The Saga of PiJuice

crowdfunding
saga

#1

Episode 2 in the series of crowdfunding stories.

This is a Kickstarter that was funded (1200%) in March 2015. Estimated delivery of the Raspberry Pi solar power module was to be June 2015. Most interesting to me is the required Kickstarter “risks and challenges” disclosure, which I quote in full:

Since the PCB design is already finalised and tested and is working great, there isn’t much risk associated with the design. We already have production quality units in hand and they have been confirmed to be working correctly although some adjustments will likely be made for mass production.

The main risks and challenges are the supply of the PCBs and assembly of the associated electronics as well as the reliability of the shipping networks.

Fortunately the manufacturer we are working with is one we have successfully used many times before and we know and trust they can delivery to schedule. As an established and busy ecommerce business Pi Supply are easily capable of handling the shipping burden of this project and have all the frameworks in place to achieve this quickly and efficiently. Whilst delays do unfortunately sometimes occur with shipping networks these are relatively infrequent and we will do our best to mitigate these at the time of shipping.

We have made sure to get quotes from various suppliers for the supply of all components, which should mitigate any delay should either of them not be able to fulfil our orders in time. We have also made sure to use commonly available components, so that they can easily be sourced from a variety of suppliers.

In terms of shipping, the boards will be assembled less than a few weeks after the end of the Kickstarter project, so everyone will have their rewards shipped out before the end of June 2015!

And so it begins. This project has 55 updates, so rather than copy and paste them all here, I will just give the titles and edited highlights. You can click through the link above to read more than you want to.

2015-03-31 THANK YOU ALL - what an amazing ride!

We will have loads of stuff to share with you over the coming days / weeks and we will put together a more detailed update about “what’s next” very soon.

2015-04-06 What happens next?

[update is mostly administrative details of regarding payments and using BackerKit]

We have a lot to share with you over the coming weeks - we have already begun conversations about the design of the rugged waterproof case, the GUI and firmware and have an updated prototype design (including some of the stretch goal extras) which we are currently making samples of. We are excited to show you more in due course.

2015-04-21 BackerKit Surveys and Add Ons - Important

It has been two weeks since our last update, and a lot has been happening behind the scenes. At over 1200% funded and nearly 2500 backers we have a lot to do, and we want to make sure we do it to the best of our abilities.
The first thing we did was get the whole team together for a sit down to make a refreshed version of our delivery plan after the end of the Kickstarter, and the emotional rollercoaster that went with it! Since then we have been hard at work getting the latest samples finished, in depth discussions about the firmware, planning the design of the rugged weatherproof case along with our friends at MindSketch and much much more.
We will have way more to share with you in the coming weeks about what we have been up to behind the scenes, but for now the most important thing relates to surveys…
[administrativa]

2015-05-12 We love data! Progress update and more

[mostly information about surveys]

We are currently making preparations for our initial test run of 50 PiJuice boards. As we have to make 3000+ PiJuice boards for the full Kickstarter run we want to iron out any problems or delays in the manufacturing process before they cause any issues, and doing a small simulation of the full process is a great way for us to achieve this.

[also announcement of another Kickstarter]

[June 2015 passes with no update]

2015-07-02 Production problems, survey feedback, weatherproof case updates and more…

It’s been a full seven weeks since our last update and there’s lots to catch up on. We are extremely sorry that people have been left concerned and wondering what we’ve been up to. We can only apologise for this long delay and for not keeping you updated.

Part of the reason for the delay is the problems we have had with adding the stretch goal improvements and we wanted to get to a better place with getting these working before sending an update - this took a considerably longer time than we had hoped!

In any case, we promise now to give more frequent updates going forward and we’ll aim to do this at least every two weeks or so - more frequently if there is important/interesting information to share.

[clip]
Our engineer, Jurijs, has now integrated all of the stretch goals and promised enhancements however, we need to let you know that we have had issues in advancing the prototyping of these new features as quickly as we would have liked. As the ultimate power module for the Raspberry Pi there has been a lot to get right.

We are delighted to announce that we have now achieved all of the functionality without problems but some specific behaviour has proved tricky.

Jurijs has been putting in long days and also working weekends, and we’ve been grateful to him for his serious efforts.

