"Branding"

Posted by Enrique Muyshondt on

Someone related a story to me once about a watchmaker and his apprentice. While putting together a watch, the watchmaker was intricately finishing a part that went inside the movement - he made sure everything was perfect, signed his initials, only to put it in the movement and cover it up with another part, completely hiding it from view. 

"Why did you go through so much trouble putting that part together, when you were just going to cover it up anyway and nobody will see it?" asked the apprentice. 

"It doesn't matter if anyone else will ever see it - God will see it." replied the watchmaker. 

The point isn't so much a religious anecdote; it's that doing things right means doing them right even when no one is looking. I've written about design, quality, and what goes into products before, and this post continues an exploration on related thoughts. 

Over the last several years I have expended a substantial amount of effort to create new products that are better than anything I have ever released before. I have pushed to make inroads into creating a product of higher quality, of better design, and better general impression. I work to push the limits forward in some way every time against prior releases - to create something that is worthy of being made in the first place, and worthy of your attention.

I think that by any measure, these efforts have borne fruit which has resulted in some of the most popular and well received products I have ever released.

With that said, I’d like to discuss “branding” – something that has a variety of connotations, both positive and negative, depending on a person’s point of view (and their opinions or assumptions about any given “brand”).

At the end up the day, branding is just the story you tell your customers about your company and your products – mine is pretty simple: Quality. It’s what I have chosen to focus on in every aspect of the business. And by quality, I mean it pervasively, in everything that’s done – the products themselves, and everything that touches them.

I want every interaction that someone has with my products – from the moment they visit the website all the way to when they open the box and experience the item for the first time, to be exceptional, and as well done as I can make it be.

I built this website myself. I wrote every word on nearly every page here. I’ve written every post on this blog (at the time of this writing, in any case). Each certificate that comes with my torches was written by me, signed by hand individually, with paper stock selected specifically for quality and feel in person, and inks and pens tested to find the one that wrote best on the best paper. Each paper is embossed instead of merely digitally printed, because it’s better.

I designed the packaging experience on each torch to be worthy of the item it contains inside, because if I make something good, and can’t be bothered to care enough about how it’s presented to you, why should you care about the product? You shouldn’t. It’s disrespectful to my own work, and disrespectful to the customer. The notion that this is somehow even remotely acceptable, because “all the money went into the product itself”, is wholly false. It’s a poor excuse for someone simply leaving the job unfinished.

I work with an artist to create beautiful artwork from ideas and sketches that I make, because I like art, and it matters. I am a huge fan of art deco, and love the bold lines, colors, and manner of expression that it allows for some of the ideas that go into these torches. You see it on my boxes, on posters, on product descriptions, because it gives me an opportunity to express ideas in visual metaphor instead of just text alone.

This, of course, is all merely supplementary and tangent to the most important part of it all: the product itself. I’ve written about details when it comes to that here.

My point is that a story is not just a story. A product is not just a product. A single resistor or capacitor does not make a light engine, nor does a light engine by itself make an Electric Torch. The entirety of execution is a sea of little details that each require attention to get right, and the more that are attended to and polished correctly elevates things to a level otherwise unattainable. It isn’t easy, it takes a certain level of dedication; the inconsequential is always consequential; everything matters.

This is all part of the story, this is all part of the product. It’s part of the engineering, it’s part of the industrial design. It’s part of every word written on every page, and it’s part of the art, photos, and everything else. This is the Muyshondt “brand”. There are no contrivances, pretenses, or substitutes - simply one thing:

Quality.

 

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Quality & Manufacturing

Posted by Enrique Muyshondt on

Quality is rare, and must be very carefully cultivated and maintained for it to be done right consistently. We have travelled all over the world looking for it, and spent years building and supporting it where ever we could find it.

The culmination of these efforts is a product that is a truly global effort, combining the best materials and parts from the world over, along with the best talent and craftsmanship, to create a truly superior product, with suppliers in the United States, China, Japan, and several other countries working together under our direction to bring forth the best product possible.

As a matter of principle, we only work with people who are willing to work as hard as we do; who are willing to match our devotion to our craft, and are fundamentally deserving of our business. We work hard to make sure our designs are crafted with excellence and to the utmost highest standards, and push the limits with each new release forwards every time. These people are rare, and when we find them, wherever they may be, we forge strong relationships with them to create better together.

There is no substitute for a Muyshondt product, and there is no substitute for working with the best – the best materials; the best design; the best people.

Our responsibility is to deliver to you the best products on Earth, and to that end, we’re working with great diligence to bringing you some amazing new designs in 2017, and look forward to having the honor of one of our products entering your service.

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Flieger Production Closing Notes

Posted by Enrique Muyshondt on

Thanks so much to all of you who pre-ordered a Flieger and who have been waiting patiently for the arrival of my latest Electric Torch. Now that things have wrapped on production, and that torches will start shipping next week, I’d like to take a moment (before I disappear into the Horrible Cave of Shipping for a few days!) to go over what the final production specifications and runtimes ended up working out as. 

