Our Journey

From idea, to research, testing and prototype. Click on the tabs below to see our journey till date!

#1 Start of the Journey
#2 Prototype Design (1 & 2)
#3 Factory Update (1)
#4 Initial sample
#5 Packaging, pouch, tips
#6 Prototypes (1 & 2)
#7 Prototypes arrived
#8 Research (1)
#9 Prototype Design 3
#10 Packaging Direction
#11 Foam Tip Experiment
#12 Experiment Results
#13 Prototypes 3
#14 Packaging Samples
#15 Final Research
#1 Start of the Journey

Start of the Journey

Hey there, thanks for visiting this page. I'm Marissa, founder of ATTENU8 and I am starting this page as a place to reflect on my company’s progress as we look towards launching our own ear plugs on crowdfunding platforms this year. There are HEAPS to be done and penning down our progress is crucial. Regardless of the outcome, we can reflect on what we have done well, and what we could have done better.  


We’ve been selling ear plugs for the past year and from our customers’ feedback and FAQs, I think it’s time we created our own ones. 


About Us:

We first started distributing and selling a range of ear plugs in 2020. Since then, we've had feedback + FAQs from customers on some of the products sold and we wanted to address those gaps. I wouldn't call ourselves 'revolutionary' or 'game-changing', neither are we the 'world's first'. But it was important that we tried to close the gaps that our customers faced and make improvements to something as simple as a 'ear plug'. 

"Sometimes, little things make a big difference"
- Nino Varsimashvili

We didn't reinvent the wheel but rather, designed with intent - making small tweaks that matter. I want to set the gold-standard of ear plugs and more importantly, rid the notion that ear plugs are ‘uncool’ and encourage the use of hearing protection in our daily lives. This starts with educating the use of ear plugs and how to attain the correct fit to maximise sound attenuation.


I thank you for taking interest in our project and we’ll do our best to deliver a superior product and be transparent in our updates for the weeks to come. 


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#2 Prototype Design (1 & 2)

Prototype designs 1 & 2

The ‘star’ of this entire project are the ear plugs so it’s important we get this right. We drafted 2 variations, both featuring a solid aluminium body; as metal is denser than foam, we believe this makes metal a good isolator.

A sketch of design 1's prototype

Initial sketch of design 1

A sketch of design 2's prototype
Initial sketch of design 2


The difference between the two variations is in design: 

  • First option: One with a straight body 

  • Second option: A concave body for better grip

  • For the first option, we plan to include a bottom foam tip to cap the exposed end. This will be great for side sleepers.


We’ve also sourced for an ear plug factory with the specialised equipment to help conduct tests and ensure our ear plugs conform to EN352-2:2002 standards. We will be discussing the feasibility of our designs with them and initial costs involved.


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#3 Factory Update (1)

Factory update

The factory is able to create both the prototypes so that’s great news! However when it comes to colour choice, there is a minimum order quantity for each colour. We have discussed that we will be laser-focused and launch with 1 colour to ensure a seamless fulfilment process when the crowdfunding campaign ends.

We have gone back and forth on the ideal colour and trying to find THAT exact gender neutral colour is not easy…

For now, we’ve told the factory to produce it in chrome, blue and black oyster. Let’s see how that turns out. 🤞


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#4 Initial sample

Initial sample was wrong

The initial samples are in and sadly, the factory manufactured the body shape wrongly. I said they look like dumbbells and it’s menacing to have that in your ear. 🤭 

The first sample that went wrong and is shaped like dummbell

'Dumbbell' sample that went wrong


Nevertheless, we will keep the black oyster dumbbells as a colour reference while the factory continues working on the shape of the metal body. I’m also trying to push the factory to complete it ASAP so I can conduct interviews during the upcoming long CNY weekend.


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#5 Packaging, pouch, tips

The other puzzle pieces 

While waiting for the metal body, we shifted our focus to the other parts of the product: packaging, pouch and foam tips.

Packaging
To get inspiration - Pinterest was our best friend. We even took reference from a creative coffee table that had the potential to be a box packaging if exponentially down-sized 😂

Coffee drawer inspiration for our packaging

Coffee drawer inspiration from Pinterest

Pouch
We also explored different materials for the pouch (mesh, linen, velvet etc) and what could work best.

Foam tips
Since everyone has unique ear canals, we have decided to include 3 different ear tip sizes - XS (for smaller ear canals), S and M for every purchase. In the rare case that a customer needs L, we will send them a pair if the default sizes do not fit well.

Separately, the factory will be sending some samples of a rounder shaped foam tip with a rebound time of more than 10 seconds. We will try them out and see which works best - can’t wait!


We’re now pending the factory to advise on feasibility, costs and minimum order quantities.


