To manufacture!


Exciting times here at Vela Labs! The Chinese New Year is nearly upon us, so we're hurrying to get things moving before China shuts for two weeks. We've hit several important milestones and are still on track for delivery in May.

In this update

  • News from the factories
  • A small change to the spec
  • Tasty accessory pics
  • ...and a new project.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I mentioned Chinese New Year, having previously stated that we're manufacturing in the UK. The simple explanation is that parts of the enclosure and most of the accessories are being made in China, but the electronics and final assembly are being done in the UK. This means that we can keep an eye on the most crucial parts of the quality control process while taking advantage of the better supply chains and prices for the parts that need less testing. The metalwork is being made by the same manufacturer that built the prototype. This is a great advantage when choosing a manufacturer, and isn't something we usually have the luxury of doing. Unlike the plastics, the fabricated metal parts use the same process for prototyping as they do for volume production, so can be made in the same factory. Since the last update we have finished the designs for the metalwork and they are now with the manufacturer, so the presses will be spooling up as soon as China returns from its break.

The other completed part of the design is the electronics: both the control board and the luminaire. This is a super exciting milestone, as these are the most complicated parts. We have had to make one change from the planned functionality. Our stretch goal said we'd be using micro USB for external power. However it turns out that the current supported by USB isn't enough for us. During the tiny fraction of a second while the capacitor charges it draws over 2A, and if it's run off the lower current from USB the voltage drops and the microcontroller resets itself. Not wanting to drop support for external power, I've instead switched to a reliable old 2.1mm barrel connector. Power supplies with this connector are widely (and cheaply) available, and I will be sourcing some suitable ones before we ship. I do apologise for this change to the spec. Hopefully most people won't be too upset. It'll still run all day on regular AA batteries.

I have the final PCBs now and will finish assembling them this week once all of the components are ready. Assuming no problems arise, we'll be ready to go to manufacture on the electronics. As these are being made in the UK we don't need to worry about delays from CNY. We're in final negotiations with suppliers in the UK before we decide exactly which parts will be made where, and who will be providing what. We have negotiated prices ourselves for some of the components, while for others the CEM (contract electronics manufacturer) can get better prices.

The designs for plastic part of the enclosure are being finalised, and will be ready to go into manufacture straight after the CNY break. This will mark the last piece of the (literal) puzzle that is the Vela One flash itself. The remaining parts are the accessories (more about them below) and the packaging. I'm quite obsessive about packaging, and have some plans that hopefully you'll all like. I'll go into detail later, but what I'll say now is that while I can't afford to give everyone a Peli case, I do want to give you something to store and transport your flashes. Watch this space.

Full of noodly goodness

Full of noodly goodness

On to accessories. I always knew I wanted the interconnects to be a bit more interesting than basic black cables. To that end, last month I worked with a cable manufacturer to produce these lovely custom cables. These tasty 2m "noodle" cables are available in a fetching shade of Vela purple, and are now sitting in a stack of boxes in the lab, ready to wing their way to backers in May. Anyone who ordered a multi-pack of flashes will have at least one of these included for free. They and everyone else can order more for a very reasonable price. Just login to Backerkit and add them to your order.

Some of you may have noticed a post I made last week about a little extra project that I've been working on. This is an Arduino-based flash speed tester. You can build one yourself and see how fast your speedlight is, and then compare it to your Vela One when it arrives. I was pleased to say it was featured in lots of places and generated a lot of interest. Hopefully we'll be seeing a few people give it a try and post their results.

Until next time, happy shooting!

This post originally appeared as a Kickstarter backup update