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Introducing Dangerous Prototypes green, yellow, and red label

Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2010 in kit biz, News by Ian

Our goal is to make stuff we enjoy, and offer it to like-minded hackers at a price we’d pay. We’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of our projects, but we still want to release prototypes for people who accept the risks of open source, enthusiast-designed hardware.  We’ve settled on two major changes to keep things open, loose, and cheap.

All but a few top secret projects will now be developed openly in the forum. Not many people are doing this in the emerging open source hardware industry, but we’re going to give it a try. Stop by, have a look, and give us a critique before prototypes are sent to the board house. We’ll announce new projects on the blog as they’re added.

In addition to seeing early project development, you’ll now be able to participate by buying engineering samples under the new Dangerous Prototypes ‘green label’. It’s like an Apple program that makes engineering prototypes of new iPhones available to the public. More below.

Dangerous Prototypes Green (green PCBs) – When we develop a new project in the forum, Seeed can now make up to 10 assembled boards for interested developers. This will get hardware into the hands of eager developers faster, and formalizes the process we used with the Open Logic Sniffer. It should help speed development of projects like the Bus Pirate with USB peripheral currently under discussion. There will be no testing, no firmware, no support. There’s no guarantee the design will work or have any meaningful development, the boards might not power up at all. Some soldering probably required!

Dangerous Prototypes Yellow (yellow PCBs) – The first preorder of new designs will now fall under the yellow label, production will be limited to an initial test batch of 100 or less. Preorder participants will receive a discount, but also a prominent warning that early adopters often get burned. The limited initial production will help us find manufacturing glitches before shipping a popular project like the OLS.

Dangerous Prototypes Red (red PCBs) – Successful designs that are popular enough to warrant continued production will be released under the red label at full price. These designs have had the initial bugs worked out, and have been verified not just in a prototype, but by early adopters.

We think the new three-tier system gives us more flexibility than before, while minimizing the extent of problems scaling a prototype to production. We can now release very rough prototypes, something we couldn’t do before. Initial preorders will be limited, minimizing the damage from unexpected issues, at a discount to enthusiastic early adopters who aren’t afraid to solder. If you want a more mature design, you can stick with DP-red, which has already been through the initial growing pains.

If you have any other suggestions or thoughts, please share. Let us know how we can improve preorders and your experience with our prototypes.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 17th, 2010 at 3:50 pm and is filed under kit biz, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Responses to “Introducing Dangerous Prototypes green, yellow, and red label”

  1. Luke Skaff says:

    I think the colors the other way around would make more sense? Green as good to go, all clear. Red as in stop, danger, at your own risk. May cause some confusion.

  2. bearmos says:

    I second Luke’s opinion on reversing the colors, although I imagine the driving factor behind selecting the production color was “red looks so much neater than green”.

  3. Sjaak says:

    Doesn’t say Dangerous prototypes enough:

    A) Dangerous
    B) Protype

    Does it work with preordering with seed?

    BTW I like the idea of colouring the PCB
    BTW2 Top secrets oooooeeeew ;)

  4. Ian says:

    I realize it is a bit backwards from a traffic light. I went with this for backwards compatibility with existing stock (BP is red, BP is the most polished prototype), and because green is usually associated with cheap initial prototype PCBs.

    I’m not married to the colors though, and would be happy to change before doing the first project under this system.

    • ericwertz says:

      I think that the color progression that you laid out is perfect and am cool with things as described. Green is the low-cost throw-away and red has been the final production color for all the other products.

      I think that perhaps folks just need to get over their color prejudices.

  5. DrF says:

    Not a bad idea :)
    Does this mean some hardware will never make “red” level due to whatever reason?

    • Ian says:

      Yes, it could. Many green designs won’t make it out of prototype, and many yellow designs won’t be popular enough to justify more than 100 unit initial run. Hopefully though, you can count on red to always be pretty reliable.

