Funded! This project was successfully funded on December 22, 2010.

Update #39



We're still chugging along here; the big thing we are waiting for is for Xilinx to make us some FPGAs.  They've promised to deliver then by the end of May, but maybe they'll surprise us.

While I'm waiting for the FPGAs, I sent out a version of the board (OV3.2) with some power supply tweaks; I just got the boards back from OSH Park:


 I'm hand-assembling these boards to see if they work; if they do, we should be able to order the final run of PCBs next week.  If they don't, we'll still place the order for the PCBs, but they'll be the OV3.1 design I had made for the 1K backers.

If nothing else, it gives me a chance to write up some notes on assembling the board, for those of you who will be doing it yourselves.  I only recommend doing this if you have some experience with surface-mount components; in particular, the QFN package for the ULPI PHY almost certainly requires a source of hot air:

ULPI PHY hot air mounting
ULPI PHY hot air mounting

 We may also end up using 0402 parts for the 0.1uF caps.  However, every part (apart from those 0.1uF caps) is clearly labeled with its identifier and value on the silkscreen, so that makes the rest of the board fairly easy to assemble for those with some practice doing so.  Still, I'll write up a rough outline of board assembly and test while I'm working on this.

Update #38

back to the US


Moving right along -- most of the rewards (out of the set of 16 boards I had made in China) have gone out to the 1K backers.

I’m now working with one of your fellow backers, George Ioakimedes of IO Technologies ( I’ve sent him a check to order the FPGAs, which might take up to 6 weeks to receive from the factory (due to the large quantity); he helped me negotiate a great price with Xilinx as well as for the rest of the parts on the BOM, the PCBs, and we have a fab here in California who will assemble the final boards (all for a lower price than having them made in China!).

Update #37

plastic, 1K backers

1 comment

Quick update tonight -- my 47lb Pololu order of laser-cut plastic for the cases arrived early.   This is the set of plastic for the entire run.

OV3 cases
OV3 cases

 This means I have everything ready to send out the 1K backer rewards, which I will do later this week (after confirming everyone's mailing address).  (1K backers get the below package, plus our broken dev boards, if they want them.)

ov3 units, assembled
ov3 units, assembled

 As you can see, we're getting close -- the big thing left to do is obviously to have the production run done.  I'm working with one of your fellow backers (thanks, George!) to see if we can do the production here in California, we're still crunching the numbers; I hope to have an answer in the next week or two, and will post an update then.

Update #36

16 boards


The first 16 assembled boards are here!

16 ov3 boards
16 ov3 boards

As predicted, I had to solder a single wire to get the power supply to work (you can see a small green wire on all 16 boards), in addition to soldering down a couple of missing parts on each board.   With that modification, the boards all pass the basic self-tests we have and basic sniffing functionality works.  We could probably get away with just mass-producing this design, but the necessary changes to the power supply should not be too difficult or risky (and would save me a lot of time, soldering).

Upon the urging of one of your fellow backers, I'm (again) looking at local manufacturing options, but it's good to see that the design is sound and can be mass-produced overseas. At this point, I don't expect to need to do another prototype run -- once we settle on a factory (and make a final decision on where to buy the parts), I can make the rest of the boards using this design plus a couple of small tweaks.

Update #35



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)
Once they finish making the boards and send them back to me, I have to start testing them, assembling them (for those who get a case), and then sending them out.  Assuming everything works, the first 16 will go out to the 1K backers once I get the case plastic pieces; the rest of the rewards will go out towards the end of April / early May.

Now, this is my best estimate, assuming that everything goes as I hope it will.  Here's the things that could still go wrong, and what I can do to mitigate them:
  • 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.
Therefore, the cynical among you may want to double my expected time for everything :)  I'll post some pictures of the pile of factory-assembled final prototypes when I receive them in a few days.

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