A Christmas Tale
Here's your awaited update :-)
As I mentioned previously, we're moving into production workflow. Yay!!
This means we're triggering lots of different events. Buying more than hundreds of some components has bigger lead times and careful planning must be done. We have a goal to deliver before Christmas so let's keep fingers crossed.
Divided in two parts - mechanics and electronics - the production surely presents our current time constraints.
The Die Cast case is now in the tooling process and a sample is promised to the end of this month. With the approval of the sample the production comes right after and takes another two weeks.
Enclosures are produced in Shenzhen, China, and I arranged to have a partial assembly done there. Displays, footswitches and light pipes will be assembled to the enclosure before being sent to Berlin.
Apart from saving money, this pre-assembly will make shipping and customs paperwork simpler :-)
Our biggest risks here are:
A - the sample presents some nasty problem
B - the displays are not delivered on time
After so many interactions of the mechanical drawing I get very little worried about risk A.
Risk B, on the other hand, is bothering me a bit. We had this big holiday in China last week and there is this thing about chinese workers going back home to the country side during the big holidays and never going back to the factories. As changing the display is not an option right now - unless strictly necessary - if the manufacturer for whatever reason has a delay we'll have no option but wait.
On the electronics side the process is happening in three stages:
1 - Hand assembly: check and validate final design ASAP.
This phase is done!!! It is what's taken a big chunk of my time since the last update.
The unit is now working and I it sings beautifully. Check out this result:
The noise spikes don't cross the -100dB line which is an awesome result. The CODEC itself has a 104dB dynamic range so we're almost touching the limit. I have many other screens like this for the test junkies. I'll post them in our blog soon.
Other tests, as temperature, are also being done in this unit. There was an issue with the voltage regulators - we need to deliver 3.3V, 5V and 9V from a 12V power supply - that were getting hotter than desired and in the end we sorted it by "throwing some money at the problem" and swapping the 30 cents linear regulator for a 3.50€ DC-DC converter.
2 - Machine assembly: exact same process as real production, but only four units. This is to validate the production process and make sure we don't produce 300 units of something that will be need to be redone.
Today I kicked-off this phase and the 4 PCBs are already ordered. Gerber files for the PCBAs are already going to the machines and still this week the components will arrive. Next week we'll have the boards assembled.
3 - Mass production: once the machine assembled samples are tested and validated we can then produce the 300 Bottom and Top boards. A good thing about running the previous samples is that this mass production process becomes hassle free.
Originally we would do the TopBoard in China but, as all of our risk taking quota has been exceeded during this year, it has been decided to run both boards from this batch here in Germany. As I already mentioned, we are now based at Schleicher and we're running the production here. There's no price for this convenience and peace of mind :-)
The biggest risk here is if the machine assembled samples don't come as expected. Deeper tests will be done with those units and a second spin of this phase would add another 3 to 4 weeks to our schedule. The preliminary results from this hand assembled version seem promising enough though.
My plan is to have both mechanical as electronic productions finished by the end of November so that we can start assembly, testing and packing of the units. All assembly will also be done here at Schleicher and we intend to start shipping on December 10th.
One of the processes that start now is the deal with the shipping company - probably DHL. To do that I will need a final list of addresses and thus, no more modifications will be possible. Our surveys have the addresses field still editable. I will now block it and Kickstarter will send an email to you backers with a link for edition in case it is necessary. You will have 48h to do it. If anyone misses this limit please contact us directly via email.
This is an area where we definitely need improvement. I am adding people to the team to take care of that and help us to keep you backers updated and engaged on this final sprint. As production finishes and shipping is done, an entire new phase starts and efficient communication is mandatory. Lots of bugs, comments and feedbacks will arrive from your side and we need to organize ourselves to absorb all this data and make good use of it.
A sysadmin is also jumping in to help with the infrastructure - mailing lists and wiki - so we can make sure there are usable tools available to us, after all, a brand new community is to be born!!!
Unfortunately the Kickstarter survey system is very limited and there is more information we need from you backers. Color options and RAM capacities need to be decided soon and we have no other option but releasing a new survey. We tried the survey monkey system for the ISO Alpha release and it seems to work quite well so it is what we intend to use from now on. If someone has a better option please let us know.
And what will be left for later?
As you can see, I make no comments here about the expression pedals, footswitches, etc. That is because we're leaving them for next year. Total focus is now necessary for the Duo and delivering everything at once would be more than we can handle. I humbly apologize for that.
For the moment that's all. Hope you all are excited as we are here.
Stay tuned for more.
My dearest wishes to all
The MOD Team