Meeting the makers :-)
Exciting times for Nifty! We have both been in China for the last week, touring our suppliers and manufacturing facilities, inspecting a large range of samples, and finalizing quality control checks before we go into full-blown production.
First and foremost, what everyone wants to know – WHEN WILL THE DAMN MINIDRIVES BE SHIPPING? We are happy to say that barring any unexpected disasters, we are aiming to ship in the final week of November/the first week of December and are confident that we will repay the faith you guys have shown in us.
Please read on (it’s a long one) for a detailed breakdown of where we stand with each component of the MiniDrive and the next steps that are going to get us onto the production line and MiniDrives into your MacBooks. Despite some earlier setbacks, everything is starting to fall into place and we sincerely thank you for your continued patience and support – it has been quite the adventure so far…
NIFTY DRIVE BODIES
The dimensions, texture and cavity consistency of the Nifty MiniDrive bodies are looking good and we have signed off on the final samples. It will take whopping 4 hours to produce the entire Kickstarter batch.
We have found the perfect balance between the finish and strength of the Nifty Tools and have now signed off on final samples. For the Nifty Tool, it will take 4 days to produce the entire Kickstarter batch.
From a visual perspective the aluminium fronts are the most crucial aspect of the MiniDrive as this is what can be seen when the MiniDrive is plugged into the MiniDrive. These now represent the longest lead time for us and is one of the main reasons we have had to slightly push back the scheduled shipping date.
Originally we proposed using CNC to cut both the alumimium fronts and the groove in the fronts where the MiniDrive is extracted. Unfortunately, while this process is quick,it wasn’t creating a finish that we were entirely happy with, specifically the edges of the aluminium fronts were not entirely smooth and the grooves were inconsistent.
We have now settled on a process called EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) to make the aluminum fronts, which will greatly improve the machining finish and ensure consistency throughout the production run.
By going with the new EDM process we are increasing our cost of production, but felt this was absolutely necessary to maintain the quality of the MiniDrive and stay true to what wanted when we started out.
The one drawback is that this process takes a lot longer than CNC machining and has increased our lead-time by about 15 days. That said, we are extremely happy with the samples produced by the EDM process and yesterday signed off on the purchase order for the aluminium fronts.
This is a big step and over the next 15 days, starting from Monday, we will have close to 14,000 machined aluminium fronts rolling off the production line ready for anodisation and assembly.
The anodisation process is now producing a surface finish that is consistent to the MacBook, which is excellent news. In terms of colours we have signed off on silver, black, blue and pink. Our suppliers have had some difficulty matching up the pantone colours for red and green to a standard we are happy with – specifically the red is still too pink and the green is still too sea foamy.
We have now tracked down physical samples of red and green, and will have final samples for these in the next couple days.
What this all means, is that as the aluminium fronts start coming off the production line we can start batch anodizing silver, black, blue and pink fronts straight away, meaning aluminium front production and anodisation is occurring simultaneously. Red and green will be finalized before the final batch of aluminium fronts are complete meaning the overall lead-time should not be affected whilst we resolve the red and green colour issues.
MICRO SD CARDS CONNECTORS
The MicroSD card connectors have been a major source of frustration for us so far. In mid August(!!) we placed and paid upfront for an order of microSD connectors that would fit our original PCB design. According to our supplier the microSD card connectors were scheduled for delivery to our assembly plant at the end of October. In update 21 (Oct 18) we mentioned that the supplier had pushed back the delivery date to 9th November. 2 days later our supplier contacted us to tell us that the micro sd card connectors were to be delayed by a further 6-8 weeks due to a breakage in their mould.
As you can imagine this was not the best news in the world for us! At that stage, we took the decision to locate an alternative microSD card connector supplier and found one who could deliver in the final week of November. Switching suppliers has added a whole load of work to the operation, as we have had to re-design the original PCB according to the specifications of the new microSD card holder, but it means we can stay as close to the original schedule as possible. At the same time we have continued to work with the original supplier to reduce the 6-8 week lead-time and were later also quoted an expected delivery date of the last week of November.
To sum this up, we are not taking any risks with delaying this project and now have two different PCB designs and have placed two orders for microSD card connectors from two different suppliers, both expected to deliver and ready for assembly in the final week of November.
The last PCB samples we received were a fraction too small for the Nifty MiniDrive bodies (0.15mm), however this is a small issue and we expect to receive and sign off on final samples within the week. The PCB turn around time is very short once the PO is placed.
In update 21 we mentioned that the Nifty logo printed on the back of the PCBs was not as clear and crisp as we wanted. Those samples used a silk-screen printing method which proved not be ideal for achieving a high resolution finish. We have now settled on a pad-printing process which produce a much more satisfactory finish. Here is a sample of Pad printing:
It is also much harder wearing, meaning the Nifty logo should not be scratching off any time soon. Again, we expect to receive and sign off on final samples tomorrow.
1. Sign off on samples of PCBs with pad-printing finish; 2. Monitor aluminium front production - Finalize green and red colour samples; 3. Start production of Nifty Tools; 4. Start production of Nifty MiniDrive bodies; 5. Start production of PCBs; 6. Receive microSD card holder components (week commencing 26th Nov); 7. Assembly (week commencing 26th Nov); 8. Start shipping!
Piers & Steve