Hi guys! Here's where we stand --
I'm having 16 boards assembled by a fab in China; the PCBs are done and they are starting on the actual assembly now. (I had hand-assembled 5 devices; I made some tweaks to the design as a result, and am now making sure that the design can be manufactured at a factory.)
If nothing goes wrong from here on out (!!), here's roughly what has to happen now:
- I receive the 16 boards and solder a couple of missing pieces (+1 week, Mar 6th)
- We make sure that the boards work as expected (+2 weeks to shake bugs out, Mar 20th)
- I order the parts for the production run (+1 week, Mar 27th), including the case plastic pieces
- The factory starts making the final PCBs, while they wait for me to send them the parts (+10 days, Apr 6th)
- The factory receives the parts, and does the final production run (+10 days, Apr 16th)
- There could be a problem with the 16 boards that requires I make major modifications to the PCB -- this could delay us until I do another prototype . If the modifications are minor enough -- say, a missing wire -- it may be faster for me to just make them myself once I get the assembled devices -- but I would have to do that ~ 350 times ...)
- I could have trouble sourcing the parts. For example, (as of this writing) DigiKey has limited stock (151 pieces) of the FPGAs we originally planned on using. We may be able to use 2 different pin-compatible FPGAs to make it easier to get our hands on the parts. We can also place a bulk order with the factory, which will take (I'm told) 6 weeks to deliver -- I don't feel comfortable doing this before we have fully verified final prototypes because the FPGA is the single most expensive item of the project.
- There could be customs/duty issues, either exporting the parts to China or importing the finished devices. I've had stuff made in China several times before, but rarely this large of an order. This would likely mean a delay while the factory deals with the paperwork; hopefully, as long as we fill out everything correctly, this won't happen.