Proud team with the Heatles to be shipped around the Christmas tree.
Happy and healthy new year! Wow, 2021 really flew by… Firstly we would like to thank you for your patience over the past year. With global supply issues at the forefront, we all worked very hard and managed to complete the design, solve issues, and start production. With your support this has been possible and we are very grateful to have you as our customers. We are looking forward to a productive and successful 2022.
In this update we would like to recap the achievements and challenges of the past year and share with you our next steps.
1. Heatle’s 2021 in facts and figures
- 6,500 Heatles were ordered in the first three days of pre-sale on February 5, 2021, with many more to follow throughout the year.
- 11 months from prototype to manufacture (Feb - Dec).
- 10.000 quantities of all critical components ordered for the production, i.e. metal rods and disks, wooden knobs, springs, silicon chips etc.
- 12 suppliers. Formed relationships with national and international partners.
- 7 revisions. Starting with the initial prototype until completion of the DFM stage, design for manufacturing. Iterated the design to perfect every detail of the Heatle.
- 7 full-time staff (from 3 in February). Expanded the team and engaged 9 external experts on a freelancer basis.
- 67 visitors. We opened the Heatle showroom and hosted Heatle customers who all came to try out the device, meet our team and give their feedback plus design ideas, some of which were implemented.
- EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) - successfully passed compliance testing.
- December 2021 - shipped the first production batch of Heatles before Christmas, as promised in February.
2. Next steps and 2022 plans
We achieved a lot of our goals despite the extremely difficult market situation for electronics manufacturers like ourselves. And although we’ve already come quite far in the 11 months, there is still plenty more work to do. We have to scale up production, source the remaining components and then ship remaining Heatles to all customers.
We are still waiting for several shipments of critical components needed for mass production. Most suppliers were able to deliver about 10% of what we have ordered to-date. A majority of the remaining backlog is due to arrive with us by April 2022. Some suppliers were supposed to deliver back in Nov 2021, but unfortunately they were unable to fulfill the quota, and now predict May 2022 as the delivery date.
All of our suppliers were affected by global supply chain problems, such as the BLE chips and cables / connectors for the display and knob. At this point we continue to chase up everyone. Despite us being the small guys in the equation, we continue to work hard, sourcing alternative components where possible, whilst trying to control the costs. We are up against some industry giants who are able to exert a lot of pressure on manufacturers. They have huge procurement power and consequently consume what little stocks do become available.
David sourcing alternatives for delayed or sold-out components.
While waiting for the critical deliveries, we also continue to develop the Heatle ecosystem (software, app, packaging, accessories etc). We are currently assembling the Heatles within our own premises, but will be scaling this up to an external EMS company by spring 2022 for assembly test and distribution services, in preparation for the mass production runs. The quantity of Heatles produced in the coming months really depends on what components and materials get delivered to us at which point in time. We will continue to keep you updated with all information. Our overall goal is to produce and deliver all Heatles before summer 2022.
Our assembly line in our own premises for the first batch.
3. First deliveries completed before Christmas 2021
With last minute delays to some critical components like inductors, glass tops and housings, it was a challenging month for the team with plenty of midnight oil being burned, but we did manage to successfully produce the first batch of Heatles which were allocated and shipped to the first customers from the pre-sale who agreed to be among the very first users.
Heatle packages waiting for the next Heatle batch to be tested and inserted - showing the enclosed medium size disk and tray. Black and white.
Although we succeeded in delivering some of the pre-orders, not everything went as planned. For example, a very important delivery of components (the inductors) got heavily delayed. Every Heatle needs them to work, so we had no choice but to hand-wind these components with a lot of manual and time effort. Winding inductors by hand is incredibly time-consuming.
As mentioned back in 2021, we created one single box for the product, and it’s made entirely out of paper - it’s recycled and recyclable. However, we had to switch to another cardboard type for the packaging because our desired white, sustainable material was still not available. The supplier is also affected by supply chain issues (yes, even paper and wood are out of stock). We have pre-ordered the desired packaging for the next batch, but we had to use brown material for for now to avoid further delays.
4. Ongoing optimisation
We set very high standards for ourselves and our partners in order to deliver a reliable, beautiful and high quality product. Nevertheless, the process of manufacturing is a lot more complex than prototyping, and new challenges arise almost on a daily basis which sometimes lead to delays. While we operate in an agile manner, we put quality and customer satisfaction first.
Previously, we have shared some challenges and resulting upgrades for example regarding the polishing of our metal discs. In December, our focus was turned to our injection-moulded parts.
Finally, we managed to achieve the level of quality we expected for the Tritan trays - a clean, smooth, matte finish which is nice to touch and easy to clean.
The soft silicone feet on the bottom side prevent the trays from slipping or accidentally moving. The top and bottom parts are carefully welded with ultrasonic technology. Your heating discs only get in contact with our food-safe Tritan surface.
Another challenge we encountered was the matte surface finish of the black casings. While smooth and beautiful upon delivery, we noticed that sometimes fingerprints would remain visible on the outside of the Heatle.
We experimented with various solutions and discovered a surface treatment that would not only look better, but also be more prone to fingerprints or stains. Despite a higher manufacturing cost, we agreed to this new treatment in order to maintain our high standards and deliver a better looking product.
We noticed the light from the led display was being blurred on the new glass tops, so together with our mechanical design partner we designed a bespoke light guide which solved the blurriness issue nicely.
Simple prototype of a light guide as a template for the injection-moulding partner.
5. Automated testing on our rig
December was primarily dedicated to the production of the first batch of Heatles. Before shipping, every Heatle is put through a series of quality control tests to ensure they function as expected. All features, functions and safety controls are tested. Full / low power modes, temperature measurement and control etc. Test data is stored in the database and only when the Heatle has passed all tests is it sent for packaging, then dispatched.
Quality testing of a batch of 10 Heatles.
Able to work 24 hours per day, our stylish robotic colleague is able to run automatically, requiring only the loading / unloading of the Heatle device. The test rig is able to pump water cold/hot in and out safely recording data along the way. We recorded the process of heating 400ml of water to 40°C in high power mode for you. This test is repeated at a range of temperature ranges up to 100°C to calibrate the sensors.
Between all heating cycles, the rig cools down the water by rinsing it with fresh, 3°C cold water from the tank. It is also capable of cooling the electronics (fan from below) and glass surface (fan from above) to accelerate test cycles so the Heatle can work longer without a natural cooling break. An external, calibrated temperature probe measures the actual liquid temperature vs the measured BLE rod temperature data. An offset is automatically applied to calibrate the rod temperature sensor where needed.
Highlights in pictures
We are always happy to receive your photos or videos of the very first Heatles in private use. Feel free to email them to us or share them on Facebook/Instagram if you feel like it.
Please note: the first batch of Heatles were sent out in chronological order to customers who, additionally, confirmed that they are happy to test the very first units and give us feedback. We will continue to produce the Heatles in batches and will send them out in the same fashion as per the allocation list.
Congratulations to our colleague Hai (Vietnamese for "sea, ocean") who got married in December!
Ansi, one of our software developers, preferred not to have his photo on the web. We respect that, and that's why he’s not visible.
Hai is our expert for microelectronics. Here, for once, we caught him without soldering iron, magnifying glass or circuit boards. What wedding gift could it possibly be?
Quality assurance testing continues in parallel with our external experts to verify all test results to ensure quality and reliability.
Henry, Wachtang, Zenel and David in the (very) late evening two days before Christmas winding inductors whose delivery was spontaneously postponed to 2022. Winding several meters of copper wire around a small iron ring took over an hour each. We were unable to find a winding machine so close to the holidays.