Project update 10 of 14
We have scheduled the rest of July exclusively for board assembly, iCEBreaker, LED Panel PMODs and HDMI Pmods. As soon as we have enough iCEBreakers assembled to fulfill the tiers that don’t contain LED panels we will start sending those out. So a big portion of you should get shipping notifications before the end of this month!
The LED panels are delayed as we keep trying to find a supplier with the quantity we need and the correct driver chips. We will let you all know when we have that problem resolved and when we will receive the LED panels to fulfill the rest of the campaign.
As we described in our last update we were expecting to receive the last parts by the end of June. And the good news is that we did!
We have finally received a big reel of ICE40UP5K FPGA, mems oscillators and SII164 DVI chips for the DVI Pmods. As well as assembled 7segment and dip switch Pmods.
There was one last link to the puzzle missing. We wanted to order the main batch of PCBs last month but we figured that it would be better to test the V1.0d and make sure we don’t need to make any more changes to the board. As we will be making over 1000 of the main batch boards it is a good idea to have as many people comb over the design as possible. We found a few very tiny things that were able to improve. Thanks to the feedback from the community we made the pads of the RGB LED footprint easier to hand solder, and thanks to Arturo who dug deep into our schematic we made the final adjustment to the signal naming of the RGB LED connector to match the FPGA datasheet. The symbol we used was from the ICE5LP5K that was the footprint and pinout predecessor of the ICE40UP5K part and the RGB pins had a different numbering order. Now the schematic and the pcb show the correct naming of the signals. These are all non electrical changes and if you have a previous version of the board it is fully functional and will be working fine with the verilog that you currently have and people will be writing in the future. It just makes things slightly more consistent. We have the V1.0e boards ordered and they are scheduled to arrive on Friday July 12th.
Another thing that we are still working on resolving are the LED Panels that are included in the LED Panel and Everything reward tiers. The sources where we got the LED Panels from originally seem to be only resellers that buy up some excess stock from video wall manufacturers. It turns out that market is incredibly fluid and changes quickly regarding the drive electronics on the back of the panels. When we were preparing the campaign and when we ordered the early bird batch of the panels the LED panels used simple shift registers. Today the most common shift registers on the back of the panels are more “intelligent” and require an initialization sequence. We want to make sure we get panels that are robust and easy to program for an FPGA beginner so we think having a special init sequence for the panels is a no-go for our campaign. We are working together with several suppliers and friends to try to locate a reliable source for the LED panels and we hope we will be able to order enough of them to fulfill the campaign soon. We will definitely let you all know as soon as we finally get a hold of the right source and the panels are on their way to us.
Based on the experiences we gained about the LED panel suppliers we ended up documenting in painstaking detail the circuitry of several LED panels, so that we can request exactly the type of panel that we need for the project. We have posted all the photos and reverse engineered schematics to a GitHub repository. This not only makes it easier for us to communicate with the vendors but will also be very useful for anyone who works with LED panels and wants to understand how they work in detail. If you happen to have LED panels yourself and want to contribute to the repository pull-requests are very much welcome. :)
We have scheduled the rest of the month exclusively for board assembly, iCEBreaker, LED Panel PMODs and HDMI Pmods. As soon as we have enough iCEBreakers assembled to fulfill the tiers that don’t contain LED panels we will start sending those out. So a big portion of you should get shipping notifications before the end of this month! :)
We are sorry things are taking longer than we originally anticipated. We are doing our best to not only deliver the iCEBreakers to you as fast as we can but also at a high quality standard that we set for ourselves and the campaign. As always follow @esden on twitter and mastodon, he is documenting a lot of the steps involved in the production and testing giving you some good insight into what it takes to make hardware.
Thank you for your support, understanding and patience. If you have more questions do not hesitate to join our Gitter channel and ask. Do not forget that all inquiries that you individually send to us cost us time to process and answer and does contribute to delaying the project overall. It is best if you read our updates, check the Gitter channel and follow @esden on twitter and mastodon. This way we can keep everyone efficiently informed about the projects progress.
Piotr and Danika