Electronic bench equipment for hardware development. Stephen and Parker dive into a high level of what kind of equipment is needed to outfit a bench.
Scott Hinson of Pecan Street Inc. joins Parker and Stephen to discuss the most important of topics. Is its Pa-kawn or Pee-can?
Design for Testing means enabling your product to be tested easier or quicker. But what about the documentation and implementation of the testing?
Starting A Hardware Manufacturing Company
Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Welcome to the macro fed engineering podcast. I'm your guest, William Mathewson.
And we're your hosts Parker,
Dolman and Steven Craig.
This is episode 228.
William Matheson is an entrepreneur, electrical engineer and user experience designer for his company, William Matheson devices, otherwise known as WMD. Wm began WMD in 2007. And since has designed over 70 products that inspire artists and sound designers throughout the music industry.
So thank you so much willing for coming on our podcast.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me, guys.
There's one other thing to note, this might be the Well, first of all, it's only been a matter of time until I asked William to come on as a guest, for sure. But this might be the only time that I've had both of my bosses, my last bosses on the podcast. So, William, yeah, tell us more about you. Well,
I started my little company in 2007, and started with guitar effects pedals. And I would take designs from like general guitar gadgets.com, a guy named JT sleep who has done a lot of good work for like the DIY industry. And look at those designs, I used to build, like, kits and clones for various bands around town. And because I had a gig in a recording studio for a while. So build guides, pedals. And then eventually, that turned into doing some mods and learning how everything really worked, and then starting to engineer stuff, and then putting out my own designs from like, 2004 to 2007.
Nice. So. So 2007 Did you What did you go to school for electronics? What, what's the background there?
So my school background is I have three semesters of electrical engineering. And then I dropped out to get a music degree instead. Because that's what I really wanted to do was work in a recording studio and record bands and do live sound and things like that. And then I realized, well, you need a lot of money to do that. And you can't make that much money doing those gigs. It's really hard to get into so like, always loved electronics and always loved working on stuff. So I kind of found my niche, building things during the custom stuff, and then going off that way. So three semesters of electrical engineering, which I definitely use, definitely use all the math, the digital logic and the assembly, programming and all that stuff. So
three semesters enough of electrical engineering.
Yeah, it was enough for me enough for like, perpetuating 1970s analog technology.
Well, that's certainly not the case nowadays, right?
No, not at all now.
So William, more about you? More about me. Okay. Yeah. What does your origin story?
My origin story? Okay.
So for before you went to school and all that, like, bring us into you?
Sure. Okay, so let's start in like middle school. I grew up in Longmont, Colorado here, right. And because we're based in Denver, Colorado, where Stephen is now. And so I grew up in Longmont, and got into music, played the saxophone. And then my dad had like a 1984, IBM PC that ran dos. So in that era, I was able to get onto the bulletin board systems and find like little bits of music. And I got a little bit into the tracker scene from that and from early days of the internet. So got into like Omega trackers and fast tracker too. So what are trackers, so trackers are like sample based? Well, some of them are single bass, the early ones are like video game music, so you get like three tracks. And it's what all your old, like Mario sounds basically are all your omegas or early Nintendo, any of that stuff is how you write music for video games. So it's like a four, three or four tracks you get, and you can play noises and like really simple waveforms. So you have to make songs that are like really tiny in data, because data is really expensive back then, in cartridges. So so like I learned to make some music on that and got into electronic music because of the tracker scene. And then from there, like played saxophone and made some of my own music in high school. So I've always been like interested in that in in electronic and dance music from there. So that's kind of my background and what got me into music. Growing up in a, you know, 90s kid in high school.
So what made you actually decide to go to school for at the time you didn't know it was just gonna be for three semesters, right? No, unless that was your plan. Yeah.
I guess I just, like always knew that that was what I wanted to do was play with electronics or be into electronics. So I, I don't think I put as much thought into it as maybe I should have. But I just went for it. And that's what I started off and then changed my mind later but still ended up in the same place. Wasn't a great student in college wasn't a great student High School.
But you've you've certainly turned it into a lot more than most people who, you know, get that last two semesters go on to be for sure.
Oh, sure. Yeah, I definitely like realized in college that I can teach myself anything I want to know that was one of the powerful skills that I got in college was like learning how to learn and learning how to teach yourself and how to work towards goals.
Honestly, I think that's one of the biggest points that college is supposed to impart upon you, you know, with in true like dry electrical engineering, there's so much just, I don't know, academia, it's just dripping with academia that like, I've seen some of the projects that William got to do in the programs that were not electrical engineering, and I'm super jealous. Because like, like, I was like, that's what I wanted to do, like I chose wrong.