[clip]
In our last update, we mentioned that we would be shortly running the first batch of 50 units of the PiJuice modules off the production line and extensively testing them. We found the above problem shortly before sending off for this initial order in our final testing and so this first batch has not been produced yet. We are once again at a point where we are performing final, extensive tests and checks on the new design before we release the design files to the manufacturer. We are hoping for this to be complete by Thursday/Friday and to send the files off over the weekend.

[clip]
The main focus has been on the core PiJuice power module and our engineer Jurijs has been working hard to complete the design for production. […]

The current best estimate for the delivery date is the middle of August. We will do our best to reduce this where possible, but we want to be honest and open with you about this going forward and will update this timeline as we continue to make progress.

Whilst Jurijs has concentrated on the design we’ve been preparing for the manufacture. We already have a well developed supply chain and contract manufacturer which we have used successfully on many previous projects and are intending to use them for this project, providing the first test batch of 50 goes to plan.

[…]

We know that a lot of you have become frustrated with our lack of updates and replies to comments (and rightly so) and we want to make sure this does not happen again. We also want to reassure you that we are still working extremely hard on the delivery of the project and that, despite the unfortunate and unexpected setbacks we have had in relation to the stretch goal additions, we are making great progress.

2015-07-29 Final design complete, samples ordered, EMC testing and delivery plan

In our last update we mentioned we were about to go ahead with the 50 unit order for PiJuice boards - both to use as test samples and to ensure our manufacturer would be up to scratch for the full production run which at present is looking to be around 3000 to 5000 units in total. After that update, we actually had to make a few small tweaks to the power circuitry which set the order back by a few days - but the good thing is that we now have a completed design ready for manufacture.

[…]

We now have a finished design, the 50 unit order underway and are getting closer to starting bulk manufacture […]

With all of this starting to fall into place nicely, we are beginning to get a better handle on the delivery plan and how long this will take. We are building up an updated Gantt chart / schedule as we speak and the main steps within that are as follows: [list of steps without dates]

2015-08-15 v1.5 Samples Confirmed, EMC Testing Update

Really happy to announce that the 3 x v1.5 samples that we talked about making in house have been completed and confirmed working as required. [picture]

The production of the 50 unit order in our final manufacturing plant is also well under way and should be completed by the end of the week.

We have now chosen a test facility for the FCC/CE/IC testing and this is provisionally scheduled in for the 20th and 21st August. [clip]

2015-09-02 IMPORTANT: BackerKit Lockdown 9th September 2015
[irrelevant bits snipped]

We have been at our test facility, RN Electronics, today and yesterday doing the IC, FCC and CE testing (this was unfortunately postponed from the 20th and 21st August).

A full update will follow, with pictures and loads more information about the testing process later this week :slight_smile:

2015-09-07 EMC Testing Results, 50 unit samples and more…

It has been a busy time the last couple of weeks! Whilst we still have a lot of work to do over the coming weeks, it is starting to feel that we are almost on the home stretch with PiJuice.

[EMC testing, photos]

2015-10-16 50 unit sample problems, sticker order, packaging, batteries and more!

As you know from one of our previous updates, after successfully testing the first samples of the final board design we proceeded with a 50 unit sample run with the factory in order to allow us to have more units for final testing as well as to check the manufacturing procedure is all up to scratch.

We received the 50 units about 2 weeks ago, and upon opening the package we were very disappointed to see that our Chinese manufacturer had substituted some of the capacitors (the big silver aluminium ones) for some lower quality parts. Usually this would not be an issue, but we actually rely on the ripple current of the caps for some of the functionality of the PiJuice.

[packaging, batteries, firmware, no mention of ship date]

2015-10-20 An apology and a gift :slight_smile:

As you already know, we have had some unfortunate delays in the production/shipping phase of this Kickstarter campaign. We also have not been very good at communicating and keeping you backers up to date.

[20% discount code for their store]

We will also be sending out a further update within around 2 to 3 weeks about production…hopefully with lots more progress to share with you!

2015-11-28 New improved hardware design, packaging and guide samples, a competition and more!

We are getting closer and closer to shipping every day and have a fair bit of news to share with you today…

As you know, we had 50 samples of the PiJuice v1.5 board made a couple of months ago and since then have been actively working on the firmware, software and other aspects of the project delivery that needed our attention before shipping. Everything has been progressing extremely well, and we are moving forward on all fronts.

