On Friday we reached another major milestone in our development; we shipped our first production unit from August Electronics. The photo below shows it loaded in the back of my vehicle.
On the top of my vehicle is the previous prototype, and in the back is the low-volume production unit. I love the contrast! For now August just shrink-wrapped the sub-assemblies but obviously we will develop proper packaging for the finished products.
This particular unit is number 2 of a batch of 12. The first was assembled and installed by Tangent Engineering back in March, and was mounted on a van belonging to Hank’s Plumbing. I wrote about this previously.
Units 2 through 12 are being handled by August Electronics in preparation for market launch this Fall. Two of the units were fully assembled, and one was mounted on a test stand and operated. That’s when we ran into some snags with the electronics and firmware. The other unit, which was always destined for Tangent from the beginning, was disassembled, loaded into my vehicle, and brought over to Tangent’s facilities so that they can more easily track down the issues and correct them. Re-assembly was remarkably quick, and I don’t think it’s because I’m the inventor.
The significance of this milestone rests in the fact that we are no longer producing one-off units designed to serve exclusively as prototypes for testing. Rather, this is our first foray into mass-production through something resembling an assembly line. We are beginning the transition from product development to product manufacturing, even if our first crack at it is limited to a dozen units. The manufacturing and assembly processes, as well as the supply chain, need some more development, but the first run successfully produced RazerLift units that will be installed on real-world customer vehicles.
Unit 1 went to Hank’s Plumbing. Unit 2 is going to a test bench at Tangent. Units 3 – 12 are destined for various customers and other industry connections, and (if it all works out) maybe I’ll even get one on my vehicle. Wouldn’t that be nice!
Mind you, the 2.5 year old “prototype” I’ve had on my vehicle since 2016 just keeps chugging along despite the fact that it was only intended to be tested for 6 – 12 months. That just shows that we’ve got a solid product on our hands.
Once these dozen units are all commissioned in the field two things will take place. First, we will give them some time to operate in the field and prove the reliability of the product in real-world conditions. The Hank’s unit has been operating reliably so we don’t expect any catastrophic issues, but we will carefully monitor each and every one of them for any issues of any magnitude; does anything else in the design need improving?
Second, we will continue to refine the product design for mass-production by improving cost and appearance without sacrificing quality. We will also pre-order parts for Fall delivery, and get some tooling in place for more effective mass-production. The basic design is fundamentally ready to go so the changes will be relatively minor. We also need to take care of packaging, installation instructions, and a whole host of other smaller items associated with mass-producing a product.
Stay tuned for more exciting developments! As I mentioned previously, this is going to be a summer to watch.