Project: Spectrum | Firmware Progress & PCBA Deep Dive

spcb

Hey, community!

The team successfully hosted our first-ever community virtual meet-up with a few cordially selected customers and many of our prototype testers. It was a lot of fun! We chilled out in front of Spectrum and had a pleasant conversation about everything around it. We are looking forward to having more chances to have small talks with our passionate customers and community members directly; if an invite lands in your mailbox, don’t hesitate to sign up and join our conversation!

Release candidate

As we are getting ready for mass production, Spectrum’s firmware receives tremendous progress each and every day, even every few hours of the same day. We are prepared to integrate customized Spectrum backlight strobing settings tuned explicitly by the expert – Mark from BlurBusters. Apart from this, we have performed extensive testing to ensure great color out of the box, with the crowd-developed default OSD settings that just work and can be easily tweaked to perfectly fit your use cases. With HDMI 2.1, you can unlock Spectrum’s full potential; for those holding on to get the latest generation graphics card, we have display stream compression (DSC) built-in to the DisplayPort to let older graphics cards take maximum advantage of Spectrum.

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DisplayPort running Spectrum in 4K @ 144Hz with 10bit RGB full input; HDR can be activated.

Spectrum can now user-update its built-in USB hub firmware to further enhance related stability and performance whenever it’s ready for the latest improvements. It works in harmony with our user-upgradeable scaler firmware to ensure users benefit from future explorations at once.

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The USB hub update software. In the image, we configured a user defined indicator light color with a setting of RGB 50, 25, 0.

As planned, we are moving forward; an update on this firmware topic will come in the following week!

PCBA virtual tour

Earlier, when we rounded up the project timeline, we brought with it a sneak peek of footage fresh from the printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) factory. Having well-captured each step with my camera, let me guide you onto an exclusive journey inside the factory.

SMT

Surface mount technology (SMT) comes first in Spectrum’s PCBA process. It places and secures board components that are small enough to be automated by a machine for maximum throughput and efficiency. Design for manufacturability (DFM) check is the first step to ensure that the correct board parts are used in the right place.

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DFM check: an operator manually validates hundreds of onboard components of a small sample run based on the materials ready to be deployed.

While DFM check is being conducted, PCBs are manually slotted onto containers and slowly inputted to the SMT loop to test and (when necessary) debug the process.

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Loaded PCBs are about to be fed into the stenciling machine. They are located one slot apart to prevent contact between each other. Their underside has completed its SMT process.

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A bare PCB at the entry to the stenciling machine. Tiny rectangles of the orange area indicate where the solder paste will be applied.

The production line ramps up in speed once the DFM check is completed.

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The stenciling machine scans a specific point to calibrate the board position.

Stenciling machine
Solder paste is applied on top of a stainless-steel stencil mask.

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Pick and place machines position tiny board parts at an incredible speed. In this SMT line, there are two such machines to handle the placement of hundreds of parts.

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Columns of metal trays keep a supply of components for the “hungry” machine.

Oven
This several meters long reflow soldering oven relies on blowing air for temperature control. It heats the board up to 260°C to melt the solder paste, then gradually cools it down under precise control to permanently bind the mounted parts and PCB into one piece.

AOI
Automatic optical inspection uses a semi-auto machine with a 2D camera to quickly scan and identify points of interest according to the configured optimal inspection route.

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A visual inspection operator is carefully examining a board that comes out of an AOI under focused lighting with a magnifier.

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Post-SMT boards are sparingly examined under penetrating X-ray to reveal insight of soldering status unreachable by AOI and visual inspection.

Through-hole component insertion

After SMT of both sides of the board is completed, manual through-hole component insertion adds larger components onto the PCB.

See it in action :point_down:

We’ll be back with a packaging print inspection behind the scenes soon. Stay tuned!

nlbanner

23 Likes

As I know, the updating software works on Windows only? Did you have a chance to test it with Virtual Machine on macOS?

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Hey @farvz,
I’ve passed your question onto the team. As soon as relevant information becomes available I update you further.

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Thanks, Lore. This takes me back to my days working as a mfg./test engineer in embedded electronics. Good to know that not much has changed since I was last active in that industry about a decade ago. I noticed though that you did have a few typos AIO vs AOI and where is the ICT (in circuit testing) in this SMT line? ; )

A couple of other questions for you.

  • Is Hipot testing being performed on the PCB?

  • Are the inspectors IPC-610 certified? If so, which class are they inspecting to 1,2 or 3?

  • Are they performing 100% inspection or using a lot-based AQL or sample plan?

  • It’d also be good to know if the PCBA Factory is ISO-9001 certified?

Thanks in advance.

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That’s a good point, maybe it also works with Wine on Linux? (Or any other platform supported by Wine, not sure about macOS.) Perhaps that could be included in testing as an alternative to Windows-within-VM.

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This one part I am happy about.

I have an LG TV that I’ve had to ‘fix’ a couple of times now because of cheap soldering, which allows the internal solder at the controller chip to break because of extended use (resulting in high heat), which is then fixed by removing the PCB and baking it in an oven at around 180 °F and allowing it to cool naturally (best results are to use a small toaster oven and to let the PCB cool inside the oven, so it is a much slower cooling process than bringing it out into ambient air).

Knowing this is being done puts a silly smile on my face, for the above reason…

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I hope you did not reflow in your regular oven. It can give off fumes that are carcinogenic. I have friends that do this, but they bought a cheap toaster oven that they only use for reflow. It is not safe to use it for food after you use it to reflow.

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Toaster oven - which I carried outside to my deck.

And no it’s not one I use regularly. I have a dual wall oven unit for stuff that is not only better but also much, much faster to use.

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I attempted to update Spectrum’s firmware using an old MacBook Pro using WINE. Unfortunately this proved unsuccessful. I was able to load up the updater tool, but it was unable to find the Spectrum.

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I just got my Spectrum today. It’s on firmware 101. Is that the latest? If not, is there somewhere I can go to download the latest?

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I believe 102 is the latest firmware, but I am sure that the Eve team will add a download section on their support page soon.

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Can you drop the link to the support page? As far as I know it’s just the product portal page currently.

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If they decided to release the latest Spectrum firmware, I think they would put it here in the drop-down menu under Downloads.

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Aha! Thank you for the clarification. Of course I missed the obvious lol

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