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Raspberry Pi Production Delayed By Factory's Assembly Flub 132

Posted by timothy
from the any-color-you-want-as-long-as-it's-magnet dept.
nk497 writes "The first shipment of Raspberry Pi devices has been delayed, after the factory manufacturing the cheap educational computer used non-magnetic jacks instead of ones with integrated magnetics. The problem is already nearly fixed, but new jacks need to be sourced for subsequent shipments, so those could be delayed slightly. 'It's inevitable, isn't it — you're freewheeling along perfectly happily and then you get a puncture,' said spokeswoman Liz Upton, apologizing for the delay."
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Raspberry Pi Production Delayed By Factory's Assembly Flub

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  • Why the magnetics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tecker (793737) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @10:31AM (#39287359) Homepage
    Can someone explain to me what advantage a magnetic 8P/8C connector has over a non magnetic one? I have no idea where this would be used. My cables have that little lock tab not a magnet. Does it not need the little tab anymore (that always breaks off)?
  • Magnetics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @10:33AM (#39287381)

    From the Raspi forums :

    "It doesn’t mean no network connection at all on all devices, but this board has been designed for a magnetic jack. The magnetic bits mean better signal integrity, better filtering and shorter transmission distances for data."

    "Magnetics refers to the presence of transformers and chokes which are used to isolate the Ethernet wires from the RaspPi’s power supply. and each other and probably to reduce high-frequency noise. Without them you would effectively tie the RX and TX signals together and probably turn the entire network into an aerial for Radio 2 reception."

  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @10:33AM (#39287383) Homepage

    The magnetics in question aren't to hold the connector in like those in a Mac power cord, but rather the tiny transformers [] that are required for Ethernet differential signal isolation/transformation.

  • Sigh. (Score:0, Offtopic)

    by ledow (319597) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:01AM (#39287751) Homepage

    And so the descent into a clone of the OpenPandora project continues...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:11AM (#39287891)

    I think many people, me included, have been expecting something like this to happen. As said in the article, this is a relatively minor bump in the road that was practically inevitable and they seem to be handling it as well as could be expected.

    I suspect they’ll get a bit of flack over the “4 day” thing... however they would have gotten a lot of flack if they came out with some information that turned out to be incorrect. I guess they could have come out saying “there is a minor problem and we are investigating”... but we aren’t talking credit card leaks here, and a few days to figure out what exactly happened seems fair enough to me.

    I certainly don't think this is time to start panicing and referencing OpenPandora.

    • by ledow (319597) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:20AM (#39288073) Homepage

      Someone in China (the same guys that did the mistake in the first place, which most mentions have assumed to be a deliberate cost-saving measure rather than a true accident) has to receive those units back, hand-unsolder 10,000 connectors and hand-solder 10,000 correct connectors back into place before then packaging them up and sending them back to the UK.

      Where, still, as far as we know, there's been no tests of functionality other than networking (i.e. they haven't seen if similar issues affect the other ports like the display, etc.). And then someone has to test a good portion of them again before sending them onto the suppliers.

      Meanwhile, they have to source a supply of 100,000's of the proper connectors for future runs, which they are just starting now. And hope that the network WAS the only problem.

      In effect, they did no actual testing of the actual device functionality ("it'll all just work if the factory did their job") until the entire first batch was opened in the UK. The testing in the manufacturing facility was purely electronic and COMPLETELY missed this problem (surprise, surprise). And immediately upon opening them here, they spotted a problem, which took FOUR DAYS to isolate (and was isolated only because they were baffled and broke one of the connectors open and happened to spot the difference) and now it all has to be sent back for more work.

      That's a mite more than a "minor bump". Not irreconcilable, but certainly not a bump. More like a hard jolt with metal grinding. I sincerely hope it doesn't turn into another OP, but given that we've gone from "No preorders" to well, pre-orders, and a full launch to, well, we'll tell you when we have a working device in the same country as our distributors, the slippery slope has certainly started. Of course they can recover the situation. The question is, what other mistakes have they made in their supply chain of making 10,000 bare PCB's with components (something that happens thousand-fold times every day).

      • by Dave Whiteside (2055370) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @12:46PM (#39289425)

        Quotesdfrom the forum
        ''Jamesh is right – they sent us test units which *did* have the right part on before they moved to a larger batch. "

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @12:54PM (#39289535)

        > In effect, they did no actual testing of the actual device functionality ("it'll all just work if the factory did their job")
        No, incorrect. You are making unsubstantiated assumptions.

        The product may have worked perfectly in the factory test stand -- the magnetics at the mating switch would have provided the isolation, and it's certainly possible that at a short cable length (e.g. less than 3m/10ft) LAN interface operation tested OK. Transformer coupling is not the *only* way that ethernet works -- capacitive coupling is used all of the time in embedded/low-cost applications. Moreover, modern PHY devices have a lot of leeway in RX equalization. So, it is entirely possible that the product worked in the test stand with a short LAN segment to the test apparatus.

