Qi Aerista Post-Campaign Update #19

To all our wonderful supporters of Qi Aerista!

For the past 3 weeks we have seen these motivating developments:

- Assembly and testing of our new prototype 

- Official start of mass production phase after finalizing serious contract negotiations with our main manufacturing partner

- Development work well underway for our production-ready PCBA, app (Android and iOS) and IoT cloud backend

Prototype update

After much work and anticipation, we have succeeded in assembling our latest prototype with finished looks. Our first impressions? WOW! Our redesigned look and feel really make our product several notches up from previous versions.  Everyone who gets to see it in person including our partners feel the same way as well.

Close-up on new base
Close-up on new base

Besides improved looks, initial heating, circulation and brewing tests show that our new prototype’s performance runs at par with our previous prototype.   

Heating, circulation and brewing tests for new prototype
Heating, circulation and brewing tests for new prototype

We plan to apply for appropriate patent protection over the next month or so. Afterwards we can unveil its true looks to everyone at an appropriate time. 

At the same time, our main manufacturing partner reviewed our new design. Because of design optimization and new supplier sourcing, they have produced an estimated quote that is below our previous one by some margin. While the numbers are still a bit above the level that we have hoped for, we have decided to absorb the extra costs and issue the go-ahead to enter mass production phase with our main manufacturing partner.

Mass production phase - Here we come!

Entering mass production phase entails a huge commitment in terms of funds and effort. Therefore we want to make sure that our product is as ready as possible before issuing the go-ahead. We appreciate everyone’s support and understanding in the process.

Looking back at our decision to delay enter mass production phase back in late May, we are glad to say that have mostly achieved our planned objectives:

1. Approach other appliance and PCBA manufacturers that can produce more competitive quotes. 
After careful evaluation, we have chosen our main manufacturer and PCBA manufacturer who are the most experienced with the most competitive quote.

2. Further revise our product design to reduce cost, size and weight. 
 - Our new design is now 5% lower in height with no change in brewing capacity. Other dimensions are basically the same.

3. Evaluate our packaging options to reduce size and weight. 
- Our new design is able to reduce packaging volume by over 15%, hence reducing material use and weight. We have also found a new inner packaging material to effectively reduce total packaging weight to not exceed the 2kg shipping threshold. 

Currently our project is running full steam ahead as we are working closely with all of our partners on these key areas simultaneously: product design, PCBA, app, IoT cloud backend, manufacturing, packaging, testing and safety certification. We had a series of online discussions and face-to-face meetings over the past 3 weeks in preparation for mass production phase, involving the collective efforts of over 20 people in design, engineering and other roles.

Holding various partner meetings in preparation for mass production
Holding various partner meetings in preparation for mass production

In between, we have signed over 10 contracts, including development contracts,  sales contracts, and NDAs, with different partners to move things forward into mass production phase. Before each signing, we went through rounds of negotiation and review process to cover the many contract terms.

PCBA, app & backend development update

Our PCBA manufacturing partner has just completed the design of the production-ready PCBA. Firmware development is also proceeding. Samples will be made by early next week for initial evaluation and testing. This manufacturer is experienced in making PCBAs for home appliances and smart devices. So we expect to receive quality PCBAs that are designed to spec, optimized for manufacturing, and fulfilling safety certifications very soon. 

Production-ready PCBA dimensions
Production-ready PCBA dimensions

Our app and backend developer is also making a good start with their work. They are currently finalizing the UE (user experience) and UI (user interface) design, which are expected to be completed this week. The core software development work has also begun, including close collaboration with PCBA firmware development to realize all the design spec requirements.

Timeline

We are committing our best efforts with our various partners to move forward with our project as fast as we can. At the same time, we will not cut corners to sacrifice product quality and safety. Innovative IoT products like ours is especially challenging because there is no opportunity for quick revisions in hardware once we ship, unlike software and apps (though Qi Aerista also includes both, which makes our project even more challenging). 

We are currently working with our main manufacturer on confirming the production plan, which maps out the mass production phase activities as separated in different stages. After tooling completes, several rounds of sample production runs to refine the manufacturing process are expected before the actual mass production will take place. In between, we will also undergo key activities such as component sourcing, packaging finalization, lifetime testing and safety approbation. Our production schedule including shipment date should be confirmed by our next bi-weekly update.

For app and backend development, it involves different sets of activities than hardware manufacturing. According to plan, we should be able to undergo beta testing between in late October to early November. 

Comments on new design

Since our last biweekly update, we have received various comments about the changes. We apologize for not being able to get back until now because of busy project activities. Here are the top 3 comments we've seen:

Removal of tea strength button  

In the original design we by default provide 3 levels of tea strength (light, medium and strong), each corresponds to a fixed time setting (e.g. 2 mins, 3 mins, 4 mins). After much deliberation, we have decided to remove the tea strength option from the physical UI because of 3 main reasons:  

One size does not fit all - There are many tea varieties within each tea type (green, black, etc.), and one variety's brewing time (brew strength) set can be significantly different than others'. So we found in practice the best way is to use our app to customize and experiment the right brew strength for the tea.

Functional redundancy - After the experiment phase, a preferred time setting would be fixed and often not changed in subsequent brews of the same type of tea, which renders the tea strength option redundant.   

Confusion in other modes - The tea strength option is only meaningful in the “Brew” mode and not applicable in “Heat” or “Keep Warm” modes, which may lead to confusion over its usage.  

Size reduction - Our smaller base leaves little real estate to fit all 4 buttons with good visibility and operability.

Base Footprint

Our new oval base is slightly bigger in net area than our circular base. But if we factor in the rectangular area around each base as the overall footprint, then we can see the actual footprint is reduced by almost 2000 sq mm, or 6% of the total.  

Comparison between oval and circular base areas and footprints
Comparison between oval and circular base areas and footprints

Use of base material

The top surface circular base was to be made of PP or ABS, which are types of plastic commonly used in appliances. Our new oval base panel will use reinforced PMMA, which is also another type of plastic whose looks resemble tempered glass. Tempered glass will not be used in our new base because of difficulty in manufacturing and excessive weight. So there is no incidence of substituting materials of lesser quality in our case.

App design survey

Huge THANK YOU to everyone who has filled out our app design survey! We have received over 300 responses and we will take your valuable opinion into careful consideration. In case you have missed it, you can help in designing a better app by clicking on the link below and fill out the survey. It should take less than 2 minutes to complete. Thanks in advance!

 

 

In the next 2 weeks we will see:  

- Confirming the many tasks in the production schedule with our main manufacturing partner

- Work with our main manufacturing partner on tooling design, sample production and safety & certification plans

- Further testing of our newest prototype  

- Continuous tracking of PCBA, firmware, app and backend development work with our partners 

- Contact tea suppliers on cooperation 

Together we are making Qi Aerista a reality!      

____________________  

Cheers, 

Rick @ Qi Aerista


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