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We had a little party Thursday afternoon for our local Boulder friends. Happily for us, some brought kids. Amidst a crowded hubbub of geeky grownups

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Free the Toy Safety Standards!

By: Modular Robotics

We do a lot of testing to make sure Cubelets are safe for kids. A few swallowed magnets or an exploding Cubelet would be the end of us, just like it might be the end of a young user. I don’t mean to be grim, but this stuff is serious. It was one thing when we had a few prototype Cubelets that we were showing off in 2010, it’s another thing now: there are thousands and thousands of Cubelets out into the world being played with, left in car trunks, and accidentally dropped in toilets. Our reach has gotten a lot broader recently and we alternate between total confidence and the worry that even one accidental mishap could have disastrous ramifications. So we test. We drop a lot of Cubelets onto Type IV linoleum tile, for example.

We design a lot of tests on our own, both for safety and reliability, but we also test according to national standards. For the USA, we test against the ASTM, CPSIA, and FCC standards. In Europe, we use the EN71s, the EN62115 electrical test, and the EN55014 EMC test.

The other day I found Stephane in the parking lot exploding some batteries.  BLAM!  Note safety goggles and IR thermometer.

Some of these tests require that we send a few boxes of Cubelets off to a special lab to get certified. Some of the tests can be done ourselves. Either way, we need to know the standards so that we make sure our designs comply long before we actually send something in for its official test. Know what irks me? That these tests are not posted online for free access. The ASTM test is $72. Each of the EU tests is $300!

Sometimes it’s super-expensive to send Cubelets out to be tested. For some recent testing toward the CE mark, we got quotes ranging from $8,000 to $27,000. I’m OK with both the cost (it takes a tremendous amount of time to test products thoroughly) and the requirements that certified, external labs do the testing. But the standards? They should be freely available to inventors, tinkerers, and grandparents so that they too can have the broadest possible impact.

If I were in charge, I’d change the mission of the toy safety committies to: “Make toys safer.” Putting the recipes for how to do this behind a ridiculous paywall doesn’t help to achieve that mission at all.


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