Answering “How will it feel in your hand?” with Rapid Prototyping

Willy Yonkers
Oct 17 · 3 min read

In the past two years, Token has made enormous strides to make our ring a reality. Inside it’s packed with almost 100 distinct components, including four microprocessors and a powerful microbattery to support the embedded system. Stretching the limits of layered system design, miniaturizing everything, and in many cases, inventing entirely new ways of applying technology — thanks to our RIT-driven engineering team — is what we do best. But we wouldn’t have been able to take such significant strides to bring this product to market if it wasn’t for an iterative process known as rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping has been around since the 70s. It’s standard practice in Agile development, and takes many forms. In a nutshell, it’s the computer-controlled generation of a physical object: modeling. In an industry like ours, where we’re merging cutting edge technology with high-end jewelry design, the ability to hold and handle each aspect of the Token experience is essential. From ring to charger to packaging, our design considerations often come down to the simple question, “How will it feel in your hand?” It’s only through rapid prototyping that this question gets answered.

The “woodie” charger prototype

While FDM 3D printing (essentially using a standard plastic filament extruding device) is the fastest and easiest form of prototyping, that’s not to say we haven’t employed more traditional, and sometimes even ancient methods. One of my favorite charger designs was a mix of zinc and Spalted maple. It was a prototype created as much to test different curvatures of the assembly as it was to satisfy our curiosity about how a wooden charger would look. And of course, you can only answer the question, “How will it feel in your hand?” by using real materials.

Final Token charger

The first two generations of Token were created through a process called investment casting, a laborious manufacturing technique that’s been in use for the past 5,000 years. It entailed crafting a ringform from wax, and then dipping it in plaster. After that, the wax was melted out of the plaster, and molten silver poured in. The plaster was then broken, and the process had to begin anew — for every single copy! Rings forged in this way were among the prototypes used by our friends at Microsoft for early beta testing.

As we bring all the pieces of the ring and charger together for launch, it’s amazing to look back on the many materials, designs and approaches we’ve employed. Thanks in part to rapid prototyping, we’re moving to the final manufacturing phase, and are so excited to see our work find its home in your hands in the coming months.

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Willy Yonkers

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Token unifies the way you prove your identity to the world — live free of keys, cards, badges, and passwords.

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