The Flieger has five intensities: 1, 25, 100, 500, and a 720 Lumen Turbo Mode.

First and foremost, about Turbo Mode:

At prototyping I had originally said that this was a 900 lumen torch based on integrating sphere testing I had commissioned at the time, and the production units have come out at 720 lumens. The output is the same between the two versions, but the measurements at prototyping were incorrect. As it turns out, the light sensor in the integrating sphere had trouble with the output level on turbo mode, and over-measured the output. It was recalibrated for testing the production units, yielding the correct (lower) results.

What material impact does this have on the performance of the Flieger in practice? Not much of one. The human eye does not react linearly to light output, and the difference between 500 and 900 lumens, despite being nearly 2x on paper, does not greatly change the perceived intensity, and the difference between 720 and 900 lumens would be nearly imperceptible, even with two lights of such output levels placed side by side.

This very effect is what allows the Maus, at 60 lumens, to rival a much larger torch in usable output despite its comparatively small size and output numbers, and why I’m able to squeeze as much performance and general functionality out of all of my torches by managing the effect properly and catering to real world performance. It’s also why I have no inclination to pad my numbers by using inferior LEDs that are brighter on paper, but less useful in practice, and also do not pursue brightness at all costs – including making inferior drivers that turn more electricity into heat than necessary (with their concordant lower runtime, and lower product lifespan as a result), as well as driving LEDs too hard with insufficient thermal mass to sink that heat (the three of these being necessary for higher output, and the three of them each significantly nerfing the actual performance in use). 

Nonetheless, 720 lumens is not 900 lumens. I apologize for this discrepancy, and steps have been put in place to prevent it from ever happening again. If this is any way an issue for you, please send me an email at vcc@muyshondt.net, and I’d be happy to discuss the matter with you further to make sure the torch is a good fit for your uses, and if it is not, I’d be happy to give you a full refund of your purchase price.

Without further ado, I’d like to present to you the runtimes on each intensity level of the Flieger, tested on an MPC-18650P Power Cell. Runtime on 2xCR123s, 2x18350s will vary, as will your use of different brand cells of any type. 

First Intensity
1 Lumen
400 Hours 

Second Intensity
25 Lumens
43 Hours 

Third Intensity
100 Lumens
15:45

Fourth Intensity (High Mode)
500 Lumens
2:10

Fifth Intensity (Turbo Mode)
720 Lumens
2:00

These are regulated runtimes – the Flieger will run for a while longer than the above numbers after falling out of regulation, so it won’t leave you in the dark, but once the light falls out of regulation you should discontinue use as soon as possible and recharge or replace the batteries.

Turbo Mode runs with a 720 lumen burst which automatically throttles back down to 500 lumens after about 3 minutes to prevent thermal overload. This is done to allow you an extra amount of light to illuminate longer distance objects effectively, but prevents the light from overheating. The Flieger gets warm on high mode, and would overheat if left running on turbo mode continuously, causing damage to the LED and electronics, and being capable of burning the end user 

Regulation on each light intensity level is pretty flat, and performance when paired with the MPC-18650P is exceptional, yielding extremely generous runtimes at each level.

Another post will follow this one after all pre-orders have shipped, going into full detail on the features of the light, along with new photos 

Thanks to all of you for your support, and I’m looking forward to getting these torches out to you shortly!

Enrique

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Products Have Souls

Posted by Enrique Muyshondt on

Not in the literal sense, of course, but there is more to a product than its mere existence. There’s a certain elegance in the creation of something good, a certain care and quality, that goes into a creative effort that gives life to a work well made.

There is nothing quite like creating a product – to have an idea in your head; this abstract concept rolling around that over weeks and months that becomes a clearer and clearer idea; that starts taking physical form in sketches, drawings, and revisions; that progressively becomes thought expressed rigorously such that it is able to take physical form in front of you.

This is a special kind of creative outlet; giving actual, physical expression to ideas. To do this well, I feel, requires a great deal of respect for the process of creating something – to do otherwise is to fail. By this I mean is that what a person chooses to create, and the manner in which they create it is very much indicative of how they approach life – as a physical expression of an idea, it is a window into the mind of the designer, an analogue into their mind to be able to see for yourself what was, once, truly only inside another’s head.

If a product is made poorly, it reflects directly on the person who designed it.

If a product is made well, it shows the highest order of creative power a human is capable of.

When I design something, I spend a great deal of time thinking, often many months, before I ever sketch any designs. Only after so long a time does an idea have enough form inside my head to be able to be expressed even crudely visually. From that point there’s progressive refinement through sketches that moves quickly to CAD (computer aided design) software where the idea finally takes a three-dimensional form and starts being polished. If I’m lucky, I get the basic design right the first time. If I’m not, the design is scrapped, and I start over again, most often from scratch, before a final mechanical form is settled on.

