I’ve been shipping Stokemonkey kits slowly in part from inability to go faster, and in part out of caution. I have been very solicitous of my first customers’ experiences installing and using the product. The good news is that no customers want their money back, and most are very pleased overall. Two can fairly be described as ecstatic. The bad news is that about half dislike the controller enclosure enough to have sought alternatives, and a third have had major trouble with the electrical connectors that the enclosure exacerbates.
So I’m not going to ship any more until I fix the problems, unless of course after reading this “full disclosure” you still want one immediately. (Naturally, all customers will get free upgrades to bugfixed product subcomponents as soon as I develop them.)
The gist of the trouble is that the controller, wires, and their connectors are too tight a fit in the enclosure. Closing the enclosure can stress the connectors too much. Some of the connectors themselves lack the physical robustness to tolerate repeated openings and closings, depending on how it’s all wadded together. One connector failed outright, and others have pulled apart in use, leading to various tape-intensive interventions, and involving abandonment of the enclosure altogether in more than one case. Some people just don’t like the look & feel, and I concede that these aspects are inconsistent with the level of development of the system overall, and its price.
This happened because my testing of the enclosure scheme, using prototype materials, wasn’t broad enough to foresee the trouble that receiving slightly different,
slightly screwed up production materials would bring. Also, I admit, the electronics enclosure scheme was the element of the system I’ve made the least investment in. Partly this was out of despair of pleasing 90% of people with any one design, and partly out of the simple thrift and haste that impinged on my thinking at the time I decided upon it. There was also a rumor looming of a third-party solution coming soon to market that would render any effort of mine redundant, even conflicting.
Now I know better. I am going to upgrade to the highest quality connectors I can find (Neutrik Neutricon®), shipping them along with assembly tooling to Beijing where the controllers are assembled. I may well travel to Beijing before new stock ships, to assure no bad surprises. I’ll have the same raw stock and tooling here in Portland, to retrofit existing stock and to be prepared to repair or modify the electrical assemblies quickly and well.
I am working with a neighborhood tent and bag fabricator, Beckel Canvas, to create a wedge-shaped bag to replace the current electronics canister. The wedge bag may well have a market beyond my product as an Xtracycle accessory, offering dry storage and physical protection to, e.g., cameras and wired items that don’t always play nicely with celery in the main cargo slings. There’ll be room left over for accessories like voltage converters for running lights, sound systems, butt warmers, goggle wipers and other equipment off the main batteries.
It’s all going to be OK.