I’m always on the lookout for new material to use for my products. After all, it was a high-end ski jacket I saw in Japan which led me to Soft Shell. The more I learn about modern materials, I realize that many of the key breakthroughs these days are achieved by combining existing materials in unique ways, rather than creating something that never existed before. That was the approach taken with Composite Laminate.
Tyvek itself is a type of sheet plastic which achieves its incredible strength to weight ratio by being constructed from interlocking strands arranged in random patterns. It starts off as white and the colors are achieved by printing on them. Over time, they sort of wear in like jeans so don’t stay looking new as long as Soft Shell wallets, which are dyed. But what if we could add an additional layer of flat plastic on top of the Tyvek to trap in the color while providing a more abrasion resistant surface?
The concept of adding another layer was the easy part. The first challenge was that some of the best processes for permanently connecting materials are heat activated. The only problem? Tyvek has a low melt point and pretty much hates getting hot. The equivalent of putting sand in a gas tank is to feed some Tyvek into a laser printer! To overcome this, I worked closely with an experienced local shop to experiment with different techniques until we found one which would join them.
The secret was to not only experiment with the temperatures, but also the speeds at which the material was run through the machine. It turns out that you can “break the rules” for melting Tyvek, but only for a fraction of a second… so we feed it through the machine at a fast enough rate so we get adhesion without letting the Tyvek turn into a rippled mess.
The second challenge was to select the right material. There’s a vast array of colors and finishes so even narrowing things down to just the clear ones still left many options. In the first test, we used a glossy one and the wallets came out looking like patent leather shoes! We ended up special ordering the most matte finish material available, which was just released by the supplier. Even though the Tyvek beneath it is a deep black, when covered by this material the light behaves in a really interesting way which causes it to appear like a deep matte gray. You can still see the swirls of the Tyvek material underneath which is pretty cool. I’m calling this color “carbon” to convey the ultra matte effect achieved by the combination of both color and material.
When completed into a wallet, it’s just barely thicker than a normal Tyvek model. Its capacity is also slightly less… holding up to about 6 cards depending on how many bills. It’s probably good for folks who are already pretty minimal and just looking for something which stays looking new longer and is still ultra-thin.
Since this is a new combination of materials, I’m introducing it as a Beta at first… only producing a certain number and selling them for the cost of the existing Tyvek wallets even though the cost to make them is significantly more. I hope you’ll give one a try and let me know how you like it!
When I worked as a UI designer, there were several times when I had the opportunity to design for entirely new hardware devices. During the process, we would usually have prototype versions of the devices at various forms of completion. These could cost in the tens of thousands of dollars per unit and there were a handful of times when someone on the team would accidentally have one one fall off of their desk onto the ground. “Drop test!” everyone would exclaim in a half-joking, half-panicked tone. Everyone would be very happy if it passed.
Well, a backer recently had the accidental opportunity to put the Slim Pack through its paces during a flight. As he described:
"Just wanted to send a quick thanks/kudos for the Slim Pack. As it turned out, I received mine the day before we left for a week-long vacation in Mexico.
I had already planned to bring my laptop, so naturally took the opportunity to try out the new pack. Used it as my carry-on, with laptop and some other supplies. What happened next was great. As the slimpack was stowed under the seat in front of me, the air pressure from the plane popped open the person's water bottle sitting in that seat. She didn't notice as it slowly leaked almost a liter of water out beside the seat, directly onto the slimpack.
When I eventually reached for it, I discovered that both it and another bag I had under the seat there were drenched. Everything inside the other bag (nothing important fortunately) was also soaked. Slimpack contents though, including my laptop, were bone dry. (The exterior dried off quickly too.)" -Nathan
In my testing, I can control certain variables such as water intensity and exposure time… but in the field, conditions are more realistic. So far with rain and now this in-flight water torture test, it’s shown to hold up really well in real world scenarios.
Another backer shared his experience:
"Dave, I received my backpack in the very first batch sent. It is incredible. It was put through its paces this weekend at the NAMM show in Anaheim CA during our crazy weather. It handled the rain with no problem, and for those not in CA, this was an exceptional amount of rain. I carried my DSLR and my iPad in it with no fear. Truly impressed with the comfort." -Sam
We’re making great progress on the backorders and they’re coming out great… looking forward to getting them in the hands of the rest of the backers!
Is it "One More Thing" worthy? Probably not, but it is in the literal sense of being a single additional item. Based on feedback from early Beta testers, I made the straps on the Slim Pack rather long to accommodate a variety of body types. So even though the volume of the pack is small, it fits a wider array of people. And it’s easier for anyone to get on and off. But with that change came some later feedback from my #1 Beta tester (my wife), which was that the straps dangled a bit too much if cinched tight on a smaller body. This was a bit more pronounced given the straps are made from hefty 1.5” seat belt webbing rather than the traditional thin nylon.
How to address this? Shorten the straps and it won’t fit some people… keep them long and the ends will dangle. It initially seemed like a mutually exclusive decision for how to design it. In those cases, the options are usually either to identify the best possible default or make something that the user can adjust. But the length wasn’t easily modified by end users given that the ends need to be melted so they don’t fray and then sewn so they don’t slip out of the clip.
Then I remembered all of the specialized components which are used extensively throughout the Slim Pack. To select them, I had browsed the catalogs of several manufacturers and the array of pieces available was vast. Sure enough, I found several options of pieces that could do the job and ordered samples of 4 different types. Once I received the samples, one stood out as clearly superior. Though it was twice as expensive as the other options (and I’d need 2 per pack), it had a quality feel and excellent design.
Normally used for military applications, this component is created with a 2-part mold from Acetal plastic. According to DuPont™, this material has the “stiffness and strength needed in parts designed to replace metal.” The finished piece has a slotted back and spring loaded clip to efficiently manage the extra material. But if you’d prefer not to use it, you can remove the strap from the front of the clip or remove the Strap Keeper completely.
For the Kickstarter project, this introduced another challenge… several hundred of the packs were already complete and packaged up. So in the days leading up to Christmas, with the help of my wife and (sort of) with the help of my son, we took each pack out, attached the clips, and packaged them back up again. It took the better part of 3 days, but I felt good knowing that each and every backer would be able to enjoy the Slim Pack to its fullest.
I’m really happy with this finishing touch, as it helps the bag stay looking neat and polished during use no matter the size of the person using it or how they’re adjusted. I hope you enjoy it too!