SPUD Update: Pilot Testing and Path to Release

January 21, 2018

Happy New Year SPUD Supporters!

We’ll start with some great news: our pilot units were successfully manufactured and shipped to our pilot users, who started testing their SPUDs last week! So far the feedback has been positive and it has been great to meet some of you face-to-face. We will provide more updates once the testing is complete.  

In the meantime, we have some behind the scenes pics and info on the assembly of the Pilot SPUDs, plus an overview of the critical items/schedule remaining before you receive your SPUD.  

The Pilot Build  

We spent Christmas and end of 2017 prepping and debugging our pilot production run, also known as Production Validation Test (PVT), the critical manufacturing milestone prior to Mass Production (MP).  

Our first unofficial pilot testers, Justin’s daughters, testing fun-ness.
Our first unofficial pilot testers, Justin’s daughters, testing fun-ness.

 

As mentioned in our last update, we decided to move forward with the pilot build knowing that some of the components would not be final: 

  • The optical system does not have the final lens. Currently using the best samples of the existing lens. 
  • The shroud is not final. Currently using a slightly thicker but similar fabric with a lower quality dye level. 
  • The cover is larger than the final version. Due to the additional thickness of the shroud, the cover was extended to account for the larger volume when collapsed. 
  • The brightness and contrast may still be slightly adjusted as we balance the different aspects of image quality with battery life. 

However, we believe the pilot unts will give the pilot users a very close-to-final experience, and we look forward to hearing what they have to say. 

We thank all of our pilot units for volunteering your time and effort to help us out! 

Remaining Critical Items 

In addition to completing the pilot builds for test customers, the main purpose of PVT was to validate that SPUD is mass manufacturable by building enough units to setup the manufacturing line. During PVT, there were some minor issues that we corrected (e.g., some internal cables needed to be changed, firmware needed to be upgraded for the fan, color temperature adjustments, volume control tweaks, etc.) and one major issue: the image position variation of the projector (i.e., offset variation). 

We found that units with significant offset variation showed drastically reduced performance when paired with the custom short range lens, causing increased blurriness in certain areas of the screen. In the most extreme cases, the image edge could be cutoff. The current lens performs best if the light travels through the center rather than shifted towards the edges. We have confirmed that our original prototype lenses, which were made using a more precise technology called diamond turning, perform much better than the injection molded lenses when paired with a projector with a large offset variation. We believe that if the mass manufactured lenses were higher quality, they would better handle the projector image variation. 

As mentioned in the last update, we were able to build up enough pilot units by manually pairing the projection and lens components, but this is not a scalable option moving forward. That means the remaining critical issues before we can proceed with MP are: 

  • Improve image quality, either by addressing the image offset variation, or by improving the optics quality, or both. 
  • Implement feasible feedback from the pilot customers. 

We are working to improve our current lens and designing a new lens as a backup plan. The two options have significantly different schedules to release, as described below. 

Remaining Schedule 

Because we are still bottlenecked by the SPUD lens, it is very likely that production will be delayed until after Chinese New Year, which falls on February 16th this year. During this holiday, most workers will be on vacation for a week or more, and our manufacturing will be on hold until the team is back and ready to go. To make up for some lost time, we have decided to ship by air instead of sea, which will save us a couple weeks of transit time. 

The remaining schedule depends on resolving the issue with the lens. Based on the two potential paths to resolution listed in the previous section, we have two different release estimates: 

(1) If we can improve and use the current lens, we expect to release by mid-April. This includes the lens improvement time, Chinese New Year break, production prep, and final assembly. As mentioned above, we have decided to ship via air-freight to minimize the time in the mail once we release. 
(2) If we need to move to a new lens design, we expect to release by mid-June. This includes the items above, plus an additional 2 months of lens development time. 

Ideally we will find a solution with the current lens and release on the option (1) schedule, but it is important that we continue to make preparations for option (2) to minimize the schedule impact if required. 

Pilot Build Behind-the-Scenes

As usual, we have collected a few pictures to give you a quick taste of what it was like to go through the pilot build.

George arriving on pilot manufacturing day, with boxes of shrouds and supplies.
George arriving on pilot manufacturing day, with boxes of shrouds and supplies.

 

Manufacturing line - assembling the SPUD electronics and chassis.
Manufacturing line - assembling the SPUD electronics and chassis.

 

Leonard testing the assembled pilot units.
Leonard testing the assembled pilot units.

 

Finalizing assembly with SPUD arms and shroud.
Finalizing assembly with SPUD arms and shroud.

 

Finished SPUDs mingling in the office.
Finished SPUDs mingling in the office.

 

Test, test, test.
Test, test, test.

 

Ready to ship to Houston and Austin!
Ready to ship to Houston and Austin!

 

We have checked off another critical milestone by shipping out the pilot units, and we are very excited to hear all about the pilot users’ initial SPUD experiences. Our next update will include a summary of the feedback we receive! 

Thank you for your support! 
-George, Leonard, Justin, Alex


Subscribe

Get $25 off!