Making a prototype

In addition to our customer conversations, much of our time is spent actually building mythical prototypes we tell our customers about. In this post I am going to give a brief overview of that process. Last night I finished our third draft proto and hope to test it today. I can bring it into class but would prefer to not put pictures of it online until I have a full patent (currently we have a provisional one).


Step 1: Design is made on the computer using David Aberdeen’s program SurfPlan. “Mr Blockhead” gives you an idea of scale. This kite will be an 8m kite which is a medium/small size.

Step 2: The computer calculates the pattern and I print it out on several hundred sheets of 8.5×11” paper. (I need to figure out how to convert the file into something a plotter could print). In the image below of the plans each grid rectangle is a piece of paper.

Step 3: I tape the pages together, trace the pattern onto my fabric and then cut out the fabric. This is a very time consuming process which is all automated and highly efficient in a real kite factory.

Step 4: I sew everything together using my trusty sail rite LZ-1. However, at clutch moments it seems to fail me which has garnered it the affectionate nickname “a**hole”. In the future I would like to invest in a “long arm” type machine which would make sewing large items like kites much easier.

Step 5: Once the kite sewn I make plastic bladders that go into the kite and are inflated to give it its rigid structure. For this kite the main bladder is 27′ long. To make the bladders I use an impulse welder dubbed “Mr Noms” after its motor driven jaw action. On the first two kites I used a sewing iron instead of the welder which was truly a nightmare since it gave leaky welds or would just melt straight through if I wasn’t careful.

Mr Noms with bladder material in his mouth.

Step 6: I insert the bladders into the kite, hope nothing is leaking, setup the bridles and go test it! The bridles (how the lines attach to the kite) are one of the more important aspects of the design and hard to dial in. Getting them right takes hours at the beach and a lot of string.

Testing! Photo by Gary "Ranger" Strachan

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2 Responses to Making a prototype

  1. steveblank says:

    No “l” in Strachan!

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