If you’re like me, you’ve been a bit uneasy and perhaps bitter that you didn’t get the foam projectile device you wanted so badly for Christmas. Wipe those tears, because it’s a new year and there’s something even cooler you’ll want to get your hands on.

Phil Sluder of Triaxial Design has all the boys and girls in a ring hurling rage (as you’ll see in the video) with a toy he designed along with a particle physicist, a machinist and a chicken farmer. It’s the Zyclone, and if you don’t buy one after reading this, the rest of this year will be BORING.

Here’s the scoop, the process Phil went through to design it in SolidWorks and bring the toy to market with a little advice for those wanting to do the same.

The Incredible Zing Ring Blaster!

You’ll be just as excited after you watch this video. It’s children using the product of course… as one with adults pelting each other with foam rings wouldn’t market too well. After watching, read what Phil has to say about the inspiration and business of bringing a product to market!

What was the inspiration/idea behind the Zyclone?
Phil: The inspiration for the Zyclone was a very good customer of mine who created a really cool ring airfoil launcher toy. So with that, we (the four members of the original team made up of a PhD in particle physics, a top notch machinist, a chicken farmer, and me) wanted to come up with a new toy with an alternate way of launching the rings. It turns out the entire toy would be new with a completely unique way to launch the rings.

What was the process of bringing it from idea to final product?
Phil: We felt the strategy should be to first create as many different prototypes as needed. The main tweaking involved optimizing the ring shape. After studying a lot of wind tunnel tests performed by our military industrial complex, we decided on a few shapes to try out. Since the rings and a lot of the other parts were made of expanded polyethylene foam, we couldn’t use any rapid prototyping techniques. We had to actually machine them using a high speed grinder CNC contraption. Once we had the first generation design complete, we created a limited run of around 1000 toys. We produced all the tooling and parts in the USA, and even designed a robotic fixture to paint a spiral on the outside of the rings.

Phil: The first 1000 sold quickly at malls and surf shops, but we soon found out it was too much effort to do our own marketing. So one of the guys packed up the remaining toys and got a booth at the New York Toy Fair. After getting in trouble for shooting them in the isles, we struck a deal with a different major toy manufacturer to license this new toy. Long story short, they changed the look of the toy and for two years failed to deliver any significant quantity to the market. It turns out the rings are tricky to manufacture as well. The center of gravity has to be just right or the rings precess to the left or right. We had sold them all the correct component molds, but they “lost” them somewhere in China, and since they wanted to change the toy to something that doesn’t look like an engineer designed it, the original tooling was obsolete anyway.

Phil: We eventually got the rights back due to the non-performance in manufacturing / marketing. Once again we peddled the toy at the New York Toy Fair, and accepted a license offer from Zing Toys Inc. They once again changed the look of our toy. I guess that’s what industrial design guys do; they take a perfectly nerdy, engineer developed, “form follows function” shape and turn it into something very cool. They have now delivered production units in a reasonable time, and it looks like this relationship will be a home run.

How did SolidWorks and the prototypes help with bringing it to market?
Phil: The original design, tooling, drawings, simulation, and marketing materials were all done in SolidWorks. The imagination and physics were done in using our limited but adequate brains.

What advice would you give others wanting to manufacture/market a product?
Phil: My two top pieces of advice are:

  1. As early in the process as you can, estimate the production costs and make sure you will be able to sell it for a marketable price. A lot of great ideas just cannot be manufactured for a low enough retail price.
  2. I think that having a limited quantity of production units to display, use, and even show successful preliminary sales figures on will help enormously with selling the idea to investors, manufacturers, distributors, etc.
  3. I know, I said two, but the third piece of advice is to understand what is meant by “non-performance” as it relates to licensing the product to another party.

A big thanks to Phil for telling us about the process he’s been through in developing a Toy product. I’m looking forward to getting one myself. You can buy the Zyclone online now at sites like ZycloneAmazon.

Phil is speaking at SolidWorks World next week!

You can read about him and the presentations via the SolidWorks blog. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.

Monday, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM SolidWorks Tips, Tricks, and Traps
Tuesday, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM 10 Essentials You Must Understand to Use SolidWorks Effectively


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.