The symbolic part of the Smartek logo is the S. This letter logo is build from two elements, the Infinity symbol and the Yin & Yang symbol. The Smartek S symbolises the infinite attraction the blocks have physically when holding them in your hands. Furthermore the Smartek S symbolises the dualism between magnetism and friction. Connecting two Smartek blocks together and placing them half way will hold them together due to these two force in balance.
The logo of Smartek has been designed externally by Ron Driessen (www.rondriessen.com).
Smartek is a mixture of Bartek (founders name) and Smart. The first company registration was in the previous millennium as a website design company, but this didn't turn out to be a huge success. After many years of thinking, contemplating, looking for unsolved problems, we stumbled upon the idea of the current Smartek magnetic building blocks.
The main idea of Smartek started with the problem that magnets have two sides; North Pole and South Pole. It turns out this actually applies to almost all solutions to connect things. Think about a button that requires a buttonhole, a bolt that needs a nut, but also a LEGO block that needs holes and studs to connect together. Experimenting with fabric was not a success but 3D-printing opened up a new world of opportunities. Initially using Shapeways (outsourced 3D-printing) turned into buying our first 3D-printer - Prusa MK3.
Originally starting with many magnets inside a plastic block, but ended up in one spherical magnet inside a square block AKA cube. It turned out that this idea already was patented many years ago (previous millennium) nevertheless it had also already expired. After 3D-printing flat surface cubes with a spherical magnet inside, we started to observe that this solution was not perfect. Flat surfaces make two connected cubes spin around their connected axis i.e. there is no 'perfect' alignment like e.g. with LEGO.
Adding balls and holes (also know as protrusions and intrusions) in various different layouts brought us to the current Smartek Magnetic Building as you see on this page. The balls and holes structure not only ensure good alignment of cubes together, they also give the option to place them half way where a balance is found between friction and magnetic force. These balls and holes add infinite options to connects blocks together.
This was an exciting year where we registered the company, registered our logo and after many hours of writing filed the patent application.
After protecting our IP we moved on to the exciting process of injection moulding. With our partner (Promolding) we started experimenting with 3D Printed Injection Moulding (PRIM) but due to the small parts within the block this was not a success. Therefore we had to move to a complex and expensive mould. With our Dutch partner having a factory in Shanghai we completely outsourced the injection moulding to China.
Magnets are dangerous for any person to ingest. Children (even teens) have in the past been experimenting with ingesting magnets and trying to understand what happens with them in their body. This is something we learned during the CE certification process, Since the original Smartek cubes are small, although the magnet is not exposed, they are not to be sold as a toy. Therefore they are not suitable for consumers under 14 years old.
We received the approval that the original Smartek blocks can be sold for consumers older than 14. This gave use the boost to build our website, design the box and setup an online shop. To complete our supply chain we purchased a Ultrasonic Welding Machine in order to solder and assemble the two pieces of plastic and the magnet together. This makes the product much stronger and furthermore gives us the designation - 'Made in Holland'.
Our online store opened in October and our first sale was on October 8, 2020 were we sold 12 boxes to a lovely customer in Canada. Thank you for that. Since November 2020 we can also be found on the biggest online retailer in The Netherlands - bol.com.
We migrated our online store from Webflow to foxy.io which gave us the option to implement the pick-a-block section. We experimented with Amazon but swiftly moved away from this beast.
Our 3D printer is working every day on new prototypes and models for the next big step at Smartek. To improve printing we upgrade to a 5 colour 3D printer. We also purchased a folding machine -Mayku Formbox- which makes it possible to quickly prototype 3D plastic in order to develop packaging.
An exciting moment was to do a professional recording with a national TV station for a 2 minute video on national television.
Prototyping, prototyping and prototyping. The year where lockdowns are 'gone' and we enter new global challenges. Main focus is finding the right Smartek Toys block for a launch in 2023 together with finding funding for the initial production run.
Since Smartek is run next to our full-time daily job, kids, family, friends and sports, we therefore take our time and run Smartek in our own pace. We have many great ideas for the future like bigger blocks and perhaps other shapes. Stay tuned.