However, as part of some other work, we discovered a new method by which we could achieve the required functionality needed for the PiJuice but with around half the components by making use of a (fairly new) IC in place of some custom circuitry we built out with discrete components. As any engineer will know, this is always a welcome change and the underside of the PCBs now looks even better and less cluttered… [photos]

[clip]
we already have samples of this new design assembled and back with us. We have already performed basic tests on the device which have been successful and will begin some more thorough benchmarking tests next week.
[clip]

2015-12-30 Update, battery problem and happy holidays!

We just wanted to let you know that we have tested and verified the design for PiJuice v2.2 and we will be proceeding with this design as it is working very well so far. We are just compiling a final BOM, PCB production files and instructions for the manufacturer in order for them to provide us with a full quote for the production run.

We have got this design booked in for a re-test of the FCC, CE, IC, C-Tick stuff which will commence on the 8th Jan 2016 and will finish the following Monday. […]

As soon as this is passed, we are then ready to start manufacture and are now gearing up to try and get the wheels in motion for manufacture in the next couple of weeks!

[note about difficulty sourcing batteries]

2016-01-07 Good news, bad news

We will start with the bad news and then move on to the good. The great thing is we are still making progress on all fronts and are hoping to be starting production pretty soon as all the tests have proven that the new design is very good and working well.

[bad news is delayed testing] All testing will definitely be finished by the 22nd January now, but hopefully sooner (it depends on time taken for other clients tests as well as any potential cancellations etc etc). We are still on track to start production as soon as the CE/FCC/IC approval comes through.

[good news is a source for batteries]

2016-01-08 More battery pictures…

2016-01-17 Batteries sourced and ordered

[yawn]

2016-01-19 Solar panel final samples ordered, 2300mAh batteries ordered, more CE testing delays

A lot of you have been asking about these. We have just placed the order for the final samples of a variety of solar panel sizes ranging from 5v / 7W all the way up to an enormous 40w panel. We are anticipating that the standard solar offering will be the 7W.

[more about solar panels and batteries]

Unfortunately we have hit another road bump with the CE testing of the v2.2.1 sample. We ordered some boards from our previously-faultless quick turn PCB manufacturer as final “golden” samples for the testing. We assembled these up, and began doing functional and electrical testing to ensure they were assembled correctly and unfortunately we then realised that we have received 6 boards with various different faults mainly in the form of short circuits from the 3.3V line to ground (the silkscreen is misaligned too but this is only a minor issue).

The error is definitely on the manufacturing side as we have spent many hours gazing over the designs to ensure these were not problems we introduced into the design ourselves.

The PCB house are remaking the boards, but unfortunately this has meant that CE testing has had to be pushed back. The CE testing house are being extremely helpful and are going to just try and squeeze us in as soon as we can get the sample to them.

As soon as we have the CE testing samples ready we will confirm a date and let you all know!

2016-02-09 CE Testing Complete, Solar Panels Arrived, 2300mAh batteries in stock

[…]
This was the final piece in the puzzle before manufacture could start so we now just need one tiny board revision (adding the CE/FCC/C tick/IC logos) and then we are ready to go.
[…]

we have now finished all of the required testing and are pretty much ready to start manufacture of the PCBs. We are currently investigating the possibility of manufacturing these in the UK and will aim to do that if it is feasible to do so
[…]

If we can’t do the manufacture in the UK, for whatever reason, we also have a great relationship with our Chinese manufacturer that we have used for every project prior to PiJuice. They are unfortunately currently on Chinese New Year holiday, but they will be back on Monday 15th February and at that point we will begin quoting with them as well.

In any case, it is currently looking like we should be able to get production under way by the end of Feb and should be able to start shipping by the middle to end of March. It has been a long time coming, but we are excited to be so close to starting manufacture. These dates are not yet set in stone until we have full quotes and start manufacture but they should be pretty good estimates now.

2016-02-18 Still waiting on quotes, Raspberry Pi Birthday!

We are still waiting on quotes for the production, and will let you know as soon as we have got these and have decided whether production will be done in the UK or China. We also will let you know as soon as we start production.

[etc.]

2016-02-24 Solar panels, packaging etc.

We are unfortunately still waiting for quotes for production on the boards despite being told we would get these last week. However one of our UK manufacturers we are looking at using have said they will be getting a quote over to us today so hopefully that will hold true.

