We have been focused on the project and wanted to wait to update until we had the news everyone wants to hear. So here it is. The design phase is completed and we are now procuring components, beyond the beta test units, which we have the components to complete very soon. At this point, final product delivery, the 4000 units, is solely based on the lead times of components and assembly time. We are preparing a component lead time report and will share it in our next update. At that time, we will be able to give a delivery date we can, with little reservation, stand behind. I know this has been a long and arduous process for us all. We want to say thank you for sticking it out with us and now that the end is near, we hope the soundband is everything you had hoped it would be. We never gave up or hesitated to make all efforts to deliver this project and we hope you understand that. Sometimes things in life do not go as planned and are much more difficult than expected, but if you try with all your effort and never give up then in some cases the result is positive. Once we deliver the project, we hope that message is what resonates, since that is the truth.
December 5, 2014
This week we received the last of the outstanding prototype and production quotes for the Sound Band main controller printed circuit card assembly. To mitigate possible lead-time issues, we had previously sourced several parts such as the integrated circuit used to drive audio for the ceramic piezo transducers in sufficient quantity to support an initial prototype run.
We will be continuing to source components in the coming weeks with special attention being paid to lead time and availability issues that could impact production. We have been fortunate to be able to have had several critical parts sampled to us by suppliers for prototype and beta test units. For example, we are anticipating the receipt of samples of the micro joystick used for Sound Band user input.
Work on the audio test platform continued this week. It is designed to provide a stereo audio connection to a PC running audio test, analysis and calibration software. It will be able to evaluate the functionality and performance of the end-to-end audio path for Sound Band, from the Sound Band microphone input to the piezo audio transducer outputs. This week several new microphones were selected and sourced for additional testing for the audio test platform as well as for Sound Band.
Microphone audio response and physical characteristics are being evaluated and compared between several candidates for Sound Band. There are several devices we have sourced which are electrically and physically interchangeable for use with the Sound Band Blue Tooth Controller electronics. Microphone performance metrics such as frequency response and sensitivity will be used to select an appropriate microphone that can accommodate the unique Sound Band earpiece design and associated microphone mounting considerations.
This week we continued to work on the integrated audio test platform for Sound Band. We prototyped several electret condenser microphone circuits and looked at alternate approaches to testing the Sound Band piezo ceramic transducers.
An approach to testing using an anthropomorphic fixture that physically resembles a human head was designed. Materials have been sourced to produce a test fixture with similar dimensions to the human head with respect to wearing a Sound Band during typical operation. This configuration allows development and production Sound Band units to be easily placed, tested, and removed in a production environment.
Next week we will continue work on the custom test fixture and start the design of the software that will ultimately be used to control the test fixture and analyze the real time data acquired from the prototype and production Sound Band Assemblies.
This week we began work on a custom integrated audio test platform with which we will continue prototyping and development of Sound Band as well as create the base of a test jig for a Sound Band "end of line" product tester.
Sound Band uses a piezo ceramic audio transducer for sound reproduction. This transducer vibrates on the back of the user's ear to produce surface sound, as opposed to devices that use a speaker placed in the ear canal.
This new approach to producing sound for the user requires a unique approach for testing and development be applied to the Sound Band headset. We are working on a first-of-a-kind test platform with which we will calibrate, analyze, and develop test metrics for evaluation of Sound Band performance.
The new Sound Band test platform features a special fixture to gently hold the Sound Band piezo ceramic transducers and physically emulate the characteristics of the human ear in a repeatable and consistent fashion.
The Sound Band Test and Development Fixture then captures the vibrational energy of the Sound Band acoustic transducers using specially placed microphone elements that feed in to a dedicated audio signal analyzer for test and calibration purposes.
The dedicated audio signal analyzer will eventually be replaced with a custom software suite running on a PC to automate the process of Sound Band audio output testing.
Combined with the Sound Band Test and Development Fixture, the custom audio signal analysis software package will serve as the basis for a complete end of line test platform for use by our assembly house for Sound Band production.
This week we completed processing the feedback from our Printed Circuit Card supplier and updated the Sound Band design files for submission for our initial prototype build.
The balance of the parts on the Bill of Materials that make up the Sound Band PCB have been sourced; several long lead time items were cross referenced to parts that were able to be more readily obtained for the Sound Band prototypes.
We took delivery of additional parts samples of the integrated circuits for the Sound Band audio driver for the initial prototype assembly, and will pass them on to our PCB fabricator after receipt and acceptance of their quotation for work on the revised Sound Band file set.
Next week we will begin work on a custom Sound Band audio test platform with which we will be evaluating the Sound Band prototype assembly.
The Sound Band Audio Test Platform will be engineered to analyze audio fidelity, signal levels, and driver efficiency for the Sound Band piezo ceramic transducers after they are integrated into the final assembly.
This test platform will also serve as an integral part of the end of line tester for production and quality assurance for Sound Band after assembly.
This week we received our quote for time and delivery of the Sound Band custom system firmware package that will provide the functionality and implement the feature set for production Sound Band hardware. We will be reviewing the quote and proposed feature set and making any additional changes required after review, and then placing a purchase order for this development project.
On the Sound Band hardware side we continue to process feedback from our pointed circuit fabrication providers and expect to be able to have any additional changes that may be required to complete the formal quoting process next week.
Each manufacturer with outstanding quotes for Sound Band hardware fabrication has their own set of manufacturing requirements that are specific to their production equipment and business rules. We have been continuing to process suggestions and feedback and have been making modifications to the design files and Bill of Materials accordingly.
