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An Arduino compatible shield matched with a web based tutorial system to teach you how to talk with I2C and SPI components.
An Arduino compatible shield matched with a web based tutorial system to teach you how to talk with I2C and SPI components.
101 backers pledged $10,045 to help bring this project to life.

Packaging Fairytale...

Posted by Daniel Hienzsch (Creator)
1 like

Good morning!

Backer Steve asked for a status update yesterday, and I wanted to fill in the details beyond what I mentioned in the project comments.

Inventory Is In

First and most importantly, all the boards are in and all the boards are tested!

Education Shield Towers
Education Shield Towers

In the final set of Education Shield tests, I found one board that appears to have a failed level shifter IC controlling the Chip Select pin on the Flash RAM module.  So for those of you keeping score at home, that's one board with a bad PCB, and one board with a bad IC.  The PCB I can't fix, the bad IC I can replace, and I'll keep that one as my own demo board.

Beyond just the Education Shields, the I2C Display Addons are all here and all tested as well, and they tested 100%.

I2C Displays
I2C Displays

 But that's not all... the Bubble Display Kits and the Digital Logic Kits are also all packaged up and ready to go.  And THAT'S not all either... in fact, the non-circuit board backers had their items arrive earlier this week as well!

Rheingold Heavy Stickers
Rheingold Heavy Stickers

Goldilocks and the Three Packaging Materials

So, with all this product taking up space in the lab, why hasn't anything shipped?  Well, it turns out packaging a product can be an engineering challenge too.  Aside from needing to ship things as cost effectively as possible, the concept of protecting the product turned out not to be as cut and dried as I imagined.

Here at the lab, I've seen a lot of electronics packaging.  There's anti-static bags, bundles, zip locks, foam, bubblewrap and boxes.  The trick with the I2C and SPI Education Shield is the pins sticking out of the bottom.  They are long.  Very long.  And very bendy.  Consequently, they need to be adequately protected against getting mashed somehow.  That means they need to be supported in some fashion, and the typical method in the industry is foam, preferably antistatic, so that no static charge can build up and then zap one of the circuits on the board (not that that's likely, but better safe than sorry).

That's where the fairytale comes in.  I thought "well, just buy antistatic foam", but didn't realize that I've seen loads of different foam in my time.  The first foam I bought was somehow too dense and too soft at the same time.  You couldn't get the pins through without mashing the foam down around it, which risked bending the pins and, honestly, took way too long.  The second foam I tried wasn't nearly as dense, but was far too rigid, so again, getting the pins in was a nightmare, but at least once they were in, they weren't going anywhere.  Finally, the third try I got it right... just rigid enough to hold the pins in place without bending them, and just dense enough to allow the board to be pushed through the foam without risking falling out. 

Too soft, too hard, just right.
Too soft, too hard, just right.

Consequently, I bought 24 square feet of this magical unicorn Goldilocks foam. I don't plan on running out.

The last item I'm waiting on are the shipping boxes, which it turns out aren't hard to buy individually at the office supply store, but buying a pack of 100 took a little hunting.  They will be here on Monday.

The best way I've found so far to get the items shipped, keep track of who's received what and keep inventory managed, is to load the orders manually into the Rheingold Heavy webshop on the backend.  This will most likely generate automatic emails thanking you for your order and sending you a tracking number.

Update on Tutorials and Forum

All the I2C modules have been completed and the SPI modules have started to go up, with all of the SPI Basics content published.  So far, the Reverse Engineering modules have been the most popular.  I think there are about six modules left to write, spread across the remaining two subsystems, the MCP3008 Analog-to-Digital Converter and the AT25SF081 Flash RAM IC.

As part of the Kickstarter, I also promised to put together a forum where the content can be discussed and support received.  I've gone around the bend with numerous solutions and finally decided on implementing bbPress.  It's the only one that will integrate relatively seamlessly into the site, most importantly, with single sign on.  I don't want users creating accounts to manage their store account and then have to have a separate ID and password for the forum.  It's better to have it all managed as one.

Forum Beta Test
Forum Beta Test

The forum should be up by the end of the weekend, and I'll send an email to backers who pledged for circuit boards with the registration link.  I'm going to try to keep the forums fairly loosely configured for now and see how it develops.  As necessary I'll impose moderation on it, but I want the users to drive the organization, not the mod.

Let me know if you have any questions!

-dan

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