We're getting so close!
Hi Spark family,
We're getting so close to delivery. All of the components have been ordered, and most are in hand. We got 20 Spark Core samples off the line during our pilot run, and they were a great success. Here's a few of them:
A couple failed because of bad LEDs, but we figured out the problem in the supply chain (LEDs are susceptible to humidity), and fixed it, so we're confident it won't be an issue going forward.
We've got lots of great news to share with the progress that we've made, but unfortunately due to an issue with Gerber files that was compounded by hitting a Chinese holiday, our schedule has been pushed back by another three weeks. We're currently scheduled to start delivery on November 4.
We're bummed to be announcing another delay, but we're devoted to being as transparent as possible about our timeline; we would rather keep providing an up-to-date shipping estimate than simply leave it open-ended. If you have any questions we're happy to answer them; you can find us here, in our forums, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on IRC (#spark). We're always available and happy to chat!
We've updated our status page to reflect the latest timeline, and for those who love the details, here's a Gantt chart showing our latest timeline:
Now let's get into the weeds and talk supply chain, domain names, and demos!
How one file pushed us back three weeks
Let me preface this by saying that we're not pushing off the blame of further delay onto anybody else. We take full responsibility. But I figured many of you would be interested to learn a bit of what goes on behind the scenes when we're sourcing a large number of products, and the seemingly trivial things that can cause delays.
When the design files for the Core were locked down, the final step was to transfer these files over to the PCB (printed circuit board) manufacturer for review and panelization. Panelizing a board means that, rather than producing 10,000 loose Core PCBs, our board house will produce 1,000 panels that each have 10 Core PCBs. As an example, here are some panelized JTAG shields:
The files that you send to a board house are called Gerber files; they're essentially a standardized description of each layer of the board (copper, soldermask, silkscreen, etc.).
When we sent our finalized Gerbers to our board house, we figured that what we would get back would be identical to what we sent, except panelized. However, this turned out not to be the case. The board house was making small modifications to the Gerbers in order to increase yield; this is part of their standard process. These modifications, however, were creating unintended effects on our boards, including:
- Creating unreadable silkscreens
- Moving copper traces close enough to potentially cause shorts
- Cutting off the edges of copper polygons on the board, creating "islands" (copper areas not connected electrically to anything at all)
Resolving these issues, it turned out, was more complicated than we expected. Due to miscommunications and misunderstandings, it took 7 iterations on the Gerber files to get something we were satisfied with. Each of these iterations took a day or more, and in the end we lost a week and a half.
And then came the Chinese holidays.
Anyone who's ever done overseas sourcing will tell you to watch out for Chinese holidays. Since they don't generally overlap with U.S. holidays, they can often cause unexpected delays.
There are two holidays in September/October that can cause delays: Mid-Autumn Day and National Day. Here's an animated gif to clear up the schedule:
We knew these holidays were coming up, but based on our previous schedule, the holidays weren't going to affect us much; our PCBA (PCB assembly) partner takes only a short break for National Day, and we were previously scheduled to be doing assembly over the holiday. But unfortunately due to the Gerber delay, the schedule shifted so that PCB manufacturing (from the board house) would happen over National Day, and they take a much longer break. So unfortunately we lose another week and a half.
In the end, three weeks delay. But don't worry! Our software team is taking the opportunity to make the software experience even better and we're adding some special goodies to your shipments as a thank you for your patience. Thanks for sticking with us and being so supportive. We love you guys and we can't wait to get the Core out to you.
A demo of setting up a Spark Core
One of our biggest goals with the Spark Core is to make it dead simple to use. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is the set-up process: how do you get from Core-in-a-box to Core-on-the-Cloud, how long does it take, and how easy is it to follow?
To showcase how easy it is to get set up, we made a short video for you. Check it out and let us know what you think!
The team grows again!
A while back we told you two of our new team members, David and Mohit. Since then we've brought on two even newer team members: Joe and Faye! Welcome to the Spark family, guys.
Joe is joining the team as a DevOps expert, meaning that he'll be responsible for keeping the Spark Cloud solid as a rock. He'll also be heading up developer evangelism, so expect to be seeing his face around the community and on things like screencasts.
Faye is joining the sourcing team, and will be running the show in Shenzhen once Will comes home to the U.S. Having a native Chinese speaker on the team has already been a big help, as things tend to go... smoother.
A new domain
For the time being, emails and links should work on both domains, but over time, we will complete the transition, and eventually deprecate the old domain. So update your bookmarks! And if you want to reach us, you can now email us at email@example.com!
Also, for those of you who follow us on Github, we've got a change there too; our organization's site has moved from www.github.com/sprk to www.github.com/spark. If you've cloned some of our repositories you may need to change the location of your remotes, but other than that the links should forward seamlessly.
We love you.
Thank you for your support, your advice, and your patience. You guys are awesome. We can't wait to get these tiny little things into your hands.
- Zach and the Spark team
P.S. Email us if you need to change your address
Previously we locked down addresses, but since we're delaying for a few more weeks, we understand some of you will be moving during that period. So feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to change your shipping address.