Speed Climbing Timing System – First Customer Ship 6/14/12

If you don’t count the years of prototype development before this, but just the time of design and development once I decided to commercialize the speed timer, it has been 6 months and the product is finally out the door.  A  long haul to get to first customer ship, but it feels great to have it in a box on its way to UPS to go to Atlanta.  We shipped it yesterday!

Speed Climbing Timing system boxed

The box is 35 lbs, 24″ X 18″ X 18″ and contains the entire system.  My wife, Valerie, and I worked on the packaging design together and I thought it came out splendid, tight, well protected. 

The packaging design is basically sandwich layers of polystyrene, custom cut with my CNC based on the exact profile of the parts I designed in CAD to fit each of the major components.  Of course, the box size was chosen in advance so the outer perimeter of the sandwich layers fit the interior dimensions of the box.
 
The packaging sandwich starts with a sheet of 1/2″ Fomular on the very bottom to provide a stiff base and extra strength around the bottom corners, then a 1/2″ layer of squishier but still stiff shock absorption foam (not shown), then the first main 3″ foam layer cutout for the display:
 
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This was built up about 5 pieces of 1/2″ Fomular and one piece of solid Fomular for the base of the display block.  I taught Valerie how to setup the CNC router to cut these, so she cut the profiles and we glued them together into a unified piece.
 
The display is wrapped in stretch wrap and goes in face down because there are some bolts that stick out the back.
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After this, a 2″ sheet of Foamular goes over the top of the display block.   (We’ll go to a somewhat shorter box after we’ve figured out that we don’t need it to be quite so tall.  It’s 18″ but could easily get by with 16″ and still have room.
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On top of that, we add another block that holds the foot sensors:
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Speed Climbing Timing foot sensors
 
Next, a layer of 1/2″ Fomular to keep the sensors pressed into their nest:
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Then the block for hand sensors:
Speed Climbing Timing hand sensor packaging
 

Speed Climbing Timing hand sensor packaging

Speed Climbing timing system hand sensors
Another layer of Fomular to keep the sensors pressed down from the top:
hand sensors
 
Then we free-form place the electronic components: starter, master timer controller, two power supplies – one for the display and one for the master timer controller, 2 X 50 ft of CAT5e (red) for connecting the hand sensors at the top of the wall to the master timer, and 2 X 8ft CAT5e cables for the foot sensors (the master controller is assumed to be at the bottom of the wall, not the top), a 9V battery for the starter and two 3/8″ washers for bolting on the hand sensor (most gyms have buckets and buckets of bolts, so I didn’t bother to include bolts.)
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On top of that we put an InstaPak ( http://www.sealedairprotects.com/NA/EN/products/foam_packaging/instapak-quick_examples.aspx ) which is one of these expandable foam things from SealedAir.  You break a Part-A of the bag which causes it to mix with a Part-B and then it expands into a large bag of foam that form-fits to everything on the top.  So, once we break the Part A and it starts expanding, it gets quite hot and we lay it over the top of this stuff, then close the lid.  I actually sat on the top to make sure it didn’t blow out the top and can vouch for the fact it gets quite warm :-) While it’s hot, it’s expanding to fill the space as well as form around these different parts.
 
So, that’s it.  One heck of a nice tight package.   I’m quite proud of how clean and custom it is.  I just hope it really works as well as I expect it to.
 
The timing system packaging boxes I’ve used to ship these things around to different National events in years past was a precursor to this one and was put together by my friend Dale Herbert.  He cut custom shapes in layered foam for the sensors but did it out of styrofoam with two sheets of cardboard on each side of it.  Styrofoam is really hard to work with – styrofoam pellets fly and static-cling to everything, so for the previous prototype shipments, we’d tape the edges of the cuts to pin down the pellets, and it was time intensive to make the cutouts by hand.  Though the older boxes were thick and great protection, they were very long and flat which made them a bit unwieldly – I could get my arms around them, but barely.
 
So with this new packaging system and the CNC router, Foamular instead of styrofoam and a more overall compact system and box, the whole thing is smaller, lighter, and I hope as well or better protected than what I’ve used in the past.  I’ll know on Monday for better or worse since that’s when it should arrive at Stone Summit in Atlanta, the largest indoor climbing gym in the US and host of the 2012 Youth Nationals July 2-8.   It’s an awesome gym you really have to see in order to appreciate their scale.
 
The CNC router has been worth its weight in gold to help make this product possible.  There’s simply no way I could have considered making a product like this without it – from beginning to end.
 
At the last minute the 3D printer I recently bought from Aleph Objects came through on producing the design for the remote, wireless starter enclosure and the master timer controller enclosure. Before getting it, I assumed I would try to cut some enclosure on the CNC router, but after working the 3D printer into my workflow, it was obvious it could jump right in and contribute to the initial product.  I use the same CAD tool, ViaCAD, to produce the design for the sensor platform wood components and Fireball Comet CNC as I do the Aleph Objects A0-100 3D printer.  So, I’m very glad I didn’t have to learn a new CAD package just to use the 3D printer – that was a huge advantage to getting the A0-100 quickly worked into the production chain.
 
Here’s what the design looks like for the remote wireless starter.  The case was printed on the Aleph Objects 3D printer – this is a photo the real thing not a 3D ray traced image:
 

Starter  03

 
 
The red button is for the clock reset, the green button starts the clock and the blue button manually stops the clock mid-race (say one climber fell and didn’t finish you don’t want that lane to keep cranking, so the blue button basically finishes the race for the climber that couldn’t.)
 
This is a shot of the 3D printer producing the starter enclosure:

3D print of speed climbing timing starterThe starter enclosure is probably the hardest CAD part I’ve had to design.  It took many iterations to get it to fit and I had very little time to do it in order to get this thing shipped yesterday.  

So, the 3D printer came through with flying colors on this product as well.  I bought the 3D printer on a Tuesday and was printing useful parts of existing designs I had previously cut on the Fireball Comet CNC with it within a day.  In a week I was producing completely new types of designs I couldn’t cut on the CNC at all such as this starter enclosure that had curved edges and undercuts, small holes for things like light pipes for LEDs, etc.  Really, the 3D printer itself deserves another article just talking about its capabilities.  It’s one of the coolest pieces of technology that I own.

Here’s the bottom of the starter with the hatch for the 9V battery:

Speed climbing timing starterHere’s the master timer controller enclosure – again a custom design for my master timing controller PCB and printed on my 3D printer.  The four ports are for the 2 lane race – 2 hand sensors and 2 foot sensors (I have another picture for what plugs into what, but it’s very straightforward to hook up:)

Speed Climbing Timing master controller moduleI forgot to get a good studio shot of the display before shipping this one, so I need to build another one before I can do that, but all the parts are ready to assemble another one and I have to do that anyway for nationals in July and to get more ready for new customers.

 Hopefully, that helps you visualize what the system looks like when it’s all packed up – we’ll be standardizing on this design for all our speed climbing timing system shipments.   Bon voyage to the first commercial speed climbing timing system,
 
Landon Cox – June, 2012
 
Twindolphin

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