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#6 Prototypes (1 & 2)

1st look at the aluminium body 

Yay the 2 metal bodied ear plugs are ready! For alignment sake, let’s call the chrome coloured ear plug: Design 1 and the blue coloured: Design 2.

Metal body of design 1

Design 1, chrome metal body

Metal body of design 2
Design 2, blue metal body

Ignore the design for now, my personal preference for colours are Black oyster, blue and chrome:


Colour options for metal body


Although not quite the blue I was hoping for, I told the factory to ship the samples and ear plugs to me in the interest of time. They advised that it will take approximately 2 weeks to arrive - so I’ll update then!


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#7 Prototypes arrived

Arrived and here's our first impressions

Wohoo ~ Shipping was way faster than predicted. Here's what arrived in the mail: 

  • Main 2 prototypes (design 1 & 2)

  • Memory foam tips

  • 4 types of packaging

  • 4 types of pouch 

First impressions: Blue ear plugs (design 2) have a smoother finishing, but I don't quite like the colour of it. The smaller dimensions fit nicely in the ears and are great for side sleeping. I’ve also used both ear plugs at night and they do the job in blocking out noisy family members (dragging of feet with bedroom slippers, flicking the switch in the next room).


Since the consent forms for research participants are sorted – it is time to conduct some research with both new and existing ear plug users. 
Will update on their feedback, watch this space! ☺ 


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#8 Research (1)

The initial research 

Ok, we managed to jam-pack 25 one-hour interviews during the Chinese New Year weekend 🙂 We tested with users from all walks of life: light sleepers, suffering from anxiety issues (triggered by noise), musicians, individuals working in construction and even new ear plug users. We mainly asked for their feedback on the design of ear plugs, colour, packaging and pouch.

We also played a list of sound clips (such as snoring, jet planes, drilling etc) and got participants to rate how effective the ear plugs were in reducing noise.

A research participant looking at the packaging options

Research participant looking at packaging options



Research participant trying out the ear plugs while cutting wood

Research participant trying ATTENU8™ ear plugs while cutting wood

Verdict:

  • Effectiveness of both ear plugs were largely similar and both were effective in reducing lower frequencies. 

  • Design of ear plugs: For participants who use ear plugs for sleeping, they prefer the chrome design as they liked having the option of capping the metal with the optional bottom foam tips provided. Other than that, users were split down the middle

  • Colour preference: Black oyster but they provided other colour options to explore 

  • Packaging: Magnetic box

  • Pouch: Mesh pouch

  • Most common foam tip size that fit: S

  • Rounded foam tips with > 10 seconds rebound time: Some were uncomfortable with ‘crackling’ sound when foam was slowly expanding in the ear. Wasn’t as visually appealing as it looked like a lightbulb. 


Next steps: 

  • Design our packaging

  • Tweak the fitting instructions 

  • Design of ear plug

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#9 Prototype Design 3

Prototype design 3

Since the feedback of the metal body was split down the middle, we wanted to explore combining both designs. So back to the drawing block and here was our second prototype:

A sketch of design 3's prototype

Initial sketch of design 3


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#10 Packaging Direction

Design of packaging  

We wanted the packaging to be eye-catching, cool but not over the top. From our research we found that it was important not to overkill the design and actual packaging as people will think they’re overpaying for the product.

We will be exploring 2 designs with one having a spot UV treatment while the other spot UV + embossing.

Example of spot UV treatment
Example of spot UV treatment


Example of spot UV and emboss treatment

Also can I just say how expensive it is to print a sample of the actual packaging?! A learning point for me: Printing 1 box is no different from printing many boxes as it is the open machine fee that is costly.

However, it is crucial to see the actual packaging since there will be spot UV and embossing treatment. As much as possible, we are trying to avoid any manufacturing ‘surprises’ - so paying for actual samples and mould fee, is a necessary evil even though it is costly.


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#11 Foam Tip Experiment

Time to put on our imaginary lab coats

When I received our foam tips, I had a hunch it would be more durable than other foam tips because of this smoother texture on it. I wanted to put my hypothesis to the test so we purchased a few competitor ear plugs (foam-based) and decided to run an experiment:

  • Total of 4 foam tips were tested (ours and 3 competitors)

  • Each tip was wiped 3 times, daily for a month

  • Each foam tip was wiped with 5ml of hospital-grade alcohol solution and H2O. 

  • There was also a control set-up where tips were wiped with a dry cloth (no solution).

  • Each solution had its own respective cloth so solutions do not mix

Experiment set up with various brands of ear plugs in petri dishes
Experiment setup 

My sister who is science-ier than me will be conducting this experiment daily for a month. Every Sunday, we will take a photo of the progress of each foam tip. Please note that we should NOT be using such a strong solution like hospital-grade hand sanitzer to clean the foam tips. Typically a damp cloth will suffice so we're actually pushing the tips to the extreme. 

