Production Notes13 Nov 2006 11:41 pm

Hello All,
It’s been two weeks since Carbon Black Monday and all is not yet well at the Cafe Electric shop.

In the time that has passed I have built a clean room with HEPA filtration, a new clean workbench, super fine grease filters and a new clean workbench surface. I’ve cleaned and reassembled one of the Z2K’s and then ran it through a number of tests which are not yet encouraging. I’ve scratched my head a lot. I took mental breaks by hiking in the rain and even beating air molecules into submission around the local CVO traffic pattern. I’ve been investigating the tin plating process on the copper bus bars which is currently a prime suspect for our troubles. Tin plating is one of the processes that changed with the move to local Oregon suppliers. This has been on my mind especially since my first thought of dirt contamination did not turn out to be the problem. Plating houses have a reputation of being sloppy, and I am just realizing how lucky I was to have Hy-Tech plating in San Carlos when I was down in Kalifornia. They sure knew what they were doing down there. Unfortunately it’s a bit tough to carry half a ton of copper to California for plating.

Today some good progress was made when I built a micro-Ohm-meter (utilizing as probes olive skewers from our local and fancy “Ink Well Home Store”) which is allowing me to check the contact integrity of many power parts (while theoretically in parallel with very heavy copper) after final assembly. This was previously not possible with the tools I had. This test has shown that despite the clean room issues which I resolved, the problem which caused the Z2K to fail still exists and I have more research to do.

In the meantime, the 13 remaining Z2k’s are being disassembled and cleaned (by my assistant who is doing a wonderful job) for reassembly when I do find the cause of our current problem.
It is both good and bad news that until I resolve this issue, I can not ship any controllers. This is just the type of thing that could show up as a long term reliability problem even if the controller does pass bench testing. The good news is that I won’t let you get such a potentially unreliable controller. The bad news of course it that I do not know when we will begin shipping product again. As a result the Z1K’s that I hoped to start shipping in two days are on hold until the problem is resolved. All the parts are still waiting on the shelf for final assembly. If we are lucky then it will only take a few more days to resolve the issue. In that case I could start shipping March orders for Z1K’s in December right after the Z2Ks go out. If we are not lucky then it will take longer, could be weeks, or months. I’m sure hoping it’s not months!

So, that’s the latest from the very wet Willamette Valley in Oregon. I’m sorry I don’t have better news. I’ll send another update after I turn 40. 🙂 Don’t worry, that’s in less than a week.


One Response to “Mid November Update”

  1. on 15 Nov 2006 at 11:09 am Cor van de Water

    Hi Otmar,
    Welcome to the production realities 🙁
    However, I try to see every hiccup as an opportunity to improve or to learn.
    One suggestion: could you get to Hy-Tech plating just once to compare with your current plating quality? I do not know their turn-around time, but my guess is that it will take you less time and gives you definitive answer if the plating is the issue by having a ‘reference’ made by them (unless you still have a “golden” sample in the lab from your Californian days).
    If you are taking the copper down to them, then you can just as well take enough to do a batch of Zilla’s, but that is your call 😉
    Success trouble-shooting!