      I’d also like to reiterate – I can include blue, white, or other colors in the mix if the inverted traffic light metaphor is annoying everyone. I ran this by a few friends before doing it, and they all said the exact same thing: isn’t it backwards :)

  6. Eliot says:

    From a branding perspective I don’t think red is a good choice for the “production” level. I know there aren’t many color choices, but red is sparkfun’s signature color, so they’ve already got subconscious recognition. Along the same lines, green would be a bad choice too since it’s the most common (but is an excellent choice for the “dangerous” phase since it’s the default color). Most other colors have yet to be “claimed” by hobbyist manufacturers. Macetech seems to be using blue for most of their items. I know LilyPad has taken up purple but their use of round edges adds another level to setting them apart.

    My choice would be black, even though its neither vibrant nor garish.

  7. Rvu says:

    If I remember correctly the colour red was chosen for BPv3 because it allowed the traces to be seen easier then the black BPv2 version so I would at least want to keep it red for the final design.

    Green is almost always used for prototyping and then it makes since for yellow to be in between, but instead of looking at it as a traffic light, why not look at it as something being brought to life?

    It starts with green, then slowly starts to be brought to life (yellow) and finally it it’s alive (red). Maybe it’s the Frankensteins fan in me speaking now, but red is usually associated with blood, heart, love and of course life so I see red as the final colour very fitting.

  8. Rvu says:

    There is one thing I wonder though, will you inform people that a design will not reach the red label and therefore those interested should go for a yellow label, or could people waiting for the unit to be available in the red label end up not being able to purchase the unit at all?

    • ericwertz says:

      It’s not clear that Ian will be able to predict if any given board will ever “go red”. If there’s not enough interest in the yellow board then it wouldn’t make sense for it to ever go red.

      All that it makes sense to ask for is to maintain a bug list for green/yellow boards so that if they never go red, that someone else can take the design and either correct/customize it and have a 10@$40 run done at Seeed themselves. It seems likely that if one did this and had extra boards to sell, that Ian probably wouldn’t mind your announcing this on one of the project’s threads.

      Last year Seeed gave you the option of them retaining half of the 10 that you made and would have (tried to) sell them for you, but they’re no longer doing this. This is understandable as it had to be a lot of work from them for almost no, or a negative, gain.

      One word of warning though based on past experience — trying to get Seeed to run a 10-batch of Ian’s boards for personal consumption can be painful. I tried twice to get them to let me run a batch of Web Development PCBs and I got blown-off both times, so YMMV.

      • Eric says:

        Profit was not the purpose, but the previous open source PCB service brought us too much load.

        We will support open source gadgets and PCBs as much as we can, hold on for our upcoming services. :)

      • ericwertz says:

        There’s nothing wrong with profit. In fact, it’s an indication that you’re doing something well.

        You confirmed my point — that it was way too much work for too little return. Completely understandable.

        I think that it was (another) very good idea that you’ve had and was a good experiment to try. I’m confused/disappointed about some of the other recent Fusion changes though.

  9. Eric says:

    We are taking red for Seeeduino Series too :)

    The color actually could be customized, with qty. I will check with supplier about the possibility of offering a special color for all mature “dangerous boards”. By segmenting the product to 3 level, we are more confident in satisfying different favor along the new product development. Thanks Ian for the communication.

    Also, we could print some customized label for different stages. Maybe shape? :D

  10. Faruk says:

    I would agree that a red pcb just looks cooler than the “plain” green one.

    The label names and shapes should probably be changed to indicate the risk level of each batch though, like The Cadaver edition for DP-Green, The Zobmie edition for DP-Yellow and finally The Frank(enstein) edition for DP-Red … in light of Rvu’s metaphor :D

  11. psyko says:

    red look good for me

  12. If you’re worried about quantity before considering other PCB colors, then you should be talking to Prototron in Redmond (and Tucson). They’re all about prototypes, and can also handle your largest production runs. You should ask them for their color swatch with 18 different PCB colors – none of the colors cost any more than the old standard, default green.

    I’m looking at black, gray, white, pink, yellow, purple, brown, plus a few different shades of green, orange, and lots of blues.

    My favorite so far is transparent, because it shows the actual copper and phenolic colors while still serving as proper solder mask, and you can sometimes see through the board.

    Tell them that Sound Consulting referred you!

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