A graduation of sorts: assembly, beta, schedule
Hello, supporters —
We’ve got another action-packed update for you. But first, let’s talk about the schedule.
We’ve come a long way in mere months. We’ve got what we think is final hardware, but it needs to be tested in a small batch before we spend all the money to produce thousands of Twines. We have a duty to spend your pledges wisely. We’re going to ship Twine only when we think it’s great, and that means it will be longer that we wanted.
Here’s the plan. 100 beta units will be shipping next week. We have picked some Kickstarter backers to help us with beta testing — those of you will be getting an email asking you to help us by putting Twine through its paces and reporting issues. We’ll start by testing just the hardware and gradually add features over the next several weeks.
After two weeks of field testing, if all goes well, we’ll set in motion the wheels of full production:
- Full case and circuit board manufacture - two weeks
- Board assembly - two weeks
- Software installation, QA - one week
- Packing, shipping - one week
Our schedule is driven by the hardware production, but this doesn’t mention the ongoing work on software development, packaging and other fronts. With so many interdependent tasks, you can see how important coordination is. (Gantter has proved invaluable for project management.)Assembly
We took inventory of the components — all 175,697 of them — and loaded them into the car to deliver to our assembler.
For assembly of Twine’s circuit board, we chose Spin PCB in New Hampshire because they’re nearby and a pleasure to work with. When you’re very particular about getting things done right on a tight schedule, that’s invaluable.
Ever wanted to know more about automated electronics assembly, the technological wonder that drives modern industry? Here’s a tour of the process.
Those printed circuit boards pictured at the top of this post first get placed in this machine, which spreads solder paste through a mask onto the boards. It’s not too different from how t-shirts are screenprinted.
The paste-loaded boards are then put in the pick-and-place machine. It has what looks like an inkjet printer head, but uses suction to pick up the tiny electronic components from trays and reels, and place them on the boards.
Here, reels of components are being loaded for the pick-and-place machine. The machine uses computer vision and sensing arms to place the parts precisely on the correct spots on each board.
The solder paste keeps the components in place until the boards can be run through the reflow oven, which melts the solder to make a permanent connection. Yes, you can cook a pizza in it, but this oven carefully controls the temperature to avoid damaging the components.
And here are the completed boards, fresh from the oven and ready to snap apart!On other fronts
And just in time, the first injection molded inner cases have arrived. Making objects is hard, but making interfaces between objects is harder. It’s a great feeling when the circuit board snaps into the frame perfectly the first time! That’s thanks to extensive 3D prototyping.
Before the board design was frozen, David worked to eke out every bit of power savings that he could. Now he’s chewing through firmware to make the network connection as reliable as possible. Rehmi and Arash, our engineering intern, have been guiding the circuit board production. After getting the tooling for the cases underway, John has been working on packaging and making the network setup process for Twine simple. Around this crazy schedule, we’re uprooting ourselves from Boston — the next update will be posted from sunny Austin.
Through our updates, you can see how we’ve adjusted to meet the exceptional demand from our Kickstarter backers, and the love and sweat that we’re putting into making Twine great now and for the future. We’re among the first to undertake a nimbler and more open product development process, and for all the bumps and bruises, we love it. We’re excited about how much better it will make Twine, the product, and Supermechanical, the company. We’re glad that you’re participating with us in this.
We can never say it enough: Thanks for your support and patience.
— John, David and team