WORKSHOP VIDEO: Interview with Dimitri from Smartduino

in Global Geek, Videos by DP | 22 comments

Last week we met with Dimitri, designer of the Smartduino, in Shenzhen, China. Dimitri is a 6 year veteran of the Huaqiangbei electronics wholesale market. He first arrived 6 years ago, and quickly opened his own stand because it seemed like the best way to make deals in the market is to become part of it. He now runs 8 stands all around the market and says each building has a unique story to tell.

Dimitri started with a single stand in on the third floor of a building, the top floor at the time. That building now has 10 floors, and another building is being built next to it. The pace at which the Huaqiangbei market is developing is staggering. In his estimate the market has grown a 100 times in the last 6 years.

View of Shenzhen from Dimitri’s office.

Dimitri’s attraction to Shenzhen is based on getting things done. Only in Shenzhen can you think up an idea on Monday, and have a working prototype in your hands on Thursday. Proximity to the world’s largest wholesale electronics market means that any IC, any connector or part you need, is but a few blocks away. It’s like having your local electronics shop be as stocked as Mouser or DigiKey, without the inflated retail prices.

It’s not just electronic parts, but anything required for the full project is available. Solder paste stencils are delivered the next day, PCBs are at your doorstep in 48 hours, and all the tools you might are just steps away.

As the market grows and becomes more of a tourist spot, Dimitri thinks prices are getting higher. Like many people we talked to Shenzhen, he is utilizing more and more online part sources. Chinese sites let buyers post requests, and the sellers contact them directly with offers. Dimitri now conducts 80% of his sourcing in this manner.

Dimitri does his prototyping in house. He has a solder paste stencil rig, and a reflow oven capable of cooking 9 Arduino sized boards in 6-7 minutes. He feels this is much faster than hand soldering, and quick-turn stencils make it super convenient.

The successfully kickstarted Smartduino* is a snap-together prototyping platform based on the Arduino and a “Smart Bus” connection between board. A core board with an Arduino-compatible AVR microcontroller is broken out into the Smart Bus that can be connected to over 50 different extension boards simultaneously. The project is aimed at people who find the full Arduino platform too cumbersome for a small commercial product, but don’t want to design custom boards.

A huge thanks to Dimitri for a tour of his office, high up overlooking Huaqiangbei.

*While we were in China this project became the subject of controversy. We present this interview as a documentary of our meeting with Dimitri who is very passionate about his projects.

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Comments

  1. Winston says:

    Good stuff. Hope whoever was operating the camera learned something about the problems with shooting interior shots into strong back-lighting without supplemental lighting of the subject.

  2. Zeta says:

    Dimitry said “my company in Italy is one of the original manufacturer of Arduino”
    Lol there he goes again. It has been proven that it is not true. He keeps saying lies. He speaks fluid english so he can’t blame it to his command of the english language.

    • Dimitri Albino says:

      Here we start again… so boring to hear always the same song… It has been proven with pictures and documents like invoices (http://smartduino.com/do-you-know-mr-chris-anderson/) that hour company was involved in the manufacturing of Arduino in Italy and there are no lies. You guys have to simply accept the truth: we made something cool and innovative! Just sit down and work, is better than keeping this bul****t running.

      • Zeta says:

        Yes Albino, I’m sorry you are right. You were subcontracted by “Smart Projects” to solder pinheaders on some already manufactured xbee and ethernet shields. I understand that this was because you hired 2 employees soo skilled at the art of soldering pinheaders that worked on “Smart Projects” before. So, yes albino, I agree with you, that gives you the right to say that your company is “one of the original manufacturers of Arduino”

        It is also a funny coincidence that you named your project Smartduino when the original arduino manufacturer is SmartProjects. Silly me also seeing the use of the word Smart and the capitalisation to resemble ARDUINO as missleading. I guess I just think too much about this kind of stuff.

        BTW, It was also funny how you responded to a comment on hackaday’s blog as Dimitri the project owner but using the name of one of your supposedly kickstart backers. Just a tip when you post using different names to apear as if you have different supporters, try not to make the same spelling and grammar mistakes that really gives you away.

        Finally, I would like to humbly apologize for saying you are bending the true to make you look you are in any way affiliated to Arduino.

    • Ian says:

      I’m not shy about calling people out, but I really hope to stay respectful in this post. For us it was really interesting meeting Dimitri and hearing about his long-time experience working in Shenzhen. I hope that can stand independently from the disagreement currently playing out.

      • Zeta says:

        I’m sorry Ian, I guess I somethimes get carried away when I see something I think is wrong.

        BTW, Has your blog post about the unspoken rules of open source hardware been deleted? I can’t find it anywhere. I would like to use it as a reference on a presentation about open source hardware we are giving to a group of 9 year old kids.

  3. Winston says:

    What difference does this foolish “scandal” make? I first read about this project on Kickstarter and it was very clear to me by reading what they said there that the team that created this great system was NOT part of Team Arduino. And whether or not they made boards for Arduino I do not care in the slightest. What I DO care about is their very clever bus system which contributes much to the Arduino community.