Work also has continued on developing a specification for our Lithium Polymer battery options for prototyping and production purposes. We expect to be able to use a commercially available LiPo battery with "off the shelf" availability for initial prototyping and beta test units.
This week received the first formal quotes for the Sound Band main controller card assembly. Several of the assembly and manufacturing facilities we have partnered with have made some excellent suggestions concerning the Sound Band main Printed Circuit Card routing and layout. We reviewed this feedback and some minor changes and refinements are being made to the design as a result. This will result in an easier, less expensive assembly process, and a more robust design overall.
We met again with our Sound Band software development partner this week to go over additional feature implementation details. We expect their quote for development and delivery of the Sound Band firmware within the next few days. Sound Band firmware functionality will be able to be tested on their standard Blue Tooth module development and evaluation hardware while the custom prototype Sound Band hardware is being produced.
This week we now have Sound Band files out to quote for production at competing assembly houses. Several are quoting both prototypes and production volumes. We continued to meet with assembly houses that have had files to quote to answer questions and provide clarification on build options.
Additionally, we completed work on a new custom serial to USB software tester and system debugger for Sound Band. This new printed circuit card has been sent out for manufacturing and assembly quote as well.
This week we submitted Sound Band files to additional manufacturing houses for both production and prototype quotes. Additionally, work continued on engineering a custom Lithium Polymer battery for which we have submitted additional quote requests.
Software specifications were revised based on feedback from our main software development partner. Test tools were specified for the main Sound Band controller Printed Circuit Card to be used for debugging and software development.
Next week we will be meeting with our software development partners to go over the revised operational specifications and narrow the scope of the software functionality for Sound Band.
This week we continued to process suppler feedback and submitted updated Sound Band design files for competitive quoting to several Printed Circuit Card fabricators and assembly houses. Several parts substitutions have been made to ameliorate lead-time issues.
The Sound Band main controller card has been designed using an 8 layer, computer grade Printed Circuit Board, 1 ounce copper plating, laser drilled micro vias, multiple ground planes for radio frequency noise suppression, fine pitch surface mount components, and ultra low noise power supply circuitry for low distortion audio processing.
We anticipate receiving responses from our RFQ's throughout the coming week and hope to have prototype production scheduling information shortly thereafter.
This week we received and processed supplier and controller card fabricator feedback for the Sound Band design files that had been submitted for review. Parts for the latest revision of the main controller Bill of Materials (BOM) have been sourced.
An off the shelf Lithium Polymer LiPo battery has been sourced for the purpose of bringing up the initial beta test prototypes, and requirements for a higher capacity custom LiPo cell for final production units has been compiled for quoting.
A substitution has been sourced for a component used in the piezo ceramic driver circuit. The original part that was recommended by the driver manufacturer was found to be currently unavailable due to long lead times. The driver chip manufacturer is reviewing the part for suitability in the design, the BOM has been updated, and the PCB layout has been updated to reflect the change in this component.
After considering design feedback, it was decided that the 5 position joystick input circuitry would benefit from additional "debounce" circuitry to eliminate the possibility of noise generated from the switch contacts, simplify the software driver requirements, and improve operability. The circuit change has been made to the main controller PCB and added to the BOM.
Sound Band "Theory of Operation" reference documentation has been written. This document is targeted for our software development partner to use as the primary reference for coding against the newly revised software requirements specification.
Routing the Sound Band main controller Printed Circuit Board (PCB) went smoothly this week. As expected, component placement was modified for the PCB to better accommodate various test routing solutions, and we have settled on an optimum placement and routing solution for review and quoting.
We had expected to be ready for fabrication quoting by the end of September, and are happy to report that we beat that estimate by almost two weeks. In addition to new placement and routing, a new Bill of Materials has been compiled that reflects circuit changes and additions such as the new quick charge circuit and a new three color LED status indicator circuit.
The Sound Band PCB is designed as a multi-layer card, with parts and circuit trace routing placed on the top and bottom of the card, and additional signal trace routing on inner layers. Card power and ground are assigned to dedicated inner PCB layers as well. Screen shots of various routing and component layers have been included in this update as well as a composite for the main controller PCB. Data from supplier feedback and parts sourcing will be used to modify the PCB placement and routing as needed.
Additionally, screen shots of the Sound Band main PCB housing and headset design have also been included for this update. Feedback from review and fabrication quoting will be incorporated into the final production design to be sent for manufacture, and we will provide updates throughout the process.
A new contractor for the tooling for the DMA over mold has been selected based on cost and lead-time considerations, and we will post screen shots of that work when completed.
This week we continued to refine parts placement for the Sound Band main controller card and finished adding the new high current quick charge circuit for the LiPo battery. We have included a new 2D layout screen shot of the Sound Band 5 main controller Printed Circuit Card for this update.
The silkscreen and parts alignment for the PCB was also tidied up a bit in preparation for the final routing task that begins Monday. Parts placement will be tweaked during the routing process and the final board will have some changes made to the layout as a result.
The current layout density has been deliberately left with as much space as possible between components to make the routing task straightforward. As the card is routed, it may be possible to reduce the PCB size even further. We are on track to have files for the fully routed card sent for fabrication quoting at the end of this month.
Design work for the Sound Band controller PCB enclosure and tooling for the DMA over molding equipment has taken longer than expected, however, we anticipate this work will be completed in the coming week and we will post photos and screen shots as soon as we have them.