Feedback of the factory
In order to load the factory's pick-and-place machines (2 distinct ones were used to assemble bottom, then top, then throug-hole components), we needed an efficient way of sorting the components. Therefore, we created a database of the correspondence between our BOM and the stickers used by the factory to load the feeders. See below for an example of one sticker for one reference used on the top layer.
Once all the components were ready and sorted out, they were ready to be carried at the factory for loading and assembling.
As an automatic machine geek, the best part was the loading and pick-and-place of the several ICs on the board. This part is quite impressive because of the efficiency of the placing. Afterwards, the PCB goes through an oven for 10minutes for the final soldering, then cools down prior to the manual assembly of the through-holes components.
Below is a picture with the various IC packages we are using (CPU, ISDN, FXO/FXS, micro-controllers...)
We then prepared the through-holes to be manually assembled by the factory operators, with a schematic of each component in the best order to respect the mechanical constraints.
The assembling of those throug-holes components can take up to 30minutes for complex boards. It has to be checked when there are a lot of connectors (for instance) on a board. The ready-to-test boards were then placed on shelves for us to start our debugging.
The first batch of tests was done with 5 of the 50 PCBs in order for us to start the debugging in our lab.
Debugging the PCBs
Back to our lab, we were able to start the testing our boards. We did the following steps in-order:
- smoke test: testing the power-supply using current-limited power supplies for each voltage level, on a special board without the CPU assembled (in order to save one in case of short-circuit on the board.)
- flashing the board with our firmwares (programming the power-sequence in an MSP430 and a BIOS in an SPI flash.) This validates the flashing method and flashing tools/cables.
- booting-up the CPU and testing the serial console
- RAM testing: this validates the calibration and initialization of the DDR2 controller by our custom firmware.
- SATA testing: to be able to start the hard drive and the kernel image after the complete BIOS boot sequence
- testing the telco interfaces and phone call features.
Above is our main whiteboard listing the issues we have on each PCB, and how to fix those. This is the most exciting (though stressful) part of hardware development, as we were able to make progress and get results in a very short time. We were extastic when we got the first board fully working with the XiVO software running on it!
The rest is mainly software: we got XiVO running with our kernel drivers and plan to do some stress testing to see how well our boards fare with time and use.
The next steps:
- finishing the production of the the first 50 PCB batch and start a full 4-weeks time period of stress testing on our board to identify potential hardware/software bugs,
- validating the hardware and software,
- optimizing the production process for the next batches
To be continued soon...
The XiVO Open Hardware team.