Delivering a product to customers for the first time is both exhilarating and frightening. As founders and inventors, seeing the culmination of years of hard work go out into the world is a momentous accomplishment, but all too often there’s little time to celebrate.
As you know from our last update, the initial shipment didn’t go quite as planned and we had to immediately dive in to tackle QC issues that slipped through the cracks. After that, we sent another shipment that was slightly larger than the first to gather more feedback and ensure we’d addressed the issues.
We have much to celebrate after hearing back from backers who received Instafloss from our second shipment. There were great strides in improving almost every QC issue, but one (albeit, as explained later, a minor one) still eludes us…The reservoir valve has continued to be a pain point for Instafloss users, and when our goal was to deliver a pain-free floss, we can’t be satisfied with an experience that has any pain points. Some reservoir valves will leak while you are filling them in your sink.
To be clear, this does not influence the floss, and our users often email us about how much they love using Instafloss. Even those who’ve had to send in a unit for repair were excited to get it back and missed the wonderful flossing experience Instafloss provides.
We’re going to be jumping into a lot of details and backend, sharing some of the inner workings of the company and our decision making processes, so for those of you who don’t want to stick around and read the rest, here’s the TL;DR:
We will be sending Instafloss units out with V1 valves and mailing new V2 valves to all customers affected by the issue when the V2 valves become available. The timeline is unaffected by this, but our next shipment will be to single mouthpiece orders as we begin sending the new mouthpieces (read the full update to learn more) as a fix for the siphon issue.For more details on why we decided this, what this process will look like, and other aspects of our manufacturing and delivery read on…
Successful Siphon Leak Fix
As we spoke about two updates ago, a lot of customers wrote in to talk about the “siphon occurrence.” We asked, and the majority (almost 2/3rds) replied to our survey that they wanted us to solve this user experience hurdle.
We have. Here is a new mouthpiece that doesn’t leak with a full reservoir:
This rapid change in part was made possible by HP’s Multi-Jet Fusion 3d printing process. This process is strong and safe and stable enough to make a lot of new parts. Also, the material used is classified as USP Class I-IV, which means it's acceptable for medical devices that even have limited blood contact. It’s also expensive, almost 10 times the cost of the part it replaces. But, because we wanted to do the right thing for our customers, we are doing our best to absorb that cost.
The next picture is from the first 500 of the new mouthpiece parts that were just delivered to the factory. These parts will solve the siphon occurrence, and will form part of what we’re calling the “Black Mouthpieces.” For obvious reasons:
Because of how big a change this is, it will have some impact on our timelines as we will explore in the timeline section.
The Handles Are Now Strong
We solved the largest problem that can be attributed to QC, which was unquestionably the mouthpiece coming unattached from the handle. The problem originally was due to testing being done on very small batches, and unclear labeling and storing leading to mix ups as we tried to rapidly get a handle on the issue while also making enough handles to get the first shipment ready.
For the current shipment, we also started adding glue in strategic areas to better hold the plastic pieces together, mitigating some flexing.
And on the next shipment, the new mouthpieces hold even better. In this video 12 pounds hanging off the end and swinging can’t detach the mouthpiece from the handle!
Uncovering the Root Causes of the Reservoir Valve Leaks
Our original thought was that because the valve was shipped in the “open” position, the extended time it took to actually get into backer’s hands made it vulnerable to stretching. This was somewhat born out by valves being able to be recompressed back into shape. We’ve also developed a new method to encourage this (video here). However, as we switched shipping orientation and added padding to keep the reservoir from being fully seated, while this reduced the number of incidents, this hasn’t completely solved the problem.
It is becoming obvious that the valves are simply not consistent. There are actually eight(!) cavities in the mold, and because the valves are made from soft plastic, it’s really tricky to measure tiny differences between them.
It is important to note also that we have been, this entire time, working on new valves. Here is a photo of three earlier attempts at new valves. Several more are currently sitting open.
Our Decision to Send Units as Is
We’ve spent a significant amount of hours on calls, in order to decide the best way to move forward regarding the reservoir valve leak. Specifically, we 100% intend to fix the issue, but the big question was:
“Do we delay a 99% complete product for an easily replaced part?”
