Balance Design Process

Designing new products isn’t easy, as any inventor will tell you. But at Balance, working in an industry that we love and want to push forward, at least we get to have a lot of fun during our design process.

So how do we go about making new products?

1. Extensive testing of existing products.

In this case we will use the Refined Pipe as an example.

When we work with our suppliers to choose existing products for our Balance Branded and Balance Selected ranges, we have the opportunity to try an almost infinite range of products and designs. This is all the more true for something like a pipe, a tried-and-tested technology that’s been around for thousands of years and a product that every smoke shop will stock. So we tested literally hundreds of different pipes of all price ranges to find the best on the market.

Funnily enough, even after all of this testing, we still felt that the market leaders fell short.

2. Problem definition. Brainstorming/possible solutions or solutions that exist.

Several common issues with most pipes on the market;

  • They have no cooling system so the smoke can be hot and harsh. This makes for a less pleasant experience with lots of coughing.
  • Constantly replacing the gauzes is often fiddly, always messy and they don’t even fully stop you inhaling bits of ash or herbs occasionally.
  • As soon as you have a hit they smell very strongly and need storing carefully or cleaning after every use.
  • Cleaning them can be difficult, hard to reach all areas of many  pipes and some of the materials used, especially wood, soaks up the tar making them virtually impossible to clean fully.
  • The materials and manufacture quality is often very poor meaning they easily break or stop working properly.

No existing product fixed all the issues. Some products have clever designs to fix one problem but never all of them. For example;

The palm leaf pipe is well made, cools the smoke with its internal pattern for the smoke to follow and is fairly easy to clean. However, it still uses gauzes and it smells terribly as soon as its been used and really has to be cleaned straight away after use as so much area is in contact with the smoke.

The amazed pipe has a great cooling system but a bowl that’s contained so you cannot see how much it is burning, as well as a gauze that lets bits in and clogs it up.

A classic ‘old man’ pipe often includes a filter chamber. Unfortunately, the bowl is often very deep, requires specialised gauzes and cleaning them can be a nightmare, especially a if made out of wood.

The screen queen utilises a clever idea with the removeable screen so you don’t need to use gauzes but does not really address any of the other common issues associated with smoking pipes.

3. Defining the Product.

This just means identifying the things it needs to do in order to be the best. The solutions to the main problems seen in pipes.

4. Design.

Our in house engineer then builds the components in 3D and there we go over each element until we feel it is roughly how we want it to look.

5. Prototyping.

We print the product in our 3D printer to get a proper feel for it. The difference of seeing something in an image and actually being able to hold it and move it around is huge and we will often do 10+ prints before we have something we think is about right.

Refined Pipe on tin

6. Sampling/Tender

Depending on the product we may be able to use an existing client / manufacturer. If not then the sampling order goes out to multiple companies. Once we have working samples we test them extensively.

For the Refined pipe we got samples from around 10 companies, all slightly different versions, and tested them all individually as well as mixing and matching different parts. In this case we also got others involved, so here typically, the close to finished version was tested by dozens of different people.

7. Ordering

Once we are happy with the quality and price of the samples we confirm which company we use and then make any final adjustments, as well as using our in house designer to work out the packaging. Then the order is placed and our new product is born!