We are now IN PRODUCTION. So exciting!
As I write this all the necessary PCB have been ordered, most boards and all their components are at our first assembly house and they have started. Some other boards and components have been ordered and are underway to our second assembly house. All the parts (electronics, casing, sides, front, adapter) have been approved and are either in-house, on order or ready to start production. The next weeks is where it all comes together.
Our last devblog was in August. Since then we’ve had a lovely Beta-weekend where we ran into more hardware fixes than expected but found and solved all of them and our awesome beta-testers have been playing with their units for a little while now. We no have no more issues in the hardware and are discussing the issues or options that the software layer has. It is also very good to see these incredibly musical people enjoy their FenixIV. It gives us faith that we have not been completely insane and that our Fenixes will be making happy beep in studios and on stages wherever they fly.
During the week leading up to our Beta-weekend we were at our first assembly house to help assemble the first five insides. We spent two days mostly placing (Priscilla) and hand-soldering (Stijn) all the through-hole parts after the boards went through their smd machines, so that we could keep our planned weekend. Stijn went through an entire roll of solder. For the production run we wont be doing this ourselves. Like I’ve said before; there is an amazing amount of hands on electronics.
After chasing down any flaws in production, design and placement (my bad) during our Beta weekend we improved our files, had another meeting with our assembly house and discussed everything until it was clear why the tiniest thing happened and how to prevent them from happening again. Filled with confidence and excitement, we ordered the big stack of final PCBs. This house is going to make seven boards for us, currently the third board is going through their smd machines and things are going very well. When they have programmed the machines for a new board, we go there and they run through one board that we immediately test and approve for the full run. We have built test-jigs for this that run an almost completely automated test on every connection, every signal path and ranges. Quality control all the way.
With our Beta units we also had the absolute final version of the hardware that we could put through the emission and electricity testing that is necessary for CE. Stroking cats and touching synthesizers are actually a horrible combination that can produce 8000V of static electricity. So we should be prepared. However well we designed everything with this protection in mind, it is still a nerve-wracking experience to put the equivalent of a cattle prod to your beautiful instrument and zap it. I am glad to report that we passed all the testing. We passed the emission and the zap testing and our FenixIV unit used in this test continues to beep happily.
The power backpack, I/O board and MCU boards will come together at a second assembly house. We have almost all the parts and boards in-house for the I/O and power backpack (last things are in transit as I write this) and I am poking this house to see if they have ‘space on the line’ for us next week. The MCU boards have run into a snag – a fire in our chip factory in Japan has destroyed their machines and stock. Thankfully no humans were hurt during this three day blaze that took out the worldwide AKM stash. This meant we had to do a redesign of our MCU boards, of which there are four in every Fenix. Thankfully, Stijn and Lauri found a great replacement that required minimal adaptation of design and the new chips are already in-house. We are going to do a bunch of testing with this adapted design before we make a full run because we test, test, test everything.
Our aluminium bending case manufacturer has also upped their game and made a new welding mould that holds our Fenix case in position while it’s being made and comes out perfectly aligned. We opted to add four screw holes in the corners to have a stronger bond between the front panel and the case, possibly a little overkill. As I write this they are making our first run of 25 cases that we expect to pick up next week.
Last night the absolute this-has-to-be-final design has been sent to our front panel factory. There is so much happening on the front of our Fenix. We have oogled this design for hours, we have printed it and enlarged sections to scrutinize it but I promise you somehow, somewhere there is a flaw on this thing. If you every find it – don’t tell me. In between organising manufacturing and rolling with anything that comes up, we are working on improving the software and writing the manual. Our Beta’s sometimes find something strange but mostly they find opportunities. “It would be great if you could…” and generally we agree and we oblige.
We have good hope that we will be spending our Christmas putting together, testing and calibrating the first batch of our Fenixes. If you are on our waiting list between the 1st and 25th place, you will be hearing from me shortly.