Hey, hello, hi. It's Tom here. Thank you all for waiting so patiently. We are all working so hard to make Suzy the best she can be. Exciting stuff!
I've got a mega-manufacturing update for you. Ready?
<We've posted a mini-production update which you can see here>
The anatomy of an Internet-connected consumer electronics product
Hardware is hard. Making an Internet-connected consumer electronics device requires a kind of perverse, tenacious, masochistic alchemy. It’s the orchestration and integration of brand purpose, design thinking, manufacturing know-how, engineering chops, canny logistics and tech ninjutsu. It’s verging on the impossible. And we love it!
We are nearly there with Suzy. The physical product is pretty much ready to rock. We are back and forth to Shenzhen in China working with the multiple factories and partners helping us make Suzy be the best she can be. Shenzhen is a place to behold - if you are interested in the story of this incredible city's journey from a fishing village 30 years ago to the "Silicon Valley of Hardware" watch this film from Wired.
Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware (Full Documentary) | WIRED - YouTube
I’ll take you through all the steps and progress we’ve made below. Lots of pics :)
We are still heads down and working every hour on:
- The firmware (the embedded software that lives on the device itself and runs the product - Suzy’s brain)
- The smartphone apps (both iOS and Android - device settings, customisation and audio baby monitor - Suzy’s remote control)
- Communications (WiFi, Bluetooth, security and encryption - Suzy’s safety and privacy in your family home)
Colour, Material and Finishes
You can call us soppy (we are soppy) - but we spent a long time thinking about the feelings we wanted you guys to experience through Suzy. The colours, the materials, the textures. The tone of the product, the fun, the behaviour and personality. When you care as much as we do about getting these details just right - it’s a ton of work.
It looked so simple. But it turned out to be very complex. Firstly the way we injection moulded it is pretty special. Usually, injection moulded stuff has to be slightly angled (draft) so it can be removed from the mould. We needed Suzy’s hat to be dead straight - angled sides (cone head!) just would not do. So we put more extreme draft angles on just the inside of the hat and created the mould in two parts.
The compromise was the mould gave us a split line along the centre of the hat. This needs to be individually polished out on each hat and then lacquered for a smooth, shiny finish. Not only that but each hat needs a little widget bonded to the inside at the top so it will attach nicely to the main body of Suzy. Each of these 3 steps happens at a different workshop so all the hats need to be transported around several times before reaching the final assembly factory.
Suzy’s hat needed to appear a nice solid opaque orange when her lights were off and then emit a nice warm orangey glow when the white LEDs were illuminated. We are using PC (Polycarbonate) for its quality feel and glass-like properties. But PC is 100% transparent in its natural form so we had to add an opaque agent to the mix to give us the semi-transparent quality we were after. It took us a while experimenting with different quantities of colour pigment and opacity to get this just right, both when Suzy is off and her lights are on.
To add to the complexity, the colour chips we were moulding to review the colour and opacity were a different thickness to the actual hat so we had to test the colour in the actual hat tool at a different factory. Plus, the colour is slightly less saturated at first when the plastic is still hot, fresh from the injection moulding process. We got there eventually and Suzy’s hat is a beautiful thing.
Suzy’s Felt Base
It’s taken us a long time to get happy with the colour, material and texture for this. The colour is still being finalised.
Also the process of bonding it to the plastic base wasn’t simple. And neither was the hem or invisible join where the fabric meets itself on the side. The fabric also needed to be robust enough to die cut Suzy’s eyes and mouth. A fine black gauze sits behind her face to highlight Suzy’s eyes and provide protection for the microphone positioned behind her mouth. Suzy’s speaker emits sound through holes behind this felt and so the fabric had to be aurally porous. (That’s a term I just made up).
Mechanical Engineering Chops and Tech Ninjutsu
Inside Suzy is really bloomin’ complicated. She has all the lights and the electronics to drive them, a pneumatic plunger mechanism to provide resistance when you push down her hat to switch her on.
The hat is also connected to a motor and gearbox to allow it to rise and descend independently by remote control from the app. She also needs room for a speaker, the speaker chamber and a reflector plate to bounce the sound 360 degrees out of her base. Also squeezed in there is the main PCB (printed circuit board) that holds all the electronic components, modules, memory and chips that allow Suzy to operate.
Here's where we make Suzy's electronic parts.
Yes lights. Lots of lights. And all on a super slick flexible PCB in a custom orange colour just for Suzy.
We’ve created a bespoke BleepBleeps blue power pack with international plug adapters - plus a super nice black and white stripey micro-USB cable. Even the cable is special as it has to have an extra long head.
Mmmm! Silicone Rubbery Bits
Yeah nice. We’ve got this super sweet silicone tab for the BleepBleeps note logo on the side of Suzy.
And Suzy’s feet are silicone rubber too. This is the tool that moulds them.
All those hundreds of bits and bobs, the hat, the felt base, the motor, the gearbox, the tiny plastic parts, the LEDs, the speaker, the PCB, and the silicone parts are meticulously put together by hand. Each Suzy is tested for quality control and placed lovingly in her cosy foam bed alongside her power pack inside her packaging. (More on packaging in another update soon - it's looking really really nice).
Suzy's lights are tested for colour temperature and luminosity in this awesome big round thing.
And here's some testing racks where we will put Suzy through her paces.
That's it for now!
I'll be back very soon (every week or two) with more updates as we get closer and closer to shipping Suzy.
Thanks so much for your patience and support!
PS Have you pre-ordered Suzy Snooze yet? Get in there now to get on our first shipment.