Upon entering xTrans Creative Inc., a spacious lounge, a bar, and floor-to-ceiling glass panels that overlook hills in the distance come into view. Though the office is located within an industrial park, it is open and accessible just like any startup company. This is Cymking Space, the incubator of label printing pioneer, Cymmetrik. Having emerged as a separate business entity from Cymmetrik, in less than two years after its inception, xTrans Creative Inc. has wowed the world with its innovative AKIMIA microcurrent sheet masks and attracted international agents from Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. Going from labels to sheet masks, and from OEM to the consumer market, how has xTrans Creative achieved this resounding success?
Giving new life to existing technologies
As the largest label printing supplier throughout the Greater China Region, Cymmetrik has been operating for 50 years and boasts of a Fortune 500 Global clientele coming from consumer electronics, consumer products, medical and healthcare, and automobile industries. It creates more than 12 billion label sheets per year and has a revenue of US$300 million. It is not difficult to imagine the kind of marvelous label printing technologies hidden within Cymmetrik.
Ching-Yu Lin, President of xTrans Creative asserted, “OEM was good business, but a company should still look for new possibilities.” Though the team has secured a leadership position, but in a red sea market such as label printing, one must always plan ahead. Therefore, on top of focusing on the R&D for label printing products and technologies to create higher entry barriers, Cymmetrik also actively strategized to find new applications and markets for the company’s patented technologies that were stored away for a lack of good use.
Hence, Cymmetrik collaborated with industrial designer Jung-Ya Hsieh, who often worked with interdisciplinary companies. After combing through Cymmetrik’s existing technologies, Hsieh, recipient to countless domestic and international awards, thought of a dozen possible applications from various perspectives. As luck would have it, Hsieh was able to connect his conversation with a dermatologist involving the aspiration to introduce water electrodes without using beauty equipment, with Cymmetrik’s technology, and proposed the groundbreaking idea to use “electricity-generating printing technology” on mask cloth. The challenging technical application took three years to overcome, resulting in the world’s first printed microcurrent sheet mask.
The world’s first battery-free, innovative power-generating sheet mask
“Besides the useful ingredients, eighty to ninety percent of a generic sheet mask is composed of water, making it difficult for the ingredients to permeate skin membrane. Therefore, an iontophoresis or beauty equipment is often used to help the skin’s absorption.” Dr. Pei-Chi Lee, in charge of technical applications, explained that it was not difficult to make graphics conductive, but many of the so-called “power-generating masks” in the market require additional equipment or batteries to power.
However, the positive and negative electrodes are reduced to nanometer sizes and created into printed materials in this sheet mask; in other words, the battery is printed directly on the mask, and the microcurrents are created from using the serums as conduit. Hence, power could be generated by the mask itself – this is an invention exclusive to xTrans Creative Inc.!
From conception to production: overcoming countless challenges.
Nevertheless, mass production proved to be a daunting task. All non-woven cloths are knitted in a certain direction and were prone to break when they were pulled against by the printers. Most cloths were not designed for secondary processing. We tested a dozen of mask cloths of varying thickness, material and woven methods and finally found a fabric that could be printed on. But then users reported that they were too thick and did not conform to their faces.” The math cloth selection process alone took three months until they finally found a fabric that, on top of being able to carry the same serums at one-third of the thickness, was also flexible enough to withstand machine printing.
When they arrived at the printing stage, they were faced with yet another challenge: though they had relevant technology on hand, what type of ink should they use to print the positive and negative charges for a product that comes into direct contact with users’ skin? And how much? How big do the images have to be to reach the optimal effectiveness? A brand-new product that no one has created before requires much more research than the average product.
With product completion came another difficulty: packaging. The serums had to be completely separated from the dry sheet mask to prevent microcurrents from being generated, or else the sheet mask would be rendered ineffective after a day or so. Therefore, the aluminum pouch had to include two separate compartments (one for the serums and the other for the dry sheet mask) that would allow for a rapid activation when in contact with the serums. Therefore, an adhesive-based opening is placed in the middle of the package.
Ching-Yu Lin admitted that most aluminum packaging producers were more traditional and very few had R&D and customization skills, and his team spent much effort toward locating a factory willing to invest. During initial production, when everything seemed to be in place, the team was shocked when the packaging on over one-third of all sheet masks shipped to Malaysia broke and power generation was rendered ineffective. The shipment had to be scrapped. After reviewing the production process, the team unearthed another crucial factor – temperature. Since temperature-controlled machinery was not available at the original aluminum packaging producer, nor was it capable to control its environment, the team had to resume its search for an ideal factory.
Finally, the team had successfully located Taiwan Lamination Industries, Inc. (TLI), an aluminum packaging supplier equipped with a clean room, temperature-controlled plant, and even tensile force testing equipment. Having produced soft packaging for more than 40 years, TLI is still passionate for R&D. After a series of meticulous testing and production monitoring on material alignment, pressure, and temperature, TLI has finally achieved xTrans Creative’s specifications, allowing for product launch.
Proving product feasibility is the only way to prove a technology’s market application.
“The most important factor that bridges design and production is constant engineering. I have always believed in ‘design for excellence’ and that production method and cost structure need to be proposed during the design phase. Rather than designing something good, we need to make sure that the product we design can be tested at the manufacturing end and the market. Hence, we constantly ‘integrate’ to prove our product and that our effective production method can lead to profit.” Having worked with leading brands like Apple in the past, Ching-Yu Lin believes that it is never enough to just have a good idea and that testing for feasibility is a crucial part of any product development.
Ching-Yu Lin recalled that when he first displayed the electricity-generating printing technology to his customers, the brands were hooked but were all hesitant to adopt this new technology due to uncertainties in market response, sales and production management, and consumer habits. “Many of Taiwan’s manufacturers offer technologies they have researched and developed to their customers, and their employee training is also customer-oriented, but if these technologies are not adopted, they will forever be left alone in old, dusty shelves.”
Consequently, the xTrans Creative team decided to go for product launch to acquire actual data. They went through the entire product innovation and mass production process and developed their own brand to communicate directly with the market and to receive consumer feedback. “We slowly built a comprehensive supply chain during the application and mass production process. At the same time, we also solved management, market, and legal problems from our customers’ points of view. After understanding the production cycle and costs, not only did we achieve sound brand development, but we also received more OEM orders and shipments to foreign customers.”
By utilizing a comprehensive design-to-production model, xTrans Creative turned an idea and a technology into an actual product. Moreover, it demonstrated its worth to B2B customers through the most comprehensive and authentic product and brand management experiences; on top of venturing into consumer market via AKIMIA, the team also brought more effective OEM orders for Cymmetrik. “I want to see power generation in all sheet masks in the future!” laughed Ching-Yu Lin. Having witnessed xTrans Creative’s well-rounded product development model and given Cymmetrik’s market leadership, this may very well come true in the near future!