The adventure from a concept prototype to full production product is long, perilous, and rewarding. Early on, our team made the decision to see production through to delivery with our own eyes by working closely with our Chinese partners until we begin customer deliveries.
Since March most of the team has been in China, working with our various suppliers and assembly team in order to accelerate production to delivery. Had we not made the decision to work side by side with our partners, trying to coordinate and scale up production would have been impossible. Our QC control systems would have been invisible to us, material quality levels would be unknown, and our custom components would have been less refined without their years of technical design experience.
Our entire team is working hard on making changes and testing components, but we also recognise how important it is to keep both current and future customers in the loop on our progress. These have been busy weeks and sharing mini updates on social media when time permits has helped, but we owe you a more substantial update to lift the proverbial skirt at Jed Boards and show you our progress. As a call to action, this blog update will help to address the current state of production.
The big questions we are always asked are, “Where are you?” and “Where are the boards and when will we get them?”
Since March we have been building, testing and iterating the boards as we prepare to make the first two batches of boards (100 and then 1000). There are a lot of custom parts that go into each board, and each one needs to fit just right or the sum product won't be built to our standards.
As seems to be the trend with all major electric vehicle companies of late, we are sorry to say that we have missed our estimated shipping deadlines more than once. Some of the setbacks were beyond our control, and others were due to safety concerns. Our dedication to delivering a high quality, safe product has led us to make some critical changes to ensure that customers are riding the safest board we can deliver in 2018 as well as our desire to eliminate the customer beta tester experience. If we wanted to rush a board to the market, we could have accomplished this years ago with minor modifications to our functional prototypes, but that would have been in violation of our company mission and not in the interest of our valued customers.
We appreciate all of our customers who have invested their hard earned money towards a Jed Board, it allowed us to gauge exactly how many units we needed to make to satisfy initial orders, while only taking a small, fully refundable payment to secure your place in line. We understand that these shifts in timelines did not align well for some customers, and in those cases have happily issued full refunds. While our team are working hard in various locations over China, we are also maintaining focus on our live chat and social media accounts to ensure customers can reach us with any questions they may have.
So what parts have changed?
We worked closely with our battery pack manufacturer to deliver the first batch of samples and spent in their factory as the assembly took place.
Unfortunately, we discovered a number of issues with the finished assembled packs and, after consulting with our assembly team and external battery experts, were warned against using the packs for safety reasons. A quick rundown of the biggest issues we found as follows.
The sample pack assemblies lacked the tolerances we had specified and the variances between samples affected connector alignments. Under intense vibrations, these components had the potential to bend, which would result in a loss of function due to internal failure. Similarly, the balance wire system was also susceptible to vibration damage. These packs would not pass our certification requirements for UL.
Aside, the UL standard has recently changed. In order to be compliant, we had to integrate additional redundancies on the BMS such as secondary failsafe protections for over charging and discharging. These features were quick fixes and have been incorporated in our production BMS which is in production.
Another issue we encountered was securing a consistent supply of cells to meet customer demand. When ordering mass quantity of cells needed to satisfy our production, Panasonic gave us a lead time of 27 weeks. We quickly investigated alternative sources for the same cells in the open market, but decided against them as the potential for fake cells is high and there are no guarantees of stock.
Due to supply and safety issues, we made some hard and fast decisions about how to meet our timelines for delivery without compromising on our customers safety.
Several weeks ago, we met with our secondary battery pack manufacturer who specialises in automotive grade batteries (and services clients such as Dyson, Honda, Husqvarna, Siemens, and many others) about strategies to circumvent delays. After a couple of discussions, we had a revised plan for the packs now undergoing pre-production checks.
Since our battery pack manufacturer is a large company (turnover of over $400m USD last year), they have significant partnerships with the larger battery manufacturers. From their independent cell testing research, they provided several alternative cell types that would meet our needs and our timelines. We have since transitioned from Panasonic to Sony cells which are well suited to our power and safety requirements, as our partner maintains their own own production lines within Sony’s factories, will not be in short supply.
Due to the lower internal resistance of the Sony cells, they will stay cooler when being pushed hard. This change has improved the Jed Board battery pack discharge rate by 70%. This increased output means the maximum torque on all the boards has increased drastically: Jed Jr and Jed Board are capable of climbing 25% grade hills with ease, and the AWD can climb well over 30%.
However, these cells are still 18650. The increased discharge rate comes at the cost of some capacity. We will be repeating range tests with real riders shortly to update our official range estimates, but by our calculations we estimate that the range will be around 25km. Although we're disappointed that our standard battery packs will have a lower range, they will be more potent, physically smaller than originally designed, meet all airline regulations, and be eligible for UL Certification. We understand that some customers will feel let down by this news, and we encourage those customers to talk to us on live chat about some options to make the best of the situation.
