Words & Photos by John Abrahams: Hiplok Founder
They say it’s hard to design something complicated but even harder to design something simple. Our mantra has always been ‘keep it simple, stupid’. Mostly because we are often both of those things. We also don’t like anything that is overly complicated.
We tried to make the Z LOK COMBO into a simple product. Its designed for securing something (mostly bikes but could be whatever you like) to something else. It may be simple to use however but getting to a finished product involves a whole load of different steps. Here’s just a few.
IT ALL STARTS WITH A SKETCH
Like every HIPLOK product we start with a blank sheet and all the parts are designed bespoke to our requirements.
Following on from the success of the Z LOK launched in 2017, the Z LOK COMBO was designed to fit in the Z LOK range and as such, it obviously shares many features, but there are no common parts. Everything has to be tooled and tested from scratch. This has its advantages, but it takes longer to get it working just right.
We wanted the convenience of a tie down strap with the security and simplicity of a combination lock. As with many new products the inspiration often comes from unlikely sources. We looked at luggage locks and snowboard bindings for example.
3D PRINTING. IT’S NOT THE FUTURE. IT’S THE PRESENT.
3d printers are now an invaluable part of the design and development process. We use a MAKERBOT to quickly reproduce 3d prints in 1:1 scale to get an idea of the shape of size of whatever we are designing. The printer uses data created in a 3D CAD program such as Solidworks or Rhino and parts can be printed and checked in a few minutes.
COLOUR ME BAD
Colour always invokes some of the most heated debates in the office. Everyone has their favourite, and everyone is always right. Obviously. So, selecting three colours proves difficult when so many people like so many different options. We always have a full black option (it is the coolest colourway after all…not just my opinion) so we had to pick two further colours. We went around the houses and decided on yellow and teal. We think they look awesome, but we are already thinking ahead to 2019 when the colours will perhaps be updated.
Of all the colours getting the yellow right was the biggest challenge. We wanted to try and match the metal head with the moulded strap. Always a challenge with different materials. The yellow paint is difficult because the metal heads must be painted white first then painted yellow. This adds cost and time. So, get your yellow Z LOK COMBO while they are still part of the range. They may not be next year!
The flexible strap part of the Z LOK is made from a special NYLON 66 polymer. We tested a range of materials and this one gave us the best performance in terms of durability and security. The NYLON is over moulded on to a stainless-steel strip which runs the entire length and is secured in the locking head. It’s this stainless steel strip that makes it tough to cut through (no lock is impossible to cut however).
Over moulding onto this steel was the best way to get the product functioning the way we wanted it to but it proved a really tough part to manufacture. The metal strip is inserted into an injection mould tool and held in place by a series of small pins. Hot molten plastic is then injected into the cavity surrounding the metal part and filling the void.
When the tool opens up the part is then removed, cooled and the excess plastic is then removed.
NB: We recycle any excess plastic to reduce waste and because it’s the right thing to do! There is usually more recycled plastic in black parts as it does not affect the colour so much.
It took a long time to perfect the best way to do this efficiently whilst maintaining the overall product quality.
The flexible strap is assembled and secured inside the locking head during the assembly process. This is done manually by skilled workers who can assemble the relatively complicated combination locking mechanism inside.