Today I want to share some terrific feedback we have received recently about the tools we are building. First off I need to say that its incredibly exciting getting emails that we know people sent because they want to help us make this whole eco-system friendlier and easier to enter. So thanks for that! And second, that its just super cool when these emails come from people that we think are incredibly smart, and passionate.And when they write about things that we have thought about or feel strongly about, or even considered solving – well thats just super, super cool.
And thirdly, I want to talk about talking about more. I’ve been thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that there really isn’t any harm in talking more candidly about some of our long term goals, but more importantly in talking about some of the bigger problems in the OSHW ecosystem – even problems we can’t fix yet. And the plug here is that they are the same thing, we want to position ourselves such that the big problems in the eco-system and our long terms goals are the same things.
So here goes! The following is a (slightly revised) to-do list from one of our recent feedback emails and I wholeheartedly agree with its content. So over the next few weeks I am going to be writing about our thoughts on Manufacturing, Modularity, Over-Optimization and Packaging. You’ll notice these are all very real world physical problems. Problems that we haven’t talked much about yet, and problems we don’t yet have solutions for. But we have ideas, and piles of ambition!
A Hardware Workflow Wishlist
- Prototype: I want to buy a collection of pre-made hardware component boards each satisfying a function. Examples are power supplies, processors, FPGAs, and video boards. I don’t really care how many separate little boards it takes, as long as it’s easy to clip them together so I can start building software for it. And I really don’t want to solder anything!
- Design: In your tools, let me draw a picture of the exact modules I plugged together in #1 and tweak them into my “final” configuration. I want to export a netlist, bill of materials, and board layout, all automatically. This should be enough to take the design to a contract manufacturer.
- Package: Let me order a standardized case that will be able to contain my new board (either made up of the prototype boards, or as a custom pcb). Automatically figure out external connectors and do the cut-outs for me.
- Manufacturing: Give me a “print” button so to speak that will talk to the manufacturers for me, and you take a cut of the revenues. Trust me, I don’t mind giving up a bit of money in order to not have to deal with the manufacturing headaches.
Bonus: Also doing assembly and packaging. You could event put it into a fancy printed box with paper materials that I specify (and maybe a CD).
Bonus: QA testing it, and shipping it out to my customers.
- Bundling: Handle aggregating pre-orders from random people on the Internet so we can all get a decent price, or find a way to do cheap one-of manufacturing.
- Optimize: At this point I’m either done, or I have a marketable product. You could help me transition to hiring people and optimizing my design, or you could scale your company and fill the voids here (like simulation, verification, and design-for-manufacturability).
What a great rundown eh? We have talked publicly a lot about #2 and have some pretty great solutions to it. In fact, I encourage you to head to our landing page and sign-up for the beta of our soon to be released circuit design tool. But over the coming weeks I’m going to give you some thoughts on the others in the list – we have some cool ideas to help fix some of these problems, and we have some great feedback on what other people think is broken. But there is also a discussion that should happen here – and I’d like to start it. As always I’d love any thoughts or feedback, email me: email@example.com