Hi all, I have to apologize for not posting an update last week as it just occured to me that I replied to a PM but never posted the same info on the thread.
My grandfather once told me "kid, never get excited about a blind date by the way it sounds over the phone".
Well that is what has happened to me. I was told that my samples had been run 2 weeks ago. They were not. I unfortunately am a very small account for these guys and continually get pushed out of the way for their larger orders. Further, I currently have a very large investment of my own money tied up in this and it can be a bit frustrating dealing with all of the delays.
I knew this could and probably would happen, which is why I have taken no orders nor deposits. I am just having to be patient. To further aggravate things, I have had a brutal travel schedule this last month so being home last week was my only opportunity (I am not holding out hope for any progress next week during the week of Thanksgiving but you never know) to put together samples until the second week of Dec. I still have to allow for time for my testers before I commit to the final production piece as well. My goal as stated in the first post was to have final production by the end of the year which still appears reasonable but I was really hoping for something sooner. Hang in there as I am and we will get this thing finalized.
I've been searching for over a year to find a new seal, or even the role stock to make one, for my '86 GT. I'm chomping at the bit to get one! My mechanics trashed mine...not totally their fault though, since it is 20-years old. I live in the NW corner of Washington State and believe me, it rains here, especially this time of year. I replaced my spoiler stand gaskets and installed rubber gaskets under the spoiler stand nuts underneath, which made a big difference, but I still have to sop-up water in the bottom of my trunk.
Thanks so much for taking the time to give a full run-down of your process of development and production history. It was very informative and gave me great confidence in you and your work. I only wish I'd been able to be one of your test subjects, 'cause I would have been the ultimate one ;-) It's been raining here just about continually for the last month and a half, and it's raining right now.
Please put me on your list and let me know ASAP when your are taking orders. I need one a year ago!
Well the good news is, we have identified the problem in extruding the four part gasket into a single extrusion. The top part of the gasket is foam with an air channel. When the trunk is closed on the gasket the air channel acts as a balloon which squeezes outward to form a water tight seal. The bottom parts (there are three) are solid rubber: one just rubber, one is metal reinforced, one originally fiber reinforced is now solid rubber that binds the four parts together when co-extruded
The bad news: When extruding this top part of the seal it comes out of the die soft and there is nothing to keep the "balloon" of air from collapsing in on itself while it goes through the vulcanizing tunnel. There are only two solutions thus far. Make the wall thickness thicker so there is enough "body" to prevent the collapse (difficult as it only needs to be thick enough to prevent the collapse and not so thick that it becomes too rigid after vulcanizing), or make the foam area solid foam with no air channel (very bad idea as the crushed shape will cause the gasket to set permanently to that shape).
The ugly news: We have now gone through 4 sets of dies (@ $1000+ per set) trying to get a set that the balloon part will be rigid enough to hold it's shape while it gets vulcanized (cooked). Die set number 5 is going to made today but there will likely be no progress on a sample extrusion until some time late next week.
Such are the trials of fabrication. Hang in there and I will keep you informed.
BTW, have a Great Thanksgiving!
[This message has been edited by infinitewill (edited 11-25-2009).]
Edit: Just wanted to say, we are rooting you on, Will. I don't mind the time that it is taking because I know you are only making sure it's a quality product. I don't care if it takes 10 years to make, I'm buying.
[This message has been edited by Hulki U. My-BFF (edited 12-01-2009).]
I had a friend pick up the new sample yesterday while I was in Boulder. I got home late last night and I will try to post a picture of the gasket cross section later today. Those on the test list, I have PM'd you about sending out your samples. I am beginning to think my fabricator is more of a perfectionist than I am. They test fit the sample yesterday and my friend Mike said it looks really good. More later.....
[This message has been edited by infinitewill (edited 12-05-2009).]
Well, Tis the season for patience apparently I picked up the next sample and we are closer to a testable unit but still not there yet. Without getting "too" overly technical, here is what we are dealing with:
After examining the factory units (above) we noticed the gasket fails in the same place nearly every time (4). Where the upper balloon (1) meets the gripping flange (2) and lower drip flap (3) is the most common.
