“Engineering has moved to the cloud”
From the editors of MAKE magazine, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends.
Please send items to us at email@example.com.
Click here to subscribe to this newsletter.
Are you a Maker Pro? We’re compiling a list of Maker Pro Twitter handles, so please send us yours.
Amazon Promotes Drone Delivery
In a masterful publicity stunt, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on 60 Minutes — on the night before Cyber Monday — that his company has been working on a drone service that will deliver items under 5 pounds, and within ten miles of an Amazon fulfillment center, in under 30 minutes..
The next day, MAKE’s Eric Weinhoffer (@eweinhoffer) cooly evaluated the idea, pointing out the challenges that the service will face, including battery power, weather, theft, navigation, safety, and FAA regulations. Eric also gave a shout out to Matternet, which has already been working on bringing drone-supported shipping to areas of the world where roads aren’t common, or structurally sound enough to handle everyday deliveries.
Bottom line: Although Bezos was floating 2015 as a possible starting date, Eric doesn’t expect to get a drone delivery until 2020.
Some of Project Ara’s parts will be 3D printed.
* Looks like China’s giant manufacturer Foxconn is getting into the hardware accelerator game.
* 3D Systems made a dozen product announcements at the EuroMold Conference in Frankfurt, Germany.
* HAXLR8R‘s latest class showcased their products in San Francisco.
* R/GA and TechStars announced the inaugural class of startups in their connected-device accelerator.
* In Hackerspace Happenings: a new makerspace in San Francisco, anodizing aluminium in Milwaukee, and a robotic car workshop in Shenzhen.
Avoid Single Sources for Parts
A popular part on Octopart, available from multiple distributors.
Sam Wurzel (@octopart), the co-founder of Octopart, the electronics parts search engine, has been writing about “some of the less visible corners of the electronic component industry” on the company blog.
Back in October, he wrote a high-level overview of the electronic component purchasing landscape, including contract manufacturers, brokers, and counterfeiters.
More recently, he’s drilled down into some important issues for hardware startups. One piece of advice: identify alternates, avoid single sources.
“If possible, choose parts that have drop in replacements made by multiple manufacturers, and specify exactly which are acceptable replacements in your bill of materials (BOM),” he writes. “Your contract manufacturer will thank you. No one likes a stopped assembly line because of an unavailable single sourced part.”
Set Up an Incremental Design Review Process
It’s safe to say that design reviews aren’t working for most engineers.
Engineers hate the traditional schematic and layout design review, the stage in the design cycle when work is peer-reviewed for errors.
We can state that with confidence because Upverter, the cloud-based service for hardware and electrical design (the company’s vision: “engineering has moved to the cloud”), surveyed 400 engineers and discovered that the vast majority felt that they were working with a process that was inefficient, even “painful.”
The biggest problem: colleagues are often asked to look at designs at the very end of the process, making the design appear large and daunting. As a result, the design and datasheets are hastily skimmed, which means that expensive and time-consuming mistakes are missed.
The solution proposed by Upverter: set up an incremental design review process. A short review should be done after each component (or small group of components) is placed on the schematic or layout and is mostly connected. This task is more manageable for busy engineers, it lets them ask questions early about design decisions, and when the design is finished and ready for final review, all team members are already familiar with every part of the design and will be much more effective at reviewing.
Upverter has also published a helpful guide to avoiding errors when you are getting quotes from electrical manufacturers, and a template for a Hardware Product Canvas to spec out early hardware designs.
Even if you’re not ready to move your design and engineering to the cloud, there’s plenty to learn from the Upverter team.
Don’t Crowdfund Until You’ve Figured Out the Design-for-Manufacture Part
Image credit: Leap Motion
You’ve got a hardware product idea that you want to put on the road to reality.
When do you ask for money, and how much, and from whom?
Cyril Ebersweiler (@haxlr8r), founder of the hardware startup accelerator HAXLR8R, and Benjamin Joffe (@benjaminjoffe), an advisor at HAXLR8R, detail your options stage by stage: from concept to first factory run.
The advice comes with a serious warning: do not crowdfund before you have sorted out the design-for-manufacture part.
“You might validate a market,” the pair write, “but you expose yourself to delays and competition due to the time gap between the campaign and delivery.”
Consider Outsourcing “Micro Tasks”
The Work from Home Reporter is targeted at workers who are interested in performing “micro tasks,” but a recent survey of the field is also a valuable resource to overclocked entrepreneurs who need to dish off some of the workload.
Need to outsource some “human intelligence tasks?”
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is still the big dog, but there are lot of of niche services cropping up as well.
Mini Maker Faires
Nearly a hundred a year to choose from, around the world. Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest one to you.
- San Diego Mini Maker Faire (CA): December 7
- Maker Faire Oslo (Norway): January 18 & 19
- Honolulu Mini Maker Faire (HI): January 18
- Hamboree Mini Maker Faire (FL): February 1
- Buffalo Mini Maker Faire (NY): March 1
- NoVa Mini Maker Faire (VA): March 16