I’ve just returned from the manufacturer who is starting on the PCB assembly this morning. I hope to have the first units in the next few days assuming all goes well.
I’m still awaiting indications from the conformance testing: that has been going on for ten days now, so I hope to hear very soon.
All being well, assuming production and conformance testing are OK, we’ll be ready to start shipping next week as expected.
Yesterday the final binary image for the firmware was finished, and I spent three hours programming up 500 chips. With a further 1,500 to go, it seems like a thankless task! We normally get them done by the chip manufacturer, but I was concerned about the current worldwide stock of devices a few weeks ago, and with now new new stock not expected until late November, we purchased a couple of thousand (that was all there was!) just in case. Because the firmware wasn’t quite ready at that stage, we ended up having to program the devices ourselves.
While we can program the chips in-circuit after delivery from the manufacturer, this would mean that there is no way for the assembler to check if the board is working. So the chips are preprogammed out of circuit using a special ZIF socket programming adapter, one at a time, with coffee on-hand.
The chips as programmed contain a really neat self-check which can nail down faults to a dozen or so parts. It presents a series of tiny signals at different frequencies into the start of the RF path that tests almost the entire RF section. Internally, it runs an FFT power spectrum against the received signals and compares the results with a known good set of results. If any of the signals are out of specification, the unit flags up an error pointing out where it’s failed, which can then be investigated further.
The many statuses and checks of the FCD are indicated on a single LED inside the unit, using Morse code: sometimes, tried and tested is good!
We have a limit on two parts at present. Firstly, there is a limited number of one of the SAW filters: we have a couple of hundred already with the remainder not due until the end of this month. The other device we are short of is the tuner chip. While there are gazillions on wafer, they still need assembling into packages and then testing. Assembly is happening this week, and I am awaiting a testing schedule. We already have several hundred of these in stock, and I am hoping that the remainder will be available very soon. To make sure of supply in the medium term, we ordered 5,000 units up front.
Many thanks, Howard