Hello Backers -
A quick update to let you know that we are on track per our last update on the manufacture of the main units with the sticks now coming off the production line. We have put together some images and video to give you an inside look below. They were taken on mobile phones so are unlikely to win any Oscars but we hope they will give you a good idea of the process.
Right now we are looking good on sticks, controllers and cases and expect them to leave the factory as indicated on the 30th Sept. The Dock is running a little behind schedule with the upcoming week-long holiday in China not helping things. Rather than delay shipment we will, (if necessary), ship the Docks out separately a week or two later. We will of course do everything to avoid this but wanted to give the heads up.
Step 1 - PCBs enter the printing machine.
The first stage of Surface Mount Technology (SMT) is our 6 layer Printed Circuit Board (PCB) enters a printing machine where Solder Paste, which is a mixture of flux and solder particles, is screen printed on to the PCB in the positions where the components are to be attached.
Step 2 - Sticks enter the SMT machine.
The PCB then enters the pick and place machine, as seen in the video, where it has all the components stuck to the sticky solder paste. This machine has all the different components in reels of plastic tapes along the front of the machine. The robotic arm then comes forward to pick up the components from these reels and places them accurately on the PCB.
Step 3 - PCBs emerge before entering soldering machine.
Once the components are in place, the PCB comes out of the pick and place machine via conveyer belt. At this point all the components are in place but are only stuck to the PCB by the solder paste. They then enter the Reflow Soldering Oven. Within this large grey box the PCB is first gradually and uniformly heated in order not to damage any of the delicate components. Once the board is hot it briefly enters a zone where the temperature is high enough to melt the solder in the solder paste. Finally the PCB enters a cooling zone where the solder is hardened.
Step 4 - Quality Control - first step.
At this point only one side of the PCB is complete. It must then go through the whole process again to attach all the correct components to the other side of the board. Before this can happen, all the PCB's go through a Quality Control inspection to ensure that all the Solder paste has melted correctly on the first side and no gaps or flux residue are left on the board. Any imperfections are removed and faulty boards removed form the process.
The first boards from the Kickstarter Production run.
And here they are...!
Thanks to Tim and Simon who are out in China right now monitoring this process and who are no doubt thankful that the Strongest Storm on Earth missed them in the end!
Stay safe guys!