[etc.]

2016-02-29 Raspberry Pi 3!

[…]

Currently still waiting on quotes! But will update you as soon as we have them. Sorry for the delay on this but it is out of our hands right now.

2016-04-28 Full quantity of solar panels arrived, manufacturing developments

Things have been a bit slow the last month in terms of manufacturing as we have been waiting for extensive quotes to come through from three manufacturers and due to the fact we are working to tight budgets we have had to refine these a number of times.

However we have been very busy behind the scenes making sure everything else is ready to go for when the quotes come in.

[discussion of solar panels, then…]

We have got all of the three quotes back now and are working through them all to see which will be the best option.
Once we decide on a manufacturer we will task them with starting to source all of the components immediately and give us as accurate lead times as possible on those, with a view to providing an estimated shipping start date for PiJuice backers.

Partnership developments

In keeping with our respective strategic planning Agilic Ltd and RAAMaudio UK Ltd t/a Pi Supply have reached a mutual decision to allow RAAMaudio UK Ltd t/a Pi Supply to take sole responsibility and ownership of the PiJuice project going forwards. We can now progress the project to completion and expect to fulfil the Kickstarter backers and pre-order customers’ orders within the next few months. Neither company expect there to be any compromise in the PiJuice project going forward.

2016-05-18 New improved console design

[nothing regarding shipping]

2016-07-08 Production news

Sorry for the delay in updating. We’ve been working extremely hard behind the scenes to make sure everything is ready at the right time during the production, refining the programming and testing process, refining the firmware and software, the plastic surround and more. It’s all coming together!

[…]

We decided to go with one of the two companies we quoted with in China - Embest

We have been given an estimate by Embest for delivery and that is 10 to 12 weeks. […]

Please understand this is only an estimate. We’re doing our best to hit or better this but can’t promise anything at this stage.

2016-10-19 October update

As many of you have requested, and due to further delays, we wanted to give you an update of what went wrong, where the project is now and what we are doing, moving forward, to bring the project to completion.

What has happened?

As you know from previous updates, the partnership with which the project originated fell apart some time ago, for reasons that we unfortunately can’t go into for legal reasons. We are a small team and we didn’t immediately have an engineer to step up and take over the work. We sourced a new engineer as promptly as we could and as you know, we then engaged with him to progress with a brand new design, as the one we had been left with was not fit for purpose.

As promising as things looked initially with the new design/engineer, we have recently (after paying for sampling and submitting design files to the manufacturer) come to realise that the quality of work produced was not up to specification despite reassurances from the engineer in question.
Whilst we were trying to sort out the outstanding issues with the design, the engineer ceased communications with us and has failed to produce any further design updates.

As a consequence of this major letdown, we decided that as well as fixing the outstanding issues it would be prudent for us to perform a full review of the design with a newly appointed engineer in order to check that there were no other unearthed issues, before beginning manufacture.

[…] we have employed another full-time engineer for our company […] We have therefore decided to allocate this engineer’s time exclusively to the PiJuice project until it is complete. Given his proven record with us, we are confident that he is capable of delivering what is required.
[…]

This project has had many shortcomings and has been a steep learning curve for us due to the far greater success it received than we had originally anticipated, as well as over promising on stretch goals. We are still paying the price for this naivety but will make sure that we continue to work very hard on delivering what we promised.

2016-11-02 Updated schedule info

We promised in our last update that we would be discussing a more accurate schedule of the corrective/damage limitation work to the PiJuice in a future update, as soon as possible.

Our engineer has now had enough time to fully investigate and critique the existing work as well as verifying what can and can’t be kept from the existing work.

[…] PCB for corrected prototype will be ordered and these are expected to arrive with us around the 18th Nov, and assembled and tested by the 25th Nov.
after this, assuming there are only small (or no) changes necessary to PCB/schematic after prototype testing, the corrected PCBs/BOM will be shared with the manufacturer again and production will then come out of hibernation…we will then work with our manufacturer to provide a more accurate estimate of production schedule and share this with you as soon as possible

2016-11-14 Add-on shipping commenced last week…

The first bag of add-ons went out last Thursday, and we have shipped more on Friday and today also. We will continue shipping add-ons in dribs and drabs - we could do it all in one go but we don’t want it to distract from the core goal of finishing the module…which is of course the priority at the moment.

