the board interface, the programming module, the LEDs and LCD, then the Raspberry Pi in front, the custom PCB, and the USB hub.

The insides spread out. From left to right, there’s the board interface, the programming module, the LEDs and LCD, then the Raspberry Pi in front, the custom PCB, and the USB hub.

But a lot of custom work had to be done to make this work. Our final product is custom, so the interface with the programmer had to be custom as well. We designed a part and 3D printed it in plastic. Inside of that part we used something called Pogo Pins, which are electrical contacts that have tiny springs inside, ensuring that each pin contacted the pad on our circuit board when we pressed it down. The 3D printed part has alignment pins to make sure the board is placed in the correct spot every time. We wanted to display to the assembly user what the status was and how many devices had been programmed, so we used an LCD with 8×2 characters. But to make things even easier for them, we added LEDs that indicate status. White means it is ready, yellow means it is in progress programming, red means a failure of some sort, and green means a successful programming and test. There are two pogo pins that act as a switch, so we can detect when a board is placed on the programmer and automatically start the programming process.

We had to make a custom circuit board that connected to the Raspberry Pi and controlled the LEDs, LCD, and switch.

Software

The Raspberry Pi is running some software as soon as it boots. That software controls the LEDs, LCD, switches, and programmer. When it is ready, it turns the white LED on. As soon as it detects that a board has been placed, it turns on the yellow LED, and tells the programmer to program the device with the correct firmware. It also collects some data about the device. When it is done, it lights either the red or green LED, increments a counter, and updates the LCD. Then it writes all the information to a database. This way we know about every device that gets programmed.

In Practice

To use our programmer, we plug it in, wait about a minute for the Pi to boot and start the software, and then begin the cycle. A cycle involves placing a PCB on the interface, the Pi detects the board and starts programming, when that is complete the correct LED is lit, and the board is removed.

programmer-3

Ready for programming. The board to program is on the right side. The white LED was super bright, so I rubbed a marker on it.

Programming. We just press the board onto the interface and it starts on its own. Programming takes about 5 seconds.

Programming. We just press the board onto the interface and it starts on its own. Programming takes about 5 seconds.

Successfully completed programming! This shows the green LED and our + Count has incremented. A bad board would increment the - count (showing zero)

Successfully completed programming! This shows the green LED and our + Count has incremented. A bad board would increment the – count (showing zero)

We get a cycle time of about 7 seconds, which means that we can program and test about 500 units per hour. This is pretty impressive even for mass production quantities, so we’re very happy with this programmer. We don’t have any ergonomic issues, it’s easy to use, and has worked for a while. We have a failure rate of roughly 2%, but with minimal rework almost all of those go back through the process and are successful on the second try.

 


How we manufacture BlueTipz

You’ll notice on the packaging that we advertise Assembled in USA (Custer, WI). We’d love to say Made in USA, but for electronics, that’s just about impossible. We have our rolling ball sensors coming from Taiwan, the Bluetooth module is made in China, and our bare circuit boards are from China, and we have no control over that. The most significant parts of our product, and we couldn’t find US manufacturers of them that were anywhere near our budget. With Assembled in USA, though, we have a little more freedom.

So how do we make BlueTipz in Wisconsin?

Logistics

Component sourcing and logistics is a challenging problem. We have to worry about lead time, which is how long it takes from when we order a part to when we receive it. Some of our critical components have long lead times of up to two months, so we have to order them a long time before we need them. Other products aren’t available in the quantities we need, so we have to source them from multiple locations. And others are custom made for us, so we have to give them specs and pay them in advance. Handling logistics alone is a struggle, and shipping costs go up quickly, which is why it’s best to order in large quantities, so we don’t have to do it that frequently.

The Plastics

First in the list of parts is the plastic enclosure. To do that we went with Wadal Plastics, out of Medford, WI. They worked with a Chinese company to build the mold, which was then shipped to Wadal. Wadal had to modify the mold a bit, and experimented with a few different procedures for doing the molding before we came to something that would work well and snap firmly.

