Sp140 Production update

A production status update for the Sp140 (founders edition) is well overdue. I wanted to show a more in-depth breakdown of production and the plans going forward. If you just want the TL;DR skip to the bottom!

Firstly, thank you guys again for being flexible and understanding about the production of the first Sp140 units. For some the wait was too painful and they requested to have their units refunded which we have done for them. Since their units were already being made, we should have a few extra in stock once everyone that has ordered the founders edition has received it, and more replacement parts on top of those already made. It’s a fine balance between ordering extra stock and ordering just what’s needed for the moment. Anticipating demand is tough and I have been burned many times. For example, I’m currently sitting on $50K worth of a different style of ESC that I had made in an effort to cut down the timeline for the Sp140 so I could get it to everyone faster. If you know anyone that needs some nice ESCs let me know :).  

Currently for founders edition Sp140 units and parts I’m continuing to order around 25-30% extra on top of existing orders so we can have extra parts and units in stock. This is something that is more feasible with the Sp140 units as it won’t have as many hardware updates as the X4 ePPG. That just means that the designs are more mature and parts are more future proof and easily updatable. It came down to us not being satisfied with the hardware late in production of the Sp140. We wanted it to be more future proof so I elected to have it redesigned (as was the case for the ESCs). Changes like that have extended the timeline but I think it is worth the longer timeline, temporary loss of orders and refunds for a better future for ePPGs. I would like to have tons of extra units and parts, spare batteries in stock and ready to ship as soon as someone orders, but is it very costly for just the materials so it’s something that has to be built up for any new product. One solution to that problem is just charging a premium on parts and batteries. However, that ends up just meaning everyone has to pay 30% or more for spare batteries and parts. The other way is to grow steady and stable, that just means the timeline is slower at the beginning and all available money and resources have to be put back in to keep growth stable. This is the way I think is the best way to make sure we can make an affordable ePPG without cutting and compromising the potential electric has.

So with the underlying thought process and reasoning out of the way, I want to break down the production and timeline a bit more. Aside from COVID the main slowdowns have been:

In order from most to least delay

  1. Battery case – (the current reason for holdup)
  2. Frame – (solved)
  3. ESC – (solved)
  4. Netting – (solved)

I’ll go over the battery case production problems first. This can be pretty much summed up at the mold company thought that the case was manufacturable and they ended up having a hard time pulling the case from the mold. So, I had to do a quick redesign to make sure they were able to make sure they could pull it from the mold this time.   

Old BatteryDesign

The problem here is that the molds are not quick or cheap to manufacture so every time a mold needs to be made it takes about 30 days minimum, and cost $2k minimum. In this case the company was at fault so they are eating the cost.

New case design

This battery case change then required a small frame change but there were quality problems there anyway and extra samples were needed to make sure the quality was correct. Fun fact: we have gone through 3 different frame manufacturers. A common theme is they are 90% there but keeping the dimensional accuracy exact is a problem. So a mold was also needed to make sure every frame was correct and repeatable.  About half of the samples would be ok but the other half had problems going though assembly. 

This is one of those problems that you could throw more money at, and I’m sure we could have another paramotor frame manufacturer make one at the very least. But then the cost of each frame would easily be $1000 or more. If  I wanted to buy a frame from another manufacturer it would cost more than the $1-2k they charge for their frame design they already make to fit their gas motor of choice. It would probably be in the $2k range for sure with the design we need. So this is one of the areas that I think is worth investing the time and energy in to be able to manufacture frames in a modern factory vs each one by hand. Some welding is still done by hand but most is automated. See the mold in the picture below. It helps ensure consistency for all the frame welds.

The majority of the time was spent between the battery case and frame. While that was happening we still needed to validate changes and make sure the battery manufacturing companies were synced up on the design so they could do their own test to make sure they could still assemble efficiently and safely.

Then for the net we did have to go through a few extra samples as the assembly was getting messed up but those are all manufactured now and waiting on the battery cases to finish up so they can all ship together. The nets are one for those things that could easily get expensive if not kept in check. As they have to be made by hand if you want the knotless edges then it’s very hard/expensive to automate. All that being said – the nets are done, they’re very strong and I’m happy with them. 

The other thing that I wasn’t happy with originally was the ESC. There were overheating problems and a redesign was needed. The old design worked but not with the range of props and power I wanted. Even though the ESC engineers were adamant that it would work and could be tuned to be more efficient in software that never ended being the case. Firmware tweaks helped but we weren’t satisfied. 

So a more premium ESC variant was born with PPG in mind. It’s now reliable and robust enough to handle future power setups like tandem trikes where consistently large amounts of power is required.

ESC telemetry

So everything is nearly manufactured, it’s just the battery case that we are waiting on. The motors, ESCs, frames, nets, harnesses, props, controllers, all battery components (bms, cells, plates), mounting hardware, chargers are all waiting for the battery cases to be finished so they can all be loaded into containers and shipped over together.

The re-engineered OpenPPG ESC

Some were asking what the charger looks like.  

110v for US vs 220v EU

So as for the current timeline, the battery mold should be finished by the end of the month (Nov), and they should be able to start pulling cases from it that week if no further tweaks are needed. That puts us around the 4th of December. Then those cases will be sent to the battery assembly factory, and I expect them to take around 10 days (they have been pretty good about being accurate on timelines). So around 14th those completed batteries will be transported to the warehouse to be packed up and shipped with all the other waiting parts. And for our international orders outside the US, your battery will be shipped directly from the battery assembly factory in order to keep shipping cost minimal (battery can get expensive to ship internationally especially right now with COVID making shipping cost extra high). For all US orders your batteries will be shipped over in the containers with everything else and then shipped with your units.

Those containers will take about 20-25 days to be delivered to us, we then will assemble and test all the units and pack up and ship to all US and international pre-orderers. I expect that to take around a week, as that is something within my control and can pull some all-nighters if needed to get it done on time. So that leaves us with shipment around Jan 15th if all goes as predicted.

As I’ve been typing this update the battery case manufacturer said they should actually be able to start pulling cases from the mold in 4-5days (its 11/24 for reference). So it could be sooner but they have been consistently overly ambitious in their time frame so I think the 15th of Jan is probably still a correct estimate. Shipping from our shop to those inside the US usually takes around 3-5 days and for international orders shipping usually takes around 10-15 days. 

While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel we understand if you need a refund. Keep in mind we will be eating the costly fees if a credit card was used for the initial order as the credit card fee is kept by the credit card company (usually around $300 for Sp140 orders). If a direct bank transfer was used, there is no fee to have a refund, just ask and I’ll send the preorder payment back to the same account.

TL;DR We’re close. Everything but the battery cases are manufactured and looking good. Units with all components are expected to land at our US facility for quick assembly in the beginning of January. Shipping from our shop to those inside the US usually takes around 3-5 days and for international orders shipping usually takes around 10-15 days.