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From Idea to High Volume Manufacturing: The Journey of Blue Robotics - MakerCon 2014 - May 13, 2014


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In this presentation, Dragon Innovation will provide an overview of how the Blue Robotics team took their product from idea to high volume manufacturing. This presentation was given by the Blue Robotics team at MakerCon in May 2014. Topics will include:

- Our idea: Would it be useful?
- Market & Feasibility: Do people need it? Will it work?
- Idea to Prototype: Methods and Revisions
- Prototype to Production: How will we get there?

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About Dragon Innovation

Dragon Innovation works with entrepreneurs to launch hardware products and scale companies. Founded by a team of hardware experts, Dragon provides a clear path from prototype through production with unmatched manufacturing expertise and trusted connections. Dragon's client roster includes Coin, MakerBot, LIFX, Scout, Romotive, Sifteo, Orbotix, FormLabs and over 100 more companies paving the road for how new technology gets made.

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From Idea to High Volume Manufacturing: The Journey of Blue Robotics - MakerCon 2014 - May 13, 2014

  1. 1. From Idea to High Volume Manufacturing The Journey of Rustom Jehangir and Joe Spadola MakerCon 2014 May 13, 2014 Photo © Elena Kalis
  2. 2. Introduction Rustom “Rusty” Jehangir Co-Founder and Engineer, BlueRobotics Joe Spadola Co-Founder and Engineer, BlueRobotics
  3. 3. What we’re going to talk about • Our idea: Would it be useful? • Market & Feasibility: Do people need it? Will it work? • Idea to Prototype: Methods and Revisions • Prototype to Production: How will we get there?
  4. 4. What do we want you to learn? • Learn from our experiences • Learn from our mistakes • Have a better idea of what it takes to get from idea to working prototype • Where you might go after that
  5. 5. The Idea We were looking for a cool side project to do for fun. Why not make a solar powered surfboard and send it from LA to Hawaii? • GPS Guided • Arduino • Satcom • Solar panels • Compass • Temp + pH measurement • Two thrusters ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ X 2,500 miles 2-3 months
  6. 6. Looking for a thruster? Here are your options. Commercial ROV Thrusters: • Very expensive ($750-$3600) • Hard to buy for the average consumer • Bulky • Require maintenance often • 300-3,000 ft depth Hack-a-pump: • Bilge pump, remove impeller, add propeller • Cheap ($20) • Poor performance • Limited depth RC Airplane Brushless Motor: • Cheap ($20) • Not depth limited • High risk of shorts • Inevitable corrosion especially in saltwater What’s needed is something in the middle: a high- performing, purpose-built, but affordable thruster.
  7. 7. Market & Feasibility Questions • Is designing a thruster worth pursuing? • Is there a market for that thruster? • Can it provide the foundation for a sustainable business? • Are there related products we can pursue to grow?
  8. 8. Market Research Academic Competitions Hobbyists There are also many academic and commercial uses for marine robotics – these organizations usually have no choice but to buy expensive options. NURC 100+ robotics teams total, most use 6+ thrusters 1,000s of members
  9. 9. “The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.” - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “When it comes to ‘Ocean Exploration’, the greatest ocean explorers of all time are more than likely still in middle school since that generation of future explorers will explore more of Earth than all previous generations combined.” - Dr. Robert D. Ballard, President of the Ocean Exploration Trust and Director of the Center for Ocean Exploration “With the challenges we currently face, environmentally and economically, we cannot leave exploration of our blue planet up to governments alone. Instead, quite the opposite: We need to crowdsource innovators from around the globe to take up the charge of discovering the secrets our ocean holds, while working to preserve it.” - Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman & CEO of XPRIZE Looking Forward
  10. 10. Future Market • In our opinion, marine robotics is at the same place UAVs were 10 years ago. – Dominated by a few companies – Government and big-business commercial customers – Lack a of reliable, dedicated parts • Open-source software and electronics + cheap components + online communities  Hobbyist UAV boom – 40,000+ member communities – Numerous successful small businesses • The limiting factor for marine robotics is lack of quality, affordable components – Thrusters, tethers, underwater connectors, vehicles – Open-source electronics, software can be leveraged
  11. 11. Early Design: Rev. 1-2 Approach: • Replicate a commercial-grade thruster: encased motor + propeller + nozzle • Use injection molded parts • Use a cheap off-the-shelf brushless • Use an axial magnetic couple to seal motor from water • Oil compensated for depth Rev. 1:
  12. 12. Early Design: Rev. 3-4 Changes: • Radial magnetic couple • Decided a purpose-built brushless motor might be best • Used all 3D printing Rev. 4:
  13. 13. Current Design: Rev. 5A-B Approach: • Started from scratch with a new, unique design around January 1st • Lots of advantages in size, performance, and cost • No enclosed air or oil, fewer components, half the price in parts • Patent pending design Rev. 4: 3.8”
  14. 14. Test Motor Iteration Series of test motors to find the best motor design. • Varied stators, windings, magnets, air gap, bearings • Documented results
  15. 15. Testing Built a test stand • Measures thrust, power, RPM • Arduino, Raspberry Pi, results plotted live online to Exposure testing of components • Submersion in seawater for thousands of hours • Documented observations
  16. 16. Lessons Learned During Prototyping • 3D printing is AWESOME! • A CAD design only goes so far • The conventional design may not be the best design • It’s okay to throw away a bad design when you find a better one
  17. 17. Prototype to Production • What quantity do we need to order to get discounts? • How do we know if the quotes are reasonable? • What suppliers do we use? • How can we (affordably) assemble in the USA? • What processes can we automate / streamline? • How do we fund production?
  18. 18. Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award • Provides injection molded plastic tooling for cool ideas. Up to $250K total each year. • We were selected in April • Currently finalizing tooling • Great experience so far Check out past Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award Winners at the Innovation Showcase tonight, 6-8pm!
  19. 19. Suppliers and Quantities • We’re currently finding suppliers for parts – mostly from China – MOQ? – Lead time? • Alibaba • Ideally purchase through US company with Chinese connections with large markup – Saves time – Ensures reliability
  20. 20. Is it feasible to assemble here? • Assembly here would give us tighter control of the process – Predictable Final Customer Ship (FCS) dates • How can we streamline the assembly to minimize time required? – Jigs – Batch assembly – Automation
  21. 21. Funding • Self-funded + Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award • Launching a Kickstarter campaign this summer – Will (hopefully) cover bulk purchasing costs and some of our development costs – Many expected initial customers use Kickstarter already
  22. 22. Other Challenges • Domain name:
  23. 23. Questions, comments, suggestions? Thank you!