There is a growing movement of individuals who believe that you should own the electronic goods that you purchase. In most cases, you simply get a license to use the device.
With everything from screws that do not come out, to software lockouts / DRM / artificial obsolescence by remote-control, to glued-in batteries, to illegal "warranty void if opened" stickers, it is clear that manufacturers are not on board with you owning or repairing your device.
All of these tactics lead to e-waste and more consumption.
In the industry, there are best practices for Design for Manufacturing (DfM) and Design for Testability (DfT). Shift Sight is pioneering Design for Repair (DfR).
Keep reading to learn more...
Jade is a work in progress. As designed, the mechanical enclosure could be machined and assembled today. Some of the renderings below are old geometry and materials. Our render server does not have enough bandwidth for me to show you the latest and greatest tonight in the angles below. (That is reserved for the videos!)
These renderings are for reference only and subject to change.
Don't Screw Around
Repair starts with being able to open your product. We believe that you should not need to purchase a special screwdriver just to take off a panel. Philips screws are common and easy to work with, so that's what we intend to use with Jade:
There is more to it than just easily accessible screws; all too often, once the screw comes out of a conventional electronic product, it may not go back in. Plastic bosses that are not designed for multiple insertions / removals are commonplace. Once these strip, that's it. Threadlocker is common too, damaging the boss on the way out.
In the case of Jade, the bosses are metal and integral to the enclosure panels. They will be precision machined for long life. The fastener retention method is still TBD but will not rely on a chemical thread locker.
For aesthetic reasons, screws that would normally be visible are covered with rubber inserts. These are easily removed for service. Two such circular covers are on either side of the Carrier port:
Internally, all components, circuit boards, and harnesses will be placed and routed for accessibility and removal. If you have opened a modern gadget, you know the pain of working with FFC (Flat, Flexible Cables) that are just barely long enough to reach their socket when everything is assembled. We believe in giving you a bit of slack: it is extra material, but it will prevent accidental breaks.
With a zero-plastic goal, the enclosure is metal. (We are currently targeting an aluminum alloy, but anything suitable is fair game.) There are no plastic snaps or clips that will break, either. Tablet and phone enclosures frequently rely on these snaps in place of screws.
Some products become mechanically rigid with all fasteners and all panels in place. If you take the back cover off of such a product, it may bend and flex. It does not feel safe to use.
Jade, on the other hand, can be operated with panels removed. This makes it easier to test and troubleshoot:
The current hardware design utilizes parts with exposed leads only. For you techies, that means no BGA, QFN, or equivalents: only QFP, SOIC, and others. (The video microcontroller may be an exception out of necessity; if it is, the part will be placed on its own socketed daughterboard. There are other reasons for this daughterboard as well.)
Why exposed leads? Leads are the mechanical and electrical connection to the board. If you need to replace a part, it becomes much easier to do so if you are able to see the leads. If you do not have direct access to the leads, you risk damaging the board. A damaged board is more difficult to deal with than a damaged component.
Some existing products go a step backwards in terms of repair: they have components physically stacked on each other on the board. Removing a damaged component risks damaging the functional one. Reassembly is extremely challenging.
I have even received a few whitepapers about the "benefits" of embedding components into the circuit board, making them completely inaccessible. The whole board needs replaced if one of these fails.
Jade's BOM is full of AEC-Q certified parts. They cost more. But you can order them for up to 10 years from the date of introduction. AEC-Q processors run slower than their consumer counterparts. But they last: most of them for 20 years or more when operated at room temperature.
Most importantly, the parts can be ordered by you, in quantity 1, from independent distributors: Shift Sight is avoiding customized parts.
Jade's Carriers are equipped with parts that have exposed leads as well. It would not make much sense to make Jade repairable without carrying the practice to the add-ons.
Since the Carriers are directly in contact with you, the customer, we went a step further. Where possible, parts that are intended for experiments have through-hole leads. There were two reasons for this: 1) if you should break one of these components, despite all of the patent-pending technology to protect them, you should be able to replace it; and 2) the parts in your experiments now look like and act like the parts you will place into a breadboard.
Regarding that patent-pending technology that protects your parts: it should come as no surprise that it requires components as well. Should these parts ever require replacement, Shift Sight has opted for large form-factor SMT (Surface Mount Technology) components. For you techies, that means 0805 and 1206.
Other companies use SMT components that are less than 1mm x 1mm; replacing these by hand is extremely difficult. With a steady hand and a soldering iron, you should be able to repair your own Carrier. (But, I would ask you to send it in -- they should be indestructible unless physically smashed.)
Most circuit boards have test points which are used during fabrication and assembly. The test points are simply exposed electrical connections on the board which connect to some interesting internal signals.
Retro computers from the 80's also have test points. The sharp contrast between then and now? Those computers had repair manuals that described what the signals should look like, and contained instructions on which parts to replace if the signals did not match the book.
Jade takes this one step further. In addition to Shift Sight providing user-accessible test points, schematics, and a repair manual, Jade contains on-screen diagnostics. These can help you troubleshoot problems you are having.
Out of necessity, Jade's current design calls for three independent processors. Each of these processors can verify, to some extent, that their own circuits and that other processors are working properly.
Jade should take the guesswork out of replacing parts.
Connectors are used to make devices obsolete these days. This is senseless e-waste.
There is not much to say here. Jade does not use any proprietary connectors. Where possible, header connectors are 0.1" pitch to allow for easy sourcing of replacements.
Some companies do not even want you to replace the battery in your gadget. Once you get it open, and pry the battery off of its adhesive pad (or mountain of glue, in some cases) to get a part number, you might find out that it is a custom part. With part number in hand, you might learn that you cannot order it.
Since you cannot replace the battery, even after your ordeal, you now have e-waste in your hand.
What did we decide?
Those are standard NiMH AA batteries. The kind that you can buy and replace on your own. Jade is presently not meant to be battery-operated for long periods of time. However, if customers demand it, Jade will also support Li-Ion 14500 cells for this purpose. These are a standard size, widely available, and user-replaceable.
Sadly, software is also a hurdle when it comes to repairing your device. I previously described a company that turns your phone into e-waste if you replaced its broken screen with a compatible part. A compatible part that did not provide a digital signature recognized by the phone software. Lawsuits are not progressing well, but the company is being fined.
Jade will contain no DRM. There will be no software that restricts what you can and cannot do. There is no Internet connection: Shift Sight would do neither of these things, but we are physically prevented from both spying on your activities and artificially shortening the life of your Jade with automatic, mandatory "software updates."
At this point, there is no plan to release the system firmware under an open source license. A significant portion of it is custom since there is no off-the-shelf equivalent part (or open-source part). Reselling parts of the software will provide a stream of revenue while Shift Sight is working toward profitability. If we are not solvent, we cannot change the world.
The firmware would be licensed in such a way that it would be released to the public as open source if Shift Sight becomes insolvent. Nobody can predict the future, and we do not want Jade to become e-waste at all costs.
Our goal is zero e-waste. We want you to be able to repair Jade at the component level. And we want Jade to last.
Jade's components are slower. To provide a good user experience on these parts, it means that Jade's launch schedule is longer when compared to a typical consumer product. We cannot simply slap together a minimum-viable-product and ship e-waste out the door.
Repairability does not have a good effect on a single bottom line. Most devices end up trashed before they would even require repair.
Shift Sight intends to fix a disposable industry. Jade is the tool to get there.
I hope that you have enjoyed this sneak peak of Jade's repairability. I have other surprises in store for you! See you next week.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.