2916-11-19 Mid-November Update

[…]
As mentioned in our previous update, our engineer has been working tirelessly to finish PiJuice. This week we’ve hit a milestone with a provisional BOM that will allow us to create some prototypes and carry out thorough testing before we make the final request to the manufacturer.
We know you might get some feelings of déjà vu here, what with this being the third time, but we’re confident that this time is lucky number three - we now have a team and a process we are confident in and we hope that is showing in our increased communication and update frequency.
[…]

The next update will present the outcome of the testing and hopefully move the project to its final stage. We hope this will be by the end of the month.

2016-12-01 Slight delay…

Just wanted to keep you in the loop. We had a slight delay with the PCBs so we are running about a week behind schedule in terms of getting the sample finished.
Hope to have something to show you and post about next week.

2016-12-07 We have life!

[pictures]

As you can see, everything is working nicely. We need to perform some more tests, but so far it is looking all good.

2016-12-20 Update video, legal issues, happy holidays!

As mentioned in the video below, I am typing this reply from a Pi3 that is being powered by a PiJuice! It has been a very long time coming - but we are pretty confident now that we are about ready to start the manufacture process.

The next steps will be to finish the testing process (nearly done) and compile the files and data needed to send to the manufacturer. Since we have been through this process with them before, it should not take too long, although we do have the Christmas holidays to contend with.

Once that is done, we should have a really good idea of ongoing timelines for production and will share these with you in due course. We are getting extremely excited to be so close to the finish line!

[tedious discussion of a trademark issue]

2017-01-19 Status Update January

[no update on timeline]

2017-01-23 Final surround design, Raspberry Pint PiJuice demo tomorrow (24th Jan)

[no update on timeline]

2017-03-08 Progress, battery connector, Raspberry Pint and Pi Party…

To start with - just wanted to apologise for the delay in updating. Things have been pretty hectic at Pi Supply HQ the last month with preparations for a number of events (more on that below) as well as a fair bit going on behind the scenes with PiJuice and beyond.

Things have been a lot slower in getting production underway than we thought and this is mostly due to the sourcing side of things. Same as before, there are some long lead time components which are causing problems but we are moving forward slowly but surely.

We hope to soon be able to share a production date soon - we are conscious of the fact that this is what all of you are waiting to hear - we just want to make sure it is a reliable one.

We are being very careful, and verifying everything at every stage - at this point, we would rather delay by a small amount more and have the best possible product rather than cut corners and have you end up with a delay AND a sub-par product. We hope most of you would agree with that outlook.

And most of all - we thank you for your continued patience.

[lots of other words unrelated to shipping]

2017-04-10 New battery surround

[no update on timeline]

2017-05-24 System tray icons for battery

Just wanted to quickly share with you the battery icons for the system tray on the Raspberry Pi that we have developed.

[no update on timeline]

2017-06-07 Software and firmware complete!

Great news for you this week - as promised in our previous update with the icons last week we have now finished the first release of the Firmware and Software for PiJuice.

[lots of discussion of the battery menu, no mention of shipping hardware]

2017-06-14 Package repo - well that was easier than we thought!

Just a quick one to say that we have now got the PiJuice software package in the official Raspbian package repo.

[no mention of hardware]

2017-06-30 New IP65 Case Concepts from CamdenBoss

[discussion of concept art for third-party case]

We are hoping to have another update soon relating to production of the PiJuice modules themselves, but are not entirely sure when.
As soon as we have more we will share it.

2017-08-17 First units due off line shortly, and testing rig…

We promised an update a few days ago - sorry it took a bit longer than we thought as it has been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks here at Pi Supply HQ but here it is. Sorry for keeping you waiting for a couple of days for this update.

Production update

We received a notification from our manufacturer, Embest (a division of Farnell), on Thursday last week that the first production units are due off the line in around 3 weeks…by the end of August.

Whilst this doesn’t mean that the units will begin shipping at end of August, it means that we will have the first working, production quality units coming off the line. We will then begin the ramp up of production and testing/packaging for the full batch of 5k units, performing QA tests all the way through to make sure the quality of each board is up to standard and meets that of these first samples and the important design parameters.