While we were making changes to our BMS in order to accommodate the updated UL certifications, we found space to add a 2.2A USB port to allow customers to charge their USB devices off their battery as an added feature on top of the existing packs.
Our new battery pack manufacturer utilises automation where possible, including their own SMT lines for BMS production. We have already begun the tooling process for making the jigs and nickel strip punch tools for our packs and we expect to receive the first updated pack within the next 10 days.
Based on this and our testing timeline, we are scheduled to receive the first batch of production customer batteries in mid to late July, ready to be assembled into boards that will be shipped to customers. Our battery facility is responsible for shipping completed and tested batteries directly to our assembly facility.
We spent a lot of time perfecting our decks for production to ensure they can withstand years of riding from riders of varying weights and to deliver an authentic skating experience.
The Jed Jr is something we're especially proud of because even our bamboo woodworkers with 40 years of experience had a hard time refining. Our concave kicktail is a first among vertically laminated bamboo decks and took quite a bit of production tweaking to get right. Rather than using our traditional solid vertical laminated core of bamboo, we had to use a number of thinner vertical laminate layers sandwiched with fibreglass and cotton fibre to keep everything intact without cracking and to deliver a mild flex that lets you street ride on your own terms.
We subjected our bamboo decks to ordinary riding and substantial abuse and found that they held up very well. Severe run ins with concrete resulted in dents in the bamboo, but no noticeable splitting of layers or structural damage. We’ve had vehicles run over our bamboo decks and found no damage to the decks. Our decks refuse to go down without a fight and even took a power tool with it when cutting cross sections for testing.
We use wood screw inserts that bite into the bamboo to secure our enclosures to our decks. We needed to ensure that they could hold up to years of use, so we tested these as well. We found that with our original choice of screw inserts, that the inserts experienced enough flex that they wedged themselves loose over time. As we finalised our deck specs, we revisited the inserts to ensure comparability.
We tested three types of screw inserts to test which help up to the most force before ripping out of the bamboo. We found that our original choice of screw inserts were the weakest, requiring 1.1 kN of force to be ripped out of the deck. Naturally, we selected the strongest inserts for integration in our production boards. They held up 1.8 kN of vertical force to become dislodged from the bamboo.
Full scale deck production has been underway for a number of weeks, and we will be receiving 1100 completed decks to our assembly facility before the end of July.
Over the last several months we’ve done extensive testing with our new drivetrain to see how it copes in different terrain and conditions.
The primary objectives of our work on our production drivetrain were to further minimise noise, refine our quick wheel swap system, improve the ease of manufacturing and assembly, and make changes that help reduce the long term cosmetic wear from road use.
In our testing we've made a number of discoveries. Our original intention was to injection mould the motor mounts and gear covers from a glass reinforced nylon for strength, as well as to minimise cosmetic scratches from road debris. Due to the way our part mounted, we found issues with ground clearance hitting on the screws as well as some slight warping.
At this point we knew we needed to make some tweaks, so we settled for a mixture of 7075-T6 machined aluminium for the motor mount, and a glass reinforced nylon cover that protects the gears as well as covers the motor mounts to minimise blemishes. We added an additional injection moulded silicon seal to completely seal the gearbox from the elements and further prolong the life of the mechanical parts.
Our testing revealed that our dependence on screws and thread locker to do all of the work was irrational given the riding vibrations and forces experienced this close to the wheel and ground. Since, we have redesigned the gears and wheel mount to use positive locking mechanisms through combined spring washers and cir-clips to remove undesired play. This delivers a drive train that is engineered to hold up against vibration and abuse with minimal maintenance, apart from adding a little nano grease occasionally.
A number of factors play into gear drive noise. The primary factor is centre distance between the motor and axle. We’ve dialled in this distance to produce the least noise from the gearbox based on machining tolerances from our gears and motor mount. The noise is currently at a level that we are happy with while cruising under 20km/h. Adjusting the fit of our pinion gear on the motor shaft is all that is left to further reduce noise at higher speeds. This final adjustment is being manufactured at the moment and we expect to receive parts this coming week, from here we can test and then proceed with full production on these parts, which takes around two weeks.
Our enclosures are made from a 20% glass fill nylon, a fire-retardant material that can withstand high impacts and scratching.
