Spring is nearly here and the Heatle hive has been buzzing with activity. Some positive news to share in this update, with component deliveries finally arriving, new features, functions and accessories and the team gearing up for the next production batch.
What's been happening?
With every passing week we are getting closer towards our next production batch.
While dealing with component supply problems and delays, we have been setting up the production line, making improvements to the device, taking into account all the customer feedback being received. A lot of changes and enhancements are being made to the device, including the software, app and compatible accessories.
We are now in a position to set up the next production batch, but we had to work many night shifts throughout March to get to that point. The daily business was done at night, while during the day we were fighting for stock. Component shortage is still our main bugbear. To give you an example: David is in daily communication with suppliers and manufacturers trying to obtain the stock we ordered over 1 year ago. On most of the silicon chips there have been extended lead times and during that time price increases have been imposed on us.
For example, the main controller chip, ordered over 1 year ago and essential to the operation of the Heatle, had not been delivered and the distributor still had no idea when delivery might happen. David managed to find the distribution manager in the US and persuade him to allocate some stock to us, since we are desperate for the chips. Fortunately, he was understanding in regards to our plight. We found out last week that he had managed to divert one reel of chips to us directly from the factory, which covered half of our ordered quantity. The same story on the Bluetooth chips: eventually the manufacturers agreed to allocate some stock to us, again around 50%, but this is better than nothing - and nothing is what many other companies get right now.
In some cases, we are being told by suppliers that components we ordered over a year ago still have another year or more estimated delivery time, which is absolutely crazy. For these problem components David has managed to source alternative options. While it is good we have the capability in-house to do this, it has meant redesigning the PCBs to accommodate the new chips, which have different shapes and sizes (footprints). This process is complex and time-consuming, but it has been completed now. Although David has been in the manufacturing industry for over 20 years, he’s never known of supply chain problems like this before.
In April, we expect to receive the next batch of long-awaited glass tops, Heatle housings and PCBs. After the arrival of these deliveries, we will start manufacturing as many devices as we have components for, which will happen in batches, since the aforementioned chips don’t come all at once. We will share the quantities and timelines with you in the April update.
While we are waiting for these components to arrive, we continue to prepare the production line, workbenches, shelves, tote-boxes, barcodes etc, for the provisioning process where all Heatles get programmed, receive a unique ID and undergo a series of tests, with all data being logged.
Customer feedback and new accessory
A lot of customers have sent us their feedback after using the Heatle during the last months. Some of the comments have already been taken onboard and incorporated into the Heatle design, such as user interface flow, and audio tones. We received questions related to the glass top.
Customers frequently asked if a protective cover might be possible. The reasons varied, and here are some of their points for your information:
- Vibration sound is noticed when heating water at full power (acoustic noise from the metal disk jingling in the cup).
- Fingerprints on the glass top.
- Protection from accidental knocks and scratches by heavy stoneware cups with a rough base.
- Lime and water marks from drips.
- Spillages from other liquids like milk and soup.
- Slippery surface for wet cups.
We listened to what the customers had to say, discussed the points with the team, then designed and produced a new accessory that we think solves all the issues
The Heatle Pad
At first sight, you might think this is a simple rubber mat, but actually, we really tried to consider all the customer points and we put a lot of thought into designing the solution. We designed the Pad with premium food-grade silicone elastomer material (similar to pastry moulds) that is dishwasher- and food-safe and can withstand high temperatures without deforming. It’s ultra thin and soft to touch, with a smooth, matte surface finish and a clear, glossy logo on the top side.
The logo helps you locate the optimal position for the cup and rod, in the middle of the glass top. The top surface has a premium finish which is very grippy. The array of bumps on the underside serve 3 functions:
1. To reduce acoustic noise from vibrating disk / bubbles.
2. To allow air flow between the glass and pad to prevent the Pad from sticking to the surface.
3. The pad can be reversed (laid flat with the bumps upwards), making the ideal drainage area allowing wet / hot disks to dry easily. The size and position of the bumps allow air flow through convection, while being strong and durable.
While considering the above, we had to design the Pad to be as thin as possible, so as to minimise the gap increase from base to disk, such that the induction power transfer is not reduced significantly. The Pad design we came up with is ultra thin and our analysis showed the Pad to work well with the induction system in both low and high power modes.
This is one of the examples where we have turned customer feedback into a real product with an improved user experience. There are already more useful accessories in development. For those interested to purchase a Heatle Pad from our first and limited production, we will make it available in our shop shortly.