Yeah, as my senior project for my music degree, I built a three channel tube guitar effects pedal, designed and built it powder coated it did the whole thing. And it's one of my favorite things. I still use it today in my office for testing guitar pedals. I haven't changed the tubes in like, 12 years. Don't need to it's like a half watt lamp. So totally fine. Where's the works? Yep.
Cool. Yeah. So. So you, you went into kind of like building like one off panels and stuff like that for for local bands and stuff like that. What made you decide, I want to build like, 1000 of these things now? Well,
I didn't start with 1000. I started much smaller than that. But I had a guitar teacher named Dave Devine, who's still teaches and plays
a guitar teacher. Oh, he's, he's,
he's a madman. He's great. He's one of the greatest students. So he's, there's like, a, I think it was working on a prototype fat man, and was like, just kind of tinkering around with it. I knew what I wanted to do. And I was making it for a friend. And there's that a kind of pedal? Yeah, that was our first pedal that came out was the fact that Yep. And he was like, well, you should like maybe make 10 of these. And I got a guy in California, that will probably buy some. So here's his contact. And he sent me up with Sean Cleary of analog Haven, who was our first customer first, like, dealer customer. So and I sent him a prototype. He looked at it for a couple of days. And he was like, send me I'll take 10. Great. So did that. And then he sold him. And he was like, well, I need 10 more. I was like, Okay, well, this is like turning into an actual thing. And so we're doing that. And at that time, I was working on the Geiger counter. And doing like, that took me like a full summer of every evening, developing designing, writing the assembly language, I learned the AVR assembly for that product. I didn't know it beforehand. So I learned Motorola 68k in school. So Tom, myself AVR for that sense, Shawn one, and he was like, give me 25 of these now. And he got them to him. And he sold them in two days, and then placed another order for 25. And I was like, damn, okay, this is a real thing. So we can do this. So I started off with what was your? I'm sorry, sorry. Oh, I was gonna say I just started off with like, pretty small runs, like 40 of the fat man's I think and then at the Geiger counters at at first.
What's so my question was on on the guide counter. So it's got some digital logic in there. What made you decide AVR assembly language instead of like C or something like that? Was that a performance reason? Or that was just because you wanted to do it? No.
Okay, so the reason I decided so I had a job in college, where I was doing engineering work for this guy in his basement in Superior. And his company was manufacturing stepper motors and controllers. So he did everything in AVR assembly, so I could ask him a few questions here and there. And he helped guide me on some stuff and kind of got me started. I was so had like access to a CNC milling machine that helped me do that. So I was like, kind of in that world already a little bit, but but decided to teach myself based on that, like he had the programming tools. So I had examples. So it's just like being narrated, and they have free software toolkit. So and what I really did was pretty straightforward. So I didn't need a high level language. To do it is much easier to just write some stuff in AVR and then upload it directly to the chip and you can blink an LED And it's like really easy to do. I didn't know how to set up the AVR, toolchain, with C and all that. So I didn't take the time to do it.
I think I think it's important to note that it's it's still 2020. And the Geiger counter still has assembly code on it. Yeah. And I love that. I love that
it has okay, I haven't changed that design other than like, updates to manufacturability to make it easier to make, like the code hasn't changed since probably 2008. I did a minor update to change how the LED works after the first run. That was it. So
well, okay, so let's, let's take a quick step backwards, because we've been thrown around some names like fat man and Geiger counter. Yeah, let's say, let's, let's take a quick step back and just describe those two because that man was your first product. And the Geiger counter was kind of the one that got you on the map, right?
Yeah, the fat man was based on the MSR envelope filter, and did some mods to it and tweaks to it. And that became the WMD Fat Man. Which so that's
a guitar effects. Yeah,
guitar effects pedal.
Can you kind of is kind of hard to. Can you explain how that sounds? Maybe?
Yeah. So it's a it's an Ottawa so what it'll like follow your picking it you can do like chicken pickin and it'll give you like, Jerry Garcia kind of sound that Ottawa.
That almost funk anvil? Yeah.
Yeah. Funk envelope. Exactly. That evolved into into the protostar. Right, eventually. Yeah. It took some time, like a lot of time. Yeah, that that was like 2014, or something that came out or later.
