DLC Baptism of Fire

In March 2017, we launched our first ProGauntlet beta series. These multiple sets of PG’s were to be rigorously tested in secret by Dutch HEMA clubs Mars and Zwaard&Steen.

The results of these tests were mixed. Among a legion of good bad and uglies, three features stood out.

  • In terms of mobility, the Beta1s passed with flying colours, with users being able to perform complex techniques, tie shoelaces, sign NDA’s and according to one user, even perform the daunting task of unclipping bra-straps (though this wasn’t part of the testing protocol!).
  • When it came to durability, we encountered fundamental issues. Our hardshell material performed right as promised, but the threads that were keeping the whole system together rapidly failed, even though they were made of the toughest fibers available on the market. After a few test sessions, the gloves were starting to fall apart.
  • And how about protection? In most areas, our combination of hardshell and padding layers did exactly what it was designed for. But the mechanical connections between the fingers and the dorsal plate had so much play that the hard shell would sometimes roll away upon impact, exposing the finger. The biggest concern, however was thrust protection. We’ve all seen the horrifying pictures of hands completely transfixed by blunt sword tips and we were determined to find a way to reduce the risk of such accidents happening on a regular basis. But that was a complex puzzle to solve and by the time Beta1 rolled out, we still had no satisfying solution.

 

All in all, despite how the Beta 1 looked on the outside, we weren’t quite there yet, but the tests proved we were going in the right direction and the results gave us a boost to return to the drawing board and bring the PG to the next level. What followed was more than a year of experimentation in which, on a detailed level, the glove would undergo a complete redesign. Aside from taking advice from select users visiting our HQ, this was a time in which we had very little contact with the outside HEMA world.

Last Saturday, that time came to an end, as we presented our new and improved ProGauntlet Prototypes in public at the Dutch Lions Cup tournament in Utrecht. This time, we decided to raise the stakes and have them see some serious action. And what better test than to have them be worn in an actual tournament?

Arto Fama, a trusty advisor to the project for many years, was up to the challenge and felt confident enough that this new experimental model would keep him safe (no pressure!).

With some last minute modifications before the tournament, we were good to go. We watched, somewhat tentatively, as the first match went by… and all went well. We asked if Arto wanted to continue with his old gloves, but he made it clear there was no way he would let go. What followed was a beautiful series of fights, amazing technique with seemingly effortless transitions between hand positions as well as half-swording and grappling and a great measure of control. A true pleasure to behold! If anything, it was the desire to see this kind of fighting performed in tournaments that has motivated us since day one of the ProGauntlet project. Arto made it past the pool phase and went on to win both the technical award and the sportsmanship award. We honestly couldn’t wish for a better and more inspiring champion to showcase the ProGauntlet and we would once more like to congratulate Arto on his achievements.

dlcpics1Left: Arto striking with a reverse half sword grip
Right: Arto strikes with an unterhau to the back of the head

dlcpics2Left: Arto shows the glove to the audience
Right: Jane grabs her opponent’s blade

As a bonus, it turned out another exemplary fighter was still in the race for the finals: the wonderful Jane Johnston. As a true Cinderella, she tried the glove. Not a perfect match by far, but with a bit of extra tape, the fit was comfortable enough and she did us the pleasure of fighting all the way to the finals wearing our DLC prototypes! You can read all about her experience in the latest Women of Hema blog entry.

 

We would like to thank both Arto and Jane for the trust they placed in us and their wonderful display of swordsmanship.

 

So what’s next?
With the DLC prototype performing remarkably well, we have achieved a major milestone on the road to completing the ProGauntlet design. The feedback we gained from this experience will be taken into account during the development and production of the upcoming the Beta2 series. The Beta2 gloves will be rigorously tested in order to validate the full functionality of the design. We want to be absolutely sure that the products we will deliver will meet the high standards we have always envisioned.

 

Click here for the live stream of the DLC finals

 

A new path

Dear all,

The seasons have changed a few times since our last update, but the flag still flies proudly above CrossGuard HQ.
TLDR: All is well at CrossGuard. We’re working on our Beta2 series. The milestone track has been reconfigured and updated.

Will the ProGauntlet be launched before mankind sets foot on Mars?
Of course! Do you think we’ll let them go without proper hand protection? In all seriousness, we know there’s been this burning question for a lengthy amount of time, but unfortunately, there’s no straight answer. In the hope of not leaving you empty-handed, allow us to take you into our design process for a more in-depth look.

From the outside, production development may look like a simple straight path, an athletic running race which starts with a bang and where the finish line is in sight at a fixed distance. For most development projects, however, the process is more like an obstacle course in thick fog. If you improve on a product that already exists and use conventional production methods to make it, you’ll probably manage within predictable time with only a few bruises (if you’re lucky).

CrossGuard doesn’t have that luxury. The path we have chosen is wholly uncharted. In order to realise our vision, our design needs to be built from scratch, we need to use materials that have never been used in this context before and we need to confront the fact that there’s no conventional production method that can make our gloves at affordable cost in multiple sizes. So we’re developing our own.

In reality, product development is much more like a maze of interconnected gateways. Each innovation, from the tiniest feature to a complete test series is represented by a portal. Each portal is guarded by a bloodthirsty Sphynx. If you solve the riddle, you move on and make your way to the next gate. If you don’t, you’re sent back into the maze and need to keep searching for answers until you can make another attempt. If you’re lucky, this takes a few weeks (but more often, it takes a complete 3-month development cycle of, drawing/conception, modelling, prototyping and testing). If you’re not, it takes a year… Until you find the answer, there’s no way you’re passing the gate. If you try to rush through, the Sphynx will eat you alive.

