Month: February 2013

Production and delivery schedule

Having been back in Melbourne a little while now we’re preparing the next trip to Shenzhen and preparing ourselves to start the full production run. I can’t wait to get back on the plane, because it’s really the business end now and when we’re on site, at the factory, the ability to collaborate directly makes things happen a lot more efficiently

The major news for now though is that our delivery estimate is being extended. Our KickStarter estimate was March 2013 but now a May shipping date is most likely based on our timeline, with slight delays incurred by the new design, Chinese New Year, and the scale of the project exceeding our initial expectations compounding to create this delay.
We won’t mince words, it’s disappointing to be behind schedule, but for those following the blog and the updates you’ve got a clear window into exactly what we’re working on and our focus on getting things right.
That being said it’s a fine balance and the updated schedule gives us the balance between delivering an amazing product, and getting it to you in a timely manner.
We’d have published this sooner, but wanted to ensure that the factory and all aspects of our internal team were committed to and capable of meeting the schedule, the schedule includes our GU10 downlight which we’ll reveal the designs of shortly.

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Since the last update we’ve been focused on working through every element of the software and firmware, including the LIFX cloud, and now the app and ensuring that the firmware and the app are working together smoothly.
Last week I set our team a tight deadline to have a controllable version of the solid works prototype that we showed in our last update, which is now an alpha version of the app we’ll walk you through shortly. The app is intuitive, fun to use, and a real credit to Ben, Nathan, Mike and the team. We can’t wait to reveal it shortly.

We also wanted to thank everyone that’s voted in the color survey thus far. After 2937 votes, Pearl White, is certainly the front-runner but the rest of the results are quite close.

Our thoughts at this stage are to produce two alternate colors with one white, and the other  to be decided upon in the coming days. It’s a tricky decision, so we’d welcome any further comments or input.

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Ben and Guy getting their arts and craft on in some packaging design.

Ben and Guy getting their arts and craft on in some packaging design workshop.

The next update will be from Shenzhen after we land on Saturday and get the first consumer ready prototype from the team at the factory. It’s an exciting milestone, and a culmination of the hard-work so far. You’ll also receive an email in the coming days requesting your address, the types of bulbs you want, and the colors. All in all, we’re getting there, and this is the home straight but as you can see there are still a few important boxes to tick before we get the world’s best lightbulb to you.

Final design, factory prototype, 900+ lumens.

We arrived back in Melbourne over the weekend, bleary eyed, tired, but incredibly excited with how close we now are to production. I took the weekend off, spent time with the wife and kids and tasted some good coffee for the first time in weeks, first world problem I know, but the Hot Ovaltine I’d be using as a substitute wasn’t quite cutting it.

Back in Melbourne with the first factory prototype now in hand and the big decisions made, our next trip to Shenzhen will focus on minor design tweaks and producing the second factory prototype, which is (all things going well) the consumer ready version of the LIFX smart bulb.

And, we can finally reveal that the bulb will look very much like the one below.

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Function has totally informed this design – enabling a whopping 900+ lumens output whilst simultaneously keeping the advanced electronics cool enough to operate efficiently. On that note we’re actually super happy with the magic Ben and Nathan have worked on the design to create this sleek, distinctive look.
We’ve narrowed the color/finish selection down to four main candidates (see below) and we’d now like to ask our KickStarter backers to help us select the final production finish via an online poll. (See update).
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Colors options L to R. Matt Black, Dark Silver, Gun Metal Grey & Pearl White

It’s an exciting time because we now not only have the design, but the control board complete and the new firmware and the app both nearing completion.

The design we’ve chosen blends the aesthetics of what we feel the reinvention of the lightbulb should look like, but with the practicalities of giving you brightness that means it isn’t just a mood light, it’s a realistic replacement to CFL’s, or incandescents.

The design is also a shift away from the basic LED bulbs that mirror traditional bulbs. From what we’ve seen, skimping on the heatsink leads to “running hot” – diminishing the lifespan of the bulb as well as reducing the potential lumen output.

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To show the previous factory prototype (that you saw a sneak peak of in the last update) I recorded a little video of it running a demo sequence last night.

The bulb is just a solid works prototype, and it’s not the sexy new design, and I talk through some of the things we’re still testing but we hope you like seeing it in action.

PS. For those who asked- the new underwear is going great. Just in time for Valentine’s Day too!

Design iterations

[Guest post by Jake #2] After completing a few more tests on the temperature simulations it was time for Phil and I to take another look at the design of the lightbulb.