And then what is the Geiger counter? So the Geiger
counter is it's a little guitar preamp that's analog. So gain and tone. So something like little high end filtering a little low end filtering. And then that goes into an eight bit analog to digital converter. And it runs your signal through wave tables. So basically, just a mathematical lookup table that across the x axis is your input across the y axis is some squiggly lines, that's your output. So as you swing left to right, you get more harmonics, depending on where your guitar strings are. So it's a wave table. Literally modulator but wave table distortion, and then sample rate reduction and bit depth reduction. So it's like a fidelity reduction pedal. That sounds pretty gross. I can
and that pedal, correct me if I'm wrong, but that was used on the 2016 Doom soundtrack.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Was that Mick Gordon did? Yep.
Because it. If anyone's heard that soundtrack, it gets nasty. And that's exactly what the Geiger counters kind of intended. Yeah, yeah, totally. is there's not a lot of cleanliness behind the Geiger. No,
not at all. So and that's the product that really put us on the map.
Gotcha. All right. So the name WMD Is that like the is that the official name? Or is it William Matthews devices? Like what's on the paperwork?
So what's on the paperwork is it's a corporate name. That is a it's real canvassing kits, my art company name, but we filed a DBA for WMD. So a corporate name, and then it's really William Mathewson devices, parenthesis WMD.
So that you come up with you wanted to be WMD, or they just fall that way just fell
that way. Because it's it's really a Matthewson devices. It just worked out that way. So my name plus devices?
Yeah, yeah, well, and a lot of the logos have like the radiate wood, radiation symbol, and things like that. It all plays on that definitely
played on it. In the early days, we played on it pretty hard. And then now, we're trying to look and make products that are a lot more professional level instead of just like, over the top. So we've taken some of the like greediness out of the logo and refined a bit. But, but that's the origin there's there's just a hairless cheese. Yeah, try not to be cheesy.
So how did y'all go from because you started with pedals? With guitar effects? How did you get into modular synth stuff? Because when Steven talks about stuff on the podcast, he's doing more since working with WMD. So how did you go to that?
So I'd known about modular synthesizers. From my time at CU Denver, they have an ARP 2600. And then an old Professor Roy Prince had a giant Moke modular system from the late 60s. That was really, really cool. So I was familiar with modular synthesis, but I wasn't really interested in it at that time. But Shawn from analog Haven, said, Hey, you should take this Geiger counter pedal and make me a Euro module, and I'll promise to buy 100 of them. Off the bat. I'll buy your first batch. Have 100 That was like, Well, if you give me the money ahead of time, I can afford to do that, I'll figure it out, I'll do the engineering. And then, you know, that'll work. So he sent me money. And then I made the product and then sent him to him. And they sold and then started to get more Eurorack dealers, and kind of fell in love with that system. Because guitar effects are, there's a ton of companies doing great stuff already. In Eurorack, we were of the first like, nine or 15, companies were really early getting into it. So there was a lot of unexplored territory. And I was like, having a ton more fun designing things in Euro than I was for pedals, because I could go a lot crazier, which is where what I wanted to do at the time, was like, push my engineering ability and come up with like, ideas and sounds and, and I had the freedom to do that in Eurorack. And the more knobs I put on a guitar pedal, the less it sold, because I still put out a few more pedals, we put out the acoustic trauma which had like 70 knobs. It was a two preamp pedal with a three band EQ fully parametric, and the compressor or noise gate. And it did not do well in the guitar community since guys loved it. But guitar players was like way too much for him. So,
you know, I've found basically exactly that. Those particular realms, the synth room and the guitar room, in so many ways are opposite of each other. Like yes, and not not in any way, like a dig towards guitar guys. Because hey, I'm holding my hand up. I'm one of those guys, but you don't dumb it down, but you simplify it for him. And and even we've had multiple discussions at work about this, the label on the knob matters so much. Because Because there's stigma behind the label of in the guitar realm, like if you say a particular word, it means something in a guitar guy's head, but in the synth realm, like adding more features, and adding more knobs is usually not usually but but there's a lot of positive behind. Yeah, you know, you have way more freedom to be creative, and it's accepted a lot more. And in fact, if you add a feature, it doesn't necessarily scare a guy away. He's like, Oh my God, what can I do with this?
Exactly? Yeah, that's that's what I found is a lot more fun to design. When I because I like to add stuff. I'm kind of a feature creeper. So guitar effects pedals don't work with a bunch of feature creep. Usually,
you have the right you in the right podcast? Definitely. On the right. Are the Masters feature creep on the macro mentioning podcasts? I believe that?
Yeah, feature creep until the product doesn't even exist.
