limited production :: hand crafted :: high performance :: rechargeable :: premium flashlights

This is my blog about creating a startup LED flashlight business. I'm a designer, fabricator, and strategist and I'm passionate about making ideas real. I believe that products are about people, that they should be built to last, deliver real value, and that we need to do a better job than we have in the recent past.

Most of my career has been contract or freelance work and I've crafted products and strategies for both big international companies and startups. I also used to work in the "industry" fabricating special effects for film and TV, along with the occasional hot rod. Bottom line, I love making things.

I'm starting this blog so you can follow along, from day one, and see what it's like to start a business, or fail in the process. Only time will tell, but I hope you find this interesting enough to stay tuned, comment, link, like, tweet, and (most importantly) participate in turning this idea into something tangible and valuable.

For a good place to get started with general info about who, what, why, etc., check out the "Stickies" on the left side of the page. Thanks for stopping by and please don't hesitate to ask questions and get involved!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Details: Mechanical Strength

Hi Everyone,

Happy New Year! I thought I'd start of 2012 by getting into some nitty-gritty details on the Alpha. People often ask me why my lights are different. I usually answer with the question, "how much time do you have?"

Some of you have probably seen the video of my impact testing, but I took some stills to show the damage and explain why the Alpha can stand up to the abuse that you see in the video. This is the actual light and it's still 100% functional. It just looks ugly.

"Busted" but not broken
One thing that sets my lights apart is attention to every possible detail. Any design can (and should) be improved and I'm not claiming perfection, but I pay attention to things a lot of people don't. So, here is the first of several mini-segments on the details that you can see......and some that are buried inside...most of which you will probably never notice :)

Read on after the jump for the rest of the details.

I'm not often impressed with my own work, but impact testing the light exceeded even my own expectations. This thing got punished every which way and just wouldn't stop working. As you see in the video, the switch eventually broke, but you can replace it in less than a minute...without tools.

Ouch right? 
After massive gravity induced beatings and being repeatedly run over by a car, once in the video and many many times by my off-screen SUV, the threads are still perfectly smooth. Why? The threads on the head of the light are not damaged is because of the tapered shape of the head. This is an engineering decision, not a styling decision.

Simple geometry prevents damage
When the light lays flat on the ground it's nearly impossible to apply direct pressure to the tapered area...and the threads underneath. In this instance, geometry protects the light from damage. If your kids are wondering why they should take math, you can forward them this post :)

Most manufacturers opt for a "hollow" head instead of a solid one
Another feature of the Alpha is the solid, one-piece head. Most light heads are hollow all the way through, but the Alpha has a solid band of material that both dissipates heat and provides incredible strength. This means the entire head is used to transfer heat away from the LED instead of the tiny "pill" that most manufacturers rely on. It's also easier to manufacture and assemble a hollow head but I'm going for "as good as humanly possible" not "easier." 

Overbuilt: sometimes too much is just enough
Two things keep the tail from crushing: geometry (again) and the pure mechanical strength of the material. Accurate thread fit keeps the components from shifting against each other and allowing movement that could lead to failure. A lot of flashlights have "fancy" sculpted tailcaps...the the Alpha's perfectly round profile and beefy lip means there is no opportunity for uneven pressure that will allow the tailcap to deform and damage the switch or prevent access to the tailcap button.

Stay tuned for the next edition where we'll take a look inside the light and see what makes it tick.

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