The concept of eating utensils in the shape of human bone anatomy was day-dreamed in 2011 and remained just an idea until the spring of 2014 when the first prototypes were created. Those were delicate and not accurate real human anatomy, but were good enough for proof-of-concept prototypes which people could hold in their hands and evaluate. They were met with much enthusiasm so the push was on to start a business! But two questions had to be answered first: How to mass produce them? And what material to make them out of?
Stainless steel is the best material for eating utensils, but BoneWare’s thick, round design presents some serious steel manufacturing issues. It can be done, but how much would it cost and how long would it take to get things up and running? A lot and a long time! You’ll notice most all standard “silverware” is thin which makes it easy to form into shapes with gentle curves like fork tines and spoon bowls. However, the amount and types of machinery required to do just plain old silverware production, is extraordinarily expensive.
So, the least expensive way to produce BoneWare was plastic injection molding, which has some pretty tough challenges of it’s own. Namely, it is extremely technical, requiring really smart people from many different specialized disciplines like computer software engineers, machine programmers and mechanical engineers to make it all work. Had I known this, it might have kept me from even starting. Nah, it wouldn’t have! On a small scale, like setting up in one’s garage, it’s not terribly expensive for the machine and the molds, but production quantities would be very, very low. Meeting demand would be impossible.
A second set of prototypes were created in the spring of 2016. I had gotten married in 2015. The wife helped me with every aspect of the business, thank you Sharla. These prototype models took a month straight of 12-15 hour days to complete. They had to be exact representations of the finished products so everyone knew what they were supposed to look like when they came out of the injection molding machines.
Medical drawings, pictures and X-rays were referenced to make sure they were as life-like as possible. The Pisiform bone is an example of some of the accurate detail. Just like with real human wrist bones, the Pisiform bone is only visible in the front view. You can see it for yourself if you look in the Bone Names section on this website or on medical images. Obviously some artistic design considerations were needed so BoneWare would actually function as proper eating utensils.
The next question was, how to get a machine to carve the BoneWare shapes into steel blocks where the hot plastic will be injected? What happens in business, for example with concept cars, the production model normally never looks like the concept car. And that’s because a lot of the detail gets left out. What took BoneWare so long was, we didn’t take out ANY of the original detail. The plastic inject molded parts (BoneWare) are accurate to 1/10,000 of an inch, identical to the original handmade prototypes!
So, how do you get a machine to carve the BoneWare shapes in steel blocks? There are several ways, but I chose digital scanning. The prototype models were scanned and the 3D measurements were turned into information the mold maker’s machine understood. That was an oversimplification and this is where it got real technical. However, none of it would have been possible without the master copy prototypes! The DESIGN section goes into much more detail.