Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fat Bikes | The Options Continue to Grow

a map of the twin cities bike trails
Twin Cities Biking Paths
Almost 1/3 of  the WhiteBoard team bikes in to work and with a shift in seasons comes our shift in gear. Winter gear is one of our favorites so a few weeks ago our sights were set on finding the best fat bike for this season.  A few of us are avid fat bikers and so picking out our top candidates was easy.  We tested the new Borealis Yampa, Salsa Beargrease XX1, and TrekFarley.  Kevin at FreeWheel Bike set us up and we were off to ride some single track.  

Fat Bike Demo

Fat Bike Demo

What a difference a few years has made for these bikes.  They were all light weight, quick, and simply awesome to ride.  The Salsa Beargrease is perfect for those that “need” a 24lb fat bike or plan to make a run for the podium at the local race scene.  The Borealis was the perfect combination of blending all day riding comfort in a lightweight race package. The Trek Farley was our biggest surprise.  It lacks the carbon appeal but handles so quick and agile.

Borealis Yampa beauty shot

Borealis Yampa beauty shot

 Lap after lap was counted as we switched bikes but ultimately we decided on the Yampa.  Why?  We are a Design firm and this met our high standards. The aesthetics on this bike are great and the performance was refined. It's a bike that deserves a spot in the stable.  

Excelsior bike path beauty shot

Bring on mother nature, we are ready!

Inspired by Everything.

Monday, December 2, 2013

ICEdot Crash Sensor

ICE In Case of Emergency

For those who regularly read our blog, you know that we have more than a few bikers who work here (see Specialized Turbo Review). ICEdot, an innovative young company in Oklahoma and a WhiteBoard client, makes emergency identification and notification systems for bikers, skiers and snowboarders (ICE stands for In Case of Emergency). So we were thrilled when they came back, after the successful launch of their first product, for help with their next: the Crash Sensor.

We design a lot of lifesaving medical devices. We also design numerous consumer products. We enjoyed the opportunity to help design this potentially life saving consumer product.

Inspired by Everything.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

LifeScience Alley 2013 Conference

Medical product design

LifeScience Alley is the largest state-based life science trade association in the U.S. WhiteBoard will be participating in its 2013 conference next week at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The focus of the conference will be to discuss the impacts of the national and global healthcare transformation and the new business models that are emerging.

Stop by and see some exciting new devices in our booth (#715).

WhiteBoard Product Solutions -

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vintage Tonka Truck Donated to Tonka Toy Museum

Tonka Toy Museum
WhiteBoard recently donated this vintage Tonka Fire Truck to the Tonka Toy Museum. We have done a lot of work for toy companies over the years (including Tonka Toys), so we certainly appreciate classic toy designs like this one.  We imagine the Form Follows Reality™ matrix for this product must have been something like:

  • Must be Tonka tough
  • Must be made from stamped steel in the factory overlooking Lake Minnetonka
  • Must be dip painted with minimal decoration

Monday, October 21, 2013

MD&M Minneapolis

Medical Design and Manufacturing Show

Swing by booth #444 at MD&M Minneapolis next week (October 29th and 30th) to see some recently released devices designed by the WhiteBoard team.  Also, we still have a few VIP passes available for clients who would like to attend the show.  Contact us if you would like a pass.

WhiteBoard Product Solutions -

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Return of the Cool People Feature

Leisure Product Solutions now WhiteBoard Product Solutions

Years ago, WhiteBoard Product Solutions (then known as Leisure Design) had a website feature with a huge fun factor. Each employee had an onscreen miniature version of themselves, which when moused over, would morph into an alternate view. As the years went by, the site got overhauled and the cool people feature got eliminated. Recently, however, by popular demand, the decision was made to bring the people animations back to the site! It communicates to potential clients and employees WhiteBoard's dynamic creative culture.

Alter Ego

The next step in bringing the animated people feature back to the site took place in the creative minds of the team members. For some, the hard part wasn’t coming up with a great idea - it was having to pick just one. This proved the most difficult for serious movie buffs.


The real fun took place in our in-house photo studio, where we had people fishing, doing a wheelie on their customized bike, and rappeling from the ceiling's girders. For others, it involved multiple wardrobe changes or bringing in armloads of nerf guns.