Yeah. It just becomes everything
becomes a simulation.
Yeah. So okay, so you went from building a couple units, and then you're building 10 100 units. Okay, now you have right now you have your own electronic assembly line, basically, with full build box, everything. How did that happen? So
in 2012, I had more orders than I could build. And I had one guy helping me out doing surface mount assembly and we'd sell like on the Geiger counter on everything. We built it all in house. And the Geiger counter was always well, not always, almost always fully surface mount. I think the second run was fully surface mount. The first one had like a couple of surface mount parts on it. But so we migrated to surface mount, but we're was building everything with tweezers and soldering irons, which is ridiculous. But that's another one of the things that my employer that I used as machines, he had a dude doing all the tweezer work. And so all those microcontrollers, and these stepper motor controllers were done by hand with tweezers. And he was doing Oh 402 And MLS and crazy stuff that we're doing. Oh 603 So it was like easy compared to that. So, so we did things by hand up until 2012. And no microscope. No, we had my little magnifier has been no microscope. Okay, yeah, just like the three diopter lighted magnifiers. So, in 2012, I had too many orders. I put out a couple products and they got lots of pre orders and it was great. And I decided well, there's no way that I'm ever going to catch up. So I did a bunch of research found a small tabletop pick and place machine that I could get and bought it found a used one it was the same one that Adafruit had, that they started out with I don't know if you've read through her blog and stuff, but she started out with this. Japanese made NDC 7722 single head all pneumatic Pretty decent vision like three camera flying camera pick and place. They'll do like 2000 parts in our considering we could do maybe like 600 800 by hand, that was a huge upgrade. And then you know frees up people to actually do work that the machines can't do. So
that's actually a really nice pick and place, right? Yeah, I was at McAfee lab we started with a machine did it 400 Oh,
wow. Yeah, that's what was it one of the manual assist ones. Now fully auto. Okay.
Was that the GSM?
No, the one before the GSM. The Medill.
Oh, Adele. Yeah,
I remember looking at. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did a bunch of research.
Oh, hey, we bought it for two grand.
Okay, I took a loan out and like, was like maybe a grand a month payment for the machine and the oven and the little manual stencil printer. And so I couldn't make it work. So. So the machine itself was like 30,000. With with all the feeders and stuff, so it wasn't crazy. But it wasn't cheap. Too bad. No, not really, like the whole kit was was pretty reasonable. Yeah, that's, that's a big bullet to bite at that. Yeah. But it was, but I had, I think I had a lot more than that in order. So I was like, why can make sense of this. But then, to further make sense of it. Now I had excess capacity once I got through all those orders. So I started working with a couple other Euro guys, to a Yurek manufacturers to make, make their boards. So we just do a little bit of contract work. And then the help supplement the cost of the machine and the all the extra space it took up. So
in the Euro community, you were the guy with the truck right there, like oh, you can help me move my matches exactly.
Well, that's the thing is that the machines not running. It's not making money.
Yep, it's just costing money. So might as well keep it running, especially if you have excess capacity.
So did you have a building at that time, or where were
you where it was in my garage. So I had an old house in Denver with a built outbuilding garage built in 1938. So everything fit in that at a small mill for making the stomp box enclosures at my pick and place at the air compressor in a shed, because it was loud. And then there were three work benches in there. So and we were there from 2007 When we started to 2014. So there for quite a while seven years in the garage. Yep. Got cramped, and we had to move.
How many? How many people did you have working for you at that time? Or during that time
early on? Like one? One, maybe two for quite a while up until like 2012 2013 2014. And then I think we added like a second shift part time. And I think there were maybe five maximum but I only had three workbenches. So
few people just stood in the corner assembling boards. Yeah,
no, they came in later. And we we've made that work and just exchange position, man, double shifting that earlier. Well, Short. Short is part time, like everybody was hired out of like service industry or coffee or friends from school. So we didn't do like real interviews or anything, then. I ended up with great people. So
some of who are strategies true. Yep. Yeah. Or if they're, if they're not currently working, they still hang around. Yeah, I
know that. Several of them are still there. One guy who has been with me from the beginning and still they're just great.
He actually he told me a story that he was I don't know, maybe it was he was leaving class or something like that. You gave him a call and you were like, you wanted his information so that you could you could hire him at that moment. And he was just like, Well, okay, I guess this is a thing and he's been working for he's ever said it's
true. I love true. But I had an accountant at the time that was like well, you should really like have all your employees set up so like he was immediately a w w two employee. We like set everything up legit from the beginning, which was maybe not the best. But because it's expensive.
