Dave visually inspecting PCB

Manufacturing

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The saying “hardware is hard” is repeated often because many start-ups lack experience with hardware manufacturing.  Most setbacks occur in this step of bringing new products to life.

Our team still has a lot to learn about the delivered commodities industries and consumer pain-points, but we have plenty of experience collecting energy data with connected hardware. Our core team has a combined 35 years experience!

But part of growing a business is not assuming you know and can do everything yourself. That’s why we sought out an experienced contract manufacturer.

Lightspeed MFG was a natural choice.  As their name implies, they move really really fast.

Yes, domestic manufacturing is an option, and a great one. We’re still making design tweaks, and doing lots of functional testing.

Last week we were at Lightspeed’s headquarters, just up the road in Haverhill, MA, USA.

No 2 PCBs are the same

Lightspeed specializes in populating printed circuit boards (PCBs). These are the electronic guts of IoT devices like our tank monitor as well as other electronic devices.

Dave visually inspecting PCB

This is Tank Utility’s COO and hardware lead, David Gagnon.  He is inspecting the bare circuit board for consistency with the design.

If you ask Lightspeed MFG, there are unique challenges to every project. They’ve seen it all and were willing to work with our snowflake design and requirements.

But wait… these should match!

Actually, all PCBs from a batch should be functionally identical. And there’s a lot of ways inconsistencies can creep into a run.

Cleanliness, planning, organization, and QC steps are critical.

Most of the components we are using are surface mounted, to automate the PCB assembly process. We were given access to some pretty sophisticated pick-and-place machines.

After the PCBs come off the line, they are run through an optical scanner to ensure every part and soldering joint matches the design. Potential issues are flagged.

But a good ol’ fashioned (and highly trained) human eyes decide if the board is fit to move on.

Aaron at Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) is an automated visual inspection

This is Aaron of Lightspeed MFG. He’s running the Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) machine.  He loves his job… and it shows.

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