Heatle Duo Mode
Another feature many of you have been asking us about is the possibility to heat two cups at once. We have finally completed the design and testing. We have already enabled this 2-Cup function in software of every Heatle from now on, and every owner of a second smart Rod can simply choose the ‘Duo’ icon in the menu for 2 cup mode. We will offer additional Rods for purchase in our shop soon, along with recommended tea cups that we have tested and which work ideally.
We believe this could be a very useful feature for our customers, it also has the potential to save energy.
While heating a teapot on the Heatle is possible, it can be overfilled and hence waste energy (same problem as kettles). But with Heatle Duo, heating 2 cups eliminates the risk of overfilling, hence saving energy.
Our analysis shows this feature to work very well, but with a few considerations to remember
- The cups and water volumes should be very similar, or ideally the same.
- The cups must be positioned symmetrically in the middle.
- Each cup has its own Rod and disk.
- Both cups have the same-sized disk inside, not a combination of small and large for example. The photo and video show 2 cups heating, both with a medium size disk.
Warehouse continues to fill up
Better late than never. We just received a delivery of Inductors (CMCs), essential to the operation of the Heatle. We understand the manufacturers are working under unforeseen circumstances also and we appreciate those that are going the extra mile to deliver the stock to us.
These are premium quality Würth CMCs at the primary EMI stage of the Heatle. They are essential to the operation of the device.
User interface in active development
As we move towards manufacturing the next batch and subsequent deliveries, it’s our top priority to make sure your Heatle offers a professional user experience and clean interface. Alexandra and Marcin (user interface design professionals in UX-design and software) discuss the current state of development, new features requested by the customers, as well as potential bugs, fixes and optimisations.
Currently, we are working on the wireless exchange between your Heatle and the app, for example to enable customisation of the device, profiles, back-ups and software upgrades.
Sparsh, our app developer expert, developing the iOS and Android apps which will allow updates and profile settings.
We have implemented some important safety changes for your journey, one of which being the new and important factory setting of a maximum of 80°C for the first 3 heating cycles. By temporarily limiting the maximum temperature, we aim to help customers avoid burning themselves or overboiling by accident and instead offer you to learn the behaviour of your cups and liquids on the Heatle before being able to proceed to 90°C and then 100°C. The process is completely automatic and requires no special input from you, so you don’t have to worry.
New accessory survey
As you may have noticed, we rely heavily on community feedback and customer reviews to choose what products and features to focus on. This allows us to prioritise development and ultimately deliver a first class premium product experience.
Marizon (our industrial designer) is looking after the Heatle accessory design and testing. She has come up with some great ideas for new accessories for loose tea, eggs, steaming, baby food and hot-water (bed) bottles. Please refer to the survey in your March Update email to participate and let us know your preferences - and please let us know if you didn’t receive it. We want to make sure that once we deliver your Heatle you are set to access a selection of smart, compatible accessories to make the most out of your device.
We are pleased to receive our official EMC certificate, which shows the Heatle complies with strict standards in relation to specific maximum limits of radiated and conducted interference.
For small low power devices in the home, EMC certification is usually not such a big deal, but for Heatle it is vital considering this is a high power device. Our research shows that all previous companies that attempted to build something similar eventually failed, often due to their device being over the EMC compliance limits and thus product sales were not permitted.
One factor influencing the particular EMC challenge of the Heatle is related to the metal disk and coil. The size ratio between them can be the undesired effect of EMI coupling back to the mains cord. After a lot of research, development and testing, working with external partners, we successfully solved all EMC-related issues and even filed patents for specific solutions in this area which are unique to the Heatle.
Engineering and assembly
The Heatle Rod contains a precise temperature measurement device, positioned at the lowest point in the rod. For this to take an accurate measurement, thermal paste (with a very low thermal conductivity) is needed.
It is important a specific amount of thermal paste is injected inside at this specific location.
Hai (Heatle engineer) designed and built a tool to perform this task automatically in production, featuring software control and foot pedal operation, reducing the rod manufacturing time with improved quality and repeatability.
Hai showing Robyn (engineer) how to use the paste machine to assemble another batch of Rod
In other news:
Wachtang and Ansi (who prefers privacy online) celebrate their birthdays on the same day in March, which means the team celebrates only once in that month, but with double the fun.
It’s so refreshing to meet real people at actual events once more. Wachtang seized the opportunity to meet Heatle’s first angel investors and marketing advisors at a conference in Berlin.
Outside of the office, we keep helping Ukrainian citizens who are trapped in their country, as well as refugees who arrive in Berlin. We managed to organise another full truckload of insulin, insulin injectors and other medicine that was delivered to our partners in Ukraine, who then drove the goods to the besieged city of Sumy. If you wish to help too, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.