Hello again. I hope you all had a fantastic week. We sure did. We have some exciting news to share with you today but we’ll have to get to that in a second. There are other, not quite as exciting but still important, things that need to be mentioned first. Let’s get started.
In the last update we shared a 3D render of the finished hardware design, but you may have noticed the lens that was included. To get the camera to take sharp, usable images we had to design a biconvex lens.
We originally designed the lens to be made from injection molded polycarbonate but because of its shape, the lens would likely warp as it cooled if we used that material. To solve that problem we redesigned the lens to be made from Poly(methyl methacrylate), or better known as acrylic. Acrylic doesn’t shrink as much as it cools so the variable thickness of the lens shouldn’t cause the same problems.
Before we spent any money to make the necessary tooling for the injection mold we wanted to make sure this lens will work as we expect it to, so we ordered a few 3D printed acrylic prototypes from Shapeways. When the lenses came it, they had obvious machine marks and were clear enough for light to pass through but still far too cloudy to see a clear image. We did a number of things to try to polish the lens but what worked best was a series of fine grit sandpapers before finishing it off with a fingernail buffer. This process made the lens clear enough for us to test.
Unfortunately, we were unable to secure the lens in the proper spot with regard to the camera and the text without dismantling the camera we're using for development, so we weren't able to reach a hard "yes" on whether the camera will be suitable. We're still very confident that this lens configuration will work, but we'll have to wait until we have the custom hardware and a 3D printed enclosure before we can know for sure.
And now for the really big news! Are you ready for it? We got the first batch of 5 custom hardware units in this week! This is a huge leap in the development cycle and having the tangible hardware has really charged the team with a whole new energy.
The one downside though is that our development/manufacturing partner was a few weeks late in getting us these prototypes. If you combine that with the revisions that needed to be made before production, we are again a bit behind schedule, though the team has been working extra long into the night in an effort to make up for lost time.
Right now, as I’m typing, Shane and Zack are working together to figure out how to load the system image onto the machine. This is challenging work because there is not much feedback from the system to help them troubleshoot. By connecting it to their computers they are able to get a very basic user interface but mostly they are relying on a series of LED lights to tell what’s going on with the board.
We have numerous people who we can help us out if this begins to take longer than expected, but with a little bit more time and struggle we should be able to figure it out on our own.
Now, with the lens design complete, the hardware finalized, and the batteries selected, Becky can adjust the final dimensions of the plastic enclosure in order to make sure everything fits snugly and securely. This involves modeling the bosses, ribs, and gussets that hold the components in place and gives the body strength, as well as the snap fits that hold the two plastic halves together.
Becky is planning to model two or three iterations each with slight variations in the exact sizing of the parts before sending it off to be 3D printed. The process of getting the parts to fit together perfectly can be as much of an art as it is a science so we’ll be ordering a couple different versions at a time to cut down on total shipping time.
Once Becky finishes the enclosure, we’ll be able to send off to have the tooling made for the injection mold. We’ll also be able to create the vacuum form tooling for the plastic packaging inserts and get the packaging sent to us.
We also still need to send one of the prototype units off to Compliance Testing after we get it working so they can certify that it does not emit any radio signals that may interfere with other devices.
Then lastly, we'd just need to have the electronics and plastic enclosures manufactured and sent to us for final assembly and ship out.
I wish I could tell you with more certainty exactly when we will be shipping your orders, but there is still some work left to be done before the product is finished and not all of it is within our direct control with respect to how long it takes. Product development is a lot like playing a game of hot potato. We try to get the potato out of our hands as quickly as possible, but a large part of the game is waiting for the potato to come back around.
I want to be clear though, I’m not saying this to absolve ourselves of responsibility. At the end of the day we are accountable for any delays. I only mention this because we want you to know we are doing everything in our power to get your orders to you in as timely of a manner as we can.
That said, looking at the work that still remains, it’s likely going to take us at least until the end of this year or the beginning of next for everything to come together so we can begin shipping out orders.