Here’s what one of our mold looks like:

mold_in_usa

The mold clamps open and shut a couple times a minute, each time squirting hot plastic into the part, letting it cool briefly, opening so that a robotic arm can remove the parts, and then repeating the process. 5000 parts can be done in just a couple days. They also did pad printing, putting the white design on the front. From Wadal we ended up with 5000 fronts, 5000 backs, and 5000 tops, all in boxes.

Components

The plastics are just one of the components we get in big boxes. This is what 20,000 screws looks like:

20k_screws

5000 Lithium batteries made for a REALLY heavy box, too.

And here are the first 5000 circuit boards, unpopulated, in panels of 8:

5k_pcb

So now we have all our components, and they are completely unassembled.

PCBA (populating the circuit board)

Next we have to put all the components onto the circuit board and solder them down. We could have gone to China to do this, but on such a tight timeline, going over there to source all the components, work on their assembly line, and make sure that quality stayed high, and then shipping everything back would have been extremely challenging. We could also have gone to a US PCBA (printed circuit board assembly) factory and had them do the circuit boards for us, but they ended up being a lot more expensive than we could afford, and had a longer lead time than we could work with.

We are instead manufacturing them ourselves. This gives us complete control over quality, we manufacture only as many as we need and ship them out the next day, and we save a lot of cost. To do that, we had to develop our own tools and set up processes that ensured consistency and quality. For example, we have a rig that makes sure that every LED sticks out the same amount. We have a toaster oven that we modified for doing the surface mount soldering. And we have a custom programmer that puts the software onto every BlueTipz device.

The guys in the photos are contractors we hired to do the assembly. When they’re not in college or working at Culver’s, they’re building BlueTipz. This has been an extremely valuable experience for all of us because they are able to produce a good quantity at a reasonable price, we can monitor quality quickly and easily because they are local, and they are building their resume and learning about the manufacturing and engineering process. We usually sit down with them at least once a week to talk about engineering and how everything works in the real world.

assembly

Placing components by hand. The band-aid was not a workplace injury.

Placing components by hand. The band-aid was not a workplace injury.

Soldering the through-hole components using a custom rig for placement.

Soldering the through-hole components using a custom rig for placement.

After the boards are finished mechanically, we need to program them with the right firmware. We developed a programmer to do this, which allows us to quickly upload the firmware and test the devices. We wrote a separate article on programming just the firmware.

Programming. We just press the board onto the interface and it starts on its own. Programming takes about 5 seconds.

Programming. We just press the board onto the interface and it starts on its own. Programming takes about 5 seconds.

Final Assembly

Once we finish the circuit boards, it comes time for assembly. This is done around a kitchen table or coffee table, sometimes with a beer and a tv show. The PCBs are placed inside the enclosure, which is then screwed together. We test every device to make sure it alerts our phone, then put it in the packaging and seal the package. Sadly, we have no photos of this process, but it shouldn’t be hard to imagine.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of detail that we glossed over, but we can’t give away all our secrets. What we wanted to show was how we are able to scale from low volume prototype production up to mid-volume consumer level production with high quality, low investment, and a process that can easily be modified.


It’s windy out there! More extreme testing

We were doing some open field testing (not enough ice yet) and ran into an issue we hadn’t had to deal with before. It was REALLY windy out. Ice fishers are not ones to complain about the weather, and we took the opportunity to see how well BlueTipz handled it, too.

We set up a test environment with a couple box fans so that we could have a consistent environment to repeat tests with different tip-ups and different wind speeds and different methods of attaching the BlueTipz.

IMG_4093

What we found was that BlueTipz still worked even in the windiest conditions we could throw at it, but there are some notes worth mentioning that could help you get better and more reliable performance out of your BlueTipz.

