Hi Shapers! This post will be the first in a series of roughly monthly updates in which we’ll take you behind-the-scenes to tell you more about everything we’re doing to deliver Origin to you next year. We’ll continue to share details about our unique test and validation procedures, as well as our manufacturing progress, and all the fun things that go along with that, like life testing, software QA, certifications, and more.
If you’ve already pre-ordered Shaper Origin, thank you! We’ve been completely thrilled and inspired by your support, feedback, and enthusiasm for Origin. My name is Jeremy, and I lead Electrical Engineering at Shaper. In these updates, you’ll hear from me, as well as other engineers and designers at Shaper. These are not press releases; they will be technical updates with a goal of sharing what we’re working on. In future posts, you’ll meet other members of the team who are making Origin possible.
Let’s start by answering one of the most common questions we’ve received: “Why is it going to take a year to ship Origin!?” As you may already know, we’ve been working on the technology behind Origin for over four years. Origin has been through countless prototypes, and over the past year we have beta-tested the latest prototype (seen in our project and feature videos) with testers all over the United States. The prototypes have all been hand-built, or made using low-volume manufacturing techniques. Now we can move into cost-effective high-volume manufacturing. This means moving from processes like 3D printing and CNC milling to injection molding and casting. It also means productionizing our assembly and test processes, and automating our quality assurance procedures. This process requires time - manufacturers have to get up to speed, we have to train them on how to assemble Origin, and we have to stress test the design at every turn.
Luckily, the Shaper team is well versed in the manufacture of mass market consumer devices - we’ve done it in previous roles at Amazon, Google[x], Tesla, and Apple. Our most recent design (the version of Origin that you’ve seen in all of our launch videos), has already been redesigned from the ground-up for ease of manufacture and assembly. This process, called DFM, and DFA (design-for-manufacture & design-for-assembly) is a step that we wanted to complete before even offering pre-sales of Origin. We have carefully dissected previous prototype iterations, considered every step of assembly, assessed failure points, and worked with manufacturers and consultants (as well as leveraging our own experience) to identify the ways in which we could tweak the mechanical and electrical designs, making them easier to build in an assembly line environment. This process will continue until we ship, and we’re now hard at work fine-tuning those designs with various component vendors and manufacturing partners. Just this month, Michael Kubba (VP of Product Engineering) and I have traveled to Asia and Europe working with our supply chain to kick things off. For many system components, we’ve already identified the vendors we’ll be working with. For others, we’re choosing between a few suppliers. Here’s a photo of Michael and I inspecting a PCB manufacturing facility to see if it will meet our quality standards:
Another hugely important part of getting Origin into your hands will be making sure we have all the necessary certifications to sell it in the US (and eventually in other markets too). One of these certification requirements is the need to pass FCC testing. We’re in a unique position here, since power tools don’t generally have to go through the same kinds of conducted and radiated emissions testing that consumer electronics are subjected to before being allowed for sale in the US. However, Origin isn’t your grandpa’s router - it’s got a powerful computer in it, and wireless connectivity. Michael and I recently brought Origin in for its first form-factor FCC prescan. This is a process where a test lab conducts the key tests that the FCC will eventually require us to pass - this is just a trial run to help us make electrical design iterations to fix any problems. The design of all electronics is an iterative process when it comes to meeting FCC requirements and tuning your RF systems. On our first prescan, we passed all conducted emissions tests and uncovered one radiated frequency band that was out of spec. A bit of further testing with an RF probe and a spectrum analyzer revealed the likely culprit to be a clock line radiating from a flat-flex-cable. I’ll fix this in the next PCB design revision, then scan again.
We’ll also be using the next year to implement minor design tweaks that we believe will greatly improve your experience using the tool. One great example of a small change that can have a big impact on user experience is dust-collection. Nobody wants their power tool to blow a bunch of sawdust everywhere whenever they use it. That’s why we’re iterating through dozens of vacuum adapter designs that do a better job of funneling dust away from the cutting area -- regardless of whether or not you have a vacuum attached. Greg, one of Shaper’s mechanical engineers, has already made great progress on improving this part of the design. Focusing on these small details ensures you’ll receive the highest quality tool next year.
Last week, we held our first private demo event for our pre-sale buyers. This is just the first of many events that we plan to host - we know that you’ve put a lot of faith in us by pre-ordering Origin, and we think you deserve to come test-drive the prototypes before receiving your own in about a year. We’ll continue to keep pre-sale buyers in-the-loop by sending out event emails whenever we have a new demo event coming up (either at our San Francisco headquarters, or elsewhere).
We’ve got a lot of exciting work to accomplish at Shaper, and we’d love your help! We’re looking for senior software and hardware engineers to join our team, as well as manufacturing and supply chain experts. Check out our careers page, and send us a note if you’d like to apply.
What do you want to hear more about? What do you want to hear less about? What technical or design questions do you have about Origin? Let us know (via email, facebook, or twitter) and we’ll do our best to answer them in our next update.
~Jeremy & the rest of the Shaper team