Friday, July 8, 2016

Emergency Flash-Light™

My latest project is an oldie but goodie. I'm reviving Bringing a Little Light To The World ™.

What is it? It is an emergency flashlight. It will run at least 100 hours on two fresh AA cells. My test on the last version ran eight days. In addition when the light is "off" it flashes about every three seconds so you can find it in the dark. It should flash continuously for about 5 years 10 years with a fresh set of batteries. So you trade run time for flashing time. I would suggest putting a new set of batteries in the flashlight every two years if you would like at least 60 hours of on time in case of an emergency.

The Flashlight was inspired by the Katrina hurricane when I read about people trapped in flooded basements whose flashlights went dark after a few hours while they were trapped in the basements. This light would keep flashing for comfort. And it would give tens of hours of on time when you needed to look for something. Or try to escape if that is possible.

So what is new with this version? Three things. I found a lower cost power converter chip which converts battery power to the voltage and current needed to run the LED. Once started it will continue running until the batteries are totally drained. In fact it will start up on practically dead batteries. The batteries only need to have .6 volts each to start the light working. A fresh alkaline battery has a voltage of about 1.6 volts.

What is better about the new chip set is that the flashlight blinks slower when the batteries start going dead. As the battery voltage goes below .5 volts each (1.0 volt total) the flashing starts to slow down. When the batteries have near zero life left the blinking slows to seven seconds per flash. The original version just went dead. And even better - if the light is still flashing it will turn on. So you have a definite low battery indicator. The old version just quit when the batteries got low enough.

The second thing that is new is a more efficient LED at lower cost. I decided not to extend the run time with the higher efficiency. Instead I made the light a little brighter.

The third thing that is new is 3D printing. I have gotten an estimate for custom prototypes and design work of $5,000. That would include custom versions of a purse size light at about $400 per printed version. The estimate included 4 or 5 versions to get the design right.

Once the design is done I would need about $15,000 to get 1,000 lights made. That would be a prototype production run. The cost per flashlight gets into the marketable range when the production runs are 100,000 pieces and up. I would sell the prototype run at cost to get customer feedback.

In order to raise the money for the project I'm accepting donations. I am also going to sell flashlights using available cases (Eveready lantern lights) at $50 each including shipping in the US. The trouble is that Eveready no longer makes the old light (it used an incandescent bulb). So I need cases. If you send me an old case I will make you a flashlight for $45. If you send me two cases I will make you one for $40. And for three cases The cost is $35 for a flashlight. I will take up to 6 cases per order and send you a flashlight for $20. I will use those cases to make lights for people who can't find an old case.

If you are interested you might like Eric's description of the Voodoo Flashlight. I should add that I have prototyped the new version of the electronics and have installed the new version in a couple of cases I had lying around from my last try.

Interested parties can leave a comment here or contact me by e-mail. My address is on the sidebar at Space-Time Productions. You can also donate to the project at this link. People who donate will be first in line for prototypes from the prototype production run.

And of course if you are an investor I'd be glad to discuss business.

Update: 14 July 2016 0220z

My wife asked me to give the light a name. So here goes (for now) - Emergency Flash-Light

Update: 15 July 2016 0527z

We also like just - Flash-Light

Update: 14 Sept. 2016 0839z

And something else I like: We sell light not batteries.

Update: 20 Sept. 2016 1517z

As bright as we need to be.

Update: 29 Sept. 2016 0616z

Changed "5 years" in the text to "10 years" to better reflect the current design. It is an estimate. I will have to take some very accurate measurements to get the actual number. I have designed a board that can take those measurements. It may be a while before I get that board produced, tested, and software written.

Also note. I entered the Flash-Light™ in a fast pitch competition. You can read about the results at I Entered.

Update: 4 October 2016 0857z

Here is the pitch I gave:

Hello. My name is Michael Simon. I'm a retired aerospace engineer, former Naval Nuke, and commercial technical writer.

I have designed the Flash-Light. It is an emergency flashlight. It is either on, giving continuous light or it is flashing so you can find it in the dark.

The Flash-Light was inspired by the Katrina hurricane when I read about people trapped in flooded basements whose flashlights went dark after a few hours of use. This light will keep flashing for comfort. And it will give tens of hours of on time when you need to look for something. Or try to escape.

This Flash-Light will be there when you need it. Two fresh AA batteries will give at least 100 hours of on time. Or ten years of flashing. Every year of flashing costs ten hours of on time. This light is just bright enough to do what you need to do. Change a tire. Follow a trail. You will not have to light up the whole valley just to follow a trail. We are not selling batteries. We are selling light. Which is why one of our marketing slogans is "Bringing a little light to the world."

Our potential market is in the billions. And it is not only for emergencies. Campers need a long lasting light weight flashlight for backpacking trips. Everyone needs an emergency Flash-Light for their home, car, office and pocket. We plan to sell it not only as a consumer item but also as a promotional product. It will have a nice flat area for printing your marketing message. And for those who want a premium promotional item we can use 3D printing to create prototypes and make molds for those who want their message to be part of the case.

We intend to start out with online sales and then go to general distribution once our volumes are high enough. Our target sales price is in the ten to fifteen dollar range. That is at the high end of the range for an ordinary flashlight. But his is no ordinary flashlight. Besides being water resistant, it will start up with two practically dead batteries.

The next step in our business plan is to 3D print prototypes to test out the small hand held cases we intend to sell. We will then do an injection molded run of one thousand Flash-Lights to get some in the hands of customers and prepare for the first production run of 100,000 Flash-Lights

Thank you for your time and considering our Flash-Light in the 2016 FastPitch Competition.

Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.