Ben and Nathan (our designers) had flown in to Hong Kong the night before, crossed the border and made it to our Shenzhen hotel around 2am. We had already arranged an 8:30am pick up for the next day so on a few hours sleep they slammed down some breakfast and we all jumped in the van and headed to the factory.

Design after design was thrown up on the screen. We would all have a look, add our thoughts, make some adjustments then hand it off to Chen to run the temperature simulation. With each variation the bulb got cooler and the design got more refined, the foundation we had been working on for months was now all coming together.

One thing we really learned to appreciate was that it can be quite daunting to see how much designs can change, and adapt when you’re developing a factory prototype!

Prior to the trip I think we had a presumption that our initial prototypes, and the CAD designs for our desired configurations would be sufficient, but we’ve ended up iterating upon this design many times to strike the perfect balance between thermal management and lumen output, which is perhaps the most challenging aspect of all, but one we’ve now solved.

In lamens terms, this basically means as a lightbulb manufacturer you want to strike the balance between having a bulb that has great brightness (~900+ lumens, ~equivalent to 75w) and not having the bulb run too hot because LED lifespan is diminished if a bulb is “running hot”.

Thermal Management

Snapshot of thermal testing, I’ll see if I can get permission to post the full set of slides which includes four iterations we tested and have since improved upon.

Not only that, but once the CAD’s and the thermal testing have been done, you then have to make the bulb look sexy because it needs to be a physical representation of the love that’s gone into it.

It was great having Ben and Nathan both here with us in the factory because when you’re designing with thermal management in mind you don’t always come-up with the best looking design first go. For example, here’s one design iteration that we experimented with and had a cast made, not particular sexy right?

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Render of a previous design iteration we toyed with.

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Solid works prototype version of the design above.

Then Ben and Nathan lovingly take what we give them, use the same set of constraints, but alter the shape and design to turn it into something much closer to what the reinvention of the lightbulb should look like.

We’ve included this for illustrations purposes only, because these are certainly not our final designs, but you can see the iterative process we go through to get to the final result and bring LIFX from our initial prototypes into a consumer ready product.

Because design is such a critical aspect from a functional and aesthetic point of view, we’ve spent additional time on this than perhaps we’d intended. It has slowed us down a little, but it’s worth spending the time to get this right, a design that is great eventually, trumps a design that is OK permanently. It’s a philosophy we believe will deliver the best product on the market.

After this process we reached the weekend and Saturday was a catch up day. We had day to day tasks that had taken a back seat for the week whilst we focused on the bulb. Emails, contracts, supplier agreements and updating the team back home filled most of the day. With a few hours spare we headed into the city to do some awesome China style shopping.

Being involved in a start up I always expected there would be moments where I would find myself saying “well this was unexpected”. Standing in a market in shenzhen with my CEO negotiating a bulk purchase of underwear was certainly one of these:)

Sunday we had planned to take as a rest day off to recoup a little but with everything that had happened during the week we ended up spending most of the day sitting on the balcony talking LIFX strategy and bulb design options.

Monday morning. The guys at the factory were busy stamping out five revised factory CNC rapid prototype bulbs for us. Marc decided to head in for the day while Phil and I camped out in the hotel room trawling through more emails and “general business”. By late Monday afternoon we checked in with the guys at the factory and arranged for the next days visit. Marc arrived back to the hotel about 10pm then came to use my microwave to reheat some dinner. (for some reason my room was the only one that had a microwave??) We discussed the events of the day, and our plans over Chinese New Year, and how we feel we’re progressing with the project overall.

Ben and Nathan doing what they do best.

Nathan, working his magic on the various iterations of the designs we’ve been developing.

It’s an exciting time, and we’re certainly at the business end, with the hardware coming together in a rapid iteration fashion, and the software being developed in parallel in Melbourne. We’re getting closer each day and the rush it brings is phenomenal. We’re learning too, the importance of spending a little extra time to get things right. That being said, on schedule we inserted our control boards into an earlier design and have a working factory prototypes, but the extra time spent on design is something that will yield a product that we’re truly proud of. We’ll write a separate post about this and show the pictures etc because there’s a lot of detail to go into.

Speaking of control boards, some of you wanted a better idea of how tiny these are, so below is one that shows some scale. We’ve cropped the image just because we can’t show our full chipset and configuration out in the public domain just yet, but hopefully it gives you the idea 🙂

LIFX Control Board ;

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Underwear shopping with Phil. Certainly not my favourite way to spend the only weekend off 😉