Since the beginning of this project, the list of unknowns has steadily been growing, even as we made progress: We prove the exoskeleton works in concept, but without strong segment connections, the whole system wouldn’t last a week. We solve a mechanical jamming problem, but now the range of motion is restricted. A brilliant solution that solves a major weakness in durability introduces a higher risk of thrust breach. And now we’re only describing our successes. We have failed so many times, we lost count.

 

So is there any good news?
There is. We’ve gotten quite good at predicting which gates will be the hardest to pass and what the consequences will be of a failed attempt. Until the final gates are in sight, we still can’t give you, or ourselves, a rock solid launch date. But we can tweak and limit the number of gates to pass. The bane of every pioneering startup born out of passion is that the bar is set so high, that the product is never good enough. We have now set a clear line of good enough. And these are the remaining gates we need to pass in order to get there:

  • Solve all issues of the Beta 1 model and implement it in a Beta 2 prototype (Both hard shell system and inner glove)
  • Produce and release the Beta 2 series (12-16 pairs in one size) among worldwide test users.
  • Validated Beta 2 model (if the model contains too many bugs, we will initiate a full extra development cycle here). If validated, the functional design will be ready and locked.
  • Conduct a detailed community hand sizing research.
  • Make an in-house Beta 3 model, that is parametric and scalable to our 3 first basic sizes
  • Complete and validate production system & product assembly line.
  • Release Mark1 in a limited number of sizes.

Development continues after the release of Mark 1 to increase the number of sizes and improve features.

 

That seems like quite a list. Is it going to take another 5 years?
No. The first few years it was mostly Maarten and Youval. Now CrossGuard has grown to a team of 10 and has 3 young and talented designers working exclusively on the ProGauntlet. This means we can work on multiple issues and development tracks simultaneously, rather than one after the other.

 

In conclusion
For all the above-mentioned reasons, it’s not easy to give you an exact, reliable timeline at this moment. Rather, we will show you which gates need to be passed before the release of ProGauntlet Mark1 (Check out the new path below)

In all honesty, we had completely underestimated what it would take to put something like the ProGauntlet on the market. If we had known, we’d probably never had started in the first place. But all of this has been part of a necessary learning process to bring a beautiful, but complex product to completion.

If there’s anything you need to take away from all this, it’s that however things may look on the outside, we’re still 100% committed to bringing this ship to port. You can’t imagine all the amazing innovations our production developers have come up with, or the sheer number of experimental concept solutions our designers have gone through! One day, hopefully not too long from now, we’re sure you will be able to appreciate and enjoy the fruit of our many labours.

Until then, we’d like to thank you for your continuing support. Your encouraging messages and emails have made and keep making a big difference.

 

– Team CrossGuard

Alive and well

Dear all,

Let’s start by saying that CrossGuard and project ProGauntlet are alive and well! It’s just that aside from a few live appearance at tournaments and clubs we needed to be completely off the air for a while. If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that publishing news is like building a campfire. It’s no use to strike a match before you have gathered enough firewood to last the night. So, we’ve decided to direct our attention and energy inwards and completely focus on developing our team and our product, until we had enough fuel to keep the fire burning.
Despite this introspective period, we have received countless of truly heartwarming messages of support from all over the world, and we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to both newcomers and longtime followers, who have stuck with us and (often unknowingly) lifted our spirits in times of need.

So where do we stand?
The rumors are true. We have completed a first fully functional model and soon after, we produced a small Beta 1 series in a single size which was distributed among a select group of Dutch Indiegogo backers. After months of rigorous testing, we were able to make the following conclusions:

  •  The ProGauntlet’s mobility and lightness are a great success! With a big smile on our faces, we witnessed our testers effortlessly performing fast, complex techniques which we had only seen in bare-handed exercises before.
  • When it came to impact protection, the Beta model was absolutely solid it most areas, but still needed to be optimised in others.
    After all the hard work to get this right, these were the exactly the results we were hoping for!
  • Unfortunately, the connections between the hard-shell parts were quick to wear down, which seriously compromised the durability of our gloves. If we wanted to create something that could stand the rigours of tournament level fighting, we’d have no choice, but to completely redesign the connective system.
  • On top of this, we needed to adapt the overall design to drastically bring down assembly times (a core requirement if we want to be able to sell the PG at an affordable price) and to integrate a new thrust protection system.

In short, we had made great progress but needed to go back to the drawing board to bring the ProGauntlet to the next level.
This additional research and redesign phase has taken the biggest part of the year and the majority of our attention. But the good news is that we have generated a multitude of promising solutions that will soon go into a new internal testing phase. Once we are satisfied, we shall launch a new test series, PG Beta 2, which, if proven successful, will be very close to the final ProGauntlet Mark one design.

This means that the timeline needs to be updated, as we are pushing towards 2018. Like most pioneering start-ups, we are in uncharted waters and we can never predict with certainty how much effort the next step is going to take. But for now, know that we are confidently moving forward and that we are getting closer and closer to fulfilling our goal to bring you a protective glove unlike any you’ve ever seen.

Thank you once more for your patience and your ongoing support!

– Team CrossGuard

DLC 2016

Breaking news!

Tomorrow at 16:00, CrossGuard will be present at the Dutch Lions Cup in Utrecht, Netherlands. We will do a short presentation together with tournament veteran Arto Fama to demonstrate our latest prototype. We haven’t yet completed our current milestone, but we’re getting pretty close now! Our gratitude goes to the DLC organisers at Zwaard&Steen to give us the stage at their brand new tournament event. And since we’re great supporters of the “A” in HEMA, CrossGuard is sponsoring the Technical Award for the most exemplary fighter. The winner will receive a pair of ProGauntlets once they’re released.

We wish all the fighters good luck in showing us the beauty of our martial heritage (no pressure!).