When I first looked at the design of the Freekey system, I instantly needed to think at the design of a paperclip or mousetrap. The Freekey is a great innovation of the traditional split-ring key chain, which is more natural and easy to use. I simply asked myself: “Why hasn’t the Freekey design been out there for decades?”
Product Design of the Freekey
In the picture above you can see the Freekey system, which is made of stainless steel and has a glass beaded surface with a laser logo. Personally I do think that the surface has a really nice, modern business-look finish. On the Freekey website you can read a short description of the Freekey, that tells a lot about the design and used materials:
“A Freekey is a three turn wavering of stainless steel flat wire, coiled with a patented centered bump that -by pressing the Freekey logo position- will open to release or add the key or set of keys appointed. It is a press to open key ring.”
In the picture above you can see a comparison between the traditional split-ring on the left and the original Freekey on the right. The traditional split-ring has two turns of round “wire”, while the Freekey has three turns of stainless steel flat wire.
Furthermore you can see the patented centered bump from a side-view.
In order to open the Freekey you simply push on the position of the Freekey logo. In the picture above you can see that the end of the Freekey opens to add or remove one or more keys.
First it is extremely easy to attach or remove a key, by simply pushing on a specific spot. Second you don’t end up in a frustrating and sometimes painful experience because the wire of the traditional split-ring is coiled very tight. It is also no problem to attach a Kingston Datatraveler SE9 16GB USB Drive to the Freekey System.
Freekey Original vs. Freekey System
Currently there are two Freekey models available to choose from.
- Freekey original is simply a ring that fits all keys and has the patented “nailsaving” function. Freekey original is shown on the right in the picture above;
- Freekey system is a wider ring that comes with three extra rings to organize the keys in groups. The Freekey system retail package is shown on the left in the picture above;
For this review I have tested a few weeks with both the original Freekey and the Freekey system. Personally I slightly prefer the Freekey system, because of the slightly wider ring and the ability to group sets of keys.
Freekey – The entrepreneurial story
Drosselmeyer DesignGroup AB (DDG), is not much of a design group really. Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm have known each other since childhood, and it was during their post University, world exploration tour in 1999 that they decided to start a company once they were back from South America. Erik von Schoultz got married in Peru while Oscar Löwenhielm got the business location in Stockholm. Erik von Schoultz invested in a machine park for prototyping, and Oscar Löwenhielm worked on a business plan. It took them a while to get organized. Most ideas and products the entrepreneurs gave life to, died very early. In child bed so to speak.
In 2002, the second Drosselmeyer DesignGroup AB (DDG) project ever to land on the commercial market was an item that was connected to the keys/key-chain. Since this project needed to be taken on and off, Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm came to the understanding that the traditional, so called split ring, was an old ancient invention that most people simply accepted as very limited. The limitation is very simple: the wire is coiled so tight that it makes it difficult/painful/hazardous/frustrating to use.
Erik von Schoultz, Drosselmeyer DesignGroup AB (DDG) production engineer and inventor the like, started the Freekey prototyping. The challenge was to make it easy to use and safe to wear. Once a key is added, it may not under any circumstances unintentionally come off. Most of the early prototypes were very creative involving external spring solutions and multiple parts to give a dramatic look and the easy and secure handling. This however was mainly competing with existing and established solutions hence contradicted our traditional “think outside the box” routine.
The Freekey ring project was set aside several times. In order to stay alive, Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm had to prototype, patent, produce, package and introduce other inventions such as Drosselmeyer the nutcracker, Caretta shellfish pliers or Pupill mechanical candle holder. Those projects kept the entrepreneurs busy.
The Freekey breakthrough came years after the project was initiated and later put on ice. Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm visited the annual subcontractor fair in Elmia, Sweden, where they met with a US based company showing their innovative space saving flat wire spring solutions. After a meeting with this US company CEO months later, Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm established a CAD drawing that was feasible to produce. Their, since many years assigned patent agency, Hynell Patentjänst, worked with the patents– as they said: it certainly was “a new mousetrap”, and the ball was in motion.
After some fine tuning Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm had the prototype version in hand and the Freekey functioned really well. This means Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm used the prototypes for almost a year before deciding to go into large scale production. As mentioned, once a key is added, it may not under any circumstances unintentionally come off. And it didn’t.
The product was launched in early 2012 and has already been featured in tech/science magazines as well as women’s apparel magazines.
Concluding thoughts and wrap-up
I have been using and testing both the original Freekey and the Freekey system on a daily basis. Personally I slightly prefer the Freekey system because of the wider diameter of the ring and the ability to group keys with the three extra rings. The extra rings are easy to open as well, but don’t feature the patented bump just like the Freekey main ring.
If you don’t think about grouping your keys than the original Freekey is the best- and cheapest option to go for. The original Freekey has a price point of €3,50 and Freekey System will be on sale for €5,90. I do think that it is a reasonable and competitive price point for the excellent design and the high tech finish of the Freekey (especially if you compare it with some of the designer key chains).
The Freekey is one of those products that has a simple but very clever product design. But also the Freekey design story, the Drosselmeyer DesignGroup AB background and the personal skills of Erik von Schoultz and Oscar Löwenhielm were highly interesting to read. A great many thanks for sharing that story Oscar!
Every time I look at the Freekey, it puts a smile on my face and makes my mechanical engineering hart beat a little faster. Simply …
“Buy it, Try it, Love it.”