I want to thank everyone who contributed to this project, every single contribution has played a part in making this a success and it simply wouldn’t have gone ahead otherwise. Despite the hate mail and petty threats we’ve received (hi guys, how you doing?), it’s gone quite well in terms of raising enough funds to get free HackRFs out to a respectable number of hackerspaces. We needed to sell something like 4-8 boards for each free board given to a hackerspace when you work out all the expenses and mitigate all the risk, the final number won’t be clear until after manufacturing is complete (something always go wrong during manufacturing), but things are definitely looking very good.
And now for some suboptimal news. A number of critical components needed for manufacturing have been seized by Chinese customs at the border between Hong Kong and China (many of the more critical parts are not manufactured in China, at least not reliably, and need to be imported). There seems to be some kind of a dash for cash by customs officials leading up to Chinese New Year as manufacturing deadlines in the region run tight and people are willing to pay a “little extra” under the table to get things moving. The problem for us is we aren’t Walmart and the “little extra” they’re asking for makes things financially unworkable, not to mention running afoul of the FCPA. Although this sounds quite bad, it’s actually a regular thing to happen at this time of year in China and we’re working through it, but it probably means full scale manufacturing won’t start till after the Chinese New Year vacation which would mean shipping in late March. Though we mentioned March shipping throughout the campaign, it’s always nice to deliver early and we really hoped to have manufacturing complete and start shipping at the end of January before everything shuts down for 2-3 weeks in February.
And one fashion related issue (yes). We had initially found around 200 blue heatsinks for this project. We can’t create a mold and produce a custom heatsink as it’s too expensive, so we looked for existing stock somewhere in China that would do the job. As we had no idea how many we would really need, we didn’t actually order them at the time. The problem now is that the trader sold them to someone else, which is perfectly fair. We’ve found another supplier with stock but are forced to use black heatsinks instead of blue. I actually think they look quite good, but it would have been nice to have a blue heatsink to match the name and color of the PCB. Some people have been asking if a heatsink is really necessary at all, and here’s our answer: it helps with the thermal stability of the board. A number of components used in this design change their behaviour depending on temperature. Depending on the ambient temperature, this may or may not be noticeable, but the MCU does get hot and make the whole surrounding region of the board fluctuate in temperature based on what operations it’s performing. This heat can now dissipate through the heatsink instead of the copper in the PCB and we found this to smooth things out. It doesn’t add much to the price (if you use existing stock) and we think it’s worth it, especially if you use it in cold environments.
Do you want to be one of the first to receive your HackRF Blue (probably in 2 weeks time)? We’re looking for contributors with serious RF experience who have access to function generators, oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, etc to be a second set of eyes and test out the first few boards off the production line. If this sounds like you and you want to help out, please get in touch!
Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to some people that have been going out of their way to help us with the project. David Blundell from Cincinnati Ohio and Kean Maizels from Sydney Australia. Thanks guys! Please have a look at the Hall of Fame to see who else has gone above and beyond to contribute to the project.