  4. Paolo says:

    Wow! … it looks pretty much like a paradise for electronic geeks …
    at least to me it gives a bit of envy …

    Cheers,
    Paolo

  5. P Rico says:

    I am a current backer of smartduino, I can say the same that Winston, I knew since the very first moment Dimitri had a different team that Arduino’s and a different product.
    You have to accept that smartduino is more innovate, cheaper, smaller that Arduino and is plug-and-play ready.

  6. Artem says:

    Hi Dimitri,

    Don’t look back on envious people, just keep on doing a great job and everybody will get what they want: you – success & honor, users – great product & fun, haters – even more reasons to keep bullshitting :)

    ps: Be careful with RedBull ;)

    Cheers,
    Russian backer

    • Sleepwalker3 says:

      Patrick, if you are looking for even simpler and more cut-down, you may want to look at PicAxe chips http://www.picaxe.com
      Very easy to get started with, lots of little tutorials, *DIRT CHEAP* – start at like $3 per chip and you can either buy boards or just use your own breadboard, veroboard or whatever. I’ve used them in many applications where an Arduino would have been just silly and a Pi unthinkable and all of them too big.

      • Winston says:

        I think the Arduino system is the one to go with these days. It has the momentum and popularity now that it has taken away from PIC-based devices, evidenced by, among other things, the various PIC systems now coming out which claim Arduino compatibility.

  7. Patrick says:

    I’m new to the embedded device world. I’ve heard of Arduino awhile back but never tried it.

    I took a step closer to embeded devices, when the Raspberry Pi came out. That got the juices flowing for some projects but the Pi would be overkill. Then I started to look are Arduino but that also had some overkill. Then I found 2 Kickstarter projects; TinyDuino and smArtduino. These seemed perfect for “scaling down” to exactly was I needed without waste. Especially for a new guy just starting out. The bonus is that they ended up agreeing to integrate with each other (along with a few other projects).

    Then I heard about the disagreement and how the net ran with it and blew it out of proportion, causing a lot of bad publicity for both parties. Yes, yes.. things were said on both sides of the fence that weren’t right. Who the frak cares! The issue is between Dimitri and Massimo; and nobody else.

    And they don’t need anyone else’s help or input. They can deal with it in private off the net, setting aside the egos (which amounts to a “whose got the bigger dick” debate) and finding common ground.
    And to all of you “Team Massimo” and “Team Dimitri” idiots; you are worse than the little girls fighting over “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob”! Get a fraking life.

    Bottom line, is that Dimitri’s group is making it easier for people to jump into Arduino and has developed a nice communication bus to allow people to branch out to mainstream Arduino and other products. And I for one do plan on supporting both Dimitri and Massimo by purchasing products from both groups.

    So let’s all just “get over it” and get back to making cool shit.

    Thanks.

    • Winston says:

      “So let’s all just “get over it” and get back to making cool shit.”

      Exactly! This disagreement is much ado about nothing.

  8. Sleepwalker3 says:

    Now play nice kiddies or I’ll take your Lego blocks off you and send you to bed with no supper!

  9. Chris says:

    Im a kickstarter whateverDUINO backer. I read all this and at the time maybe working with the info you had you were all right.
    However, since most of you haven’t lost anywhere near the amount of money I have and haven’t been lied to and continually disappointed by the scam artist who started this whole mess…… I would like to point out that no matter how innovative this guys stuff is, since he has yet to send anyone anything other than a handful of basic kits totaling maybe 5 or 6,000.00 dollars out of 156,000.00 worth of orders and has told us that he will try to get us our stuff or refund our money at the one year mark which is coming up… Nevermind. You can’t understand until it happens to you, but the guy has started and now closed another 160,000.00 IndiGoGo campaign using an employee as a front. And Im sick to death of the whole thing.

    • Zeta says:

      I knew he was a liar from the first time I saw his video. How come anyone though you could trust a guy who blatantly twists the truth to apear as he has more credibility?

      so it takes 10 months for an expert to deliver a simple product for which he had a working prototype ready? ROFLmao, come on guys.

      some guys even bited twice first on kickstarter and then on indiegogoo and maybe even one more time on the new indiegogo campain

      But you have to admit that this guy knows how to sell himself, he first apealed to his imaginary experience manufacturing Arduino and then using an employee name apealed at “we do it for the kids” with his 9dollar arduino indiegogo campain.

      • Chris says:

        Uh, NEW, IndieGoGo you say? I “bited” twice, the first on kickstarter, and then on the indiegogo, because for twelve bucks it was worth it to be able to read the updates…..
        Now you say I could “bited” a third time? On a NEW IndieGoGo campaign? RRReeeeeaaallllyyyyyyyy?!
        Now that WOULD be interesting. I didn’t see one under Smarmaker or Boobless Tech. so do tell of which you may be speaking?

  10. Joseph Stackhouse says:

    I like how Dimitri shows how easy it is to get a prototype in a few days in this video.. yet we waited over a year for our smARtDUINO’s we backed and funded (and made possible) on Kickstarter.. Check out my unboxing video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW4QYTsC4Rs

    I’m trying to be fair to SmartMaker, but their communication with myself and the community has been so shady. I’m making some tutorial videos on the product to help out the community as many have asked for documentation that does not yet exist (the forums are down, the wiki is empty) even though Dimitri said in one update to backers that 75% of his time was being spent on such documentation…

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