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Lil Trucker™ Update: The Challenges of Made in America!


Lil Trucker™ Update: The Challenges of Made in America!

An update from Kickstarter

Dear backers:

I’m happy to announce two of the primary vendors for our tools. For the Lil Trucker, we have selected Medcast, an investment caster located in Warsaw, Indiana. While Five Star Plastics of Eau Claire, Wisconsin will be the major vendor for the Survival Companion.

We expect to receive five all-steel prototypes next week from Medcast.  Once approved (with final design tweaks for manufacturability and to resolve the can opener issue), we will fund the creation of production-ready molds. Meanwhile, we're probably at least 2-3 weeks away from final prototypes of the Companion. One important improvement we are considering is the addition of a snap-on metal belt clip, which we feel will make the Companion much more convenient, particularly if we can integrate the fire-starting scraper as part of the clip.

There are more than a dozen other contractors who we’ve also engaged, to provide parts, assembly and much more. This highlights one of the ongoing challenges of producing quality products in the USA. After the hollowing-out of the USA manufacturing infrastructure, the few manufacturers that currently remain tend to be very specialized and there’s no integration with complementary vendors.

For example, Medcast has to ship the four cast parts (used in each of the Lil Truckers) out to three geographically separated subcontractors. These separate vendors are responsible for the cast parts to be annealed, machined/straightened, heat-treated and coated (respectively). In case you’re wondering, the annealing and heat-treating processes are provided by the same company, but the parts have to be sent out for machining in between annealing (softening) and heat-treating (hardening). This all adds up to literally weeks lost (and lots of extra costs) just in the shipping back and forth, as well as all the handling (packing and unpacking) of the Lil Trucker castings. In contrast, Chinese vendors provide a one-stop solution as they typically integrate all of these processes under one roof. This is part of the reason that they can turn around relatively complex orders more quickly and cheaply (quality issues notwithstanding).

And then sometimes, there simply isn’t a remaining American vendor for a necessary part or process. As a case in point, we’ve managed to source absolutely everything domestically, with exception of the ferrocerium rod that clips onto the Companion. This rod provides the 3,000 degree ‘spark’ that will ignite the magnesium shavings when starting a fire (the magnesium actually burns at 5600 degrees, which is why it works in all weather conditions). We’ve contacted innumerable USA metals companies, but it seems that the last American manufacturer of ferrocerium closed down a few years ago; leaving us with no choice but to source this 50 cent component from overseas. If anyone can provide a lead to a domestic supplier of ferrocerium, please let me know right away. And hopefully you’ll all forgive this exception to our Made in America pledge.

Thanks to all of you who recommended various awesome celebrities who would be great to lend their names to the Lil Trucker. But we still need some actual personal introductions if we’re going to attract the attention of these stars.

Also, as mentioned a few weeks back, the pre-order price for the Lil Trucker bundle pack will be going up on October 1st - from $119 to $124, which is still a discount from the expected January release price.  So please encourage your friends to pre-order now or to reserve their Lil Trucker as gifts. We are hoping to sell out quickly.

With appreciation for your ongoing support,

Marvin Weinberger

P.S.: We are working up a business plan to raise additional capital so that we can buy enough inventory to begin driving down the manufacturing costs. One idea is to try crowdfunding to 'accredited investors' via Angellist. Please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions.

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