Latest News


Drain plug on track

Coolest-original-drain-plug

Back in October I wrote about the QA process for our Coolest Cooler, and we’ve made great strides since then making every Coolest at the highest level of quality.  Most of the issues we discovered were fixed fairly easily by bringing more attention to it within the production process, and we’ve driven most of these occurrences down to almost nothing.  Our existing drain plug design currently works perfectly fine almost all the time, but because ‘almost’ isn’t the same as ‘all the’ we decided to change the design.

Here’s what we learned:

Our original design had a higher number of parts than most drain plug designs – which is positive because we were thinking about many ways to stop a leak, but also negative because it increased the likelihood that one of those parts can get damaged, or there can be a compounding error effect. 

Most of the leaks folk experienced happened because they just weren’t tightened enough at the factory. We addressed this at the factory level, and then fired up our 3D printer and made a tightening tool to let folks tighten this up themselves. That worked for most of our backers, but unfortunately didn’t clear our 100% mark.

We dove deeper into the issue during the strike-imposed lull in our production, and found that the normal small variations in plastic parts could sometimes line up just ‘wrong’, occasionally giving us drain shafts that were slightly small and a drain gasket and cover that were slightly too large. That meant our tightening tool wouldn’t solve this issue, so we went back to the drawing board to create something better, and took feedback from the factory to make installation easier as well.

Our new cap uses a tried-and-true design that has been proven leak-proof and successfully implemented in other coolers. It’s a screw-off drain plug, and when it’s hand tightened a little rubber gasket presses up against the drain to seal off 100% of the water.

Done.

The good news is the vast majority of every Coolest never had any leaking issues at all, and any issues brought to our attention have been addressed right away. This improvement should mean that even those small issues don’t crop up again in the future. 

Tooling for the new drain plug will be finished later this month, then we’ll be ramping up Coolest production after Chinese New Year.   Stay tuned for pics and test results as soon!

Stress testing the new blender motor

So far so good!

Over the last month we’ve been actively seeking new motors since the first motor factory went on strike.  We need something that’s powerful enough to crush ice like Chuck Norris versus an iceberg, yet built with the highest standard of quality to be allowed in a Coolest Cooler.  I’m happy to share that in the last couple of weeks we’ve made some great progress!

Any new motor first needs to perform the challenging task of blending a perfect blended cocktail, and only if that test passes do we move to the next step of our extended life test/abuse test.  This is a process we’re putting all motor candidates through to make sure they can stand up to a long life of Coolest blending.  This involves taking 8-10 motors, installing them in a Coolest lid, and then blending pitcher after pitcher of our Abuse Recipe with very little time to rest in between.  Only if every single motor can successfully blend 384 pitchers without failure or fuss, AND THEN DO THAT AGAIN, will we deem this motor Coolest-worthy.

motor-coolest

Resurrection:  A few weeks ago the first motor (Motor B) that passed the blending test unfortunately died when put through our high-stress extended life test.  Well, the good news is that after performing an autopsy we discovered the that the failure wasn’t necessarily with the motor, but rather the glue that was used wasn’t rated for the high temperatures involved in our torture test.  Since then the manufacturer produced new samples with high-temperature rated glue and we started the torture test agin.  So far it’s gone through over 200 pitchers and is performing like a champ.

This is great news because this motor did a fantastic job blending, and all the technical specs like torque, RPM and current draw VERY closely matched our original motor.  

Upstart:  A second motor (Motor C) has also come along and successfully passed our blending tests.  This motor is from a factory with a great reputation for precision and is well known in the DC motor world if you follow such things.  It’s started the extended life testing process as well, and while it doesn’t have as many blends under it’s belt yet, so far so good.

Rumor:  We have also been hearing rumors that the factory strike may have ended and full scale production will be resuming, but to be clear this is only a rumor at this point.

Hopefully we can confirm a new Coolest motor along with a production start-up date soon!  Thanks for reading.

Coolest Motors and Four 6-Person Hot Tubs

Two weeks ago I shared a major challenge facing Coolest production; the company that makes our motor for the Coolest went on strike and stopped production. This really caught us by surprise as this is a high quality motor company that manufactures and supplies major brands around the world.

