Patient Doppler supporters,
We have another informative update ready for you as we prep for the Beta run of Doppler to roll off the line.
Let’s start off with the good news: we are GO on the Beta run! The last board revisions are confirmed, the final tooling modifications are currently being made, 200 sets of Doppler parts will come from those tools, and then we will be ready to begin assembling the Beta units.
Okay, so that’s the good news. The bad news: the latest schedule we got from our overseas team has production Dopplers (non beta) shipping from our factory around December. Yes, you read that correctly, December 2019.
So, what is taking so darn long? The short answer, which is an industry-wide one, is long lead times for some electronic parts. Some of the Doppler’s parts have a lead time of up to 14 weeks, meaning that it would take 14 weeks to receive the parts once the order has been placed. Normally, the order for the production parts would not be placed until the successful completion of the Beta run. One thing we are doing to minimize the delay is ordering the long-lead-time parts now so we can start that 14 week counter as early as possible. Additionally, we are working with our various distributors and suppliers to try to get us these parts faster than the advertised lead times. If we are unable to do so, we won’t be able to start mass production of the Doppler until the middle of October. So, hopefully we can beat the estimated lead times and get you all your Doppler sooner than December.
We have been working on this darn alarm clock for a while now; we know we are late and we aren’t happy about it either. We want to get these things into your hands as fast as we can -- it truly is a great product and we know you will love it!
Now, back to the good news, the Beta run is much closer since we will be buying these components from local in-stock sources in much lower quantities or even ordering them locally (in the USA) and shipping them into China for the Beta run. We can’t use these sources for mass production since they are sometimes upwards of 10 times more expensive. For a Beta run this is a cost we can stomach, but for production it’s not an option. We are finishing up the final tooling changes for the Beta runs around the end of this month and we anticipate starting to assemble the Beta run of Dopplers around the middle of August. The Beta units will then ship via air to our office and then on to our Beta backers.
Thanks again for all of your patience, we are closer than ever! Now please read on for more info on the latest Doppler boards, the packaging, and the testing application we’re working on, it’s great stuff!
As we mentioned at the end of the last update we were designing the final revision of the boards before Beta production started. The changes in this board revision were mostly around allowing us to dim the display down further than we could with the previous revision of boards. Since preparing circuit boards is a pretty neat process we figured we would go over it again quickly with these boards!
Once we finished designing the boards we sent them out to a company that makes printed circuit boards, or PCBs. This is a very interesting process which involves lots of chemicals and it’s actually similar to developing film (remember that?). Here is a good video for those interested.
This is our button board, display board, and carrier board. The USB boards were unchanged with the most recent design change so we didn’t have them remade.
We then took them to our board assembly house where they had solder paste applied to them. This is done by squeezing solder paste through a thin sheet of metal, called a stencil, that has laser cut holes over the parts of the PCB that need solder on them, these are called pads.
Once the paste is applied, the boards go into a pick and place machine (as discussed in a previous update) where the electrical components are put on top of the solder paste. Once everything is placed, the boards go through a reflow oven to melt the solder paste and attach the parts electrically.
Once we got the boards back from the board assembly house, we went through and verified that all features of the circuit worked on this new revision of boards.
It took some tweaks to the firmware to get things going, but once those were finished, all was approved and now we have a fully working set of boards!
We then grab a Pico SoM and program it with the latest version of our software. We pair the PicoSom with the carrier board, attach an antenna and wire everything up. Apply power and...
Voila! A Doppler! Well, working Doppler boards.
Then we assemble the boards along with the plastics and you have a fully working Doppler!
We are using these units to continue working on software features, squash bugs, and we have also sent a couple to Zemingo, so they can continue working on the app. More on that in the next update.
While our hardware team has been hard at work bringing up and testing this new board revision, our software team has been working on our QA testing application.
It’s very important for every Doppler to work properly. So how do you test this quickly and efficiently? We have been working on a testing application to make sure every function of every Doppler works properly once it’s been built. This custom application works by utilizing the Linux computer inside the Doppler and running the newly built Doppler through a slew of tests. We have to test and make sure all 408 lights, 12 buttons, 6 USB ports, 2 microphones, 2 speakers, light sensor, Bluetooth, WiFi, and internal battery are all working properly. We are trying to automate these tests as much as possible to reduce human error. The goal of these tests is to make sure every Doppler works perfectly before they leave the factory.
Here is a snippet of the current testing application in action:
We will run the testing application on all Beta Dopplers as soon as they are built and we will work with the QA team in our factory to make sure this testing application is working as well as it can.
We have also been hard at work designing the packaging for the Doppler and we would like to share some of that process and what we have come up with. Packaging has two purposes: to inform the user about the product inside and to protect the product before it’s opened up by the customer.
We were very happy with the packaging design for the original Sandman so we took this general idea and adapted it for the Doppler. We created the general shape of the packaging using all natural cardboard for recyclability and protection. We did a lot of testing at small scale with card stock before scaling up to full size.
Once the approximate shape and size of the assembled packaging was designed, you “unfold” the shape you’ve created and you’re left with the flat design that will be cut out of the cardboard to create the packaging -- these are called die lines. We iterated a lot on this and we are really happy with what we came up with. We hope you will be too!
Once these die lines were close to final we started working on the actual graphics of the packaging. We did a lot of research on this, and went through a lot of different designs (and a lot of mini Doppler boxes). We think what we have come up with is informative to the user, visually pleasing, attention grabbing and most importantly will help the user have a great unboxing experience.
We will be leaning on our Doppler Beta testers for their feedback on the packaging and how we can improve the experience. Thanks in advance Doppler Beta testers!
With a product like the Doppler, that has the ability to update itself over the internet with new features, we felt like a physical printed user manual would be impossible to keep up to date. Because of this we have a quick start guide for the Doppler printed directly on the packaging and a super easy-to-navigate online manual which we will keep up to date for all features of the Doppler. This will be live for the Doppler Beta testers to test along with their Dopplers.
Thanks again for reading and we look forward to your questions and comments below!