Alex and James would be proud of TJ (our laser cutter). He's cranking out parts.
We are about 40% through the parts at this point, and have about 20% of the parts assembled. I thought previous years were crazy when it came to assembly, but this year... well let's just say I'm glad we started early.
For the badges, I always had the feeling that using "off-the-shelf" (COTS) modules was kind of like cheating. For example, using a Raspberry Pi might be cheaper/easier, but I don't think it's as cool as full-custom stuff. I want to make something that is premium and also challenging to do. Using COTS stuff kind of shortcuts that.
But are my opinions skewing my perception of how things should really be? Using something like a Raspberry PI or an ESP32 WiFi module, for example, has the benefit of being widely accessible/known by all of you. So it could enable a higher degree of fun? But maybe you don't want shortcuts either? What do you think?
This year, we had to make a similar trade off for a subsystem module that we will be using. It is more of a mechanical piece and we really thought about trying to roll-our-own version of it. In the end, we went with the off-the-shelf unit. I think that this decision was wise since it would have been a sizable effort to make our own version that worked in volume as reliably as the COTS version. In the end, I think the COTS unit looks better too. I'd post a picture of it, but I think it might give the surprise away :-).
For this year's CHV badge, we needed to get a new machine up and going to help with production. However, the machines that are commercially available in our price range won't "cut" it. So we built our own.
We have always had an idea to make one of these "the right way", and actually had most of the parts laying around for it. Now it's all up and going on the parts of the badge it will be creating.
There are about 50 parts made on this machine for each badge - this means about 110hrs of machine time, and over that time it will chew through about 55,000 sq-in of material.
On the other front, we now have the prototype boards out to the PCB house and will get them back late next week. There are 6 populated PCB's per badge this year with all sorts of goodies on them including BLE.
As for software, it's looking to be a good year. We will make *everything* available and it's going to be more than just embedded software :-) . Stay tuned!