Notice that the balloon (1) is made of foam rubber and the rest of the piece is solid rubber. The failure most often takes place where the two types of rubber are bonded. We have decided to reinforce that bonding point by extending the area where the two piece are joined. This gives the joint more support but also create a problem of it's own. When we bond the foam and solid rubber together with the lower drip flap and body gap flap (5) they want to curl instead of remaining flat. This is a matter of using the right amount of heat as the foam is less dense it wants to conform to the solid rubber.
The bigger issue is the shape of the balloon. Where the top is flat, either by design or simply forming a "set" from having the trunk pressed against it, the samples we have run are considerably more rounded then the factory unit. By making them more flat the seal will remain centered over the edge of the steel trunk frame. This is proving to be quite a challenge as we are now on our fifth set of tooling (OUCH) to refine the shape as it has to be rigid enough to prevent collapsing during the extrusion process. The sharp corners of the factory unit will cause the balloon to "implode" during vulcanization process.
On a positive note, we have a monster strong grip flange that needs no adhesive of any kind as the factory units often did.
[This message has been edited by infinitewill (edited 12-22-2009).]
Todd (thefierofarm) and his wife came to one of my workshops last week and I gave him a piece of the sample gasket extrusion. He said the same thing I did. Killer quality materials but needs some refinement on the shape. No good deed goes unpunished
The T-Top seals aren't going to happen, at least by me. There is way to much to invest as they were molded not extruded and virtually no market buy them. With only 1000 or so cars built and far fewer than that still on the road, the tooling alone would not be paid for if every one of the surviving T-Top owners bought a seal set. The GT trunk seal is another issue entirely. Although the front end investment has been heavy, the long term indicates at least a break even.
Like all business opportunities there are innovators and imitators. I am not involved in any way with the Fiero Store or their GT trunk seal. I find it curious that they have done nothing for years until this thread came about but like all businesses we have to go where we can make and sell our products. The way I see it there will always be people who want good and there will always be people who want cheap. I am not interested in making the cheapest product, quite the contrary I am interested in making a superior product. The price will be based on what it costs to produce the product and what it needs to generate in profit to make it worth my effort. Please understand that I am in no way inferring that TFS makes cheap products either. I am however going to have different market focus then a larger vendor might. Much like DIY-Stu makes a far superior dew wipe compared to his competitors, there are those that only look at price and chose other vendors that offer a cheaper (and to some lessor quality) product. I bought Stu's dew wipes and couldn't be happier.
I have put and enormous amount of time and effort as well as my own money and resources into my project. I have asked nothing of anyone other than patience as this process is moving at a much slower pace than even I had anticipated. In the end we may both have products on the market. Ultimately price, quality and service will all come to play in who's product sells and who's doesn't. I am in no position to make any comments on their efforts as they have not produced the product yet nor has mine got to the production stage. TFS has some killer products and I buy from them fairly often but it appears that we may well be competitors on this one.
The man who gave me my first break in the business world gave me the greatest advice I have ever received. I was able to launch my special effects photography business while I was the photography studio manager for his food equipment company. We talked one day about the concept of business loyalty. He told me that there are three kinds of customers/business associates: The first will be loyal no matter what the situation. The second will never be loyal and will only look out for themselves. The third will be loyal if the price is right: they are the ones that will be more trouble and grief then they are worth as the first two types are very clear where they stand. Larry told me that he knew I was blindly loyal to his company but at some point I would out grow the position I held at his firm. It took 14 years but when he decided to retire, I decided to leave his firm. Larry didn't believe in cutting corners he always over delivered to his customers. He shaped my business model. In the end, once my product enters the market place it is all of you that have to decide which of the three you categories you will be in. I've already decided how I will do business.
P.S. With regard to how my seals will be shipped. They will probably be coiled just fine and will likely ship using USPS Priority Mail Flat rate boxes.
[This message has been edited by infinitewill (edited 01-02-2010).]