Kokoon progress update: factory update
Welcome to the latest Kokoon update.
Last time we responded to some of the most frequently asked questions, discussed the latest factory sample ES2 highlighting the issues and positives and updated on the current timeline. Since our last update our engineering team have been relocating to China to work through the challenges in much closer dialogue with the factory. We’ve also significantly increased the engineering resource from the factory working on the project. In this update we discuss progress working through the issues from an electronic and mechanical perspective before talking a little about what the software team have been doing.
Richard and Lead Mechanical Engineer, Manon, left for Shenzhen two weeks ago, with Dave (Lead Product Designer) and James (Lead Electronics Engineer) joining them next week. Richard and Manon landed in China on a Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning they were already at the factory, deep in discussions with the factory’s entire team, which has grown to include two electronics engineers, two mechanical engineers, a purchasing manager, an acoustic’s engineer, and one of the factory’s founders overseeing the team.
Four hours of planning (and many coffees) later, the detail of the coming seven critical weeks were outlined and remaining tasks delegated, with regular meetings scheduled to ensure all deadlines are met.
The next few weeks will mainly consist of DfM, work with suppliers, and testing including (but not at all limited to) material selection, cushion production, and assembly simplifications. The team will be splitting their time between the factory and their Shenzhen office to allow for regular re-alignment between the two sub-teams (factory team and Kokoon team) to ensure we are happy with progress and also to be able to spot any issues early. Before the China-relocation, time was lost sending samples and prototypes between the UK and China, and any the feedback loop was therefore very slow; eliminating this delay will significantly increase efficiency.
One of the issues that has been haunting the development team for the last few weeks has been the production of the earcup cushions, as both the shape and materials are completely novel, and suppliers have been struggling to make the cushions to our specifications. On Monday (Oct 17th), the team met up with a supplier that has been providing samples and within this meeting were able to come up with a slight tweak to the design which will not only improve user interaction with the product but also allows for a much more straightforward method of manufacturing. The supplier will be trialling this new idea and the team expects to have samples back by Wednesday to test.
The relocation to China is already dramatically helping conversations with the factories.
The software team continue to progress with the development of the firmware (the software within the headphones) and the iOS and Andriod apps. Progress has been made across a number of different areas including improvement of LED behaviour to make it much easier for users to understand when the device is active, in pairing or off, improvements to BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) bandwidth and stability whilst audio streaming along with an overhaul of App backend design, including playlist score mechanism. Recent updates by Apple (XCode8, Swift 3, BLE library API change) meant the team had to work through a big list of issues and bugs brought on by the changes to ensure the various components still functioned.
Changes to the way the ear-cups attach to the headband have increased the available space for electronics at each end of the band. This extra space has given us the opportunity to greatly simplify the PCB in these areas. You may remember the complex folding that was necessary to position the buttons in the correct places as shown in the video in update 22 and in testing in update 24 . This has been completely replaced by a flat section with side actuated buttons. The new design also includes a connector to connect the ear-cup wires to the main PCB. This change will allow the ear cups and headband to be assembled and tested in parallel which should hopefully increase yields and reduce assembly time.
The shot below shows the new PCB occupying most of the end cap. It features the new connectors, new location and mounting method as well as new component arrangement.
All the best,
The Kokoon Team