  • In REALLY heavy winds, sometimes the flag gets blown down to more than 45 degrees. BlueTipz won’t work below 45 degrees of tilt. There’s nothing we can do about this; we have to be able to tell the difference between up and down, and when the wind makes it look like the flag is down…
  • Sometimes the flag makes matters worse. As you can see in the picture, the flag is whipping around, shaking the pole and the BlueTipz. We found that by rolling up the flag so that it wasn’t able to whip around the whole pole was more stable and didn’t bend over. This isn’t ideal because the flag isn’t as visible, but with BlueTipz working, you won’t be needing the flag much anyway.
  • In high wind it may flicker a little as the wind shakes the pole and the rolling ball sensor inside. This should be fine.
  • BlueTipz won’t snap off the pole. We sent it to 60,000 feet in another of our extreme tests and had no problems, so we didn’t really expect it to be a problem in wind, either, but it was nice to see.

As always, if you have any issues with your BlueTipz, please let us know through our contact form, and we’ll do our best to address them and make you happy. We know you’ll be using this in some extreme conditions; probably conditions we haven’t thought of to test, so your feedback is essential.


Building a Display Sign

It’s sometimes amazing how much of my work is tangential to the actual product. Whether it’s rigs for assembling the product easier, rigs for testing components, or a variety of other random things, there is a lot of stuff that doesn’t go directly into our product. Here’s an example.

We needed a sign for our display, and I wanted it to be able to indicate when a BlueTipz transmitter was on. Ideally we would put it high up so that it would draw people to our booth, and it had to look slick. Because I’ve done edge lit displays before, and I had all the tools I needed, I decided to do an edge-lit display. I designed the circuit, designed the enclosure, designed the sign, used the laser cutter and cnc engraving machine to cut everything out, and assembled it. That one sentence was a full two days of work, though. In the end, I had 3 signs; two large ones and one small one.

hardwaterboothsmall

The two large (12″) signs on display in the booth.

The electronics were etched using a CNC engraving machine. On the left is the voltage regulation to take the 12V down to 3.3 for the bluetooth module. In the center the bare spot is for programming the module. On the right is the bluetooth module and  some MOSFETs that turn on the LED strip.

The electronics were etched using a CNC engraving machine. On the left is the voltage regulation using a LM2575 to take the 12V down to 3.3 for the bluetooth module. In the center the bare spot is for programming the module. On the right is the bluetooth module and some MOSFETs that turn on the LED strip.

 

All of the parts together. The enclosure was laser cut and superglued together. The RGB LED strip was acquired from china, and the sign was laser engraved.

All of the parts together. The enclosure was laser cut and superglued together. The RGB LED strip was acquired from china, and the sign was laser engraved. Why superglue? It’s a decent adhesive for ABS that will withstand a good amount of force but if necessary can be broken apart so I can service inside.

The LEDs are blue when the tip-up is down.

The LEDs are blue when the tip-up is down.

And orange when the tipup is up.

And orange when the tipup is up.

The final product.

IMG_4058 IMG_4059

 


BlueTipz at 60,000 Feet – Extreme Testing

We love to thoroughly test our products, and we might have gone a little over the top on this one. We had the opportunity to jump on to a high altitude balloon launch with our friends at Sector67, the makerspace where BlueTipz was developed.

A high altitude balloon launch means putting a small payload up 60-90,000 feet in the air; more than twice as high as cruising altitude of a jet, for a few hours.

We prepared our payload, which included a GoPro camera, some fancy electronics for transmitting our flight path so we could recover the payload, and a waterproof enclosure. Then we stuck a BlueTipz on a shaft and taped it to the rig. We modified it so that it was always on; we didn’t want its jostling to turn it off, and we didn’t want the built in shutoff feature to activate. We wanted it to run continuously until we recovered it.

Assembling the payload and making final preparations, like gluing the battery so it would't disconnect, and tightening the enclosure so it wouldn't leak in case of water landing.

Assembling the payload and making final preparations, like gluing the battery so it would’t disconnect, and tightening the enclosure so it wouldn’t leak in case of water landing.