We spent so much time testing this motor to make sure it would stand up for the long life of a Coolest, and it really felt like a sucker punch to have our supply suddenly cut off without warning. Since swearing loudly didn’t seem to fix anything we realized the only way to move on is to march forward. Here’s what we’ve done:

1. We reached out to four motor manufactures to get samples to test as replacements. The Coolest motor has more speed and torque at our voltage than almost any similar sized motors, plus it also needs an internal fan to keep it cool. Only one of these four manufactures even currently even sells a motor in this configuration, and luckily they’ve been the most responsive in getting us samples quickly.

2. We started testing this motor and, knock-on-wood, the initial tests look good. The speed/torque curves are very similar, and even under a heavy blending load it’s not overheating. This is amazing news, especially given how many motors failed this test last fall.

3. Two days ago we began an expedited abuse test to make sure if we put this motor in your Coolest it can handle your next 5+ years of vodkarita and smoothie needs. This means blending 384 full pitchers of our ‘Abuse Recipe’… this to works out to enough blended drinks to fill four 6-person hot tubs. Not sure why hot tubs should be the unit of measurement, but the point is it’s a lot of damned blending.

4-hot-tubs

4. If things look good by early next week we’ll place a first PO for this new Coolest motor, and the motor supplier will get right to work making motors for us. Unfortunately the process to make these motors in volume is expected to take four weeks, which puts us back in production right around the week of December 20th. In parallel we’re still hopeful the strike will end at our primary supplier and we can start up earlier, but we’re not holding our breath.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and I’m kicking myself that we didn’t have a second motor supplier in place before this as a back-up. Given the first motor company’s reputation and quality level we just didn’t imagine this was a realistic scenario, but the lesson has certainly been learned.

Stay tuned for another update /Countdown update on the 27th, or earlier if something significant changes, and thanks as always for your support.

Always room for improvement…

Some folks have been wondering how the production quality is holding up, and I’m proud to say all the energy and time we spent testing and abusing the Coolest appears to be paying off!

We strive for 100% perfection all the time, but whenever something gets manufactured there will be some (hopefully small) number of defects that escape the factory.  These can be simple things like the wrong color knife was put in Coolest, or the drain plug wasn’t quite tightened all the way.

They can also be bigger issues like one of the battery cells had too high of an internal resistance, which basically means that it can’t be charged or used to power the Coolest.

The process for trouble shooting these issues is terrifying, mostly because when a person opens up their Coolest and discovers something isn’t quite right, we initially don’t know if it’s a sporadic problem affecting just a few units, or an endemic issue that somehow made it past all our Q&A process.  The big scare is that even if we address an issue the very next day within the factory, we already have three weeks of inventory making it’s way across the water.

Luckily we’ve only had a few sporadic issues, and even those have been relatively easy fixes.  So far our defect rate is about 1.5% with significant room for improvement in the next few weeks.

When we point out something to the factory, like how a small clip used to secure the drive pulley is occasionally misaligned which causes the motor to spin but not the blender drive shaft, they fix it.  In this case we had a solution in place within 48 hours and it’s now part of the line inspection process.

Unfortunately we have to wait for the new and improved solution to make it through the shipping process.

Here’s the breakdown as we’ve seen it so far, and what we’ve done:

  • .79% Battery/Charger (Increased testing before leaving battery factory and again on the production line)
  • .25% Blender Pulley: (Added spacer and visual inspection in the line)
  • .08% Speaker: (Shared with speaker manufacturer to improve)
  • .06% Wheels: (Looks like some of the early units the cap nut that holds the wheels on wasn’t firmly seated. Shared with the factory to improve)
  • .08% Loose drain plug: (Spot checks upon receiving Coolest body)
  • <.01% Crushed by Semi (Mourned it’s passing by pouring a little of our Vodkarita on the ground)

If you are lucky enough to have already had your Coolest delivered, but unlucky enough to have a unit with one of these issues, please just shoot us an email to [email protected] and we’ll make you whole.

…Also, don’t leave your Coolest behind a semi as we haven’t come up with a fix for that yet.

