Update 14 : Last news!

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Update 14 : Last news!

Post by Admin » Tue 21 Mar 2017 11:12

Hey guys,

Sorry I have not posted news for a long time, mainly because I had to deal with logistics and discussion with suppliers that required frustrating long time to set up. And it is quite fastidious to write down without being very boring!

But I will try my best to give you interesting news:

For the PCBA service (which mean PCB Assembly, ie the making of the 8Bcraft electronic board):

First some explanation, when you want to make an electronic board, first you need to design it with some appropriate software (for example Eagle or Altium softwares). The result of that design is called gerber files and a BOM (bill of material).

- The Gerber file are files describing the board copper pattern. It also describe other things, such as drill holes and silkscreen (printing)

- The BOM is the list of the components you are using. All resistors, all capacitors, inductor, microcontroller, whatever your bord will have soldered to it.

Before going on production you must make prototypes, because you are sure you will have bugs or problem that you did not expect with you board. To do so the easier way I think is to order the prototype PCB from website such a Elecrow or Seeedstudio or whatever, there is a lot of them. You can get PCB printed (board alone) for about $10 for 10 pieces. Then you can handsolder the components to make a prototype of PCBA (board with components). Then you spot the bugs/problem and iterate.

That what I have done before the kickstarter. I had to iterate 9 times before getting it to work. I had a lot of different issues : some components would fit together or would not be compatible, some package (pads drawing for a components that are printed on the PCB to allow the components to be soldered in place) would not be right... So many different bug I experienced!

Then you have your final design : Gerber + BOM. You now have to find a manufacturer to make PCBA service, which is using a pick and place machine to put components on the PCB automatically.

So what you do is you send your files to manufacturers and you ask them for quotes. Now my problem was that one of the microcontroller (the one driving the LCD) need flashing (installing) a program. So on each PCB you have to make contact with a developper tool to upload the program on the microcontroller. The problem I had is that the manufacturer who initially gave me a quote, changed his mind and told me he can not do the flashing. So I had to find one that could do it. I asked quite a lot of suppliers and a lot of them would not do it. Then I have one that could do it but for a crazy price!

In the end I recently found a supplier that can do it for a fair price! And order has started. So now the factory is ordering the components (about 2 weeks) then they make 10 pcs prototype in industrial condition. To double-check that there is no problem of any sort. Then they make the full production.

The nightmare of logistics

Well I had a hard time with that! There was a lot of different problems. I had different options, either :

1 - ordering components (LCD, gamepad module, speaker, injected casing...) from different suppliers and deliver them to France Paris in my appartment. Make packets and ship.

2 - Ordering components from different suppliers and bring them all together in Shenzhen. Make packets in shenzhen and ship from Shenzhen or from Hongkong.

I really wanted to make the first option (and getting my flat full of carton boxes) but I ran into sever issues... The point is that when you import something in France, you have to pay custom fee + french VAT (20% of value + shipping) on all you import. Even if most (90%) of my customers are outside France. They should eventually refund me the part of VAT of products that are not sold in France but it takes ages (like 9-10 months).

And also I have to pay heavy shipping fees to import all components in France, before shipping again.

So in the end my excel file told me it was simply not possible to do it this way. I should have double the price on my kickstarter if I wanted to do like that.

So that leaves us with option 2 - All logistics in China.

Now a new problem appeared. Since 2016 it is forbidden to ship stand-alone lithium batteries. So all post/shipping services refuse stand-alone batteries (in all countries). So how to send you guys the kit that include a stand-alone battery if it is forbiden? Well it's only "stand-alone" batteries that are forbiden. For example if you ship a phone with a lithium polymer battery inside it's ok. If you ship the phone with the battery outside, it's forbidden...! So if the battery is in the equipment it's ok.

So what we have to do is to pre-assemble the kits, in order to install the battery in the casing so that it is not "stand-alone" batteries! So as we have to make a pre-assembly, then we will also pre-assemble the LCD, gamepad PCB, 8BCraft PCB in the casing, so for the shipping they will be better protected. (and that will make less plastic wraping/bags waste).

But how to do that if you are to ship from shenzhen? Then I had to find a company that can make assembly. I found one. Then I wonder : how can I trust this company? How to be sure they will not disappear with the components?

When dealing with suppliers in China, Alibaba is very good, because they give you a trade assurance. If there is a problem with products they will refund you. But the problem is that for assembly the assurance would cover only the assembly cost. So for example you pay the factory 3000 € for assembly and you send them 100 000€ of components, then the trade assurance is only 3000€... So if they diseappear with you components you will get only 3000€ refund...

So well this gave me a lot of headach, and in the end I found the best way : the assembly factory will purchase the different components and I will order everything from it. So trade assurance will cover everything.

Anyhow I spare you some details.

Now it seems that everything is ok. Product will be pre-assembled and packed in Shenzhen and will ship from Hongkong.

Mold

Mold have been ordered and there are now making the mold drawing. I had to add draft on all surfaces, so that the pieces will come off the mold. I had some trouble doing that with geometry complexity, but it's not done.

I asked them for a lot of picture of mole making process so I can show you.

Other components:

For the gamepad module I had some problems as I received a sample where the L and R plastic buttons where not the good one. But the supplier told me it has been an error and they are sending me a new prototype.

All the rest is fine and waiting the PCBA and mold making.

On the overall I think there might be 1 month late on schedule, and I hope you won't hate me for that, I assure you I'm doing my best!

After all, after seeing all this text and the few pictures (none actually!) I think it's quite a boring news :)

I will try to add pictures to this update tomorrow to make it more readable.

Pierre

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