Nanodots: An Industry In Flux

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In the last year we have seen the systematic destruction of the toy magnet industry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission cracked down hard on companies like Nanodots and Buckyballs, despite relatively few injuries. Following quickly in the CPSC’s footsteps, Canada rushed to an all-out ban on small magnets. These magnets are not yet fully banned in the US, but the rulemaking is expected to pass.

The CPSC has filed suit against a few of these companies, most notably Buckyballs, Zen Magnets, and Star Networks. The CPSC is apparently looking to make an example of Craig Zucker and have filed suit against him directly. Maybe his tacky, but humorous, campaign to “Save Our Balls” upset them. Zucker has now fired back with his own suit against the CPSC claiming they have violated his right to free speech and that they are making an example of him for disagreeing with the government.

Many of the small magnet sellers have liquidated for fear of legal action. Buckyballs’ website now redirects to a legal notice, Zen Magnets and Magnicube appear to be selling, but with increased disclaimers and health warnings. The CPSC has made it clear that they aim to shut them all down and they don’t want anybody getting in their way.

Rather than give in to the regulations and liquidate his company, Tim Szeto, CEO of Nanodots, is attacking the problem from all fronts. He’s watching the CPSC closely and responding at every opportunity. He recently attended a not-so-public public hearing at the CPSC and was the only person there to speak of the benefits of small magnets. You can read his presentation here. Nanodots is also working with a Consumer Magnet Group to help shape the regulations and develop industry wide standards for packaging, production, and marketing of small magnets. It’s unclear at this time if they will succeed in keeping them on the market, but it is important to try. We could be losing a great desk toy, educational tool, and artistic medium.

Nanodots is tasking their team to come up with new and innovative approaches to the regulatory situation. Nanodots GYRO is the first in a new series of magnet and motion experiments. The goal is to retain the educational properties of the small magnets while retaining the fun aspects of a desk toy and reducing the risk of injury. I haven’t had a chance to play with them yet, but the video is cool. I especially like the one below which shows a bit of the prototyping phase of product development.

Nanodots GYRO will come in sets of two with a wooden box suitable for display on your desk. Retail price will be $39.95, but if you want a set before Christmas, be sure to enter their contest. Just tweet the following:
#MagnetsAreAwesome! RT for chance to win the new Nanodots GYRO. Weekly winners up to X-Mas. #contest #giveaway pic.twitter.com/LsmSJ2J7P4

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