Thursday, October 25, 2012

A brief hiatus and the generosity of strangers

I'm feeling mildly sheepish about the dearth of posts here over the last few months.  After the initial flurry of interest about the Nº58A I ran into some technical issues with the prototype that took a couple of months and several rebuilds to solve.  I got a working version on my bike at the end of July, took it for one night ride and then went on vacation for a month.  I've had it out a few times since, although my night rides are few and far between these days.  So far, so good.  The size is appealing and while pretty heavy, it seems to be surviving mounted on a Schmidt 4 mm wire bracket over the fork crown without pitching forward:

I also spent a long time designing an elegant two-piece sheet metal bracket for a front-rack hanging version.  I was very pleased with the result, but then got a quote for the tooling costs to produce said bracket and my enthusiasm was quashed.

Nº58B hanging bracket design
Further dampening my enthusiasm is the fact that I'm still not convinced that a production run of Nº58As is worthwhile without a cutoff reflector that produces a shaped beam. I know a lot of speciality bike lights, especially the infamous MagicShine series of lamps, have wide, symmetrical flashlight-like beams, but aficionados (to which I aim to appeal) tend to overwhelmingly favor a shaped beam that directs the light down and ahead, onto the road.  Unfortunately, there is no known off-the-shelf solution, which leads down the increasingly unfeasible road to custom reflector design and fabrication.  If you feel strongly either way about what kind of reflector you'd like to see in the Nº58A, please weigh in with your comments.

Also, a nice headlight deserves a matching taillight, which I've also spent a good deal of time designing. Unfortunately, prototyping a plastic lens is not as affordable or facile as CNC machining aluminium. I've been frustrated by the cost to get a red-tinted lens prototype fabricated for a matching taillight. Even 3D-printing methods approach the cost of the entire Nº58A prototype to get a single lens with sufficient detail and acceptable colouring, transparency and finish.  And, of course, the taillight has an elegant but unaffordable formed sheet metal bracket:

JOS FU-inspired taillight design

On top off all that, my development budget is spent for now.  And finally,  while waiting for the headlamp prototype to arrive, I completely immersed myself in another, unrelated electronics project.

That said, I do intend to push forward when money and time allow, although perhaps at a more considered rate than I had first hoped.

In lighter news, a generous reader from the UK (thanks Andy!) offered me a couple of Sturmey Archer GH6s he found whilst cleaning his garage.  They took a circuitous route from the UK to Toronto to avoid prohibitive international shipping charges and I finally picked them up from my rusty-bicycle-hub mule yesterday:

One's an '82 and the other's a '51.  They now await lots of tinfoil elbow grease.  Might be time to build a new bike around an old Dynohub!


GFR said...

I just discovered your site and want to give you my thanks and encouragement. Your n58a light is gorgeous and I would definitely be interested in getting one when they enter production. Might I suggest a kickstarter campaign to generate funds and also to give you a timetable and business model, both of which would be important motivating factors. I work as a writer/scholar and I know that without a more defined audience and timetable it is hard to focus on these kinds of projects. And I think a kickstarter campaign would also draw a lot of attention to your work.

6-3-2 said...

I'm surprised at the difficulty in finding reasonably affordable CNC machinists. In my historical neck of the woods Detroit there are lots of small shops that cater to auto design studios that do the kind of prototype fabrication you're looking for, in metal and plastic. Not sure about the prices, but I've had family members get CAD files cut on short notice and we're hardly weighed down with cash.

I'd do some Google searching. Detroit is a whole lot closer to Toronto than Australia too.

Unknown said...

Hey Jeff, for the lenses you could get one 3D print done and then take an RTV silicone mould, then use either cheap-as-chips clear casting resin with a bit of tint, of the more expensive but more durable clear polyurethane resins?