The alternative is you walk into the garage and your paycheck is here. Yeah, exactly. An envelope of cash.
Now I remember when Steven first walked in the microphone because he came in looking for PCB assembly in Houston, and he left with a nice Sometimes that's how it works.
That works. So many manufacturing now, there's a stigma that hardware is hard. And you are a you started a hardware company. Would you agree with that
hardware is very hard. I didn't know how hard it was going to be. But it continues to provide me with challenges that I didn't see coming. Continually, it seems to get harder all the time. You know,
I was actually talking with Matt the pick and place operator just the other day, and he was we were kind of regaling his initial foray into picking placing. And he's like, the stuff I complained about on the first handful of boards that I ran, like, I should just shut up I should have just because like, the stuff he's running now is like, 10 times more difficult than than what he started with. And he was pulling his hair out.
Yeah, yeah. When we got our, our first pick and place to actually put parts down, you're like, Wow, this is amazing. It's so easy. The what happens is you just keep ramping. You're
exactly, yeah, we're doing like a 402. Almost everywhere now. And double sided assemblies and surface mount headers, I have to deal with step stencils, which we hadn't had to deal with. But like when your, your pin headers don't always get soldered, you like have to come up with a solution. And that's what it is. So it's more expensive. And it's like another layer of engineering on top of stuff that like I didn't even know that was an option. And now it's a solution. Like, the more you design, the more stuff you try and pack in, and then the better you make it. And then the harder it is to actually make.
Yeah, cuz it's not just electrical engineering to design the piece of VA. There's also another complete different side that most people don't even deal with, which is manufacturing engineering.
Yeah, there's a ton of manufacturing, engineering and like learning how to have clearances. And so we have a selective soldering machine, which changed all of our layouts afterwards to have like, three to six millimeter clearance around any through hole part that needs to be selected soldered. So I have a whole bunch of legacy designs that cannot be run on that machine, and are being slowly phased out and replaced with updated designs that are designed to actually be made all by machines, because the quality is better, and it's faster, and it's just so much easier. But I didn't know I was gonna have to do that at the time. I wish I would have like had all these rules, because I could like future proof to myself, but you don't know until you know, until you're in it.
You know, to be entirely honest, I'm not sure. Like I've heard that 1000 times if I if I just if I knew then I would have changed things. But But you're here today because of the actions you took us, you know. So I think that that I think it's yeah, like Hindsight is 2020. But but at the same time, like you're successful, you have a huge shop, you're running a bunch of stuff and you are phasing out the legacy designs for better yes, you know exactly.
And that's one thing is DFM. design for manufacturability is an always evolving process. With your products, you, you will always strive to get that last little bit of of quality, right. And so it's always tweaking your processes, always tweaking your design, maybe, like you say, going to select the solder. When you first started, you were hand soldering everything. Here's really how it was designed.
So when I was working in the recording studio, my mentor used to say, if this isn't the best shit you've ever done, you shouldn't be doing it. And that was with regard to his recordings, whatever band he was working on, he always was doing the very best thing he'd ever done. That's how I looked at it. I've tried to take that and just always done my best. And so you just keep having to learn. Because you keep getting better. So you keep better doing better. Something like that. I'm always working on the best, next best thing.
Right, right. How can you how can use it?
For sure. I actually I actually really liked that mentality. I think I think, you know, most people try to do that. But putting it in words of make what you're doing the best they
can be no matter what it is, whether it's a client project, or whether it's your stuff or anything, it doesn't matter. Making a sandwich better make the best sandwich. Yeah, why not?
You know, a quick caveat. You know, you're mentioning DFM one thing that I've find interesting, especially with just my experience at different locations. DFM means a different thing to every single person. And so like I mean, if you go into any engineering firm right now and say the word DFM you'll get a different answer from people. And mainly that's because they look at it From different ways, but at the same time from contract manufacturers, it has to mean a different thing based off of whatever their capability and machinery is. And just, you know, if you're quoting something out, even with macro fab, you know, macro fabs gonna have specific rules around their thing. So whatever you think is a golden DFM for your product might not actually be perfect for macro fab, you know, and it's worth having a chat about that with whoever you're getting your stuff made, just so that you make sure, like, great example with with with WMD. Like, sometimes from the clients that we deal with, they don't know the rules, like the selective solder thing. And they might, you know, in some cases violate that six millimeter rule around selective solder. So, you know, we can help them walk them through, like, Hey, how can we change your design such that it will work this because, you know, paying someone to hand solder through hole stuff is a hell of a lot more than just pressing going on machine, you know? And that's, that's simplistic. Yeah.
