The production of the Little Bee involves significantly more sourcing compared to a product that is solely a printed circuit board. For many of the auxiliary items the production process is going well. I have already received the SMA cables and ferrite cores used for the current sensing attachment and validated the final revision of all the 3d printed parts. I am also on track to release design files for an extra 3d printed case for the Little Bee in the near future. However, assembly of the main PCB, which is the longest lead time item, has been delayed by the sourcing of the HMC1041Z magnetic sensor that is a core part of the design.
The sourcing of the HMC1041Z is detailed on the campaign page as the main production risk, but dealing with it has taken even more time than I expected. The HMC1041Z has no equivalent and has been sold out from all the official distributors since the launch of the campaign. Early on in the development of the Little Bee I contacted some non-authorized distributors who deal in excess parts and made sure that enough parts existed on the open market if I had sourcing issues. However, there is typically a significant markup and non-negligible risk in acquiring parts this way, so it’s best avoided if possible. During the campaign I was also able to contact someone at Honeywell, the manufacture of the sensor. They assured me I would be able to buy a partial reel of parts directly from them and that was my production plan.
For the past two months I have been stuck dealing with Honeywell’s bureaucracy, seemingly about to be able to order the sensors but repeatedly running into unexpected delays. First, Beefield Labs had to get set up with a Honeywell customer profile to be able to order parts. I was not told I would need to do this until providing the rep with a final purchase quantity. Getting a customer profile required Beefield Labs to be a registered company with a federal identification number. Once submitted to Honeywell the application took a month to process. After getting a customer profile I was told to email the purchase order to a now defunct email with an autoreply saying to use an online ordering portal. The sensor division was absorbed into Honeywell Aerospace so this ordering portal only has airplane parts, not the required sensor. To top that off, the Honeywell rep has not been replying to my recent emails.
At this point it is more than obvious that I can not rely on Honeywell for obtaining the sensors in a timely manner.
I apologize for not issuing an update about this sooner, but it perpetually seemed like I was on the cusp of acquiring the sensors and I was looking forward to issuing a more positive update.
I have once again reached out to some non-authorized distributors and I plan to have the sensors ordered in the next week, even if the pricing is at a big disadvantage.
This will allow submitting the PCBA order in the near future.
I am going to be able to make up on some lost time by pre-assembling the accessory kit for the Little Bee units before I receive the PCBA order, but these delays are going to have a big impact on the expected delivery date. To be conservative I am going to have to move the delivery date to July 1st. Once the PCBA order is submitted the production process is pretty linear, so I should have more accurate timeline estimates in the near future.