Designing new products….John Abrahams on Hiplok Design

Designing new products….John Abrahams on Hiplok Design

Ben and I met doing what we still love to do, and that is creating and designing products which people want to use. Back then we were at university and would work through the night on concepts and drawings.  It was fun. Most of what we designed didn’t get further than a sketch model or a computer render as we moved from one piece of coursework to the next (of course, we didn’t have computers in our first year, but by the time we finished they were all the rage to those that could afford them – oh the nineties!).

Through experience we have learnt to better prepare and work on ideas without having to pull continuous “all nighters”. But the goal now is even more important. It’s not about better grades but better products, products that will make a difference to cyclists around the world. We still follow a process for the design of each new Hiplok lock and thankfully, it’s still a lot of fun.

Creativity and innovation remain integral to everything we do.  New ideas come from asking questions such as ‘how can we make this better?’ For example, though we are not exactly short of bicycles locks at our office we thought there must be a better way to store and secure them both inside and out – a thought-process which led us eventually to AIRLOK.

airlok-sketches

Sometimes a blank sheet of paper is pretty daunting. Even for those used to drawing every day. Sometimes the best way to kick-start an idea is to get your hands dirty. We start by making really crude rigs which enable us to get a rough idea of what this “thing” could be.  Card models help us figure out some basic form factors and geometry.

We are lucky at HIPLOK to have an R&D facility where we test and destroy our locks but we also work with the UK’s leading design and model making agency, DESIGNWORKS, to enable us to generate the best possible first stage prototypes.

airlok-models

Once we have decided on the shape and function, we can start to build the product in a 3d CAD package. We can then add detail and start to refine the design even further. This CAD information enables us to create more accurate models (CNC machines can cut out accurate parts using the data) which we can then test and improve until we get it just right.

airlok-cad

We also use these prototypes for things such as market research and of course, in the essential destruction testing (crucial in developing high quality security products). As the thieves weapons of attack improve, so does our destruction testing.

Although the exact timeline is not defined, each Hiplok bike lock typically takes months of design development using the above process. If it’s not right it’s back to the drawing board – we won’t launch it until it’s exactly as we would want to use it. The thing about creating innovative new product is that nobody has done it before. All the challenges are new ones which can sometimes be frustrating but also give you a huge sense of achievement as you overcome them.

Of course, the next step is production. Then the fun really begins….”all nighter” anyone?

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