Its the same old story, just taking ages. As usual.
I did get a sample, only about a week ago, so they took a silly amount of time to do that, but it wasn't good enough. Its not that bad, they just didn't do a few things I asked for. I don't really mind that much if they miss things out, as long as they don't take ages over it, but they do take ages.
I'll go through them now so you know exactly what they are:
The first and most important one is the sensor holder, it does work, the tension of it being held down holds it in place fairly well. But you can still move it with your finger if you push hard enough. Its one of those things where, yes, it would be "ok" how it is, but its not how its meant to be. You're supposed to press it into the shell so it disengages from the teeth, move it, and then the teeth help to locate it and lock it into position as it springs back down. At the moment you can see in the picture, that it'll move in the gap between the teeth. It doesn't rattle or anything like that, but over time it may move slightly, which I think is not acceptable. They need to just make it how I had it in the original model I sent to them, it worked fine.
So what happened? They made the teeth shorter, which is fairly normal, because then you can cut into the mold to gradually bring them up, until they're perfect. So basically they just didn't finish it, and probably thought it would be ok. But they don't ask me this before they make these decisions.
You can see the difference between the sample and the 3D model in the picture below. The reason the sample looks kind of broken is because I had to cut away plastic so I could get a good side view.
2, Theres a little clip at the rear which holds down the top cover, and its not really tight enough. Again it doesn't rattle, and this is not really that important, if they don't do it again I'll probably leave it. But it just slides back and forth too easily (mostly when the cover is off, so not so bad, but its not good either). Its the same thing as the sensor holder, where the clip is made loose to begin with, and is gradually made tighter, but they haven't made it tighter.
3, I wanted them to reduce the size of the scroll wheel holder's hole, just to make the wheel a bit quieter. Its ok how it is, but it'll just be better if its a bit smaller. Same thing again, just tightening things up.
4, They haven't finished the side button blanks, half of them are correct, the other half are not finished. They have these little ribs on them which go against the shell and stop them from pushing outwards. They are missing on B3/B4/A3/A4.
Strangely, they did improve them in some areas (on the rear, which you can't see). So they spend time doing things I didn't even ask for, but don't do the things I did ask for...
All I know is, I don't want to make the mice until I'm happy with the tooling. I don't think anyone wants me to make them how they are now. If I knew how to make them work faster, I'd do whatever it took. But there doesn't seem to be any way. I talk to the factory pretty much every day, so they know I'm here and waiting.
The only thing I don't do so much of, but this time around I will (because there's less to do), is get into the technical details of the tooling. I don't ask for detailed reports as they're doing it. I usually wait to get the sample and then review it. Its not like they don't have the list of things I wanted right there. Btw this is not as easy as it sounds, they don't speak english, I have to ask questions or write a question sheet which has to be translated, theres not much room for back and forth discussion, and just a few slip ups and there can be huge misunderstandings, which can spend all night clearing up, so its hard to find a balance between asking too much and confusing things, and not asking enough.
Second thing is, the MCUs.
I ordered some, pre-programmed from Microchip Direct (the manufacturers of the MCU). But they took ages with it, AND it was really expensive (they send the chips from Thailand also, and charge taxes). Also they don't make it easy to get a business account either, and anyway its still expensive.
Then the factory sent me PCBs with the shell samples, so I was thinking, "At least I can try the PCBs", but no, they sent blank PCBs... lol. Like I have any use for them.
So now I have found a new supplier for the MCUs, who can pre-program them. Its cheaper because they buy them in huge quantities, and the delivery is easy because they're in Shenzhen near the factory.
Then the factory had some problem with a chip on the sensor PCB, telling me, the sensor needs 1.9V. But I knew they had used the wrong voltage converter chip. But the engineer misunderstood me, and thought I was saying it doesn't need 1.9V, and kept saying "talk to Pixart, they will tell you", and I'm just trying to explain that he needs to use the correct chip. But he doesn't want to discuss it. It was so damn infuriating. I don't even know how they get to this point, its just weird. But eventually I did manage to get through to him, and turns out they couldn't get the chip that I wanted to use (in the past, they used ones I had supplied, but ran out and just used some random chip, like I say, I don't know what they are thinking). So now they've found a chip that works and I've checked the datasheet and it is a good replacement. They already made this change, I just thought, it shines a light on the kind of weird things I have to deal with.
Its really strange. 90% of the time, they're genuinely clever. Then they do weird things. I don't get it at all. I can only think, they are under pressure from their bosses and sometimes just have to skim over things.
Maybe people are worried that I've been spending loads of money, and its all going to run out, well, just to reassure you, I haven't. I spent a bit on the mouse feet tooling ($300), and the samples of the MCUs, but that's about it. I haven't spent any more on tooling than I did originally. So the project isn't in any financial dangers.
Overall, the waiting is the most disappointing thing about the whole project. There doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.
Its not really the same as the Aurora, that was a lot worse. That mouse had genuine problems, and the factory were just plain nasty. They basically messed up the firmware and refused to fix it*. It was just pathetic really. Same kind of problem though, I had no leverage with them. But they had no real confidence in me, or morals, so with that factory, not having leverage was way more dangerous than I realised at first.
(*they did in the end, but only because I didn't stop pestering them about it. Also it wasn't perfect, I wanted them to use a flashable MCU because if there were any problems, it could be fixed, but for obvious reasons they didn't want to (would mean more working on it, to fit the MCU and firmware work in future)).
This factory is just slow, but they do at least make progress, they are getting there. At least there's that. Because it could be a lot worse.
This isn't an emo post, I'm just explaining what has happened. Of course I'm not happy about it, but it'd be weird if I was. I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just reporting what happens.
I have actually had a couple of mouse companies tell me they've been through the same thing, especially when they were new. They share the same feeling of disbelief of how bad things can be. Its not just me this happens to, its just that usually I have to do my projects in public, so you get to see everything that happens. Most other mouse companies wait and wait until they're basically finished, only then do you know they were even working on something. So you never know how smoothly it went. It is also of course because I had to choose such a difficult mouse to design and tool, probably if I kept it just a normal lightweight mouse, it'd be done quite a while ago, but probably also well on its way to being copied if it was a success, too. But that's just the decision I made, even now I can't truly say I know if it was a good decision or not, but its too late to change it anyway.
I realise this is a long, rambling post, and I didn't give any ETA. But there is no way to be sure about the ETA, someone said I should be 500% sure, or not give one. But I will never be 500% sure, yet people still want an ETA. I wish the factory could give accurate ETAs, but, they don't.
Since the tooling changes are small, and they've got programmed MCUs, and they've solved that problem they had with the voltage chip, they're going to send me a new PCB, and if its all good, I'll try and get them to submit it for the FCC/CE testing, since the shell isn't going to be visually any different, it should be ok. So next week I will find out how quickly that can be done, and I'll report back.