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Post-Countdown

Behold, the FIRST SHIPMENT OF COOLEST COOLERS leaving the factory today!!!!

It’s been a pretty emotional day here at Coolest HQ as words can’t express how amazing it feels to hit this milestone…We are all so proud of what’s been accomplished – going full circle from concept to a real, live product on its way to our earliest backers.

Thank you all!

Keep an eye out next week for a walk-through video showing off the nitty-gritty details and answering all your questions about your soon-to-be-arriving Coolest.  🙂 

Blend ON!

-Ryan

Number #1 Vodkarita

While FEP may actually stand for Final Engineering Pilot, it might just as well stand for Finish Everything, People.  

These last three weeks have been a whirlwind as every element for each little detail needed to ship a product gets a final review and gets locked down for good. Some of these reviews are part-focused and involve minor tooling changes to improve fit and function – like making sure each edge of every part lines up precisely with its neighbor, tightening up the drain plug or adjusting the tensioning process for the drive belt.

Other reviews are for verification, meaning literally signing each part to confirm the color, texture and finish is what we’re after so that part can be locked down and the tool sent to apply the final surface of the mold.

There’s also logistical pieces in motion, involving sorting out how extra batteries and speakers will arrive and get packed with the Coolest, units and sizes of each master pack, and confirming that each part needed for production will actually show up when it’s needed this month.

And then there’s all the little details we’ve been tweaking for months but are finally due, including the labeling and decals for each component, certification markings, FCC testing, inner and outer packaging, user guides and quick start guides and cocktail guides… whew!

All the effort we’ve put in over the last 10 months is FINALLY coming together, and here’s the great news…  

The Coolest Cooler looks better, sounds better and works better than I could have ever imagined!

We are STILL on track to ship Coolest Coolers this month, and if you don’t have one ordered yet make sure to sign up for the waitlist as there’s an exciting email coming out in just a couple of days.  😉

Check out the video above of the FIRST Vodkarita made on the FEP Coolest Cooler!  We have three other units that arrived in Portland last weekend for some real-world use tests and, man – what fun!  

I’m so grateful to each of you for all your support and encouragement, and it’s truly been a joy working with such an amazing team to bring the Coolest to life.

I’m headed back to the factory this next week for a final approval of part tweaks and textures, then it’s almost time to hit the big green ‘GO’ button at the factory.  Giddyup!!

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FEP Kicking Off

Continued frenzies of activity around all things Coolest as we are nearing the home stretch. In fact, I’m back in China preparing for the start of FEP (Final Engineering Pilot) review next week while the rest of the team focuses on checking off all those little unsexy boxes that need to get done one way or another.

Nobody wants to read an entire post (and I don’t want to write one) about the legal warnings required for the Coolest User Guide or the saga of labeling compliance, but I tell you it’s shocking how much effort is required to get it right. Here’s a snippet:

Bluetooth speaker certifications:
FCC to verify no interference with other frequencies
BQB for qualification to use Bluetooth®
RoHS for restriction of Hazardous Substances (lithium batteries)
REACH ensures RoHS compliance for Europe
IP54 for water resistance testing
ESD to measure Electro Static Discharge
IC for FCC compliance in Canada (basically)
RMC for FCC for Australia (basically)
CE also related to FCC for Australia (basically)

… And that’s just for the SPEAKER! Then there’s the required marking, testings, labels and certifications for the blender, the lithium-ion battery, the charger and the entire Coolest as a whole.

On a more exciting note, we finally got our early shipment of Coolest Speakers after a one-month hold in customs and I tell you they are worth the wait. They look and sound amazing! We’ve passed out a dozen or so samples to trusted volunteers with a history of rocking out so they can put them through the paces.

Early next week we get to see the finished battery and charger, then they get shipped off asap for their special certification testing. For the FEP we’ll be assembling all Coolest parts, signing off on the fit and function off everything, then making around 50 units for a last round of abuse testing while everything is set up to ramp into full production.

Check out the latest pictures of the latest parts under review, including the extra-large drain plug, the 3/8” stainless axle, the ceramic knifes and flip-up holder, and the long awaited chromed logo.

Looking good!

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