And the answer we decided upon was no.
First and foremost, this wouldn’t have even been a debate if it weren't for the fact that this part is so easily user serviceable.
In general, due to the value we placed on re-usability and sustainability, much of the Instafloss is designed so that when something goes wrong, we can swap individual components and parts rather than scrapping an entire unit.
Not all of these parts are user serviceable, but the reservoir valve is, and in fact it can be done without a single tool. The ease with which customers could change this part themselves played a significant factor in our decision to move forward with sending the units now, and V2 valves later.
Customer’s Oral Health
At the end of the day, our mission as a company is to improve people’s health. The reservoir valve does not impact the efficacy of Instafloss in any way, and is merely a convenience issue. Given this, we felt it would clash with our values and goals to withhold Instafloss from customers for this reason alone.
Giving our customers their Instafloss now does mean that yes, it won’t be as convenient as it will be when we can also send the valve V2, but will still be improving their health significantly.
Another significant reason we’re deciding to send these units now has to do with some interesting Mexican laws/regulations. Typically, in many nations, when you’re assembling a product, you will have to pay import taxes on the components of said product. But, Mexico, in an effort to incentivize manufacturing in the region, has a temporary duty-free window for re-exporting products out of the nation.
This means that so long as the products we manufacture leave Mexico within that window, we need not pay taxes on the product or their components.
If we delay the shipment of Instafloss units due to the reservoir valve leak, we could run out of that window and then be hit with hefty fees/fines.
And this is money that we could spend instead on sending out free V2 valves.
Great Now, Perfect Later
Lastly, we wouldn’t deliver it if we felt that Instafloss was failing to deliver a great experience overall. While the reservoir valve is not perfect, we do feel like the experience Instafloss delivers is still far superior to other options on the market, and as such we think it’s okay to send it out now and send a free valve update later.
We think of it as similar to software products where the day one experience may not be perfect, but after a patch it’s everything you hoped for.
We want to emphasize that this fix isn’t going to be something we charge for, we’re eating the cost, and thus we feel that for the customers this is really the best case scenario.
As mentioned before the reservoir valve won’t make any changes to our initial delivery timeline, and since we’ve got a handle on all the major QC issues and defect rates are within acceptable levels, we feel confident moving forward with large shipments of Instafloss.
That being said, due to the time it took to get the new black mouthpieces designed, prototyped, prototyped (not a typo, we had to do it again!), and the manufacturing started, the next shipment of complete instaflosses will only have 1 mouthpiece per order.
We’re hoping a few thousand will be ready to go out in a few weeks, and we’re hoping extra mouthpieces for customers that had more than one per instafloss will be ready before Christmas.
Of course, because of how big a change this is, and the ever present potential for shipping delays, timelines are not 100% firm. We will keep you posted as deliveries continue.
The only other timeline to bear in mind is how long it will take for V2 reservoir valves to be sent out. The reality is that at this time we can’t give a solid answer. We still need to prototype a successful design and put it through significant testing to ensure it solves the problem.
We are working incredibly hard to get this to you as soon as possible, and will update you with all the transparency and details we’ve done throughout Instafloss’ manufacturing. Our hope is that a v2 valve can be finished in a few months, but we’ll have a better handle on the timeline in future updates.
When Ground is Faster than Air
As mentioned above, there’s always a chance for shipping and customs delays. In an attempt to speed up our timeline for multiple mouthpiece orders, we sent a large number of mouthpieces via air rather than truck.
Unfortunately, there was a severe (two week) customs delay with the extra mouthpieces, which caused the ground transported Instafloss to ironically beat the air shipped extra mouthpieces >:(
Apparently it’s not too uncommon for shipments to get caught up in customs when shipped via air or sea, but due to the requirement to keep traffic moving at the borders, trucks seldom experience those kinds of delays. As a result we’ll be sticking with ground transportation from our manufacturing plant in Mexico to our fulfillment centers here in the U.S.
We are grateful for the continued support of all our backers. The Instafloss has been and continues to be a journey that is sometimes elating and sometimes arduous. Sometimes it is both at the same time. But thanks to your continued support, we’re tantalizingly close to a world where everyone who has teeth has an easy time flossing.