Assembly hits its stride

Coil boards in housings on the potting rack

Coil boards in housings on the potting rack

It’s been pretty non stop here. We’ve had to invest in some new equipment, build some new jigs and with a good old bit of elbow grease production is going well. Components checked and measured, Coils have been potted, circuit boards mounted to bases. There have been some minor hiccups as was expected but I’m pleased to say things are progressing well.

Some of the housings had not been finished as well as I would have like so this is being done painstakingly by hand by my Jeweler, studio-colleague, Rosie Hoffman.

Looking forward to sharing more with you!

Parts arrive, assembly begins.

It’s been a very long time coming but I’m pleased to say that all of the parts have now arrived and assembly of the Sub Pro has begun. I’m so sorry it has taken so long! It feels great to be finally putting the pickups together. The last few months has been pretty horrendous with bad news following bad news. One supplier tripled their prices at the last minute, others provided goods that were not up to scratch and had to be sent back or remade.

There are a few teething problems in the assembly but as time goes on it becomes quicker and quicker. Yesterday was the first day - 28 Sub Pros were at a stage where they are ready for testing and will be completed today. Today I hope to streamline the process further and on Friday I bring in extra help to properly speed things along.

adding the switchboards to the base

adding the switchboards to the base

Coil boards and endpin jack sockets

Coil boards and endpin jack sockets

I’m still hesitant to give an exact date for shipping. We have orders from 22 different countries and making sure everyone gets the correct order is another process in itself. Rest assured the end is very much in sight! I hope they will be out of the door before the end of the month. If you need yours urgently - for a recording session or a tour please get in touch. Please be aware that every urgent delivery takes me away from making everyone else’s Sub Pros and as a result they will have to wait longer. So please only email if you really need it!

die cast housing inside

die cast housing inside

mezzanine switchboard connector

mezzanine switchboard connector

I can’t wait to get the Sub Pros to you. I’m extremely pleased with how they have turned out. Elegant, shiny, extremely thin and amazingly easy to use with so much versatility. Exciting times.

Connectors

Some time ago it became apparent that different guitarists were requesting different types of jack socket for their Sub Pros. After a survey of customers who had pre-ordered or crowdfunded the new pickup, I hastily made arrangements for some Sub Pros to come with a moulded socket and some with an endpin jack that would fit acoustic guitars and some hollowbody guitars.

Moulded socket

Moulded socket


I received an email from one customer questioning the repairability of the moulded connectors. With so much going on inside the pickup I had lost focus on what was happening outside. After some long and protracted discussions with our cable assembly supplier we’ve arrived at a solution that I hope will please everyone. Cables and connectors wearing out is inevitable and I’m not a fan of built in obsolescence or disposable plastic.

 
Inline jack socket

Inline jack socket

Endpin jack socket

Endpin jack socket

 

Arrival of some parts, waiting on others

Whilst some parts have arrived, our assembly is being held up by difficulties with the housing and with the circuit boards. The company making the die cast housing have found the part very hard to produce. They have taken longer than was originally anticipated. Due to the nature of injecting molten metal into a mould, you can never be 100% sure of the result. As you can see from the photo below we are extremely close! We are working with them to solve the last snags and I’m confident we will have solved the problem in the next few days.

Here’s a die cast housing complete with  sprue  fresh out of the mould, waiting for post processing.

Here’s a die cast housing complete with sprue fresh out of the mould, waiting for post processing.

3D model of the housing

3D model of the housing

The circuit boards took much longer to complete due to minute error early in the process. The boards are now completed. The switchboards have arrived in the UK. The other boards are with our coil supplier who mount the coils directly onto the boards. We’ve found this to be the best method as it reduces wastage and improves pickup reliability and accuracy.

I’m hesitant to predict a new date at this stage - we’re still so reliant on other companies promises and estimates. When everything has arrived and I have soldering iron in hand I’ll be able to say exactly. Keep an eye on this blog over Christmas for more updates.

Christmas Present ?

Manufacture

I’m pleased to announce that manufacture has begun. As we speak the mould for the housing is being CNC-ed. The metal stamping part tooling, I’m told, is already made. In the next few days molten zinc will be forced into the mould, and will cool. It will then be polished, chrome plated and polished again. This along with the coil assemblies, magnets, circuit boards, switches, custom cables and packaging should all arrive here in Stroud on or before 15th December 2018. Leaving a manic five days for assembly in order to make the last Christmas post. That’s right, those of you in the UK will hopefully receive your Sub Pro before Christmas! My apologies to those of you elsewhere in the world, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

exploded.jpg

I say hopefully. This is if everything goes to plan. As I’ve found with manufacturing; nothing ever does. I’m checking in with suppliers on an almost daily basis, giving them a nudge when necessary in order to make sure that we make that deadline.

