It’s been a lot longer than I wanted since I’ve updated the blog, so I thought it was more than high time.
We haven’t updated for lack of things to update, but a lack of time. We’ve been super busy getting things handled. I wanted to do a lot more “live updates” and live blog about much more of the process, it’s just been hard finding the time. I expect to get many of the pics, videos and details from the last few weeks shared on the blog soon.
In the last few weeks since our successful Kickstarter Project we’ve finalized the PCB design to 4 layer, added components for advance power management, ordered all of the parts, received nearly all the parts, started the PCB fab and started prepping for Assembly.
When we initially spec’d out the pricing for our project we felt like we did excellent due diligence as we obtained a lot of quotes from a lot of places. For parts, PCB manufacturing and Assembly. Quotes from a variety of companies, overseas, US, In State and even in town. We double checked most things and triple checked others. However, a few things have come out of the woodwork as gotchas. Things that in my opinion seem ridiculous, but are apparently understood and expected. The biggest has been quote creep.
Most of these quotes turned out to be something other than “full quotes” as in many of the cases there are setup fees, and other necessities that aren’t discussed up front. Things like the fact that full reals of parts are required. For example we may only need 2300 caps, but in order to get full reels have to buy 5000. Or, another one is a 5% expected part loss. For some of the smaller parts that’s not a big deal, but for an $9 – $12 part like the BLE-112a that can add up really quickly.
As we looked at some of these things that have popped up, we took a look at bringing more of the processes in house. This would allow us to control more of the process, be setup for the future as a company, and allow us to keep more funds focused on extending initial inventory. This is this was something I was very excited about. The PCB Design, Enclosure Design, API and Software Development was already largely in house so it made sense to expand what we were doing if it made sense cost wise. The only things that we were really “outsourcing” were PCB Fab and Assembly, which other than parts was the most expensive.
We quickly realized that PCB fabrication was out. Since our design is 4 layer it is a little more complex than your average Instructable or Make project and the necessary equipment didn’t make sense at the scale we are at. So we looked at Assembly. With some basic needs like a Stainless Steel Solder Stencil ($150), Reflow Oven($50), Oven Controller(90) and some basic tools and equipment I felt like we could get setup pretty inexpensively. Definitely for less than the $1.80 per board we were looking at from our quotes, quotes that initially had been $1.00 per board. After a little more research we’ve added a vacuum part placement tool($25) and Component Reel Storage. This was something that I was confident that I could do quite easily.
So we’ve took the jump, purchased the equipment and have used it to put together a handful of our First Articles boards.
It is very cool to have a PCB Assembly Line setup for our tod Smart Beacon
“From Toaster to Reflow”
“Reflow Oven Controller How To”
“Vacuum Part Placement on the Cheap”