        • by ledow (319597) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:07PM (#39289713) Homepage

          Actually, no. Read the forums there. They tested ONLY the electronics (i.e. that the caps etc. were the correct value, the right current was on port X, etc.). They did not test network functionality. They NEVER plugged it into a network box.

          And what sort of test regime is it if you only test with a short LAN segment without checking, e.g. signal strength, expect cable loss, etc.? That's exactly my point.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:15PM (#39292697)

        I hate to stereotype, but this is quite typical for China. You need to watch them closely or they will cut corners whenever possible.

      • by Viewsonic (584922) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:43PM (#39294757)

        They probably wont be sending them back. They will probably be recycled.

      • by mydnite (531879) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:44PM (#39294785)
        This kind of substitution happens all the time with manufacturing in countries outside of your own. Any one familiar with manufacturing in China, particular circuit boards, will know after the mistakes in the first run to always state in the manufacturing agreement "No Substitutions". Other wise you will get very subtle changes that while they look the same or perform the same are not what you spec'ed. The only other thing you can do is ask for the first 100 of the production run, not the engineering / sample run, to be shipped via air and the rest stays at the manufacture. This allows you to test will the rest is still being manufactured. For example we had a run of 1600 boards in China, we did not state no substitutions on the agreement. The engineering samples were perfect, the production run was not. Fortunately we had the first 100 sent via air express so that we could check them and it turned out the the serial connector had been replaced with one while functional the same was actually inverted and shorter then our design. Once the shroud was placed over the board in our units the cables could no longer connect to it. We managed to catch them half way through the second 100 and got them to correct the problem. These simple things would only come with experience and will not mitigate all your problems but does reduce some of your liabilities. They will know better the next time round.
    • by marcello_dl (667940) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:40AM (#39288409) Homepage Journal

      I'd have bet on supply problems.
      Always innovating, geekphone, and other manufacturers other than pandora had similar problems.

      A new company might overlook some details ending up in delays, the factories might be giving priority to big clients and go out of their way to not displease them, or maybe open hardware running open software is the #1 enemy for the modern models of marketing which rely on planned obsolescence.
      We ought to look whether startup hardware companies selling cheap closed stuff go on without problems selling their toys or suffer similar inconvenients.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:12AM (#39287929)

    ...and they could have built them at multiple Western factories, encouraging the revival of a local electronics industry rather than cementing dependence on the Far East. Once economy of scale kicked in, the price would have gone down anyway. I'd have happily sponsored any opportunity to decrease the chronic (and now quite severe) unemployment in Britain since it decided that an advanced country can operate without building anything on its own, relying on the ability to exploit less developed countries.

    • Well, the good news with everything being manufactured in the Far East is that wait a few hundred years and the Morlocks will be so far away they won't be able to eat the Eloi.

    • Blame the extortionate tariff on importing components versus the lack of tariff on finished goods for production being outsourced. Here's a direct petition on the matter: [] -- that is the direct reason manufacture is being outsourced. From what I understand of the Foundation's statements on the matter no economy of scale could overcome the cost of the tariff because the bill of materials cost would be too high to be profitable at the desired price point as a result.

      And I don't see any cost increase. Model As are $25 before tax and shipping. Model Bs are $35 before tax and shipping. That has never changed.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:59AM (#39288679)

        Thers is no such tarriff. No-one can find it on the books. The Foundation has evaded providing information on how they came to believe this.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @12:01PM (#39288723)

        Perhaps you would be interested to find out what the tariff actually is? Or perhaps your definition of "extortionate" isn't the same as mine. Hint: the upper limit across the various electronics tariffs, last I checked, was 14%. Broadcom does not deserve the blind trust geeks seem to be awarding it over this Raspberry Pi project: even though some of the characters may be familiar, we're a long way from the days of the BBC B where a bunch of bright uni students got together with academic entrepreneurs.

        It is, of course, quite absurd to charge on components but not on finished computers. A tariff should be a function of rights imbalance and amount of work involved. So a relatively free nation would not be subject to significant tariff, whereas a nation like China would be subject to a high tariff, the tariff increasing for completed products as more work was done under conditions not acceptable to the consumer nation. I cannot think of a better way to get developing countries to improve their citizens' fortunes. Can you?

      • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:14PM (#39289791)

        No, the main reason it's not financially sensible to manufacture mass-appeal items in the UK is that the unemployment benefits are higher than chinese assembly workers' wages. You can't get native brits to take on menial work as they can get more money for being unemployed than, for example, picking vegetable or jobs that other stoop labour industries can afford to pay.

        If these boards were to be assembled in the UK the costs of doing so (setting aside component costs and amortised developemnt costs) would make each board massively more expensive.

        • by makomk (752139) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:10PM (#39292637) Journal

          No, the main reason it's not financially sensible to manufacture mass-appeal items in the UK is that the unemployment benefits are higher than chinese assembly workers' wages.

          That probably has a lot to do with the cost of keeping workers alive and healthy and fit for work here in the UK being higher than Chinese assembly workers' wages. It's kind of impossible to get workers for less than the cost of feeding and housing them.

