FreeCalypso hardware update

Mychaela Falconia falcon at ivan.Harhan.ORG
Wed Apr 27 19:03:01 CET 2016

Hello FC community,

I have some good news: the anonymous off-list people who did the PCB
design for our FreeCalypso development board (FCDEV3B) have now
completed this design to my satisfaction (and to the satisfaction of
the PCB fab and the SMT assembly shop whose review it just passed),
and we are now ready to physically build these boards.  As usual, the
design files are on our FTP site:

Look for PcbDoc and gerber files with 20160423 in the filenames; the
netlist and BOM information has not changed since 20160127.

I am now talking to the anonymous off-list people who did the design
to see if they would also take care of physically fabricating the
first batch of PCBs.  For a board of this complexity, PCB fabrication
becomes economical only in large quantities, whereas small-volume
prototype orders are hideously expensive.  As a point of reference,
the one fab I checked with gave me a quote of about $6,000 USD to make
10 boards or about $11,000 USD to make 100 boards.  As you can see,
the cost of making 100 boards (10x the quantity) is less than 2x the
cost of making 10 boards; the per-piece cost at 100 pcs is quite
reasonable, but very pricey at 10 pcs.  I have not even asked about
making fewer than 10 boards - it would certainly be cost-prohibitive.

[Before anyone makes a smart-alec comment about one of the cheap PCB
 fabs, keep in mind that our PCB has 8 layers, blind & buried vias
 with controlled-depth laser drilling, two levels of stacked laser
 microvias in the outer layers, high density interconnect, and a very
 precisely defined stack-up for controlled impedance in GHz RF signal

Considering the very narrow potential market niche for our board (a
platform for developers or those aspiring to be developers, not useful
at all for end users seeking a phone to carry in their pockets or
purses), I don't think we can realistically expect to find 100 people
who would preorder one board each so we can make an initial run of 100
boards.  However, unless my anonymous off-list contacts step forward
to produce the first batch of PCBs at their expense and send a few
pieces to us, it will be a very long time (as in a year or two) before
I will be able to foot the bill for producing even 10 PCBs entirely on
my own - 6 kUSD is a big chunk-o-change, and I have a bunch of other
things (family stuff) I'm already committed to cover first.

Therefore, unless our anonymous friends take care of it for us - I am
hoping to get some answers one way or the other in the next week or
two - I am thinking of the following approach: let's see if we can
find 15 people who would be willing to preorder one board each at
$650 USD apiece - I would set up a page on to handle the
collection of donations serving as board preorders/prepayments.  Once
15 people have put down $650 each, there would be enough money (after
gofundme's fees are deducted) to make a total of 20 boards, including
PCB fabrication, parts, assembly and other costs.  Out of those 20
boards 15 would go to those who have prepaid for theirs with
crowdfunding donations, and the remaining 5 would be left for the
FreeCalypso core team's internal needs.

How does this plan sound to the community?  Do you think that $650 USD
is a reasonable price for a very unique GSM development board that is
specifically designed to enable you to tinker with the GSM firmware,
or do you think it is totally unreasonable?  Do we have 15 people who
would be willing to put down $650 for a board each, or nowhere close?

Hasta la Victoria, Siempre,

P.S. If we end up going down the path I suggested, I plan on using as the platform, rather than Indiegogo or Kickstarter,
because they have no time limit.

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