Hey all. It's almost been another month, so it's time to catch up on what was planned and what the next steps are.
The Ongoing COVID-19 Situation
In last month's update, I summarized the situation at the time with the following statement: "As it currently stands, I do not believe COVID-19 will impact our supply line whatsoever".
I expected small shipping delays, I expected quarantining, and I expected inflated parts prices.
I didn't expect Amazon to shut down.
Needless to say, the situation is constantly evolving. I'm not going to try and predict the future, because the only thing I can guarantee is that my prediction will be wrong. Instead, I'm just going to cover the exact situations in each category. If you look at the initial timeline, I wanted to start manufacturing the final design by late April; instead, I'll be manufacturing the prototype around that time. This does unfortunately mean that, just like most Indiegogo projects, there will be delays. I don't think it will be much of one though; I still aim to be manufacturing the final design by June.
As mentioned in last month's update, I ordered proofs of the clear stickers, but they didn't turn out very well. I also mentioned that the manufacturer offered to send the same design in their clear label variety, to see if those worked better. A few days after the update, those arrived (a whole roll of them, wow) and I tested them on a variety of surfaces. There's still bubbles, because ThinkPads don't have perfectly flat surfaces, but they look much better and are much easier to apply. I'm happy with them and will be shipping these ones. As far as orders go, only 7 people ordered individual stickers; those orders will be mailed out within the next week or so, whenever I'm able to get stamps (USPS's online store is temporarily closed).
I mentioned how I had applied for a business bank account and was receiving a debit card in the mail. It took a little while, but it arrived and I've now placed orders for a reflow oven, solder paste, components, kapton tape (for the oven), a stencil, a 3d printer, and 3d filament. With Amazon no longer being an option, it was surprisingly hard to find decent suppliers for some of these things, but I managed to and most of them have arrived by now.
I expect within a week or two - once everything arrives - to manufacture the first ten prototypes. As a reminder, you can apply here to be sent one (for just the cost of shipping). The prototypes will be fully functional; the only differences compared to the final design are the color scheme and the fact that it will use leaded solder - the final design is RoHS-compliant.
I was originally planning to outsource production of the final design's chassis, and then buy 3d printers for later production runs afterward. Partly due to COVID shortages, and partly due to the delays that happen to be caused by it, I've decided to move the purchase of 3d printers up and actually manufacture the first run's chassis myself, rather than outsourcing it. This will hopefully make production more reliant on my own capability, rather than relying on another source that might shut down at any moment.
That just about covers the month. Hopefully next month I'll have far more news to report about prototype tests and benchmarks.