History of the Jellifish
1997 - Robb Hendrickson experiments with overdubbing textures to layer on top of rhythm guitar track. He uses a wire drum brush to stroke, strum & spank chords on a second guitar track. The sounds produced are fresh & ear-catching, but the drum brush makes for an unwieldy plectrum. Robb decides to fabricate a more usable version. As he's about to cut the wires from the drum brush, he realizes guitar string might work equally well. Initially he tries to sandwich unwound guitar string between two guitar picks using epoxy, but these attempts fail. Next, he tries soldering guitar wire to various American coins, with poor results. Robb finally stumbles onto the combination of oxyacetylene welding and foreign coins, specifically 100 peso coins from Mexico.
1998 - Having finally discovered a good prototyping process, Robb begins experimenting with various gauges of both wound and unwound guitar and bass strings. The first prototypes of this kind are made by brazing the tines to the coin's side. (photo coming soon) Subsequent prototypes are made using an ultra-thin jeweler's saw to cut a slit parallel to the face of the coin in the center of its edge. (photo coming soon) Each prototype takes about 20 minutes to produce. After dozens of prototypes are built and tested, Robb prepares and files a utility patent.
1999 - Robb solicits a beta test group online to determine which configuration of diameter, winding and bevel should be used for the first production model.
2000 - The first US patent issues.
2001 - Market research and further prototyping using 100 peso coins.
2002 - Jellifish Inc. is founded. Chicago-based industrial design firm Gravity Tank engaged to finalize design and create next-generation prototypes. (photo coming soon) Compression-wound orchestral wire replaces lathe-wound guitar wire. The first production Jellifish come to market in October.
2003 - Generations 2.0 and 2.5 come to market in mid-January. Third-generation subassemblies come to market in June. Pebax (aka "Firecoral") and clear Lexan (aka "November Salsa") handles tested in August and November, respectively.
2004 - 4.0 generation subassemblies come to market in March. Version 4.5 development begins. (photo coming soon)
What are the differences between various generations of Jellifish?
First, although there are prototypes and production units, we only refer to the generation number of the production units, not the prototypes. That said, we currently only track the generation number of the subassemblies. In other words, the generation numbers do not include the limited production runs that differ by plastic type and color or by the artwork pad-printed thereon. In short, the following distinctions only refer to differences in how the plectrum portion of the Jellifish is assembled.
- v1.0 - Compression-wound orchestral wire is cut into one-inch sections using a wire-forming machine known as a four-slide. These sections are then very tediously individually oriented and positioned into a loading nest by the molding machine operator. The outcome is a parallelogram-shaped group of tines. Less than 1,000 production units of this type were manufactured. These can be distinguished by the absence of solder or a weldment across the tines inside the Lexan body. This generation is pictured in all Company print ads prior to June 2004.
- v2.0 - Identical one-inch sections are fixtured and joined using a solder bath. The insert-molding operator now need only handle a single subassembly.
- v2.1 - Higher temperature silver solder is used for its free-flowing characteristic. While these subassemblies increase productivity of the molding operation, no real capacity gains are seen as the labor intensive task of aligning one-inch sections has simply been moved forward in the production process. However, because cycle time during molding is more consistent, yield improves since plastic temperatures in the barrel remain constant. Less than 2,000 second-generation Jellifish are produced. These units can be identified by the characteristic parallelogram shape of the subassembly and the thin band of solder running along the top of the encapsulated portion. A dull gray band of solder indicates v2.0 while the v2.1 silver solder units are identified by a shinier band of solder that more closely follows the scalloped contours of the 18 wires.
- v3.0 - The same one-inch sections are now inserted into a jig with 90-degree pockets (versus the offset parallelogram pocket jigs used for solder bath joining). Microscopic TIG welding replaces the solder bath and provides greater consistency and a higher yield. The standard 24.7-degree bevel of the Jellifish is then cut from the 90-degree TIG-welded subassemblies using a CO2 laser. The laser-cut bevels are smoother and more consistent than the bevels of the prior generations. The heat produced in the cutting process fuses the jacket and core wires together along the beveled edge, greatly reducing any chance of the composite wire unraveling. Between 10,000 and 15,000 of these units were produced between May 2003 and February 2004. These units are visually distinct from prior generations in that the subassembly is now trapezoidal (versus parallelogram) in shape, a characteristic also common to the current fourth-generation subassemblies. v3.0 subassemblies can be distinguished from v4.0 units by the handmade appearance of the weld bead at the top of the insert portion of the subassembly. Furthermore, third-generation subassemblies lack the "tinning" band found along the beveled-edge of their fourth-generation counterparts. Third-generation subassemblies are found in the standard blue Lexan Jellifish as well as the limited-run "Firecoral" and "November Salsa" models made from pearlescent Pebax and clear Lexan, respectively.
- v4.0 - Our fourth-generation subassemblies are the most radical advance yet! Although we continue to use a compression-wound composite orchestral wire manufactured to our metallurgical specifications, the four-slide wire-forming operations of roller-straightening and cutting the material into one-inch sections are now eliminated. Reels of material are fed into a computer-automated machining (CAM) operation wherein a four-axis neodymium yttrium aluminum garnet. (Nd:YAG) laser creates ultra-precise perpendicular welds and tins a one-eighth-inch band at a 24.7-degree angle. Long belts of 18 wires welded and tinned side-by-side are then moved to a second CAM Nd:YAG laser table where they are cut into subassemblies. Consistency is vastly improved, with virtually indistinguishable subassemblies from one part to the next. Nd:YAG proves superior to CO2 for our needs. Fourth-generation bevels are incrementally robust and the heat-affected zone (HAZ) in the encapsulated region becomes almost non-existent. Total capacity across the entire manufacturing operation is also increased, allowing us to now create quantities suitable for selling direct to independent dealers, with national distributors soon to follow.
What coming improvements can we expect to see?
v4.1 subassemblies will designate the integration of our Nd:YAG systems. The primary benefit of integration is increased manufacturing efficiency; however, incremental improvements in uniformity will undoubtedly result as both systems come under the simultaneous control of a single CAM program. We expect this integration to occur mid-summer 2004.
We are continuously seeking-out ways to improve our engineering and manufacturing processes. Engineering investigations currently underway that may find their way into production units fall into two categories: geometry and materials. Below, you'll find some examples from both of these areas that we are currently exploring.
- Core wire
- Tension during winding
- Jacket wire
- Interface edge
- Standing core
- Gate placement
- Core wire
- Jacket wire