Things are getting exciting around Mycroft HQ as the pieces are starting to come together for our production run. We are expecting to ship the first devices out the door at the end of September. We thought you’d be interested in knowing what leads up to loading the first packaged unit on the delivery truck.
There are several key milestones remaining in our hardware production. A few of these milestones can be shifted around, but most are dependent on at least one earlier milestone, so we are watching these closely to make sure everything comes together at the right time.
1) Final circuitry design review and Bill of Materials.
After receiving the FCC approval, we needed to generate a complete and final Bill of Materials (aka BOM) to send to the circuit board manufacturer. They need to know exactly which capacitors, resistors, chips, etc. to get ordered. To make sure we’ve done it right, we ordered the exact number of parts needed to build two boards.
2) Hand build a final board
As soon as UPS delivers all of the BOM components, we will hand-build a complete set of boards. Yep, that means carefully applying solder paste and placing all of those tiny surface-mount pieces in just the right place before running it through our reflow soldering oven. Then we’ll test each board and likely have to remount a piece or two. But at the end we should have complete boards and no left-over parts.
3) “First article” plastic enclosures
As we mentioned a couple blog posts ago, the plastic injection molds have been cut by Zero Tolerance. They are now using those molds to produce a small batch of enclosures for us to inspect — these are known as the “first article”. Those get shipped to us for approval before producing a run of 1000.
4) Review final device BOM
This BOM includes the circuit-boards mentioned above as complete sub-assemblies plus all of the other purchased parts like the speaker, rotary encoders, and correct screws.
5) Assembly and testing instructions
We need to document each and every step for the production house. This includes exact detailing of which part gets placed where, which order to insert screws, etc. If you’ve ever build IKEA furniture you know how tough it is to do this well. We’ve also built self-test procedures for the units, but a human still needs to confirm results before successfully passing Quality Assurance (QA).
6) Generate the shipping device image
Our devices will auto-update so you’ll always have the latest and greatest version of Mycroft, but only if you can connect to the internet and the upgrade mechanism works.
7) Design product sticker
This sounds simple, but is really important. For the FCC we need to clearly identify the product and revision (in case we have to alter the design sometime in the future, like if we switch to a different component) along with the FCC logo. Plus it will have a unique serial numbers to help us track devices just in case we have to do a recall or anything.
8) Hand build Mycroft Hardware
We’ll take the enclosures, hand built boards, and other components and hand assemble it. We will have someone who has never assembled a device follow the assembly instructions using the parts in the final BOM. At the end we should again have no leftover parts (and nothing missing!) Then we’ll all hold our breath as we plug it in and run through the QA test procedure.
9) Approve packaging
We’ve been working with a local company producing the packaging. Have you ever thought about those carefully cut and folded pieces of cardboard you pull out of a box and immediately recycle? They are the unsung heroes of the tech industry, protecting hardware on its way to you. We’ll verify that the assembled device and parts all fit snugly in the packaging.
10) Design final box artwork
First impressions are important, after all!
11) Production house coordination
We’ll be handing all of this over to the production house and getting our time slot locked down.
12) Production and first shipments!
Once all of the above has come together, we will finally be shipping to our backers.
Getting this hardware out the door is a huge step for Mycroft. Of course this is just the start for the software, which will continue to improve and update on all of these devices. Look for a blog on the software development and Skill Lifecycle coming soon.
Steve has been building cutting edge yet still highly usable technology for over 25 years, previously leading teams at Autodesk and the Rhythm Engineering. He now leads the development team at Mycroft as a partner and the CTO.