Graphic Design                                        

Some of the team member’s visions required additional post-production magic. At WhiteBoard, we’re all about finding ways to turn great ideas into a reality, and this creative exercise was no exception. It was a vital step to ensure that each employee’s personality jumped off the screen. A personal bio accompanies each transforming photo, giving an additional glimpse into what makes each of us tick.

WhiteBoard Website

Since going live, the response has been overwhelmingly positive (from clients, friends and moms). At WhiteBoard Product Solutions, we’re very proud of the dynamic, brilliant mix of talent that sets us apart as the go-to product design firm. We focus on “people, place and process”, and having the right people is the most important part of that equation.

See for yourself!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

U of M Innovation Fellows Visit WhiteBoard

Innovation Fellows Program visits WhiteBoard Product Solutions

WhiteBoard was honored to host a team from the Innovation Fellows Program from the University of Minnesota's Medical Device Center. The Medical Device Center is a valuable asset to the medical device community as it combines basic research, applied and translational research, and education and training. The Innovation Fellows Program seeks to train the next leaders in medtech through a full immersion educational and product development program for medical device creation. The program concentrates on developing medical devices for a broad variety of clinical areas, with an emphasis on identifying and addressing unmet clinical needs.

U of M Innovation Fellows

During their visit, the Innovation Fellows learned about the WhiteBoard process for medical device design through multiple case studies at our facility. They also saw the WhiteBoard model shop and its many different prototyping processes that are used at various stages during medical device development. WhiteBoard has extensive experience developing medical devices; so it was a pleasure to learn more about the Innovation Fellows Program, inform them about the WhiteBoard process, and discuss opportunities to collaborate.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Specialized Turbo Review

Erik's Bike Shop

WhiteBoard keeps on top of trends research, and never has it been so much fun than investigating the new Specialized Turbo e-bike! For years WhiteBoard and its staff have gained valuable knowledge by keeping on top of new product innovation from a wide range of product categories. The bicycle category is one of the oldest consumer product categories, and although the basic shape and size has not changed much in over 100 years, it is very diverse in its product offering. Bicycle manufacturers target an extremely wide range of consumers, in many different channels of distribution, at a broad range of price points. The amount of design and engineering that goes into the category is very large considering the size of the market. If there is a new material or manufacturing process, you can most likely find it in a bike shop.

WhiteBoard keeps up on new innovations so we can apply what we learn from one industry to others. So when a game changer comes along, we want to be at the front of the learning curve, and the Specialized Turbo is a game changer.

Battery component

Electric bikes have been around for years, but a serious biker wouldn't be caught dead on one. Until now. The Specialized design team took a "clean sheet of paper" approach and has created something truly special. First of all, the bike looks great just sitting there; and, upon closer examination, you notice the 250 watt motor built into the rear hub and that the oversized down tube is actually a removable Li-ion battery.

Bike in motion

In addition to the Turbo's great looks, the performance is literally mind blowing. Get on. Make sure you have some clear road ahead. Press the pedal and the motor engages, smoothly propelling you to 20mph without even trying. "OMG" is the standard first thing that came out of our testers...followed by a grin that lasts well beyond the test ride. The harder you pedal, the faster you go, all the way to 28mph where the motor turns off and your are reminded that you are not Superman.

Bike components

So how does it work in the real world? Fantastic! A switch next to the shifter activates the 4 battery settings: full turbo, eco, regenerative, and off. Full turbo is obvious, the motor operates at full power and the battery is drained accordingly. Eco mode conserves the battery discharge and is factory set at 30%. It is programmable from 10% to 90%, which is essential because the battery management system defaults to eco mode when the battery capacity gets to 20%. WhiteBoard set the eco mode to 50% as riding the last few miles of your ride at 30% was a definite buzz kill. Regenerative mode kicks in automatically when you apply the rear brake. If used often enough, it can help extend the battery during your ride.

Most of our rides get about 25+ miles of battery assist as you only really need full turbo to maintain full speed up a hill. Turning off the motor when going downhill enables you to get up over 28mph quite easily in 10th gear. The bike is very comfortable to ride, but because it is aluminum and has no suspension, you have to be careful of the road hazards.

