Production Notes20 Oct 2006 11:12 am

Hello All,
It’s Friday the 20th and I figure it’s time for a production update:
Good news: The new assistant here at Cafe Electric is working out very well. It sure helps to have someone capable and detail oriented doing nothing but production for eight hours a day. It’s much better than one burnt out guy trying to run the company and do production at the same time. As I write this she’s doing a final cleaning and inspection on Z2K power boards and after writing this I’ll head out back and start the final assembly process for the current batch of fourteen Z2K controllers. It’s interesting to think that last year we shipped ten Z2Ks and this year we will ship twenty five. We probably would have had even more orders if the delivery times were reasonable. No wonder it’s been hard to keep up. This batch will fill all but a couple of the Z2K’s on order. Sorry Steve Clunn, your last one and one Tango controller will have to wait. So we are catching up.

Once those Z2K power sections are tested, we’ll assemble and test Hairballs for them and ship. I expect those to ship no later than mid November. As much as I like to give optimistic news, there are still forty Z1K’s on back order. The oldest of those is from 3.8.06. I truly apologize for the delay, that was right about when the machinist problems started to surface. We’ll be building those in the sequence that they were ordered as soon as the Z2K’s ship. Fifteen power board sets are built for those (the hard part) so those first ones will go quickly. I expect that we should be able to fill at least half of the forty Z1K backorders before the end of the year, hopefully more. My dream is to have them all filled this year, but I’m not promising anything since we all know how issues crop up to delay matters. Beyond that it’s a bit hard to think. It’s been so long since I was caught up that I’m not used to it. I suppose we’ll order up another fifty sets of Z1K machined parts (thankfully after many problems I’ve found a great machinist in the next town over) and build more Z1K’s.

On other news, I’ve reviewed costing on the LV controller models and I think we can keep our price where it is so long as we still maintain a high proportion of HV and EHV orders. So for now I’ll list them on the web as available again.

Since my last blog entry a few people have graciously offered services from assembly houses located large distances from here. I guess they didn’t actually read my last blog entry, so let me clarify a bit here: Once I manage to get all the parts properly supplied, there is really not much labor in building a Zilla. A few hours of it (per controller) is the kind of thing that a assembly house could do without extensive training and elaborate setup. For those items I would welcome good a assembly house to do the work. But even if the assembly was done at no cost to me it would not justify me going out of state for it. By the time I travel to evaluate them, slog through the specification and quote process, deal with the fact that it seems they can’t read the simple instructions that I give, I find I might as well have just soldered up the boards myself. So, if you know of a reasonably priced assembly house that is efficient at batches of 50 to 100 pieces *In Oregon* then I’d sure love to hear about them.

As for the other half of the assembly process, I should address that a bit since what is involved is not common knowledge. The Zilla power sections have two inherent benefits due to their unique design. First they are smaller for a given power, and second they are lower cost for a given power than ones made using industry standard techniques. To obtain these benefits I had to use assembly techniques that are not standard in the industry. In addition to the special design, I have made equipment for preparing the power part surfaces and for testing parts so they can be sorted into batches to allow these benefits. But misplace one part while matching them and Bang! you’ve blown a controller. Also, the final assembly process is very critical and must be done just so. One bit of dirt in the wrong place and you have a unreliable controller. Unfortunately, there are many ways to compromise the assembly and the result of each one is a blown controller. So there are a number of operations involved in building and assembling the power section that I am very careful about. The Zilla still holds a unheard of reliability record for this industry and I intend to keep it that way. In addition to the design, I attribute the high reliability to my careful control of the assembly process. To farm out that part of the assembly would take extensive training in order to insure reliability. I’m not against farming it out, it’s just that it’s not a simple thing to do and it will require a long term commitment from a very unusual partner to make it worthwhile.

That’s all for now.

5 Responses to “Friday Update”

  1. on 20 Oct 2006 at 11:53 am Adan

    Glad to hear you’re back in production Otmar!

  2. on 23 Oct 2006 at 4:38 am Dan Frederiksen

    I heard you whine about being too succesful 🙂 and that the parts were too expensive. I’m no power electronics expert but could you base a design on a part like this:
    500V 57A FET for less than 5$ a piece.

    Is it naive to think that 10,20,30 could be paralleled to make a controller?
    perhaps a new product line Zilla M10 without the need for a hairball and in a black casing. or white. just to mix it up a bit 🙂

  3. on 26 Oct 2006 at 1:18 pm Craig Mueller


    Thanks for the update. As an aircraft engineer working for a major airline I know well the problems you speak of with respect to outsourced reliability and process control. In fact, among all of the outsourcing we have done, your plight is so clear to us that the only way we outsource avionics work is by sending components back to the OEM (not a 3rd party). I’ll happily keep riding my bike to work until the remaining Zilla orders can be filled. Thanks for your efforts – sincerely.

  4. on 26 Oct 2006 at 1:27 pm Otmar

    Well Dan,
    If we could get that part for $5, maybe it would be nice. But when I checked agian yesterday it was more like $30. And yes you would need about 20 of them, plus diodes and caps and heatsink and drivers and power supply and control electronics and a case and and and… Pretty soon you’re looking at a $4000 600A controller. Seriously though, if you want to discuss such things then the EVTech list is a good place to talk about such things. You can find it here:

  5. on 01 Nov 2006 at 8:46 pm Matt Milliron

    I am order number forty-one of the 1K-LV orders. Thank you for the update. I can hardly wait.