Our campaign ended just over two weeks ago, and we haven’t been this busy since November! We wanted to cover off a variety of topics in this update including technical refinements and our production plans.
During the holiday season, our pre-production prototypes arrived and allowed us to validate a whole host of updates to the design that we had been working on just before the campaign started. This prototype was made of production-correct materials, including aluminum unibody, handle, and again, our unique stainless steel burrset.
The first series of videos that we shot in December were required to address the grind output concerns that some had, and those were done with the exact prototypes used in the marketing video. When concern shifted to grind quality and particle size distribution later that month, we were able to utilize this newest prototype and the results were very competitive.
That latest prototype contained a technical feature that we had not previously discussed - a third roller bearing in the mechanism for additional stability. A few backers might have noticed that the inner burr rotates in the video when the adjustment ring was turned, but this is no longer the case. Friction in the mechanism has been reduced to a level that makes grinding even more satisfying, and it has the additional benefit of improved shaft stability, further supporting our claims of Hiku possessing an innovative shaft stabilization system. We’ve had weeks to test this update to the mechanism and can now confirm it is only better than what we claimed earlier, with less force required, a smoother sound and even better control of concentricity.
Another development area of focus has been the calibration of the grind size markings on the outside of the enclosure. Some might have noted that they weren’t too “non-linear” in the marketing photographs but this has been changed to provide more resolution at espresso settings, while maintaining a lot of adjustment range in the medium grind region before ramping up more quickly for coarse grinds.
A third area of refinement was in the tuning of the feel of the adjustment ring itself. We have generally settled on a combination of controlled friction from a sealing gasket and a special self-lubricating glass-reinforced nylon to give the camera lens-like feel that the design aesthetics promise. We’re pretty happy now that these changes will make it through to production.
Lastly, in terms of mechanical refinements, we’ve had a few design reviews to tune fit and tolerances, strengthen parts in some areas, while taking a hard look at the necessity of each part in the assembly. We’ve added a few more details to the shaft and the mechanism for better performance, reduced part count, better manufacturability, and more durability in some areas.
All these tweaks, combined with the confidence that a third bearing is the way for us to move forward, mean we’ll run one more cosmetically correct, material-accurate pre-production prototype this coming week for final validation.
Product Launch and Marketing
On the sales and marketing front, we had a successful trip to CES 2018 in Las Vegas and were able to discuss Hiku with potential dealers and distributors from around the world. We didn’t have a booth but that didn’t keep us from making new contacts and setting up productive meetings with future distribution partners. We showed off the prototype to select individuals and have further discussions planned for select distribution in key markets.
Our storefront went live and now the Kickstarter campaign page features a link for those who missed the campaign to Pre-Order Hiku at a preferred price until the Apr. 30.
Chinese New Year is almost here and no matter whether it is early or later in February, it always seems to factor into production schedules, with Hiku being no different. Thankfully Taiwan has only a week off while China seems to have two that often feels like three.
Fortunately, we kicked off burrset tooling right after the campaign ended, so we expect we can show you some samples in a coming future update, possibly with Ti-N coating as well.
Final vendor selection for us involves a supply chain for quite a few custom parts, and we expect to comfortably issue production orders before CNY officially starts. We wouldn’t rule out a trip to our factories in late spring but right now, design freeze is but a week or two away and so parallel development, testing and production planning is the way it has to be. Some key vendors are likely already current vendors for other products that our team is involved in producing so we expect no significant surprises.
Next Update and Summary
All in all, we are comfortable with the progress made this month and even happier that we are now confident in announcing that Hiku’s performance is at a point where design freeze is approaching. We plan to keep to a bi-weekly update schedule. Please feel free as always to chime in with comments or questions and we’ll do our best to answer them in a timely fashion.
Amanda and Team