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How failure led to a world class linkage.

quantum mechanics

Ironically, the atomLink project began in the 1990s as saeng released it’s first mounting systems.  These systems used components from the Quantum fairing’s suspension and air management hardware to produce our first Cockpit mounts, Quick-Scan mirrors, and Winglet wind deflectors.  Their signature booted linkages gave them a neat military look, but assembly was slow.  The fairing components where designed to withstand high wind-loads and G-forces, which sounds great, but there was a down side.  The net effect was the first systems were over-engineered, bulky, and certainly not a minimal design.

From the get-go, I wanted a simple and elegant mounting solution and, as with most things, this was easier said than done. For years, I tested new designs, but nothing worked. Then, in 1995, my life and the direction of the company changed.  My father had just passed away a few weeks earlier when my brother called. He needed help with the family company and hoped I would come on board. Saeng was struggling financially, and with a wife and five kids, his offer was a gift from heaven.

new job, big task

In the years preceding my father’s death, the family business was showing signs of trouble.  It had lost market share and its reputation as an industry leader. The product line, packaging, and corporate branding needed work. In short, turning the company around was a major task.  How long was it going to take… Frankly, I had no idea.  The one thing I did know was Saeng had to be put on a back burner.

Over the next 25 years, despite more than my share of mistakes, my father’s company slowly regained strength. During this time, Saeng lost momentum and with no money for projects, I was limited to only a few test mounting systems each year.  Regardless of the pace, over the years, I accumulated a large assortment of trial designs. At times, the project felt hopeless, but by the process of elimination, I was honing in on a new mounting concept… I just didn’t know it.  

the list grew

With each failure, the feeling of futility grew as did the design goals.  Despite minor advances,  the question remained… How can a simple and minimal system incorporate so many features?  I was pushing the design boundaries and the design boundaries were pushing back.  My design philosophy prepared me for this but I was starting to feel like a jilted lover.  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. Linkage system must be modular and have the ability to incorporate spacers and specialized adapters.
  2. Linkages must have indexed adjustment.
  3. Linkages must have adjustable friction settings plus be fully lockable. 
  4. Linkage action must be smooth and have a good tactile response. 
  5. Linkages must have a high strength to weight ratio.
  6. Linkages must look finished on the top and underside and be aesthetically balanced.

Most will not realize how daunting a list like this can be to engineers and designers.  And though my optimism was waning, dawn was about to lighten the eastern sky. 

the dawning of a new system

It wasn’t anticipated, nor planned, but in 2019 the design themes started to take on a life of their own…  A new and unique system was starting to emerge.  Luckily, my father’s company was back on its feet, and I was able to turn a little more of my attention back to saeng.  The key breakthrough came when the functions were redistributed to a new set of components.  They were an indexing disc and a silicone friction ring, which double as a compression ring.  In order to minimize wear and provide the smoothest action, the indexing/locking system uses nibs and sockets instead meshing teeth. 

The friction ring was placed skirting the inside edges of the opposing disc housings.  The compression aspect of this friction ring keeps the system both smooth, predictable, and adds an extra depth to the tactile response. So far, so good, but the real world was about to give me a wake up call.

reality check
the beautiful start needed work

By this time, I realized I had the foundation of an amazing system.  For years, I worked with my nose to the grindstone, but it was time to face reality, and when I did, reality wasn’t pretty. The market had changed dramatically.  “Made in China” mounts were everywhere, while a few still tried to compete from this side of the Pacific. 

The market was saturated, and worse yet, many of the designs were good.  I had, what I considered the best design, but it all boiled down to one thing.  If I was going to compete in this world market, I was going to have to up my game big time.  This meant a whole new component attachment system and supporting hardware was still needed.

last lap
a three year race to the starting line

The last lap was long and arduous, but if this system was going to come to market, no part was going to be a weak link.  This meant every part had to meet the same objectives as the primary atomLink component.  Literally dozens of prototypes flooded the design desk. Several of the components were tested against each other. Improvements in one would lead to changes in another.  During this period, besides the entire auxiliary support systems, the clipLok mount and viPod dampener were conceived, tested and designed…This story will be told later.   All this while racing the clock, submitting patents, setting and missing launch dates, and finally… getting the first molds on order. 

the charm, strange and boson family

The family of atomLink parts had come to life.  Twin dual orbital axis platforms, gang arms, and exoskeleton extensions are a few of these strange yet charming components. As we rise to the top of this particle pyramid, we come to the viPod dampener where vibration energy goes to die and the clipLok docking system where earthly cargo is carried.  In closing, these orbital dimpled geared components and their quarky compatriots have time shifted us all into the new atomLink era.   

Chuck Saunders
Industrial designer / CEO Saeng
There is a big and wondrous world of magnificent designs, so get out there and explore!