4 August 2011
(Odometer: 1,057 miles)
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill.–Jeff Lawson’s company, Zero Defect Manufacturing, is adept at contract design and manufacturing. He’s a longtime engineer who knows his stuff. But his work with his friend Tim Johannes on Shockwave Impact could turn out to be something altogether different.
In our earlier post, we described Johannes’ vision for a MEMS-based device, the Shockwave System, that helps sports coaches and parents of student-athletes keep tabs on the cumulative effects of head trauma.
I listened to these two passionate guys talk about their evolving design and had a “wow” moment… as in “wow” this could be really big…. This could change the face of sports very, very quickly.
(Side note: I say “quickly” not hyperbolically: A pitcher at my high school alma mater was struck in the head by a batted ball, spent weeks in a coma before coming out of it; within a couple of months, many northern California high school leagues had banned aluminum bats. I couldn’t believe how quickly they turned a long-standing policy on its head).
Back to Lawson and Johannes. Given that their design could catch fire faster than they anticipate (a good problem to have), how to do prepare for that? If you “wait and see” how early demand runs, you’re likely to miss exploiting the momentum because your supply chain won’t be in place.
For Lawson, it’s all about the design and supply chain. At the center of his design is a microncontroller that’s readily available, affordable, power miserly, and most importantly, FCC-compliant. He chose a 32-bit NXP MCU with embedded Zigbee because the wireless module was already approved by the government. To come up with a similar design and get FCC signoff on a different wireless protocol would mean the product wouldn’t see the marketplace for many, many months, Lawson said.
Lawson designed in three accelerometers from Analog Devices:
Lawson also made use of energy-harvesting technologies from Cymbet to round out the design. Lastly, he’s working with Treehouse Labs to develop an app to use to transmit and capture the Shockwave System data on iPhones and iPads.
“We made some channel partners and used some of their existing technology … to bring this product hopefully to market in a very short amount of time. We’re looking at hopefully a 3-4-month period,” Lawson said. “It doesn’t do me any good to design this… if I can’t deliver it in the volumes we need.”
“That was the commitment that we got from our partners and from our distributor, Avnet …which was, we can then develop this, and if we want to CM (contract manufacture) this, we can then take that and distribute it anywhere in the world, with our bill of materials, the product and the lifecycle associated with it is ready to go…and we can really turn on a dime.”
And that could turn into a few dollars for the company. Listen to Lawson’s description of how he and Johannes have built a design and supply chain for the coming version of the Shockwave System: