August 29, 2014
I had the recent pleasure of participating in Sketching in Hardware, an invitation-only conference for people and companies involved in building design tools to assist in developing electronics. It was a great opportunity to converge on Berlin with like-minded artists, engineers, and academics interested in making it easier for others to make devices.
Great minds, Big ideas
At an event of this sort, every talk delivered is valuable. Here are some of my favorites:
- Kate Hartman of OCAD University gave a talk about Sketching with Wearables that was excellent. She addressed the process of rapid prototyping within that domain, discussing the significant benefits of extremely rapid iteration in a space as new and wide-open as wearables. Her work on wearable communication is especially inspiring, as it imagines a world in which technology helps humans become more expressive and better connect with one another — a stark contrast to the usual view of technology as an isolating force.
- Lars Erik Holmquist is a pioneering researcher in the fields of ubiquitous computing and mobile technology. At Sketching, he explored “The Digital Thing-in-itself: Towards a philosophy of physical/virtual artifacts” — the philosophy of technology as it applies to IoT. This was a nice break from thinking about bytes and electrons… an opportunity to reflect on where our technological developments are leading us and what it means in a broader context.
- Claire Rowland‘s “The User Experience of Consumer Internet of Things” was a passionate rant on how you port traditional user-centered design values to the IoT space. She expertly made the case against technology-driven products. Her advocacy for user-centered solutions has been shaped by her role as a UX and product consultant specializing in the consumer internet of things.
- Noah Feehan of The New York Times R&D Lab talked about Semantic Listening, a project in which one’s world is augmented with electronics that sense not only the physical aspects of the environment, but also the meaning of what is happening in that environment. The talk was a fascinating glimpse into a future in which shared context will be much more readily accessible in social settings.
- Kipp Bradford, The Kippworks founder and Highway1 mentor, gave a broadly scoped and passionately delivered talk on the potential power of design tools. He argued that sketching tools (at least the good ones, that he puts in the category of Frictionless Frameworks) can act as catalysts for tremendous social and economic change. It is invigorating to look beyond the immediate users of our products and imagine real transformation (dare I say disruption?) of major institutions.
Throughout Sketching in Hardware, it was encouraging to hear that others care about the same things we care about on the Kinoma team. It was also interesting to meet others who are grappling with issues similar to those we have faced in bringing Kinoma Create to market (manufacturing challenges and BOM surprises included).
I was particularly struck by discussions about Tesler’s law of the conservation of complexity, in the context of IoT. Complexity is fixed, the law proposes. It can be exposed to the user, or it can be the problem of the engineer to hide it. Something we should all consider when we design for others.
All in all, 45 people participated in Sketching. It was a select group of people within a very defined category — quite a refreshing event format.
Thank you to Mike Kuniavsky for putting this on. You can read Mike’s recap of the event in his Make: magazine article.
August 20, 2014
Kinoma Create was a featured technology at the recent Maker Day portion of Coworking Week, an annual event held across the US. In San Francisco, it was hosted by Citizen Space, a slick co-working spot.
Maker Day was designed to explore the combination of ingenious makers and innovative technologies that are driving innovation in manufacturing, engineering, industrial design, hardware technology and education.
We were included in the the agenda at the encouragement of Arrow Electronics, Inc., a distributor that works with Marvell. They’re excited at the potential of making Marvell’s chips available to a new category of customer.
John gave a well-received tour of Kinoma Create and Kinoma Studio.
The venue was ideal for an introduction to Kinoma Create. Citizen Space is an awesome co-working environment located just north of South Park and right across the street from the Sony PlayStation building in San Francisco. In addition to serving as a productive environment for entrepreneurs, Citizen Space holds classes and events, such as meetups.
Garland Kan, organizer of the SF Node.js Meetup group, was in the audience that night. He invited us back to Citizen Space for a “Hacking with Kinoma” meetup, taking place next Wednesday August 27th. Please join us! You can RSVP through the meetup event page.
August 4, 2014
Chris Krueger is Creative Director of Marvell’s Kinoma team. He’s a digital design pioneer who has led design, technical and business efforts on groundbreaking interactive programs and products for more than two decades. The photos below were taken during his recent tour of the factories producing and assembling Kinoma Create.
Kinoma Create production is underway in Shenzhen! I recently flew to China for the first (but not last) time to oversee production and testing of the first PCBs and enclosures.
Our main manufacturing factory for Kinoma Create, Beautiful Enterprise Co., Ltd.
Here’s my report directly from the factory floor.
After more than a year in design and prototyping, the final PCB designs are ready for production.
The Kinoma Create PCB is a multi-layer design, meaning that it consists of several double-sided boards bonded together with insulating layers in between. Your Kinoma Create will have a eight-layer board.
The factory uses a surface mount technology reflow soldering process. In a process similar to silk screening, a very precise screen is created and solder paste is screened onto the PCBs in the correct locations.
Carefully inspecting screens for the soldering process
Reflow soldering is used for our PCB assembly. The technology has two main stages: First a solder paste is applied to the board, then the board is heated to melt the solder.
A “pick and place” machine places the components onto the board from reels of plastic tape that hold the components in individual pouches, which are held in place on the PCB by surface tension of the solder paste.
When all the components are placed, the assembled PCB can be move to the reflow-soldering machine.
“Pick and place” machines
A pick and place machine loaded with reels of Kinoma Create components
IC components packaged in reel format for robotic placement
The reflow soldering process has several phases that heat and cool the board to correctly make the solder joints on all the placed components.
Reflow soldering technology reliably solders surface mount components, including ones with very fine pitch leads.
Assembled boards are transferred to soldering oven via conveyer belts
After the PCB boards have their components soldered, each board is inspected visually and by an extremely high-resolution camera looking for any slightly misaligned components that could be a sign of problems.
Workstation doing visual inspection of assembled boards
The boards are then tested for circuit integrity using a “bed of nails” type probe tester.
Custom probe jig tests board circuit integrity
At this point the PCB is ready to be assembled into the case.
The case is produced in an injection mold process.
The molds are milled from steel block from the 3D design files. Any undercuts require the mold to have a side pull so that the mold can come apart.
This machine is precisely measuring the milled molds to make sure the match the 3D design files
Quite a bit of care goes into the design process to make sure that the design can be cleanly produced with the injection molding process.
A factory employee adds dye to mating surfaces to check for perfect mold alignment
Kinoma Create is made of a polycarbonate blend called PC-ABS, which is a strong and durable plastic also used for phones and car interiors.
The raw material of the plastic is powdered, and the color is made by precisely blending the individual pigments.
This is an injection molding machine with the raw material in the round hopper above. The equipment with the red and black tubes is a vacuum based robot to remove parts after the molds are opened.
The outer surface texture is applied with acid to the final finish.
The actual metal molds for Kinoma Create’s case
Usually, the case needs two or three revisions to perfect the fit and color.
Voila! A finished Kinoma Create case
Touchscreen LCD module
Kinoma Create’s touchscreen is being custom produced for the device. It consists of an LCD screen, drivers and other components that are integrated into the connecting cables and the touch sensor surface. These are bonded together using optically clear tape and pressure. This has to be done in a clean room environment so that no dust is caught between the parts.
The steps are:
- Clean all the surfaces
- Laminate the bonding tape to the edges of the touch screen
- Align the parts using a microscope to ensure that the alignment remains exact
- Mount the touchscreen to the LCD with adhesive
- Finish the bonding with an autoclave
Now that all major components are in place, the first set of 50 Kinoma Creates can be assembled and distributed to our early testers to make sure that the full production run will be up to our standards.
Soon, we’ll make yours!
July 28, 2014
O’Reilly’s OSCON 2014 was just held in Portland. I spent a few days there at the invitation of the event organizers.
OSCON proposes that open source has evolved “from disruption to default.” I attended the conference to better understand the open source movement, specifically as it relates to the work of the Kinoma team.