WhiteBoard's testers have ridden the Specialized Turbo with many different personas in mind:

Road Bike Race

The Spandex Killer
Serious road bikers play the game of seeing who they can run down or stay ahead of. Passing another serious rider always gives you a little extra boost to make sure you can put a gap between you and the rider you just showed who his daddy is. The Turbo comes with a bell, which makes it even more fun...and annoying for the biker being passed. At 28mph, closing speeds are pretty fast. So to optimize the effect you need to slow down, close slowly, draft for a moment, ring the bell and pass. Game over. Or not; if it is a serious rider it's always polite to say "nice pull" and let them draft for a while, knowing that they are tanked after trying to stay ahead of you. And then you pull away - looking for your next victim. This won't be nearly as much fun once the word is out, but for now it's a riot as few riders know about the Turbo.
Bike to work

The Commuter
WhiteBoard encourages employees to ride to work. We have a shower and company cars available to use during the day. Most of us have a 10 to 20 mile commute and try to ride an average speed of 16mph. On the Turbo we can average about 26mph and sometimes a ten minute cool down is all you need, making a shower optional.

(check out Erik's Commuter Challenge, from Minnesota based bike retailer Erik's Bike and Board)
City Biking

The Casual Rider
Riding with a friend or significant other limits the pace to the slower rider. With two Turbos, the slower rider can run full turbo and the stronger rider can run eco, keeping the pace at around 26mph. You can even swap batteries if one rider is using more power than the other.

Rick Polk and Jerry Greene

The Bar Hopper
The Lake Minnetonka loop is a great 20 mile ride and can be done in under an hour on a road bike. So why did the loop on the Turbo start at three in the afternoon and finish using the more than adequate head and tail lights 6 hours later? Simple really. There are four easy bar stops along the way: The Excelsior Brewery, The Narrows in Navarre, Gianni's in Wayzata, and Spasso in Minnetonka. For now pedaling a bike while intoxicated is not illegal in Minnesota, but being responsible and keeping below .08 is still highly recommended.

Let us know what you think of the Specialized Turbo, or e-bikes in general. Leave comments below.


Friday, May 17, 2013

24 Hours of LeMons

WhiteBoard Building
WhiteBoard is known for its product development, industrial design, engineering, prototyping and package design; but only a few clients know about a little secret in the back of the building called Purespeed R&D.  Purespeed is a race shop dedicated to the support and fostering of club racing and the spirit and camaraderie that go with it.

On March 1st, some of the WhiteBoard team, with the help of Purespeed, decided to take part in the "24 hours of LeMons" at Gingerman raceway in late April...only 6 weeks to prepare.  However, with WhiteBoard's design, engineering and prototyping at our disposal, anything was possible.

Now maybe you're thinking to yourself "Don't you mean Le Mans?"  Well, no, the premise of this race is to purchase a $500 car (or less), install a roll bar, along with a small list of other safety equipment, and prepare for 24 hours of driving fun.

1990 Audi 90 Quattro
On March 10th, after scouring many ads on craigslist, postings on local car forums, and asking a team member's grandmother if she still needed her '78 Cadillac, we found our stallion: a 1990 Audi 90 Quattro with a dented rear quarter panel and a Menards tail light replacement special.  With just over a month before the race, there was a lot of work to do and weight to remove.  It is remarkable how much goes into a car, and the amount of excess wiring, cloth, switches, and general weight that can be removed.

After three nights of stripping the car Overhaulin' style, we shed almost 30% of the car away - a whopping 900 pounds, equivalent to 1,800 Big Macs!  Working nights and weekends to get the roll bar and other safety equipment installed, the days quickly rolled by.

Before taking this car 600 miles across the country, we had to test our work at the PDX at Dakota County Tech College.  After an hour of white knuckle racing next to a brand new Corvette and some teenagers borrowing dad's car for the weekend, our lemon went sour.

In a burst of white steam, the car overheated.  After a few arguments, calls to some specialists, and a trip to a metric auto parts store, we replaced a thermostat and timing belt.  Back in business with only 3 days to spare, it was time to pack up and hit the road.

1990 Audi 90 Quattro
We arrived in the late hours of the night and found a spot in the back of the race track. We plugged into the outlet and got some shut eye.