While the material itself held up to all testing we could come up with, the enclosures design had room for improvement. The first was maximising the ground clearance. Every millimetre counts, and we felt that 8mm of ground clearance was being wasted on our original locking mechanism. We altered the rail mechanism to work from the sides of the battery rather than the bottom, returning to early designs that resembled swappable power tools batteries. This change, along with our smaller packs, allows us to make enclosures that are at as far off the ground as possible.
Although the button release on the battery performed reasonable, repeated drops that the boards are expected to endure resulted in the battery packs vibrating loose. We didn’t accept this as we don’t expect our customers to baby their boards. After working through a variety of different locks, we settled on custom Quarter Turn Dzus fasteners used in bonnets of racing cars and aerospace assemblies, where quick release is as important as keeping the load secure.
Revised enclosure samples are being manufactured at the moment and we expect to receive these in the next 2 weeks.
After putting a wide range of bearings through our stress testing processes, we have chosen to use silicon nitride ceramic bearings as standard on all Jed Boards. The material is hard wearing, temperature and chemical resistant properties make silicon nitride ceramics ideal for use in electric skateboards.Over time, these bearings are extremely low-friction and non-magnetic material with a very low weight, yet remaining strong.
The addition of nano-ceramic grease instead of traditional lubricant aids in the longevity, and keep things running smoothly while eliminating debris. Built in spacers and speed rings are also added into the bearings design, making wheel changes and cleaning less complicated.
Screws, Bolts and Fixings, if it doesn’t exist, make it!
To ensure that components on each and every Jed Board stay attached, allow proper flex and movement without issue, it is important to pay attention to the smaller details such as what types of screws are used, after all these boards are built as a vehicle, and as such intended to be used as a daily ride and must perform under all conditions.
We use stainless steel screws throughout the entire production of the Jed Boards, these are all custom made and of the highest quality to ensure they withstand the rigorous riding conditions, and will never rust.
The screws also feature a Dacromet coating, a process that provides even greater environmental protection, and is thicker and stronger than regular electroplating treatments. The Dacromet coating process is used in agricultural and military applications that require an extreme level of corrosion resistance and to withstand abuse.
Down to the smallest of components, even the springs used within our remote had to be custom made to fit our tight tolerances and ensure that the wheel gives just the right feel.
We’ve been working through various packaging options that allow us to maintain a minimal carbon footprint. We will not be using any plastic packaging in our boards. Your boards will come in fully recyclable packaging. Our boxes are made from triple corrugated cardboard, strong enough to stand on, which both meet current battery shipping requirements, as well as providing a sturdy container for your Jed Board if you ever need to travel with it in the future.
Remote and firmware
Our software team has been busy coding, testing and refining the software used in our motor controller and remote firmware. Out of the box the remote features a smooth S curve to ensure you can't accelerate hard and throw yourself off the board.
The remote touch sensors we've tested with and without gloves to ensure they work in all conditions.
The remote when not in use is in a deep sleep mode waiting for touch input. When you pick it up the remote is instantly on and active.
We found in order to get more precision with the wheel we had to make a couple of small changes to the magnets used, which we've now implemented and as you can see below we are getting smooth reaction from the wheel.
We've been thoroughly testing the remote and connectivity for interference and simulating various noisy environments to ensure our BLE communication is always strong and able to cope.
We will be finishing off a major update to the remote and ESC firmware this coming Monday which will start to show off the UI elements as well as additional software refinements made. As our electronics feature over the air updates, we are able to continuously improve and adjust the software for the best possible user experience.
Manufacturing timelines and delivery goal
We have been working with our fantastic assembly partners who have helped to put us on track over the last couple of months. For that, we cannot thank them enough. They have been taking over some of the procurement for components as well as testing components in their QC lab. They will be doing their best with us to ensure that our suppliers keep to our timelines to start getting boards assembled and dispatched to our patient customers.
We understand that our shipping timelines have been all over the place. We didn’t expect to have to reiterate so many components of the board, however, we have always wanted to ship product that we are proud of.
The most accurate timeline that we can share with you is that we expect to have finished, functioning boards by the first week of July. Most of our major components we already have in stock that are confirmed, and the rest are either in manufacturing or about to start the process.
We remain committed to ensure we deliver to customers in a timely fashion and we are working to have the first 100 boards built and ready for shipping at the end of July. During August we will be assembling and building a further 1000 boards which will allow us to have sufficient stock to deliver all of our existing pre orders to our patient customers who we can't thank enough.
It's been a long hard road for all involved and we are very excited to finally be at this stage and we can't wait to get everyone riding!
As always if you have any questions at all, our team is available on live chat almost 24/7 and would love to discuss anything at all.