As soon as those arrive with us we will send you a bunch of pictures etc :slight_smile:

[long discussion of test jig]

2017-09-11 Delay on first production units caused by manufacturer

As mentioned in our last update, we were planning on receiving our first batch of production units by the end of August / early September.

Unfortunately, today we were notified that our manufacturer, Embest / Farnell, has made a error with the PiJuice PCBs. This is a massive blow to the Pi Supply team and all of you as our backers. Considering how long this has taken and the in-depth detail we gave them on everything to do with the PiJuice product, we are not happy at all with this - especially as we were notified of this issue over a week past the expected delivery date for the fully assembled boards.

We’ve told them to fast-track new PCB creation, send us a picture as soon as they arrive so we can check the quality, and get them assembled ASAP so we can progress.

We’re working hard and pushing our manufacturer to make sure all the PiJuice boards are produced at the highest quality possible. As mentioned in the last update, all the testing equipment and processes are at Embest and ready to be implemented as soon as the new boards arrive and are assembled.

We’ll keep you all up to date with the situation as we move forward. We can only apologise for yet another issue.

2017-09-18 Update from manufacturer

With reference to the previous update, we have just received an email from Embest / Farnell saying that the samples will finish assembly by 22nd September (this Friday) and will be programmed and tested by Monday the 25th September.

They will then ship them to us hopefully on a 2 day shipping service so we should have them sometime next week.

2017-09-18 Pictures of guides and stickers from Embest

[indeed, it is pictures of stickers]

More pictures of the finished boards etc when we have them from Embest / Farnell later this week!

2017-09-21 Sample pictures from Embest, samples shipped, round-robin reviews and testing!

Production / samples update
As mentioned in the last couple of updates, there was a problem with our manufacturer Embest / Farnell and the PCBs. As you will know from those updates also, they said they would ship them out to us on the 25th September - which is next Monday. We asked them nicely if they could improve on this even just a little bit, and they have done - so they are now actually shipping out on Thursday 21st September (today!). So we should have them here in the office in the UK on Monday or Tuesday of next week (25th or 26th September) with any luck! We can’t wait to see them…it has been a VERY long time coming!

We have also asked them to provide an estimated date now of when the board will be starting to roll of the production line. We will let you know as soon as they give us a date - but please understand it will be still be an approximate date.

[pictures from the factory]

2017-09-22 More pictures from Embest!

[pictures]

2017-09-28 Slight delay in transit - but we now have the samples!

There was a slight delay, due to FedEx, in the transit of these and clearance through customs…however we now have them! We will begin shipping out to our photographer, and to reviewers from the round robin too.
[…]

Shipping news

Unfortunately we do not have a shipping date yet, however what I can tell you is that we have been spending a lot of time working out the logistics of shipping the rewards out so that we can get them to you in the most cost effective, safest, and quickest way. What we have landed on is using a Chinese based fulfillment company. We are currently talking to a few but we have a good idea now of who we want to use and the pricing so we are pretty much ready on that front. These companies typically have a lot more employees than we do, and they do fulfillment for a living so it should mean that the vast majority of you will get your rewards far quicker than if we brought them to the UK first and then tried to fulfill all the rewards ourselves…so it seems like a win win all round :slight_smile:


TO BE CONTINUED


#2

I knew many crowdfunded projects had a poor delivery record and many failed. But Holy Crap!


#3

I know it’s a giant wall of text but there’s an amazingly crazy thing in the middle for those who slog though it. Especially considering statements made earlier.


#4

Crap. Now I got to read it again? If I miss what ever you are hinting at this time, gonna be cranky.


#5

Heh. It’s the odd “partnership developments” and the followup explanation months later.


#6

Ok. Never heard of any of those companies. But they bounced around like a pin ball machine and explanations changed as if no one read the earlier updates.


#7

I’m exhausted now.


#8

Sounds a bit like “failure due to success” - they added stretch goals that were features not in the original design, which meant redesign, re-testing, and re-quoting manufacturing, then rework, etc. It happens a lot in Kickstarters. You also see a similar failure mode in projects which is that the project was a huge success, leading to changes in manufacturing to support the vastly larger scale, which involves manufacturing techniques the startup isn’t familiar with, or having to switch manufacturing partners, etc. So while they might have been able to deliver the original product at the volume they originally planned, the expanded scope and scale of manufacturing adds work/cost/delay…