The road from prototype knocked together in a shed or bedroom to a fully-functional commercial product is a long one, and one that rarely gets properly documented. While we've seen plenty of makers transition from breadboards to printed circuit boards, the final hurdles - preparing a design for mass production and dealing with regulatory requirements for commercial sale - are all-too-rarely seen by others. At least, until Matt Kachur came along.
Matt has posted a detailed Imgur image album and matching reddit thread detailing the creation of the ViVi. First put together as a proof-of-concept design for having lights react to sound using an Arduino five years ago, it wasn't until six months ago that Matt thought his creation could have value to others and set off on the road to commercialisation. Along the way he's refined the breadboard prototype, switched to a more permanent protoboard, then finally used what he's learned to design a custom printed circuit board with professional-looking enclosure.
Matt's next job, though, begins where many projects end. With a view to making the design easy to produce en-masse in commercial factories, he's switching from through-hole (THT) components to surface-mount (SMT) components so the parts can be quickly soldered into place on the production line. He's also working through the process of having the design conformance-tested by the US Federal Communications Commission - a requirement of any electronic item sold at retail and operating above 9KHz.
Conformance testing can be extremely expensive - the recently-launched Raspberry Pi 3, with integrated radio module, cost its creator £10,000 to run through compliance testing - but Matt has some tricks to keep the cost down. The biggest is to use pre-assembled off-the-shelf radio modules, which have already been tested and certified; that allows the board itself to be tested as an unintentional, rather than intentional, radiator of radio signals, which is a much simpler and cheaper process.
Matt is looking to launch his creation via crowd-funding site Kickstarter in the near future, with more information available on the official website.
In ten photos I'm sharing how I went from breadboarding to a finished product in an enclosure. I started with the general idea that I wanted music reactive lights that weren't a flickering mess, but I didn't want to program them for each song either; this was over 5 years ago, I didn't decide to turn this project into a product until 6 months ago.