TL;DR: QC of the first 1000 keyboards starts tomorrow. They should be on a plane to the US by Monday; The wood factory is working on the second 1000 enclosures, but hasn’t promised a delivery date yet; Jesse’s in China for an unplanned trip to do QC; Bay Area meetup November 11th.
Hello from Oakland and Shenzhen,
(Right now, Jesse’s on the ground in Shenzhen for an unexpected factory visit. More on that later.)
When we wrote last month, we’d been pretty certain that keyboards for all Kickstarter backers would be on their way by now. That did not come to pass.
As of today, the factory has completed assembly of the first 1000 Model 01 keyboards. They’re currently going through a 72 hour burn-in test.
Why only 1000? Our wood factory was having trouble meeting their deliverables schedule, so we decided to split the Kickstarter manufacturing into two batches of 1000 units. The hope is to deliver as many high-quality Model 01s as we can, as soon as we can, even if that means they won’t all be delivered at the same time.
Overall, the latest delay has primarily been due to quality issues with the wooden enclosures. As the factory checked the enclosures that had arrived from the wood CNC shop, they found a number of defects.
These defects ranged from discolored “spots”, a few cracked pieces, mis-installed brass screw nuts, and several hundred pieces where the wood seemed to have been over-milled such that there was a big gap between the baseplate and the enclosure.
The wood factory is taking responsibility for the issues and has been working overtime to rework and replace the bad enclosures.
Obviously, we’re pretty frustrated at the slowdown in production, but in the end we recognize that we’d much rather have caught these issues now rather than shipping out bad keyboards.
Now that the wood factory has delivered 1000 good enclosures, they’re working on the next 1000. After that, they’ll deliver another batch. Once those keyboards are built, we’ll be caught up on preordered keyboards.
There are a bunch of factors that will influence the order in which we send out keyboards, but one important one is the BackerKit survey. If you have not yet filled out the survey confirming your address, you should do that. If you didn’t get the survey, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Typically, the way pre-shipping quality inspection for a consumer item works is that a third-party inspector does a spot check of a small number of randomly selected units from the upcoming shipment. (This is in addition to controls the factory has implemented internally.) If no serious issues are found, the shipment goes out the door.
We were not terribly happy with some of the quality issues that made it out the door on PVT keyboards. Since then, we’ve been working with the factory to help them figure out process improvements to reduce or eliminate the kinds of issues we saw. We’ve also been beefing up our documentation of the quality standard and test procedures.
The factory does significant testing as part of the assembly process. At the same time, we decided that we’re going to do a relatively expensive “100% check” of at least the first few hundred units in the first mass production run. Based on the results of that check, we’ll decided whether to continue with the 100% check or back down to random sampling.
When we contacted our third party QC firm a week ago to schedule their inspection of the first 1000 keyboards, they told us that they might have one day for us next weekend, but are otherwise unavailable. They also told us that they won’t be available for most of October.
That was… unexpected and somewhat disappointing.
Since then, we’ve been scrambling to find a replacement quality inspection firm. If the Model 01 were a ‘regular’ keyboard, we’d be comfortable letting a QC firm use their standard quality check procedures without any special training. But the Model 01 is not a regular keyboard.
Since the quality inspectors Jesse trained to check the Model 01 aren’t around, we didn’t see any other option than to put Jesse on a plane to Shenzhen. On Wednesday Jesse will start the quality inspection, along with a freelance quality inspector recommended by a friend of ours as a sort of trial run. At the same time, we’re continuing to talk to a few other options to see if one of them might be a better fit.
While in Shenzhen, Jesse should be approving the plastic packaging for the ‘extra’ keycap sets. If the packaging looks right, the tooling to produce it will take about two weeks. There’s a decent chance that the extra keycap sets will ship with some keyboards, but we’re pretty sure that we’re going to end up shipping some Model 01s to customers and then shipping your extra keycap sets as a followup as soon as they’re available.
Box of crap
If things go well with the factory, Jesse may have a few days in Shenzhen to do another run of our “box of crap from Shenzhen” project. If you think you might want a box of crap from Shenzhen, keep an eye on http://twitter.com/keyboardio. We may try shipping everything to ourselves in California and doing fulfillment from the US time around.
Bay Area Meetup
We’re taking part in the big Bay Area Mechanical Keyboard Meetup that’s happening on November 11th in Palo Alto. There will be a lot of keyboards there, ours and others’ and old rare ones, plus some talks and good times. The event is free, but requires advanced sign-up. Hope to see some of you there!