Especially when it's a giant board. And there's 400 500 solder points. ways here to just have the machine do it. But you got to have the clearance or, or you end up with a blob.
Yep. Or you're just sucking parts off? Oh, yeah, Matt before.
We've said this 1000 times on the on the podcast, but but if you're if, if you're starting a new design, that's a great time to get in contact with the contract manufacturer. Like before you've put your first part down on your layout, contact your contact manufacturer, and be like, hey, what do you I want to go with you? What are your rules for this, and then design around that, and man, it will go so much,
because you really want to form a partnership with the people you're working with. And so if you design something in their best interest, they can save you the most money and it when everybody makes money. Everybody's happy. So
and they will love you.
Yeah, they will. Because you listen, you pay attention. And you you care, instead of just throwing stuff together and say and make it and make it cheap. Right? Yeah.
And make it with zero fail failures.
Yeah. I'm gonna provide you exact quantity. Yeah, of every part. No overage
been there. Oh, yeah. Gonna make me You're gonna make me jump off my roof.
Nothing like running out of parts when the machines hot and running and setup. And then you gotta hand play some later because there's other stuff in line. Well,
yeah, and you're thinking about, it's half a day to tear down the machine and set up and you know, the next client just to come back to do the previous clients, like five remaining boards. It's all it's awful. Yeah.
So I had a question to ask. Since y'all are in Denver. Is that reflow oven? Really nice to be around when it's cold outside?
Yeah, it's nice when it's cold. Yeah, so we it sucks in the summer definitely sucks in the summer. We have a swamp cooler. That helps a bit but it's still hot. damn hot in there. Okay, and are
because the McWrap it's Houston. So it's always hot. So you just have air conditioning. But and the our Steven remembers the old machine who was like a Bravo for zone that the thing was a turd. It was terrible. It was a terrible machine. It always broke down. And it radiated so much heat. Like you could be like 10 feet away from it. And you would feel it. Yeah,
well, okay. Also Also, in order to do the lead free soldering that we had to do. We had like, what two zones at 100%. And one zoning like 95 was cooked. That was the only way we could get it hot enough. And it was just oh, that thing was redlining all day long. Yeah,
the moment that we when we bought our new Heller. It used the same amount of power for a 10 zone. Yeah. Yeah. It's amazing. It just the insulation and the design is so much better. And the hell are you can just put your hand on it. You don't even feel Yeah, we don't we have a
Heller 1707. We just lean up against it. It's we actually have the microphone. Okay. Yeah. That's great machine. It's excellent. Yeah, yeah, we got a little conveyor oven at the beginning, not the beginning as a second. I had a batch of an at first and that was fine for the little guy. But when we got our Samsung, they got a little like, conveyor oven, maybe a 18 inch belt, but
it was like four is that was was that a gold flow?
I don't know. I honestly don't remember, I actually still
have our first reflow which was a a three zone 18 inch gold Flume. And that thing was awesome. I really need to dig that thing out and just kind of like, make pizzas with it.
Yeah, ours was not awesome. It was I had too big of an extraction system. So like it wouldn't heat evenly and it had to run at 100% power for everything and it ran computer that was definitely from like 1988 ran old DOS with with a das class floppy
no are the pick and place that Steven remembers was a universal GSM, which was our second one. And it ran actually OS two warp operating system.
You know that thing we were talking about places per hour, that thing was probably faster than 400 parts per hour, but it probably ran about 400 parts per hour because it broke down all the damn time to actually play
running. You could place because it was a dual beam system. It could place about 12 to 15,000 parts an hour, and then it would break
that thing that thing was the size of a freaking car. It was huge.
And it worked great when it ran though. Yeah, man. Right. Okay, quick, quick
story about that old reflow oven. I've never seen anyone do this. And Parker is a champ for this. We had. I can't remember what the board was. But we had a board with like, like, it was like 120 Something odd pin processor on it. And we had to pull it from the board and it's just like God, like, get the IR heater out or get whatever out and I'm like, no, no. So he cranks up the oven. And first of all, just this is important to note, this oven could open up like a grill it had like a hinge on the side. So he places this board in the oven and let it go get into the reflow zone, opens it up and just grabbed the processor off the board like just ninjas. That thing right off the board and like holy shit I didn't know you could do
I guess what we put the new one. We put a new part on it. And it worked. Yeah.
Can't do that with the Heller. Unfortunately.
