Today Dave and I drove down to Morgan Hill to meet one of Dave’s long time friends, Jeff Christian.
Dave wanted to test an idea he had.
Let me give you a bit of background on this.
Dave and I are currently working on developing our first prototype of the Pet Comb, and we wanted to try creating little metal spheres on the tips of the teeth on the pet rake.
Why you ask?
Well, my interviews at pet shops lead me to believe that pet owners really care about how threatening grooming tools look to their beloved pets.
Many pet owners see their pets as part of the family and are very protective of them.
It’s a bit of a generalization, but this argument does hold water.
Several pet shop employees mentioned that grooming tools that look intimidating or look like something that may harm their precious babies hardly ever sell.
So when they see this
The customers must see this…
So we want to make our pet grooming tools to look like something that is harmless to the animal. We want to make sure the owner instantly feels safe using our products. So adding little metal balls at the tips of each finger of the rake should help with safety.
I had no idea what to expect when we were driving down to meet Jeff. Dave mentioned that I will love Jeff’s shop. He told me that Jeff didn’t want to have a full blown shop and was forced to open it because the demand for his work was so high that he could no longer handle it by running things from his garage. Sounded intriguing.
We got to Jeff’s shop and it looked like an ordinary office building. Nothing too fancy.
First thing I noticed was a wall FULL of patents and pictures of products I assume Jeff’s company created
Needless to say, I was very impressed.
We went over to the R&D area of the shop first. It looked like you would expect a mad scientist’s lab to look like. Full of tools I had no idea about. One tool I got to see in action was the Laser Beam Welder (LBW for short).
If you are like me and have no idea what a laser beam welder is… check out this wiki article
I have never seen anything like it before.
It’s a pretty amazing piece of equipment. Jeff used short pulses from the laser welder to precisely hit every tip of the blade. It sounded like littler poppers going off every second or so.
In about a minute we had a pet rake blade with a ball on every tip. This may not sound that cool, but it was pretty amazing.
This sci-fi welder was able to heat up the metal in a split second with pin point precision of a laser and turn it instantly into a ball.
Dave explained to me that the reason the tips turned into a ball was due to the high surface tension of that particular metal that made it ball up instead of turning into mush.
Jeff did his magic with two of our blades and after we polished them up it was clear that this is something that can be done on a big scale. We were really pleased with the results. The blade with the balls on the tips did not irritate my skin when I scraped it against my forearm, whereas the untreated blade left a red rash. Mission accomplished!
After some sci-fi welding, Jeff was kind enough to take Dave and I on a tour of his “shop”. It’s more of a full-blown R&D and state of the art manufacturing facility. Let me put it this way… I feel like the kid that won the golden ticket, Jeff is Willie Wonka… and his shop is the chocolate factory.
Jeff has more work lined up than he knows what to do with. He is currently working on expanding his shop to take over the rest of the building to accommodate for the demand. Dave explained to me that there are many engineering companies that can create design specs for your idea. Most of the time they will pass the designs to a manufacturing contractor who will manufacture your prototype. Then you would have to find someone who can mass-produce your product. This place is one of a kind to our area. Jeff does it from start to finish. His company can design the product, create prototypes and can engineer the manufacturing process needed for mass production.
Jeff showed me many amazing machines he has in his possession. I am not an engineer and have never been to a place like this. I had very little idea of what some of the machines were, what they did and how they did it. Many of the machines looked very complex and equally expensive. I walked away from the tour with a basic understanding of what each machine did and why it was awesome. This is mainly thanks to Jeff’s uncanny ability to speak in layman terms. Thanks Jeff!
A machine that blew my mind was a 3D printer that uses a method called direct metal laser sintering. Essentially, this machine can print out a part designed with a typical 3D CAD tool… but it prints it using metal! I had no clue you can 3D print metal parts. Apparently you can use a variety of metals too. This requires no tooling and with sufficient quantity (10-20 parts), can be quite affordable ($70 per part) for an average entrepreneur. Amazing!
I know where I’ll be going if I need a prototype!by