But, there’s more to this than simply this “crude matter” (to channel Yoda). It’s more than just physical expression of an idea in my head, even though that in and of itself is compelling. The process that goes into it is far more intensive than that. Those months spent thinking draw on a lifetime’s worth of experiences, both those related directly to over a decade’s work designing electric torches, but also to a breadth of tangential experiences and influences that directly color the designs that I ultimately come up with.

There are trips around the world that have given me exposure to a variety of designs, modern and ancient, from cultures that have created distinct means of expression for themselves unique from all others. Beautiful, ornate items, and simple, subtle shapes used to create a breadth of things throughout history that have given expression to the thoughts and minds of others and served as a spark to create something new.

When I am designing something I might be thinking about the tessellations of a roofline from Tuscany, or a machine that fabricates pucks, or the design of a cathedral window, or natural shapes in plants, mountains, or glaciers, and taking elements from these pieces, and applying them to my work. (And I have, in fact, thought about all these things specifically when coming up with new ways of doing things)

The point being that, in effect, each design choice that is made gives to you a tiny piece of my life that allowed for that choice to have been made to begin with – the ultimately effect of my experiences pulled together to make the item you now hold.

Thusly, I try to design things that are worthy of this exercise, and worthy of your attention. I try to come up with new forms, and new ways of doing things; to make products that have details done right even where no one is looking, simply because it’s the right way of doing things. I work hard with my suppliers to execute on my designs in such a way that it meets my standards – that the product is crafted in such a way that it’s deserving of being created; that every material and component is properly selected and handled; that every cut is done as I intended it; that the finish and quality are done in such a way that most directly replicates the thought that spawned the item’s creation.

This applies to the item itself, to its packaging, it’s shipping box, the artwork, the website, and everything else that relates to it as well; none of it is by chance, all of it was designed to my direct specification, and none of it existed before it was made specifically for its project.

I’m an electrical engineer by training; I have created actual, functional components in silicon and designed complex electromechanical systems from scratch as my trade.

When I design a product, it becomes my direct responsibility to know how to make things – to understand how they work, and strive to create the best possible result. I understand how every electrical system in my designs works on an atomic level, because I have actually built functional semiconductors by hand and studied the physics behind them extensively in my free time and during my schooling. I thusly have a great respect for every component used to take electricity and turn it into light, from the constituent parts of my light engines through to the LED itself.

With all of this in mind, a product that is made well becomes the sum of the life of the person who brought it into being, and also brings together tiny pieces of every other person who worked towards its creation – in the engineers who designed each component that goes into the light engine; in the people who manufacture those components; in the machinists who make my parts; the people who forge the metals I use; those who mine the ores; those who make the boxes; those who ship every piece every step of the way through production and unto you across the world; And so on into each individual involved in the creation of every part of production. This is more than merely a simple labor to be forgotten, or the simple sum of parts – it is the culmination of a small microcosm of lives that have gone through a truly extraordinary degree of effort to create something where once there was nothing, bringing together the best from the world over to properly bring to life an idea and create a superior product.

I am greatly honored by each of you who have chosen a Muyshondt product to help light your path, and am looking forward to having the opportunity to share more of my designs and products with you – both electric torches and otherwise – during 2017 and onwards.

Warmest wishes,

Enrique

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Details

Posted by Enrique Muyshondt on

I’ve talked about quality and design before. This post is somewhat of an extension of those, but I hope it also serves as a bit of perspective and provides a bit of understanding of what it is Muyshondt products are about.

The short of it all is pretty simple: When you purchase something from Muyshondt, you need to be receiving the best product, period. No caveats.

What, exactly, does this mean, though? How is this achieved? What is it that is distinguishing about these products versus anything else?

A common refrain from people familiar with watches, or knives, two industries with which I am acquainted, is “I can understand why a high end watch, or a high end knife, but a flashlight?

I’ve always found this question perplexing, and I realized that what is obvious to me (because I spend the majority of my time involved in electric torches), may not be quite so evident to others, so allow me to explain:

There reaches a certain level of sophistication in some items where the technology becomes indistinguishable from magic for the average person. When this happens, there are people who will claim to be magicians, and put on a show that they don’t really understand, peddling junk, but it ‘sounds good’, and then there are engineers, who will meticulously pore over the details to achieve the functions that they require for their design.

Every electric torch has a Light Engine in it. This is analogous to a watch movement. How well that light engine works – how adept it is at turning electricity into light – is determined by how well it is designed. To make small light engines, that retain a high degree of electrical efficiency, is difficult.