After a chilly night in this unusually cold spring, many teams were up bright and early clearing their cars of a dusting of snow.  As the sun rose over the horizon, you could see the collection of cars parked in the paddock.  The level of expertise of each team varied considerably.  Some teams came with million dollar RVs and a support team of technicians.  Others with the shirts on their backs and a U-Haul trailer just long enough for a Geo Metro.

Our plan was to put a driver in for one hour at a time.  But, just like rules, plans are oftentimes broken.  We placed our first driver in the car and sent him to line up in the pit lane.  We were placed between a 240 Volvo "school bus" and a Honda Civic "helicopter."  Extra points are awarded for creativity and styling of your car.

As the race goes on, most of the lemons start to sour.  The starter in our car quit working.  We had to push start it every time we left the pit.  After 100 laps (about 200 miles), we were getting some shuttering in the steering wheel.  We had destroyed the control arm bushings and everything was holding on by a thread.  We also kept swapping tires to anything that still had tread.  The car was feeling the stress of this enduro race.  After a few more laps, the car finally spun out into the grass.  We tried to push start it once more, but it had breathed its last breath.  The difference in tire size from front to back had caused the differential to grind up and turn to dust.

24 Hours of LeMons

We packed up the trailer and watched the rest of the race.  It was a successful weekend that any car enthusiast would have enjoyed.  That was the best 250 miles this Audi had ever seen.  Every car deserves a send off like this.  You don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy the sport of racing, just a desire to get your work gloves on and have some fun.  It also helped to have the resources of WhiteBoard and Purespeed at our disposal.

WhiteBoard Product Solutions -

Thursday, May 9, 2013

JamStik Featured in Popular Science

7th Annual Invention Awards Jamstik

JamStik was featured in the May issue of Popular Science as one of ten products in its 7th Annual Invention Awards.

WhiteBoard collaborated with the inventor and the Zivix team to design, engineer and create working prototypes of the JamStik.  That enabled the inventor's technology to come off the work bench and into the hands of the Zivix marketing team to create the "double wow" needed to generate all the buzz.  "Double wow" is WhiteBoard speak for what some products need to succeed.  The first wow is what you say when you first see the product.  The second wow is what you say when you see it work.

Even a double wow product will only succeed if it can be made cost effectively and is able to communicate the double wow in its retail environment.  The WhiteBoard process, which centers on Form Follows Reality™, enabled the WhiteBoard team to make sure that the proposed design could be cost effectively manufactured and look great.  It also guided the package design, to make sure it has stopping power and conveys what it does, how it works, and how it changes the game.  WhiteBoard continues to work with Zivix and its vendors towards production release.

WhiteBoard Product Solutions -

Monday, April 15, 2013

WhiteBoard in the News

WhiteBoard Product Solutions Inc. is a product genie

Star Tribune writer Dee DePass did a remarkable job writing a story about WhiteBoard based on a two hour tour and conversations with clients that ranged from medical devices to consumer electronics and power equipment.  In the short time she was here, she was able to capture the culture, diversity, competency and vibe of WhiteBoard.

The WhiteBoard team had a great time with Dee and photographer Bruce Bisping.  We love talking about the thousands of diverse projects that have made our People, Place, and Process possible.  WhiteBoard designed its facility around its process to promote collaboration and inspiration from everything.  Much of our inspiration comes from things we have done in the past, so they are displayed everywhere and function as muses as Dee noted in the article.  Each of those objects is a unique case study that we have learned from, which helps improve our staff, process, and facility.

To understand how WhiteBoard can be so diverse and get such great results requires an in-depth look at the individual projects.  Our goal is to optimize the function, value and appearance of products/devices for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.  The end result is to get the best possible return on investment for our clients, to be profitable ourselves, and to be an inspirational place for our staff to work.

WhiteBoard Product Solutions -

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Prototyping and Collaboration: Keys to Successful Product Development

When a client comes to WhiteBoard for the first time, they expect to see our industrial design and engineering capabilities, but they are always amazed when they see how extensive our prototyping capabilities are.  Product development is a very iterative process.  The ability to quickly create prototypes in our facility enables us to "discover" early and often.  It also enables us to quickly validate our designs, and leads to more creative solutions.  Combine that with WhiteBoard's collaborative process, and we are able to get our clients' products to market faster and better.