IMG_3838 (copy)

IMG_3841

IMG_3855

We launched it and watched it ascend out of sight. This is what it saw when it got to about 58,700 feet:

And here’s the path it took across Wisconsin:

The path of Apollo67/BlueTipz on its high altitude extreme testing.

The path of Apollo67/BlueTipz on its high altitude extreme testing.

Four hours later, deep in a corn field, we got our notification and were able to home in on our payload, still happily flashing away and transmitting.

IMG_3908

Yep, it still works! Though the picture doesn’t show it, the light was still flashing away.

IMG_3906

It had been to 60,000 feet and back, travelling through turbulence, landing hard, and still snapped on to the shaft. Seriously. No tricks, no glue, no tape. It was just snapped on.

BlueTipz snapped on, turned on, and ready to go!

BlueTipz snapped on, turned on, and ready to go!

For more details about this launch and others by Sector67, check out http://apollo67.com


Making Packaging

Packaging is a big part of any product, and is directly related to sales. We needed to convey a lot of information to our users because it’s a new product that has technical aspects that require training. We wanted to make sure people could understand what it was, how it worked, and what features it had that differentiated the product and justified the price. We started with a list of the things we needed on the packaging.

Essential Elements

  • VERY clear what the product is. You have to understand it at a glance without ever having heard about it before.
  • product name
  • brand name
  • bar code
  • URL
  • instructions for use
  • how to install the app
  • important features
    • battery life
    • range
    • brightness
    • compatibility with tip-ups
    • compatibility with receivers (phones)

We also had to make sure our legal ducks were in a row, putting on a patent pending label and FCC ID.

Sizing up other packaging

Then we did market research (we went to some sporting goods stores and took lots of photos of products and their packaging). We looked at what each one had and did well, or how they cut corners.

20131004_19300920131004_19345120131004_19302820131004_193143

Packaging Type

We had to choose a packaging solution. Everybody hates blister packs. They’re awful for the environment and they cut people all the time and they ruin the user experience. BUT, from the perspective of the store and manufacturer, they aren’t susceptible to water or humidity damage, they significantly reduce theft and vandalism, and they’re great for protecting the product. For small consumer electronics, it’s especially important to prevent shoplifters from removing the item from the packaging quickly and easily.

We decided to go with something called Opti-Paq, which is a cardboard front and back that folds in half. A small blister is trapped in the fold, holding the product. The blister is made of recycled plastic, and the cardboard is recycled and recyclable. Printing happens on one side only (but because it is folded there is stuff on both the front and back. This is what our design looked like in prototype form.

IMG_0289

Then we needed to get size information from some retailers. They budget space on their shelves, so we needed to know how much space we could budget for our packaging. For the 1 pack and 2 pack, we ended up with the same height, but slightly different widths.

Art

We originally did all the design work in The Gimp, which is a free equivalent to Photoshop, but when it came time to work with the printers, they said “Upload your AI files to our site” and we coughed and sputtered and had nothing. We had to have them recreate it themselves, which meant sending them all the text, all the graphics, and all the colors we would be using. It cost as much as buying Adobe Illustrator, but we didn’t want to end up doing it all ourselves again and still giving them something wrong, and we were in a hurry, so we just ate the cost. Here’s the design of the 1-pack:

1-pack-final

So many details to figure out

See the QR codes? We had to go to press before the apps were even uploaded. So how did we know the link in advance? We didn’t, and it turned out to be perfectly fine. We set up a system on deepfreezefishing.com so that we could make a link and have a qr code to THAT link, and then we would just redirect to whatever link we wanted. So the links to the android app, the iOS app, and the video all point to deepfreezefishing.com, then redirect to the appropriate link.

Going to press soon…

Designing something for a printing press is challenging. There are some terms that we had to look up, and some processes that we weren’t used to. First is the cut line. This is where the die is supposed to cut the printed cardboard. But there is some variation when mass producing, so we have to build in some safety margins on both the outside and the inside of the cut line so that if it’s off a little bit, nothing important gets cut. Here’s an image of the packaging with the layout layer on top:
1-pack-final-w-layout
The black line is the trim line. The green is the outer bleed, and the red is a safety margin. We had to make sure that everything important was inside the red.