If things weren’t hectic enough we’ll be moving to larger premises at some point before the manufacture. This broom cupboard has become too small!

So where are we at with the design and manufacture? Since I last wrote there have bee two total redesigns. One which shaved a very necessary 0.8mm of the height of the Sub Pro and another which was a rebuild using a different form of 3D modelling. This was a frantic 48 hours as our die casting manufacturing partner had the machinery booked but found that the file I had sent was too complicated. Not much sleep was had in those days last week.

white-background-subpro.jpg

This is almost exactly what you will receive in a few weeks. The design is ever so slightly different to this prototype (this is a photo by the way, not a render). But essential all the salient features are there. As you can see the aim of getting the switches onto the pickup was successful. A vast improvement, I think you’ll agree, over having them on an endpin jack or on a circuit board elsewhere.

I’ll be checking addresses before posting begins along with other relevant details.

Wish us luck! Will keep you posted with any developments!

More prototypes

Hi everyone. Thanks again for your patience with this. We’ve been having issues with suppliers and also chasing gremlins around the pickup switching system. Here’s where we are up to now:

The connectors work! The insides of the pickup will now be split into two boards. This helps with assembly and also reduces wastage.

mezzanine connector submarine pro

It also opens up the possibility of offering other switching systems in the future. Two ideas that spring to mind are just have two 3-way switches at each end of the pickup. On the bass side the three positions would offer (E), (E+A) and (E+A+D). On the other side (E), (E+B) and (E+B+G). Would like to know your thoughts about this!

Also for players who want dynamic control of string switching - strings on and off in the middle of songs there is the exciting possibility of swapping out the switchboard for a hexaphonic breakout board. This may not be for some time but it is definitely something that I am keen to get made!

Let’s take a look at how the rest of it is going together:

IMG_5168.JPG

As before, the final housing will be a die cast chrome plated shell. The remaining metal work will be brushed stainless steel.

assembly prototype

Here is a rough idea of how the Submarine Pro will go together. Hiding beneath the main body of the pickup is the baseplate. As before the height of the pickup can be adjusted using the hex screws on the top. One of my favourite things about the aspect of the design is that the height adjustment mechanism also doubles as a clamp for installation on acoustic guitars.

Soon we will have arranged production of the housings and eliminated all of the gremlins in the switching system. I hope to give you a better idea of the finished product in a week or so when the CNC-ed aluminium housing arrives,

Watch this space…

Modular Boards / Delays

First of all my apologies for lack of updates. There have been a number of difficult problems to solve most of which have been extremely dull but necessary to overcome. I shan't bore you with too much technical detail. Suffice to say that working with technology not usually associated with guitar pickups has thrown up its own set of problems. These have largely revolved around quality, reliability, functionality, repairability and size. However I'm pleased to say that we have navigated a way though and the latest iterations are proving extremely positive.

Let's look at some of the prototype boards.

coil-pcb-edited-600.jpg

The switches and coils are all on one board, known as a rigid-flex PCB. This sort of technology is more often found inside DSLR cameras and smart phones than guitar pickups. This arrangement came with some issues. One that was of particular concern, in simple terms, was the thickness of the signal carrying tracks within the circuit board. There is a complex weave of wires inside that green sandwich and it was a tricky balancing act to for the cabling to work as it should, whilst being contained within such a small space. 

coil-pcb-edited-closeup-600.jpg

Now for the major design change update. We have decided to divide the board in two. One board for coils; one for switches. The modular approach has advantages in that during manufacture if there was a fault with one of the coils, the whole assembly would have to be thrown out. With this new approach, wastage is far lower. It also means that, should it be necessary, repairs are possible. With the original Submarine it was nigh on impossible to replace a faulty switch or faulty coil without destroying the rest of the innards. This aspect did not please me at all. This slightly more modular design solves that problem. 

keyshot-render-PCBs-600.jpg

After many trials and tribulations in balancing tone, signal to noise ratio, reliability, size and cost we think we've come up with the best design solution. For those of you hoping for a full hexaphonic breakout system in the future, I'm happy to report that this idea is alive and well. More info soon.

So, "when do I get my hands on mine?" I hear you ask. As you have probably guessed we are behind schedule. Only once we have finalised the design of the PCBs can we push go for the manufacture all the other parts. We are now looking at a September shipping date.  I'm so sorry that it has taken so much more time than originally anticipated. I know many of you have gigs, tours and recording projects that you were hoping to use the Submarine with. I can only apologise - I hope that I haven't put you in too tricky a situation. If you really are up s*** creek without a paddle please let me know and we'll work out a solution together.

Thank you for your patience. I really appreciate your support!

All the best,

Pete