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21.07.2016

Captain’s Log - PuzzlePhone Episode 4: R&D Camp

Captain’s Log - PuzzlePhone Episode 4:  R&D Camp

Last time we left you with many questions and a little peek into the complexity of creating the most awesome smartphone ever. Now we forge on to create balance and clarity between vision, functions, manufacturing process, and environmental ethos.

In order to do this we needed to lock a bunch of brilliant minds in a room and throw away the key. We had that magical moment happen in the land of polar bears, Oulu*, when we assembled together the full international team of mechanical engineers, designers as well as software, hardware, electronics, antenna, and audio specialists. The hot potatoes du jour are: antenna configurations, audio structures, interaction modeling, and mechanical drop performance.

*Disclaimer: we know there are no polar bears in Oulu :( but we love the legend that there are :)

Ground control to Major Tom – Antenna configurations

Interestingly your body is quite good at blocking your phone signal so antennae design is critical to avoid your hand in particular from affecting your phone's performance. Design can do a great deal to encourage you to hold the phone the right 'intended' way but reality is amazingly acrobatic shoulder calls with hands full of shopping bags. In order for us to achieve the best phone performance, however you make your calls, we ran a marathon of simulations resulting in changes to the form of the spine module to give the antenna more of a 3D shape (a good thing in antennae design).

Head Hand simulation

Head Hand simulation

Let me hear you scream – Audio Structures

As the tension is building up we take a look at the slightly nerving puzzle of audio coupling anomalies that modular design throws in our way. We have developed a set of features to ensure that the full range of frequencies will not create buzzes or feed-back loops and tested them with shiny 3D CAD models and simulations.

Simulation Graphs

Simulation Graphs

Take me down to the paradise city, where the grass is green and the phones are pretty – Interaction modelling

The land of 'how to connect and lock the modules together' is vast. We need to be sure that our final solutions are extremely robust, utterly intuitive and do not compromise other technical requirements or the simple elegance of the phone. They also need to be 'future-proofed' to maximise compatibility between 'now' modules and future modules. This is such a big and critical subject, we will revisit this topic later in Captain's Log episodes. We will let our beloved engineers do a little more testing and brewing around this topic.

The soul intention is learning to fly, condition grounded but determined to try – Mechanical drop test

While no one intentionally throws their smartphone against hard objects like floor and walls (known to happen while in mind-numbing rage – not covered by most insurance policies however) occasional accidents happen. And because we all have butter fingers every now and then, we expect our smartphone to survive minor hiccups. That being said, anyone can make an indestructible brick –the challenge is making a robust phone that is slim and attractive and is also repairable and sustainable.

We have assigned material properties, masses and assembly methods to each of the modules & components. The assembly has been dropped in every possible orientation. This has highlighted some issues with internal mini modules. Not quite back to the drawing board but further iteration and simplification is required to improve our performance.

Drop test

Born to be wild – Time to unlock the door and release the hardware rebels

We had a magical time in Oulu and, whilst it left us with yet more head scratching dilemmas, our dreams of better hardware have survived and we know we can make PuzzlePhone happen. We are a start-up so we need to make smart decisions as early in the development process as possible. Luckily we have truly been blessed with the amazing work the guys in Oulu and around Europe are doing in both 3D testing and component manufacturing. We think the world desperately needs these people and we want to create more jobs for the great minds that one day will solve the Rubik's Cube of hardware sustainability.

In the next episode we will take a look at user testing. User testing is an essential part of a Human Centred Design approach and while we might be some of the best engineers and experts out there, there's no substitute for the actual voice of the public. This time we will lock you guys, our lovely team of human guinea-pigs, in a room and throw away the key and proceed to watch you behind one way mirrors like mad scientists! evil laughter.

Alejandro Santacreu (CEO)
On behalf of the PuzzlePhone team
The PuzzlePhone!
The Android you’ve been looking for! 

 

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