The Final Product

After all that, what does the final product look like? This:
BlueTipz Packaging
That’s it! The packaging is often a forgotten part of product development, but it’s critical to the success. We spent a good week on the packaging design, prototyping, and proofing until we were happy with it, and even then we felt rushed.

The feeling we get seeing this is incredible. This is something WE MADE. We did this. It’s going to be in stores, and we designed, tested, and built this product, and inside the packaging it finally looks real.


Getting Legal Ducks in a Row

When creating a new product, it’s important to jump through all the appropriate legal hoops and make sure you’re not going to get in trouble. Among the challenges we’ve had to navigate:

Forming an LLC

Deep Freeze is already a company, but we wanted BlueTipz to be a separate entity to make investing by its members easier. Not everyone involved in BlueTipz is involved with Deep Freeze, and keeping them separate made sense. So we had to file the LLC, get a new FEIN from the IRS, and create and sign and file an operating agreement.

Insurance

We needed product liability insurance in case the laws of physics changed and our product somehow became dangerous to someone. Fortunately, laws-of-physics coverage is pretty cheap because it probably doesn’t happen too often.

FCC

Because we have a wireless transmitter on BlueTipz, it’s necessary to make sure you’re not violating any FCC regulations. We could get in big trouble and be required to recall everything if we weren’t ok here. This would have been accompanied by enormous fines as well. Fortunately we are using a module that already has FCC approval, so we are set.

Bluetooth SIG

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group is a governing body that regulates all things Bluetooth. If you want to use a Bluetooth logo, you have to be a member of the SIG and file your product with them. If we were designing a product from scratch, we’d have to qualify it with them as well, which would have cost a lot of money. Fortunately, we use a pre-approved module, so with the SIG we only needed to file an End Product Listing, which says we’ve got this product and it does this stuff and it uses this module which you already approved.

Patent

We’ve filed for a provisional patent with the assistance of a legal team. This gives us protection for the next year and if we determine that sales and the opportunity are good enough, we’ll be filing a formal patent.

Trademark

Technically, one doesn’t need to file a trademark to be able to use the TM and have trademark protections. That protection is really only limited to a state, though, and is not rock solid. We opted to go after a registered trademark for BlueTipz to make sure we would have a valuable asset and give us the freedom to operate our branding.


Pad Printing Update

After sending our pad printing design off to the printer, we got some good and bad news. Well, mostly bad.

For some reason, the pad printing wasn’t quite right. The scale was off. The color didn’t pop like it should have.

Well this isn't going to work. The scale is wrong, the color is awful. What happened?

Well this isn’t going to work. The scale is wrong, the color is awful. What happened?

Fortunately, our friends at Wadal Plastics also tried doing a pad print in white. It’s a good thing they did.

bad_pad_white

It looks a lot brighter in white. WAY better.

After seeing how bright the white was compared to the orange, we decided to go with white. We could have tried to make the orange work; one way is to first print in white, then print again in orange. That would have had a higher failure rate, which costs more, and we were in a hurry. Another option is more coats, but the orange in the photo already had two coats, so it would have taken a lot more to get the color right.

Then there was the problem of scale. For some reason, the file I had given them hadn’t translated correctly. Somewhere along the line, the scale got off. After a phone call and some verification of the process, making sure they had received the file I had sent, and that the file they got was output directly from the correct software, and verifying on my own system that the scale was correct, they then went off to figure out what was wrong on their end.

Printing out the design at the correct scale, then putting it over the BlueTipz, everything looks right. The dimensions match what was calculated...

Printing out the design at the correct scale, then putting it over the BlueTipz, everything looks right. The dimensions match what was calculated…

We don’t know what happened; if they had done something wrong, or if they modified our file to work, or what, but they fixed it, and the pad printing looks fantastic now.


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