Kickstarter Update #12: I’m happy to announce that we have reached a huge milestone in the project. The Modulo circuit board designs are now finalized!

We will only make changes at this point if problems are encountered during testing of the final “production candidate” prototypes. Of course there is still a lot of work to do, both in manufacturing and software, but reaching this milestone feels amazing!

Purchasing

Most components used in Modulo are easy to obtain with short lead times from a variety of distributors. A few, however, are are more difficult to source. I purchased those components early and now they are starting to trickle in, starting with the card guides (the plastic parts which support the Modulos on the base) and joysticks.

Joysticks, Joystick Caps, and Card Guides
Joysticks, Joystick Caps, and Card Guides

The OLED Displays were particularly difficult to source. Only a few manufacturers make this type of display and they are all busy for the next several months with high volume orders for smart watch displays. Fortunately we were able to act early enough and secure the displays we need from a distributor that still had them in stock. They have have now arrived and are ready to go!

Lots and lots of OLED displays
Lots and lots of OLED displays

Panelization

Panelization combines many individual printed circuit boards into a single larger board so that the machines which do the assembly can operate more quickly and efficiently.

Usually a panel is made up of identical copies of the same board. In our case, however, we decided to create a single panel with all 10 Modulo circuit boards. This allows us to save money on setup costs and simplifies the process of working with our manufacturing partner.

Final circuit board panel layout
Final circuit board panel layout

To create these panels, I wrote a set of scripts which exports the data from my CAD program, and then combines it into a panel that is ready for manufacturing. The scripts also export a list of parts from each design. That data gets combined that into a single bill of materials for the entire panel, which makes it much easier to figure out the quantities needed of each component.

Extension Connector

I decided to change the extension cable connector once again. The new connector is almost identical to the one I told you about in my last update, but it is compatible with another modular electronics system called “Grove”. Several microcontroller boards (like the LightBlueBean+) and single board computers (like BeagleBone Green) now have Grove connectors, so switching to it will make Modulo work more easily with them. We can also more easily purchase cables with this connector.

Next Steps

I’ve ordered a small number of the final, panelized, “production candidate” boards. Once I receive, assemble, and test them we’ll be ready to purchase the remaining components and start the manufacturing run! If all goes well, manufacturing will be underway by the beginning of October.

As always, visit the community forum (community.modulo.co) for comments, questions, and suggestions.