Manufacturing Part 1 and Updated Shipping Date
Happy New Year! We hope that your 2015 ended on a high note and that you're ready to cellula-brate 2016 with Particle and the Electron!
Now that January is upon us, delivery is in sight. As you know, we've already locked down survey responses early to make sure our fulfillment center is fully prepped for the imminent outpouring of backer rewards. If you have any questions regarding your order you can always visit our support portal to get quick answers or to get in touch with us directly.
Slightly Updated Timeline
Our estimated delivery timeline has been set back by two weeks due to an issue with our PCB (printed circuit board) supplier. If you already own a Photon, you may have noticed that they don't look like most PCBs--we take great pride in the design and production quality of our boards. However, sourcing high quality PCBs with high resolution printing in custom colors is easy to ask for and hard to deliver, and our supplier recently reported lower than desirable yields on our production PCBs.
We worked with the supplier and made some concessions to improve their yield, but they were largely unwilling to negotiate with Chinese New Year quickly approaching. In order to achieve the same high-resolution silkscreen as the Photon, we would have had to resource PCB manufacturers and delay production until after the Chinese New Year holiday in March. No one wants that, so we've decided to move forward with PCB production for the Electron according to standard cosmetic PCB specifications. Although our first run of Electrons won't feature cyan-colored printing, this last minute issue only slowed us down a couple of weeks as a result, and we were able to avoid a much longer delay.
This small timeline change is reflected below - instead of manufacturing beginning December 15 it began on January 4. You'll also see we've broken out manufacturing into two sections, which we'll describe in greater detail later in this update.
Complete: Pilot Run
We reached a hugely important milestone in December when we manufactured a pilot run of 100 Electrons with our contract manufacturer in Shenzhen. Pilot units are fundamentally different from manually assembled prototypes because they use production materials, equipment, and assembly procedures. Pilot runs like this one are extremely important in new product development because they help you and your contract manufacturer discover hidden issues with your manufacturing process. With a successful pilot under our belts, we're much more confident that mass production of over twenty thousand Electrons will go off without a hitch later this month.
In Progress: Manufacturing Part 1 - Test Fixtures
Two of the most important steps in the Electron manufacturing process are PCB testing and programming. After the PCBs are fully populated, each Electron is given a thorough electrical and functional inspection, then flashed with firmware and provisioned with access to the Particle Cloud. The machine that facilitates these testing and programming steps is a fully customized test fixture built in house by Particle engineers. The testing team has been working on these machines for months now, and all of the materials to assemble the fixtures have arrived in Shenzhen. Our manufacturing team (Will, Eric, Wilton, and Faye) is currently in the process of assembling them, and will bring all twenty fixtures to our contract manufacturer in preparation for mass production later this week.
The entire testing and programming process takes about 90 seconds, and we check every single IO pin, USB connector, battery connector, LED, SIM card slot, and on board peripheral. Additionally, we also verify the RF transmission characteristics of the cellular modem to make sure that every unboxed Electron is ready to sing sweet wireless music to your neighborhood cell tower.
Next Up: Manufacturing Part 2 - Production
The fun is about to begin! We are t-minus one week until thousands of Electrons and Electron kits start rolling off the assembly line! Well, they don't roll per se. We try to stop them before they literally roll. It's more of a "finishing on the line and being gently placed into packaging" kind of thing.
Through this process, hundreds of thousands of parts in boxes and reels all over our factory will be combined with heat and metal in just the right ways to give life to tens of thousands of cyan-breathing development kits destined for backers all over the globe. It's an amazing display to witness, so we'll make sure to leave our cameras on.
And we're not going to bowl your Electrons, promise.
May the Particle be with You
We hope that many of you have already experienced the joy that is the new Star Wars film! If you're like us, your imagination started spinning a million miles an hour (rpm?) after viewing the new film, and we hope you'll contribute some of the ideas you dream up to our ongoing Star Wars contact on Hackster. Project submissions are open and we've got some pretty amazing prizes for the contest winners including a PS4, brand new laptop, and everyone's favorite remote control BB-8. Click here to submit your ideas. The project submission deadline has been extended to February 11, 2016 at 11:59 PM PT.
See You Soon
We'll be back soon with pictures and updates straight from our assembly line in China. As always, we're grateful for your support and confidence in us. We're really excited about the way the Electron is coming together and can't wait to get it into your hands. Please stay in touch with us here on Twitter, Facebook, Github, and our community site, and visit our new support portal with any questions.
The Particle Team