This entertaining video about the "Marshmallow Challenge" does a nice job illustrating why prototyping and collaboration are so important in developing products (i.e., solving problems/designing solutions):


Monday, March 4, 2013

Review & Disassembly of the Beats by Dre Pill

WhiteBoard Critique of the "Beats 

by Dre Pill"

Beats by Dre Pill Speakers:|dc_pcrid_35656970097_pkw_beats%20by%20dre%20pill_pmt_e&migMedium=paid-search&migSource=google&migContent=s&migCampaign=Pill+Exact&migTerm=beats%20by%20dre%20pill&matchtype=e
Beats by Dre has taken the headphone market by storm.  Celebrities, the Olympic team, and the average Joe on the bus, can be caught wearing a set of their stylish headphones.  However, Beats makes more than just headphones.  The Beats Pill is the extension of the head phone collection that brings the rest of the room in on the music experience.

The Beats Pill is a compact speaker for listening to music and answering calls.  One can connect to the Pill either wirelessly, with Bluetooth, or through the supplied 3.5 mm head phone jack.
Beats by Dre Pill disassemblied
A breakdown of all the parts.

Speaker components
The three buttons on the round face are connected to two separate circuit boards that are fastened to a molded part.

Beats by Dre Pill components
Beats by Dre Pill components
The prominent Beats button in the front is backlit, illuminating the "b" icon with four small LEDs mounted to the circuit board.Beats by Dre Pill
Speaker circuit board
Because of the rounded shape, it was necessary to extend the power button with a molded cruciform that also holds the spring to reach the tact switch on the circuit board.  There are two 2100mAh lithium batteries that are split across the housing to provide balance and power to the product.  The Pill provides about 6 hours of great sounding music anywhere.  
Speaker circuit board

speaker circuit board
The Micro USB has an additional perpendicular mounted circuit board.  It has LEDs that are channeled through a molded acrylic part; also known as light piping.  This is a clever way to show it is charging by illuminating the USB port when a cable is plugged into it.  

Industrial Design:

The Pill is not the first compact speaker in the world of portable stereos.  There have been many before it that were too small, under powered, or unappealing.  The unique style and shape of the Pill helps separate it from the crowd.  It also includes a quality carrying case for protection and portability that maintains the same design aesthetic of the Pill.  Having four speakers provides quality sound for it's size.  

The pill shape causes many constraints for cost of assembly and parts.  This results in a higher cost for aesthetics, functionality and performance.  The smaller space for the speakers limits the quality of bass.  In order to create bass you need to move lots of air quickly and forcefully.  The Pill would have to be bigger or a different shape to improve the bass quality.  

In WhiteBoard's world of Form Follows Reality™, this is a good example of the need for a unique and relevant shape trumping cost of goods and performance (bass).

Design for Manufacturing:

All in all, it is a clever design for manufacturing in a unique form factor.  The Pill is a good example of strong collaboration between design and engineering.    

WhiteBoard Product Solutions -

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Toy Fair 2013

WhiteBoard, and WhiteBoard designed products attend Toy Fair 2013

Time Square New York City

WhiteBoard designers Rick & Eric made their annual trip to Toy Fair in New York to check out what is new in the world of toys and to meet with some important clients.


Slam Man, an interactive boxing device invented and developed by WhiteBoard, anchored the Pure Global Brands booth.

SkaZooms Toy Fair
SkaZooms, a new line of collectables developed by WhiteBoard, were a popular attraction at the Jax, Ltd booth.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


JamStik Rocks CES

JamStik Components

For the past 6 months, WhiteBoard has been collaborating with Zivix, a Minneapolis based company, to develop a functional and sleek device for their patented guitar playing technology. The device connects wirelessly to smart phones, tablets and computers to play digital music with an authentic guitar feel.
China factory

A WhiteBoard team was recently in China working with manufacturers to ready the device for production. At the same time, the Zivix team was in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show generating some serious buzz for the new product:

Chinese food chicken feet

The trip to China went quite well...until Eric had to eat chicken feet.