Today, we wanted to give you a bit of an inside look into how we make our products. So this will be a 10,000-foot overview of the whole product lifecycle, from original idea, to final production, and beyond. If there are any parts of this you’d like to see us flesh out in more detail, please leave a comment and we can cover it in more detail next time.
- The idea.
Okay, so where do our products begin? 100% of the time, they start as … an idea! Specifically, the way we design products at TriRig is that we find ourselves wishing there was a product out there to fill a specific hole, or solve a specific problem, and that product just doesn't exist. So we decide to solve that problem and build the product ourselves. So let’s take a look at our new 3-in-1 Polymount. It’s a perfect example of how we design. For a long time, perhaps our most frequent customer service question was this: “what’s the best way for me to mount a computer on my aerobars? What product do you recommend?” And for a long time we didn’t have a great answer. Some of it depends on you: where do you want your computer to be? Right in your face at all times, slightly out of the way? Do you run a bottle between your arms, and does that change where you’d like the computer to sit? How do your hands sit on the aerobars, and is there room for a computer between them? It's a complex question that didn't have a simple answer. We couldn't simply recommend a single product and say “buy this, it’ll put the computer wherever you want it to go.” We wished there was such a product. So that is the concept that grew into our new Polymount. Let’s build a single product that will let the customer put their cycling computer or action camera just about anywhere. And let's build this with the usual TriRig elegance, simplicity, versatility, and minimalism.
From there, we’re off to the races. Often we start with sketches, literally with pencil and paper. Even with all the fancy technology in the world, from 3D modeling, to computational fluid dynamics and even wind tunnel testing, usually the best place to begin is with your own two hands, just working things out in simple strokes. Eventually, those drawings get refined enough that we start to put them in the computer. These days, the tools are so good that we can go from a general concept to a working 3D model in very little time, and that gives us the ability to iterate very quickly. We can push and pull things in 3D space, see how things fit together, and get a very good idea for what works and what doesn’t. A concept like the Polymount might go through a dozen revisions before we have our first candidate for prototype.
But the computer can take you only so far. It is essential to get hands-on experience with anything you want to develop, so that’s where prototyping comes in. The Polymount was an excellent candidate for 3D printing. What used to take weeks waiting for a third party factory or supplier can now be done in just a few hours with a printer sitting in our office. And even a relatively flimsy 3D prototype can teach you a lot about your design. In the case of the Polymount, it was essential in understanding how the little teeth on these action camera mounts work. That was a design element we wanted to incorporate, but that we didn't invent ourselves. So having it physically in hand is really helpful in understanding all the ins and outs.
After we’re satisfied with the 3D print, then we went to our factory for a full metal prototype. It’s essentially just a pre-production unit, but they make it with temporary tooling and fixtures which are easier to set up for low-run manufacturing. They send us the first finished product, in all its glory including finishing. We test it, use it on real bikes, and if needed, we go back to the design process for further revision and refinement. In some cases, we may go through a number of different prototypes before the final product is ready. For something like our first Omega brake, we produced a LOT of them. For later versions like Omega One or Omega SL, we only had to do it once or twice, because we’d already built up such a wealth of knowledge in the world of rim brake design. And for the Polymount, just a single metal prototype was enough to tell us we basically had what we wanted. We make a few last tweaks to ensure everything is perfect, and then it's on to manufacturing.
At this point, we’ve got our finished product, and we’re ready to unveil it to the world. There's just the one minor step of ... actually manufacturing the thing. At TriRig, our products are made with a variety of materials and processes. Everything from injection-molding, to CNC machining, to carbon-fiber layup, and more. The Polymount is machined from billet aluminum. That means we take a large block of tempered aluminum alloy, and carve the shape of our product out of it, using computer-controlled tools to render the product with extraordinary precision. This ensures that everything will fit and function perfectly, every time. The carved pieces are sanded, surface-treated, and hard-anodized for a lasting and durable exterior finish. We box them up, and ship them direct to consumer.
- Beyond the Final Product
So that’s A to Z on making a TriRig product. But where do we go from there? Well, at TriRig we don’t tend to rest on our laurels. Every successful product we’ve ever made has been the first in a series, getting improved and further developed over the years. Take our Scoops Arm Cups for example. They were basically the first ultra-long cup on the market, and have been hugely popular. But arm cups aren’t always a one-size-fits-all affair. So we developed the line further, with additional shapes and concepts, such that it’s now nine different products to fit any athlete and any budget. In the case of the Polymount here, it’s brand new, so we don’t know exactly where this concept will go in the future. But you can be sure that wherever it goes, it’ll start with a great idea.
That’s all for today’s look at product design. Again, if you’d like us to flesh out more of this process, please chime in let us know what you want to see. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next time.