Hello Sabertron Backers,
We have been hard at work since the last update getting the design ready for mass production. When we submitted our designs for quotes way back in May, the feedback was that we weren’t ready. If you recall, the manufacturers had a hard time quoting the design because of the complexity. So it took some time to fix that, and it is now done. We have finalized the Mechanical and Electronic designs for production.
Note on Backer Surveys
Anyone who may have moved since the campaign ended will be able to update their shipping address and backer level (including sword level and styles) when the backer surveys are sent out. We hope to have these online within one to two weeks.
Next, we will complete a final review and submit these design files to manufacturers for final quotes. We have already worked out many contract details with them, but it could take some time to get all of the final details hammered out after we get the final quotes. Once this process is completed and we start production, we should get the first production samples in short order. Once we approve the productions samples, full production volume starts. There are many things out of our control once the production process starts. We don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up about a holiday 2015 delivery. It is possible, but not likely based on our history. We expect that an early 2016 ship date is more likely.
Final Mechanical Design
We simplified the method of how the core blade attaches to the grip, and extended the core further into the handle for additional strength. We eliminated three parts and it simplified the assembly process. Now, the plastic grip provides the necessary retention via an anchor “peg”. This will make assembly of the sword a quicker and less complex process, which is important since there are thousands that need to be assembled.
Final Electronics Design
There are three different Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) that make up a Sabertron. The main board contains all of the sensors and the MCU, which is the brain of the device. We just completed the third and final revision of that board. We also just created and tested the second and final revision of the LED core blade, which is the board that runs down the middle of the blade providing the blade illumination. And, we created a USB charger board that allows the USB connector to mount in the pommel. The Bill of Materials (BOM) is final as well, so now the manufacturers can start reserving parts for the final assembly later in the year.
In summary, the mechanical and electronic designs are done. We will still be working on the firmware up until the time swords ship. We have made some recent improvements as detailed below in the engineering update that was necessary to ensure that no further hardware changes are necessary. The main work that remains in firmware is completion of the game modes, completing the sound effects profiles, and building the firmware update routine from a smartphone app.
- Bluetooth: We have completed the switch from 802.15.4 to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for wireless communication. This consolidated two radios down to just one. The new BLE link is more stable and employs psuedorandom frequency hopping over 37 channels of 2.4GHz spread spectrum with automatic retries. The swords use this link to communicate with each other and keep score. We have also demonstrated information exchange between a Sabertron and a smartphone app, paving the way for a custom Sabertron app to be developed to allow firmware updates, geolocation gaming, and other fun features.
- USB Charging: We have created a USB charger board that sits in the pommel and the associated circuitry that allows us to read the battery charge level, warn when the battery is low, and indicate when the sword is charging. We have created firmware routines that indicate battery level and charge indication, even for designs without an LCD screen by flashing the health meter lights when charging and flashing a single yellow LED when the battery is low, like a smoke detector.
- Glowing Sword Blades: We designed and tested new PCBs for the core blade illumination and made changes to the drive circuit to support higher current, creating a much improved blade glow. We also worked out a new design to eliminate rattling through the use of translucent foam discs around the LED boards to hold them securely in place.
- Hit Detection: We have finally perfected the hit detection algorithm. This was the trickiest part in the whole project to get to 100% because the swords have to analyze a wide variety of impact profiles. This final work proves that the current hardware implementation is adequate and that we do not need to augment the existing hardware to tackle the problem.
- LCD Display: We are working on a new interactive menu for the LCD display that will allow easier selection of game modes and blade color.
All of our prototypes have recently been reworked to the same level of capability and will be reassembled this week in order to demo the new production quality. We hope to film some new videos soon to show off all of our hard work.
We are very sorry for slow progress in shipping Sabertron. We made some mistakes along the way, but we are learning from those and operating more effectively. At the outset, we honestly didn’t feel that this project would have been so difficult to complete. But we still see great potential for this product and for accessories and derivative products. This is going to be a great gaming system that actually works like it is supposed to work! The mistakes that we made on this project will make those projects come together much more quickly and we wouldn’t have been given that chance to learn and improve without your support. Thank you for your continued, amazing patience.
Thank You Backers!
David Lynch, Inventor, Sabertron