It's got things like safety locker. Yeah. You could
probably disable those. Yeah, go on to.
Oh, man. See? I'm just remembering old fat now. And just like all those decrepit machines,
all the hacky shit that we had to do. I mean, we got to work and right. Yeah, I got how to get
stuff working. Yeah, my first pick and place had it was just a bundle of cables like wrapped up with cable wrap. That was the strain relief. And so it wasn't a good strain relief. So like every few months, one of the 40 cables going to the head would break a wire, I have to unwrap the whole bundle, figure out which one it was and then like replace that thing. So that was it was a lot of downtime with that old machine.
So the my next thing was like, the best things we're talking about the worst things right now. What's like the best things about starting WMD that you have like best memories or maybe things you're looking forward to best things
are like when you look up to somebody who's an artist and they have and use your stuff and they love the stuff that you've made just as much as you love them. That is the best. The absolute best.
You willing to drop any names? Yeah, so
I paid so this was like 2008 I think I paid $300 It was a donation to to do a meet and greet with Trent Reznor. So money went to a good cause like buddy had a disease and then the money went to him. But it was a meet and greet so met him brought him a couple pedals and Tom Morello was opening with I don't remember what band he was with that at that point, but Nine Inch Nails was there and I met Trent and I handed him a Geiger counters like oh sweet already have one of these. I got it from Roger at Big City music and we used it all over the ghosts record or the last record they did at that time. So I think it was that one. I'm not 100% sure on the timeline, but he already had one and I was like, but he still took the other one. So it's pretty cool. That's awesome. So I was like pretty early and that made me feel really good validated about what I was doing.
Oh, for sure. Yeah, that was
someone that uses your product says this is awesome. And it really kicks it out. Yeah.
So how about some some war stories from things that have not gone as as you planned?
Um, I've done recalls. For sure. I don't we I've done a few recalls those that's kind of the worst because it's like you're done and then suddenly you're not done. In fact, you're just starting over.
You're done in a really big not done in a really Yeah,
yeah, I've done a few recalls some from like just minor engineering mistakes, one from a big design decision that I had to pull back, like 120 boards that were pretty expensive to make. That's the back of our mixer board and to replace See the entire boards, four layer board about 800 parts on it all had to be replaced. Just there's no salvaging any of it. So
is that because it just didn't meet specifications or
I made a poor design decision that I thought was a good idea that wasn't a good idea. I made them channels all go to minus 30 DB on the sliders and then go to mute instantly. So you wouldn't have to have mute buttons. I thought that was a great idea, like, but you can't do a smooth fade because it click in it's great for dance music, but not great for anything ambient or even
transition as you just move the sliders. Yeah,
yeah, so not not a good choice. But nobody knows about that. Because everybody send him back in and we got it taken care of and ended up with a good product. But that was very expensive. To fix,
you know, just just out of curiosity, not not to dwell on that, but But you know, for our listeners who might be experiencing something similar, like, how did you go about doing that fix? Like what was? Like you? Okay, so you discover that, what's your choice? What's your,
there's a couple of parts of it. So there's like, the fix itself was easy, I just had to figure out what I wanted to do instead. And that required a new board. But the the hard part was like managing customers and managing disappointment and expectations. So like, the hard part of doing that fix was not the engineering or the manufacturing, it was like calling all the dealers and saying, Hey, you got to send back all these mixers. You know, put it on our shipping account, any customers that have them like get them back, or give us a context that we can get them back, and then pay for all the shipping and, and just it's a lot of paperwork, and a lot of like disappointment. So that was the that's what had to be managed. And that's the not fun.
That's an interesting recall, because it it performed as designed. It just was not a good design idea. Was a customer says something about it, or did you discover it and just wanted to change it? Because you thought it
was bad made it bad. And the first one was, so I thought it was good. And then I heard from customers, and they were
like, well, it is good. It is good in some realm.
That's Yes, that's totally valid. But overall, it was not a good decision. It was a it was a mistaken is a just a bad idea overall.
So it was because customer expectations is what drove recall,
customers receive something and it behave differently than they thought it should. And I heard enough of them. And then they made a compelling argument. So I said, Yes, we need to absolutely change the design. And that's on us. Got to do it.
So so that that has been updated. I mean, that happened, you know a while 2016 Yeah, there's many revisions since then. And that product sells very well. Still to the it's done
really well. Yep. Samsung. Yep. So yeah, doing the recall was the right thing, even though it sucked at the time.
