Good news: the first batch of ANAVI Macro Pad 8 gold-plated printed circuit boards (PCB) is ready. We received about 60 units from the local factory in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and we would like to explain in detail the whole manufacturing process.
The fabrication includes a procedure called panelization which groups together a number of PCBs on a larger board called a "panel". In the case of ANAVI Macro Pad 8 the "panel" contains 3 boards. All of them are gold plated through electrolytic nickel-gold process. Gold is very expensive, especially at the moment, but it is still worth it. Gold-plated PCBs have excellent quality with high hardness, wear and oxidation resistance.
Sourcing parts in the COVID-19 time is a challenge but now we have them all. We bought Microchip ATmega32U4 microcontrollers from Mouser. They arrived from the warehouse in Texas, USA. Each microcontroller is with TQFP-44 package that requires surface mount technology (SMT). The local factory has already assembled them alongside with all other SMT components.
The assembly of Gateron red mechanical switches and the red 3mm LEDs for all developer kits requires through-hole technology, a.k.a. manual soldering. This is a time consuming process. To simplify the work and to keep the mechanical switches on their places we created this plate that matches the size of the panels.
There are special holes on each mechanical switch for the 3mm LED. After soldering all of them, the leads of the LEDs have to be cut from the back side of the panel.
After all these steps, testing and packaging the developer kit will not require any soldering. However, those of you who ordered a maker kit and enjoy soldering like me will have some fun with the switches and the LEDs. The maker kit provides flexibility to use different switches and LEDs or to perform a hot-swap upgrade as explained in the previous post.
The next batch of PCBs and panels is expected by the end of November. Right now it is a huge advantage that they are made locally here in Europe and there is no need to import them from Asia. As you can see the low-volume manufacturing requires a lot of efforts from a lot of people so honestly there are still some risks for delays. Hopefully, we will keep up with the good pace.
Thank you for supporting ANAVI Macro Pad 8, stay safe and we will keep you updated.
Best regards, Leon