“In the spirit of science, there really is no such thing as a ‘failed experiment’. Any test that yields valid data is a valid test” - Adam Savage.
Wait, who? The dude on Mythbusters! 

<I’d be bummed out if my foam tips fare poorly in this experiment! 😰 >

If you're wondering how the experiment was conducted, here's a sneak peak: 

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#12 Experiment Results

Results of durability test

Week ONE:



Hospital grade hand sanitiser:

  • ATTENU8 foam tips and Brand M are doing well
  • Brand I and Brand T are already showing signs of reaction to the solution

H2O solution:

  • Generally all are doing alright - Brand T's foam is just slightly more porous than the rest. 

Control:

  • No change

Week TWO:


Hospital grade hand sanitiser:

  • ATTENU8 foam tip generally ok except slight foam that is coming off
  • Brand M feels softer, with foam slightly more porous
  • Brand I and Brand T are barely surviving with significant deterioration 

H2O solution:

  • Generally all are doing alright - Brand I's foam starting to become porous

Control:

  • All doing ok except cloth linen is sticking more on Brand I than the rest

Week THREE:


Hospital grade hand sanitiser:

  • ATTENU8 and Brand M foam tips generally ok, not much change structurally. 
  • Brand I and Brand T - destroyed

H2O solution:

  • Generally all are doing alright
  • Brand I showing signs of wearing even with H2O solution

Control:

All doing ok except cloth linen is significantly sticking more on Brand I than the rest


At the end of four weeks, here are the results: Top 2 contenders: ATTENU8™ foam tips and Brand M


ATTENU8™: From the pictures, you will see that a small of our
foam tip had
been affected but largely, the foam tip was still very much intact and usable. The texture felt similar to the control experiment.

Brand M: There was a small cut and it was more visible when the ear plug was bent. However, the texture felt different from the control experiment 

  • Brand M in hand sanitizer did not have the smooth finishing as the control. It felt sticky and way stickier than ATTENU8 foam tips. 
  • Brand M was also softer in the middle vs the control experiment. 


Brand T and Brand I: They were broken into pieces since week 3 so we stopped running experiments on them in the final week.
 

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#13 Prototypes 3

2nd look at the aluminium body

Yay prototype 2 is ready and this time in 2 new shades of blue with laser engraving done. The difference is subtle but both look pretty special! Prefer this blue compared to existing colours in the first round.

Metal body of design 3
Design 3, in 2 different shades of blue

There was some small setback with the existing colour coating factory. They did not want to produce more samples if there was no purchase order. However, that's all been sorted and we have found other colour-coating factories as options.  

We also put the ear plugs through an acoustic test feature to derive the SNR rating and data for the attenuation table. Details will be announced during our launch. 
Prototype 3 undergoing acoustic test fixture


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#14 Packaging Samples

Almost there, but not quite

We initially wanted to explore embossing on the packaging but the factory advised that it is not possible as the packaging material is not thick enough. So the two designs we have now are:

  1. Black on black, colour shown on colour block:

  2. Black and blue, colour shown on body of ear plug:


I am generally happy with the printing of the back and sides but the front is not ideal - the slightly off alignment of blue 'metal' body to black foam tips, slightly dented box, shade of blue etc. The areas of improvements are jarring to me and I am getting the printer to sort it out.
Various shades of blue
Since this website was created to document our journey, I'll be honest - it has been tedious trying to get the shade of blue as close to the metal ear plugs.

It's still not up to expectations so we have sent the actual sample to the printing factory for them to match it as closely as possible. Every time they reprint the sample, a few sheets of shimmering 'metal' need to be used and they cannot simply just use one. It will take them another 2 weeks for them to sort out the shade of blue.

PS: You can see a hint of spot UV on the right foam tip and shimmer on the right metal body  (it's not a mistake) 

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#15 Final Research

All customer research - complete!

*Update: Given the new COVID-19 measures, we will be stopping all research activities for the safety of everyone. We are very confident we have the feedback we need to develop the final prototype and packaging. 

What was clear was that 100% of our test users find it easier to fit our ear plugs as compared to the traditional foam ear plugs. That has a direct impact on the perceived effectiveness of the ear plugs during the 'noise test'; with the average rating for ATTENU8 being higher than foam ear plugs. 


We're now working towards the final prototypes and at the same time, developing content for our crowdfunding campaign. Things are piecing up and we're EXCITED! 


There will be less updates on this page given that the development of the product and packaging is more or less finalised. Once content is completed, there will be a pre-launch page and we'll start promoting that instead in mid July. So until then, we're hustling on content and imagery/videos. The future of this website? It will be revamped and we'll have and new look and feel in Q3 this year.


Subscribers via this page who back us during the campaign, will receive an additional free gift - that's what we'll honour. That's still exclusive to you. 


While, we're working hard to get the peace you deserve - please stay safe. 



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