Time to give you another inside look at what's happening in our NanoLeaf world! So let's get started:
Product Labeling and LEAF design
After preparing our circuit boards, they were sent to be engraved with various product specifications. In a small section of the light bulb, we have labeled the lumens, power consumption, and voltage. This way, each light bulb has its specific characteristics clearly marked so they cannot be mixed up. With the two regional voltages (North America 100-140V / Europe & Asia 200-270V), three different brightness levels, and three different colors/designs, it made for a total of 18 different variations of the light bulb. (that's a lot of information to keep track of!) It demonstrated once again how important it is to have organizational skills! Whew. The good news is, everything came out looking great! :)
Surface Mount Technology (SMT)
After the engraving comes a process called SMT(Surface Mount Technology) in which all of the electronic components are placed onto the circuit board and soldered into place.
The SMT that we're doing has three basic steps:
- Step 1. a "solder paste" is first put onto the locations where the components will be placed.
- Step 2. a robot places all the components in the appropriate locations.
- Step 3. Finally, the circuit board goes through a "reflow oven" that heats up the board to the point where the "solder" (made of tin, copper, and silver) melts and permanently fixes the components electrically to the circuit connections on the board.
In order to melt lead-free solder, the circuit board must get heated up to about 260 degrees Celsius which is much higher than the heat requirements for solder that has lead. This is where we ran into some slight problems.
We started with an initial test batch of white bulbs, but the heat burnt the paint turning our white color into a beige color. :( The white paint used for our circuit boards was not designed for this high temperature and the supplier did not tell us this in advance. The normal process using lead-based solder is done at a lower temperature, but we did not accept to use lead due to its toxic nature in the environment. We tried varying the temperature, all to no avail.
We decided to not continue with the beige boards, although to some the colour is still passable as white. We promised white light bulbs to the backers and that is what we will deliver.
Fortunately, the supplier was very helpful to make new circuit boards for us with better paint. However, we still lost two weeks of time. Our new schedule is to ship the first set of NanoLeaf light bulbs in early June. We are terribly sorry about this delay but we will do our best to meet this new schedule.
Back on Track
Since then, we worked with the circuit board supplier to change the paint that was being used to a special high quality white paint that is able to withstand higher temperatures and the problem was solved! A new batch has been made and we are now back on track. We may decide to start offering beige bulbs just to clear up some extra inventory. ;) By the way, no problems at all with the black circuit boards!
The second time around, the surface mount technology process went smooth and we made over 1000 pieces. The whole process is rather interesting, not only because we are making NanoLeaf bulbs, but because this is the same process that has been used for decades to make the vast majority of high tech electronics that we all use every day. We took a quick video to show you the SMT robot placing the components onto the circuit board (see below).
We're at our final step in the manufacturing process now and the new NanoLeaf bulbs are about to come to life - hopefully in the next two weeks.
We have almost completed the design of our eco-friendly packaging and the boxes will be sent for printing and die cutting imminently. To facilitate easy recognition of what's in the box, we decided to use 3 different colours on the packaging to differentiate the 3 levels of brightness (from least brightest to brightest, the colors are blue, green, and yellow). There will be a window cut in the box so that you can see part of the light bulb inside and from that can tell weather the bulb is black, white, or has the a leaf pattern engraved. Finally, to distinguish the voltage version of the bulb, there will be check boxes on the package with a check mark placed beside the appropriate voltage of the bulb inside. When your light bulb arrives, please double check that you have received the correct voltage and design as per your order. Although plugging a 220V version into a 120V socket won't hurt the bulb, the brightness will not be full. On the other hand, plugging a 120V version into 220V socket will probably quickly end the life of the bulb (we have tried this). Please, notify us of any problems and we will assist.
That's all for now, look out for an update in the next few weeks once our completed NanoLeaf bulbs are ready to be shipped!
The NanoLeaf Team