To achieve this you have to decide on what regulator type to use – boost, buck, or buck/boost at the primary three, but you also have charge pumps, cùk, linear, and a pile of other types of possible considerations. These basic selections are not created equal – for example, a linear regulator is very poor, bleeding off any excess energy as heat to achieve whatever output you desire.

Once you’ve chosen a basic regulator design, you then still have hundreds of options to choose from to select a proper chip that will be efficient at the levels you’re intending to run at. Once you’ve decided on the levels, and settled on a suitable chip (each regulator has an optimum point of efficiency – like a car. If you plan to be running at 65mph, your engine design [and your aerodynamics] are optimized for that speed. Same thing in selecting which chips and components to use for a proper light engine design), you then need to design a full circuit around it in an intelligent manner, add in your control arrangement (whether it’s analog, or a digital microcontroller, or some combination), and then start selecting the parts that will be used for this design.

Parts selection can be as fast, or as slow, as you want it to be. Most people just select the cheapest chip they can find that will make a passable solution, and then select the cheapest parts to go along with it.

Do you choose electrolytic capacitors, or something else? An electrolytic capacitor is cheaper, and offers high capacitance at a low cost, but has a rated lifespan of a few thousand hours (and, in fact, the reason most electronics fail is from a busted electrolytic capacitor). Which types of resistors do you choose – thick film, thin film, carbon, metal – and how far do you over-spec them? Which inductor – ferrite core, air core, shielded, non-shielded?

When you design the circuit board all of this goes onto, are your traces optimized to maximize performance? Are your components placed in a manner that is going to result in the best operation? This isn’t a joke, either – if you place some parts too close to others, you’ll get electromagnetic noise in the circuit and unpredictable operation. If you place certain parts too far apart, you’ll also create problems that can reduce efficiency or prevent function outright. If you have the traces on a circuit board close together, you can introduce stray resistances or capacitances that can reduce your performance.

Do you use ENIG (Electroless-Nickel Immersion Gold) or HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling) finishing on your boards? HASL is cheaper. Is it good enough?

Which LED do you choose? There are thousands of them now. The natural response is “the brightest one!”, which means the starkest white-blue one. Is this the most useful though? What about High-CRI? What about a more neutral color temperature? What about the non-linear response of the human eye to light? What is it that is actually the most useful in practice? Do you participate in a “lumens contest” that is as ludicrous as the megapixels game was in cameras, or do you focus on simply making something better? What metrics do you choose to define “better” as?

What style control program do you write? Memory or no mode memory? Programmable? Special modes? Strobes, SOS, etc.? What approach do you take when designing this that will result in the best performance for the largest number of people?

This is just (and I say “just” even though this is the most vital technical element of the light) the light engine, and speaks nothing to the rest of the design of the torch. The materials choices, the mechanical and industrial design, the reflector design, thermal design, the activation mechanism (and consequent pushbutton selection and design), the fit and finish, and the ultimate attention to every detail large and small to make sure that what is delivered is truly the best it can be.

Then, once all of this has been decided, prototyped, and tested, being able to enforce a consistent delivery of quality from unit to unit.

When this is all done right, “Transparent Design” is achieved, where the technical and the artful are done in such a manner that the product is elevated from being the mere sum of its parts – where the technology and design become entirely secondary to the actual use of the item, making the product vastly superior.

A Muyshondt Electric Torch is the finest lighting instrument you will own. Every aspect of the light is very carefully crafted with an obsessive level of attention given to all details, electronic, mechanical, and aesthetic. The light engine is designed to maximize performance – providing generous runtimes for the power plant of each torch, each component chosen specifically. The mechanical design gives you smooth threads and action for every feature, a well tuned reflector, and excellent fit and finish. No expense was spared in creating a superior torch; Be it the mill-cut square pyramid knurling on the Maus – with each peak cut individually instead of doing a faster and lower quality pressed diamond knurl, or the chamfers on the edge of every contour of the Flieger – requiring a lathe with a multi-axis milling attachment to slowly carve each light to a perfect form. Each light is machined and finished to extremely high standards and tolerances, and hand assembled with care to create a tool that is designed to be at your side at all times and remove darkness reliably. 

The point in all of this is that every little detail matters, in any effort. In electric torches, these details span electronic minutiae, mechanical considerations, and artful aesthetics. I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a fine watch, or a well-made knife, and for those of you unacquainted with my work yet, I hope that this post helps to create an understanding of what goes into each one of my torches.

Behind every electric torch there are hundreds of hours of thought and planning that draw upon over a decade of experience, before the first sketch or CAD drawing is made, which is followed by thousands more in the design and production of every part that goes into your torch, along with every detail of the artwork and packaging, such that what you finally receive is the culmination of countless man hours distilled into the functional form you hold in your hands.

I again hope that this has served to give some understanding of what goes into a Muyshondt electric torch, and that one lights your path for many years to come.

Enrique Muyshondt

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