Moving Parts, Updated Timeline (Trident Kickstarter Update #20)

Original post : April 13, 2017

Hi everyone,

As we mentioned in our last update, we’ve officially begun moving Trident into the manufacturing phase, and have been working closely with our contract manufacturer and other industry experts to ensure the production line/process we build is capable of producing thousands of high-quality Tridents. After thorough evaluation, these advisors have suggested we extend the testing period for Trident’s first production run, which means we will start processing pre-orders towards the end of Summer. We want you to know that we take our timeline very seriously and are committed to delivering Trident as quickly as possible. This was a tough call, but we feel strongly that it will make for a notably better product in the long-run.

Here is a way to illustrate where our current stage fits into the overall process:

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We’ve come a long way from the concept prototype in our Kickstarter video. The Engineering Validation Testing (EVT) units we’ve built and tested are functional blueprints for production. They have our seal of approval, and they’ve gotten the “thumbs up” from our manufacturing partner. Success in the EVT stage has given us the confidence to order the first batch of production parts. Some of these parts have already arrived, and we expect to receive the rest over the next month. We’re pretty excited about this step because it means we can finally hold in hand the components that will be used to build your Tridents.

While completing EVT is cause for excitement, it also means we are diving into a new set of engineering challenges: design validation testing (DVT). Much like Trident, our production line must be a well-designed machine, and we have to iterate to get it right. Developing a framework for Trident’s manufacturing process at scale includes creating assembly instructions that are simple and clear enough to hand off to others, fixtures and assembly jigs to speed up operations, and quality control tests to root out any problems before they get out the door. We’ll be building sets of units identical to those you’ll receive, and then subjecting them to quality and reliability tests (vibration, heat cycling, field use, etc.). This is our opportunity to find problems that don’t float to the surface until tens and hundreds of units have been built. If all goes smoothly, this step validates the assembly line and signals the ramp-up to full-blown production.

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We’ve learned from our manufacturers, advisors, and others who have gone through this process before, that taking the time to ensure DVT is done right can mean the difference between a successful product and one that falls short of expectations. The goal is to de-risk our long-term plans by investing more time and energy in the near-term. It’s hard to comment on how long DVT will take without knowing which, if any, problems will arise, but our ability to give specific time estimates will improve drastically as soon as we’ve completed the first build. At that point we will have our procedure down to a science, and will be able to forecast when each preorder will ship based on an established production capacity.

One component that we are paying special attention to as we work through DVT is Trident’s injection molded shell. This part must be created and handled very carefully in order to maintain tolerances that can support a pressure-proof seal. Injection molding complex parts is tricky because plastic expands and contracts in conjunction with temperature. Given our required tolerances for these parts, it is possible that we may need to tune the thermal profile of the molding process or make adjustments to the mold itself several times to meet our assembly needs. We’re doing our best to be diligent about anticipating where potential problems might arise - whether with components or in the production process - in order to come up with solutions that we can iterate on quickly.

Some questions you may be asking:

Are there going to be more delays? Believe us, the last thing we want to do is let you all down. The reality is we are still dealing with a moving target. In an effort to better manage expectations, we’re trying to create a more transparent production process. That’s what this update is aiming to do. We hope that by doing this we are able to better communicate the timing and significance of upcoming milestones. With each milestone passed, we get a more accurate assessment of the production timeline and ultimately a shipping calendar.

I need my Trident for __________, will I have it by then? We’ve talked to many of you individually about your specific needs. If we haven’t talked, please send us an email and we can talk through your specific needs.

Whether you are a long time member of OpenROV or our relationship is a new one, we thank you for following along as we cross the finish line with Trident. A few people have asked us whether we have any testing expeditions on the horizon. For those interested parties located in the Bay Area, we thought we’d create this group to coordinate these kinds of opportunities as they come up. Please feel free to sign up if you are interested in joining! You can always reach us at [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns. We are grateful for our global community that has made this project possible. We can’t thank you enough for your ongoing support.