    • by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:42AM (#39288441)

      I'd certainly pay more for these things.. but their entire goal here is to make these as cheap as possible.

      They also posted a pretty damn good explanation as to why they had to outsource.

      I do hope they recover from this (and I suspect they will.. it's not OpenPandora yet..) and take some hard won lessons about testing and assumptions.

      I also feel forry for the poor guys down in China who have to hand unsolder/resolder 10,000 of these suckers.

  • by Chrutil (732561) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:17AM (#39288019)
    How do they work?
  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:21AM (#39288085)

    Bye Bye, my Raspberry Pi,
    I thought that I might buy you,
    but the warehouse was dry,
    those good old boys say just wait one more month,
    but you keep running into delays,
    yeah, you keep running into delays.

  • by oldmac31310 (1845668) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:33AM (#39288285) Homepage
    Maybe they were using the wrong kind of tyres.
  • by RoccamOccam (953524) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:35AM (#39288311)
    I was going to make a joke about suicide due to the shame of making this mistake, but then I remembered that this is a Chinese factory. DON'T KILL YOURSELF!
    • by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:57AM (#39288651)

      Shame.. or having to hand desolder/resolder 10,000 of these damn things.

      • by tftp (111690) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:58PM (#39296601) Homepage

        or having to hand desolder/resolder 10,000 of these damn things.

        These connectors are nearly impossible to remove. Two large shield tabs + 8 (or more) through hole pins... It might be cheaper to scrap the batch.

        I'm amazed that this was allowed to happen. Mightily unprofessional. You never assemble a large production run of anything until the same people assemble a hundred boards from the same kit and then you personally test those 100 boards. Then they are returned as "approved" samples, and any deviation will be at expense of the assembly house.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:36AM (#39288333)

    They advertise the hell out of their product, then they predictably can't deliver, then they silence any and all criticism on their forum (because not being all positive is "bad attitude", and they don't allow that), then another disaster strikes. I guess it's called karma.

    If you order now, you're going to get a delivery estimate about 3 months from now. Their mailing list had more than 100000 subscribers, and Liz Banhammer has the audacity to claim surprise when demand exceeds the initial 10000 batch.

  • by Prod_Deity (686460) <> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:37AM (#39288343)
    Fucking magnets! How do they work?
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:53AM (#39288591) Homepage

    Still good value?

    What about when the returns start flooding in because a 1 cent component failed when a 2 cent one might have soldiered on? Budgeted for handling that?

    I know these guys are amateurs, but do they really need to keep demonstrating it?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:06PM (#39289681)

      Still looks pretty viable to us.

      - Every electronics company

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:10PM (#39289747)

      yes, amateurs. JUST LIKE Apple, Dell, HP... The only difference is that they are letting us know every step of the way what's going on.

      FFS, EVERYTHING is made in china. The cost difference is not (entirely) the fabrication costs, it's that they would have been paying taxes on EVERY COMPONENT. Making it in china they don't pay any taxes on the thing AT ALL. In addition, even WITH the delay from both this and the crystal, the time to spin up production in the UK would have ment a longer timeframe to making them avalible.

      So yes, it's still a good value.

    • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:20PM (#39289853)

      Why do you assume that the same mistake - or one like it - would NOT have been made if the boards were assembled in the west? Since western wage rates are so much higher than chinese ones if this error had been made in a british or american plant it would probably be cheaper to simply crush the whole batch and start again,

      Then instead of a 1 month delay, you'd be waiting 6 months - or never, since the RPi foundation would have gone bust as it was banking on the sales of these units.

      • This sort of thing is precisely why the standard Slashdot rant of "all they did was put x, y and z together, this isn't innovating!" is so much silliness. It's not easy to mass produce things. It takes planning and more planning. It takes money and more money than you planned on because some small aspect of Murphy's law is going to pop up and rip your balls off.

        It's why the Motorola Xooms of the world come with stupid little missing bits and even why our fearless denizen of perfection, Apple, still screws first releases up 99 times out of a 100.

        Production electronics is not building a Heathkit in your bedroom.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:32PM (#39290029)

    How many people are killing themselves trying to keep up production with the demand for Raspberry Pi.

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:55PM (#39290351)

    From TFA:

    It's actually very hard to tell unless you look at the insides of the part,


  • by randomsearch (1207102) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:05AM (#39300183) Journal

    "Firstly, the schedule for manufacture for every UK business we approached was between 12 and 14 weeks (compared to a 3-4 week turnaround in the Far East)." []
    [Posted on January 10th, 8.5 weeks ago - and manufacturing had already started at that point].

    I guess UK manufacturing wouldn't have been much slower, after all.


    • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday March 09, 2012 @11:12AM (#39300831)
      If they are referring to on-going manufacture as well as the first batch latency, then this bump is not that significant long term. If the order-to-deliver latency differs by 8-to-10 weeks generally then that can make a massive difference to stock control. If you might be waiting for longer to get new stock you would want to keep more in the warehouse in order to better deal with sudden bumps in demand.

Take an astronaut to launch.