We use a lot of open source software in Kinoma Create, which is a Linux device at heart. And we have begun releasing code and hardware designs under open licenses. But we are just starting the process of growing a community around that, so there’s a lot to learn.
What impressed the most at this year’s OSCON
- Catherine Farman and Corinne Warnshuis of Girl Develop It explained the successful steps they have taken to encourage more women to get involved in open source. Their approach to mentoring looks like an effective way to move more people—of all genders—off the sidelines of open source.
- Michael Enescu, the CTO of Open Source Initiatives at Cisco, spoke of the importance of open source to the Internet of Things. He made the bold assertion that “All IoT will be open source” because that openness brings credibility. Great words to hear from the largest networking company on our planet. Michael also talked about the importance of open protocols, including MQTT. I’m warming up to MQTT, and Andy Piper’s “A Walking Tour of MQTT” showed the momentum growing behind it.
Kinoma Create at OSCON’s Hardware Showcase
The OSCON Hardware Showcase made its debut this year. Were were selected to share how Kinoma Create incorporates open source and communicates using open protocols.
All in all, OSCON brought together a dynamic, extremely technology-savvy audience welcoming of our new ideas. We look forward to more involvement next year.
Recently, our summer interns competed in a two-day hackathon for an Internet of Things World hackathon in Palo Alto. This is the true story of how a fresh-faced team of new recruits planned, built and demonstrated their first Kinoma project.
Tuesday, 11 am: Brainstorming
Challenged to create either a product in either “consumer” or “environment” categories using the Marvell 88MC200 microcontroller, our first move was to brainstorm.
With a hot pink sharpie, we sketched out a bunch of ideas, including the “Internet of Babies”, an RFID-powered doggie door, and public restrooms that won’t let you out until you use hand sanitizer.
Tuesday, 3 pm: Idea Selection
After voting and discussion, we decided to work on context-aware advertising. To us, this means posters and billboards that know where they are, and can share live characteristics—such as sensor data and web service data—with their advertisers.
Advertisers, in turn, can bid on spaces based on their profile at a given time. For example, a company may bid more on a display because there is a traffic jam nearby (in which case the ad is likely to be seen by more people).
In another use case, a sunglasses company can bid on spaces with high luminosity.
For our demo, we decided to build a display that changes its content based on the temperature. When the temperature is cool, it shows an ad for sweaters. When it’s hot, it flips to an ad for frosty-cold soda.
Tuesday, 6 pm: Hardware Hacking
To help us debug and display the project, we whipped up an app in KPR that showed the temperature and a button for flipping the display.
Tuesday, 10 am: X-Acto Time
As the presentation drew nearer, we crafted the enclosure for the hardware and glued the example advertisements on two pieces of styrofoam which represented a billboard.
Wednesday, 3 pm: Pitching the Project
We got to see a lot of cool demos from the other participants. One team presented a mouth guard that keeps track of teeth grinding, and another group used their device to measure the water quality of the pool at the event venue.
During our live demo, our teammate John simulated the weather getting warmer by blowing hot air onto the sensor. Reading the temperature output on the Kinoma Create, the crowd went wild when John hit the threshold of 82 degrees and flipped the ad to the Coca-Cola side.
Wednesday, 4 pm: The Results
We were very happy that our peers enjoyed the demonstration, and honored to be awarded first place in the prize for the “Built Environment” category.
The Kinoma Create really shined as a presentation tool for the demo. Rather than a mess of breadboards and wires, the hardware was packed neatly into the Kinoma Create’s enclosure. We were able to keep working on the software until the very last seconds because the Kinoma Create looked polished already.
Another strength of the Kinoma Create was its ability to communicate with the audience during the demo. With the temperature of the sensor displayed in big font, the entire audience could tell what was going on inside the hardware. Without the screen, there would have been major dead air while we were waiting for the temperature to hit the threshold to switch the display.
In short: The Kinoma Create allowed us to make a complete, sophisticated prototype very rapidly, and proved ideal for demonstrating our prototype to others.