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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Simplified housing design


This week has been a very busy week. What you see above is a simplified housing design for which it will be cheaper to make an injection mold than for the first design. This is important as we are talking about relatively small number of volumes for injection molding (a couple of thousand) and the mold-making cost will need to be kept as low as possible so as not to drive up the price of the module. An alternative to traditional injection molding is rapid injection molding. I will need to look at both options to find out which one gives the cheapest price per unit.

For this latest housing design, the USB connector has been moved to the bottom side of the module. I have updated the PCB layout accordingly. The size of the housing is 26mm x 22.2mm x 9mm.

I have started working pretty much full-time on this project since July 1st. I have drafted up a project schedule for getting the module into production. Quite a few things need to be synchronized in terms of time-line. Here is what currently has been accomplished or is still in the works:

  • NDA's have been put in place with various contract manufacturers (CM) for both the PCB assembly and the housing.
  • The PCB has been designed and is waiting for feedback from the CM in order to determine manufacturability (1-2 weeks; we will be going into the second week). The PCB design might have to be tweaked after we get feedback from the CM. This process is called design for manufacturability (DFM).
  • After the DFM is completed, a few final prototypes need to be built and sent to the CM (2 weeks).
  • A few prototype housings also need to be built/machined and sent to the CM (3-4 weeks).
  • GPS antennas need to be built (1 week setup + 3 week lead-time).
  • GPS chip needs to be manufactured (4 weeks).
  • Bill of materials (BOM) needs to be sourced. Some parts have a lead-time (up to 3 weeks).
  • Housings need to be produced by injection molding at CM (no time-line available yet from the CM for this).
  • After all this is completed, usually an engineering pilot build is done for design verification and after that a production pilot build.
  • Test procedures need to be implemented and test fixtures designed and put in place (4 weeks). This includes both testing of the PCB as well as a final test of the performance of each GPS module.
As you can see, quite a lot of things need to be managed and synchronized. But in order to bring you the best working GPS product out there for your iPhone and iTouch, no corners can be cut.

I will keep you posted as things progress :).

7 comments:

hdd123 said...

The simplified design works for me - can't wait! As per previous comments, now for some useful navigation software.

hdd123 said...

Question for the community - if proprietary navigation software (TomTom or iGO) is going to be made available through Apps Store will unlocking the device (to use the GPS plug-in) allow Apple approved software to be used?

Will Apps Store and Installer and the software downloaded from both be able to co-exist on a device or will unlocking require 'hacked' versions of the proprietary software?

esales said...

Please apply for patents before some Chinese rips all your hard work.

J D said...

By my count this adds up to six months. Is that what we're looking at for an ETA?

Chuck said...

The design looks great!

I've been following your blog for quite a while now and I must admit I think it's astonishing what you're doing here. I admire your skills :)

Best of luck

- Chuck

Vincent said...

@j_d : I guess some of the actions listed can be run in "parallel" mode. So ETA might not be that far away, but i agree it's quite sure that previous ETA (august) won't be met.
Let's see the positive side of this : it will give time to hack the iPhone 3g and find a way to use its apps with this GPS unit.

GPS said...

@hdd123: I will be trying out Morten's port of Roadmap sometime soon. It's a work in progress...

@esales: That's indeed always a danger (even if you have a patent in place). Wish the world was a better place :)

@j.d.: As Vincent mentions, some of the things can be run in parallel, others are gated. Once a final time-line is established and agreed upon with CMs, I will update you. Also note that qualified modules can already be shipped from the initial engineering pilot runs.

@Chuck: Thanks for the encouragement. I am full-time at this project now and I intend to give it my all no matter what issues might come up along the way.

@Vincent: for the 3G phone, the software probably accesses a built-in serial port for the GPS data. It could be as easy as to just incorporating a pipe that moves GPS data from the dock serial port to a virtual serial port that has the same name as the built-in port in the 3G phone (all speculation though).