It's always like easier. Well, it's better. It's better than it's better than someone plugging in the guitar and their guitar explode. Oh, yeah. That's when you said we call straight liability. That's immediately where my brain went was like, Holy crap, who did you
know we do? We do all like low voltage stuff. So the worst that can happen as a capacitor explodes if it's, you know, powered wrong or something. And that's annoying, but not crazy. Not going to start a huge budget,
there is something interesting that with the with this industry, technically, there's 24 volts available, right? Or even potentially a little bit more, you know, because the case is actually plugged into mains. But the thing about it is, this is the only industry that I'm aware of where the customer receives a product where the circuit boards are just straight up exposed. Like, I mean, other than, like, you know, buying an Arduino, or whatever, why, if you're DIY stuff like, this is straight up, you have you have one six of a box, that the product, you know, shows up with just one panel. So I mean, you're talking about a modules Yeah, module,
build your own synthesizer. So you're buying a piece of a kit really,
like 500 series recording equipment that's comes all in case
some of it does. Some of it is not as less in case than it used to be. It's just like an L bracket. You can still see the boards and some of the lower cost things like the proper old API stuff that's fully encased. Yeah, but there's a DIY element to that whole scene now to in little companies doing kind of the same thing that we started doing. cutting costs and low places. So cheap metal is expensive.
Yeah, for sure. In low quantities, it it has an exponential path.
So, William, what is the future of WMD
the future of Wm DEA is
where do you Where would you like to see? Well,
I would like to see us continue on the path we're on. It's kind of a boring answer. But I think we're building the best stuff we've ever built. We're putting out products that we're all very, very proud of. And I'd like to continue to do that and continue to be inspired to be able to create the great products that we're putting out now. So hopefully, I can keep getting good ideas. And our design team can keep getting good ideas and turning these things into real things. I'd probably like to go in a direction of making a desktop synthesizer at some point. And but just staying the course is, we're not trying to get giant, we're not trying to take over the world. I like being the size we are maybe a little bit bigger, is very happy size. Because I get to know everybody and we're a big family, you get too big, you start to not know all the people in your industry or in your, your company that can be difficult. So, like I wanted to stay kind of small, and be a little cottage and sustainable. So hopefully that's the future post pandemic post this new world future.
Well, so far WMD has been surviving the pandemic fairly well. So it's been it's been good. Luckily, yeah,
we've been fortunate that most people can work from home and we have a big enough shop that we can socially distance and do everything safely.
For the for the for the most part, there's what three, maybe four people who go into the shop, and they have, you know, 500 to 800 square feet to their selves. Totally
cool. Does anyone have anything else?
I think I'm good. Okay, cool.
Well, thank you, William, for being on our podcast. It was a lot of fun talking to you. This is the first time I've ever talked to you. I've been to your show.
Yeah. Okay. I've heard your voice plenty because I've listened your podcast quite a bit. So. Thank you. Well, yeah, thanks for coming. Yeah,
I've been I've been over to WD and I think we did a quick tour of the line. And then I saw Stephens little corner.
Oh, in the back. So you saw the day Tron? Yeah.
Yeah. Next CNC machine. Yeah. I think my favorite thing was the the Direct printer. Have you started? Yeah. Direct UV printer that's in the greenhouse back. Yeah. Are you interested? Really well, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What do y'all do now for graphics, then?
Well, well, so we have the large CNC the data on and it does engraving, so we're making our panels in house. And then the printer had some problems. And there's a lot of problems. So we're getting our graphics done outside of the shop now. Which is unfortunate. Not what I wanted. But like, like, can't hang with that printer. It requires way too much damn maintenance. So yeah, yeah.
I that that was kind of a a perfect storm of almost everything that could go wrong went wrong. Like from from day one that that thing got delivered. And and 98% of it is not on us.
Yeah. And it's like, there's a third part is the manufacturer, the dealer and then us and the dealers fault. The manufacturer won't do anything. Everyone's pointing fingers. Oh, dealer won't do anything. So yeah, so it's, it's a piece of junk. It's just sitting there. So if anybody wants it
for a good if anyone if anyone is interested in a UV
printer, so I'm starting the bid at $1.
We're probably gonna put it up on eBay starting at 99 cents.
Local pickup only.
You manage the shipping. Yep.
Oh, cool. Again, thank you, William, for coming on. Absolutely.
Thanks for having me.
Cool. So you want to sign us out? That was the macro
fab engineering podcast. I was your guest William Mathewson.
And we're your hosts Parker Dolman and Steven Craig. Later everyone take it easy.
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