Kickstarter Progress and Schedule Update!

We finally have a new update with current progress, current schedule, and a few other announcements.

First of all, we recently passed the one year anniversary of the T100 Thruster Kickstarter launch – what a year it’s been! We’ve grown from a few guys in a garage to shipping almost 1500 thrusters around the world. We are still behind on our Kickstarter shipments, unfortunately, but we’re catching up fast! We want to thank everyone for their patience and can’t wait to see what you’ve been doing with your thrusters!

Recent News

Just a few days ago we were recognized by Marine Technology Reporter Magazine as the “Start-Up of the Year” in their MTR100 review! We are very proud and honored to be included. Check out the write-up here.

“Start-Up of the Year” Article in MTR100.

In June we announced a few new products including Subsea Buoyancy Foam, Cable Penetrators, and spare thruster parts. We followed that up in July with the announcement of our new line of Watertight Enclosures! These high-quality enclosures are rated to a depth of 100m, come in two different diameters and custom lengths, and have modular end-caps. Please check them out if you’re interested.

New watertight enclosures, 4″-Series (left) and 2″-Series (right).

At the end of July we visited the AUVSI Robosub Competition in San Diego. We were a sponsor of the competition this year and many teams were using the T100 Thruster in their vehicles! Below are a few images and you can read more about it here!

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SSC Pacific TRANSDEC test facility (left) and our booth at Robosub (right).

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University of North Florida with their AUV (left), Carl Hayden High School’s AUV (center), and Arizona State with their AUV (right).

Current Progress

We’ve had a few hiccups that have slowed down our shipping estimates from June, but we have made a lot of progress. We have shipped all T200s (without BlueESC) and we’ve made solid progress on the T100s and T200s with BlueESCs. We’ve shipped some of the BlueROVs but we still have the majority of those remaining to be shipped.

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Schedule Update + T200s + BlueESC Firmware

It’s been too long since we sent an update! We’ve got a lot to share, both good and bad! There have been a few delays to the T200s and BlueESCs but we’ve got everything back on track and we have a clear path forward. Those of you who haven’t received your rewards have been incredibly patient and we really appreciate it!

New Team Members

First, of all, please welcome Elisa and Adam to our team! They’ve joined us at our new office in Torrance, California and they’re dedicated to making sure that our production goes smoothly from here on out. In the few weeks they’ve been working we’ve already had a big jump in production output.

T200 Thruster

Production-grade T200 Thruster!

Let’s start with the good news: we have production parts of every piece for the T200 Thruster and we have final performance information and charts! The bad news: we only have enough parts for 10 thrusters at the moment and that won’t be resolved for about 2.5 weeks. We’ve spent a lot of extra time with our plastic injection molder and our motor stator winder to get everything just right, but that’s pushed things back a bit.

As soon as we have those parts in hand we should be able to get all pending T200 orders filled within about 5-6 weeks. That means most T200s will be shipped between June 23rd and the end of July.

We’ve added a bunch of technical information on the T200 documentation page including detailed performance charts. The important parts are that the maximum thrust is a whopping 11.2 lbf at 16V and maximum power is around 350 W. Here’s the thrust vs. throttle input:

Here is another image of the T200 with all production parts.

T200 Thruster – Shipping soon.

BlueESCs and Software

We are caught up with production of plain T100s and new orders have a pretty short lead time. However, we’re still behind and catching up on T100s and T200s with BlueESCs. Now that we’ve got a few new people in the office we’ll be able to get these out faster. We’re currently expecting most T100s with BlueESCs to be shipped by the early July. T200s with BlueESCs will follow by the end of July

We do have a big update for the BlueESC: we have completed the I2C modification to the firmware so you can now update throttle via I2C and receive sensor data via I2C. You get the following data through I2C:

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Updates on BlueESC, T200, and BlueROV!

We have a few exciting updates about the BlueESC, T200, and BlueROV, all of which will ship soon (finally!). We appreciate your patience as we learn and grow and make our products the best they can be.

News

You may have already read the article on our website, but we have some exciting testing news about the T100 and T200 Thrusters! The folks over at Woods Holes Oceanographic Institution recently performed a static pressure test of the T100 Thrusters. We’re proud to report that they survived at 3000m depth (4500 psi) with no damage or changes in performance! Check out the full article and pictures here.

We also have a number of new products in our store in the past month or so. We are now carrying Hitec’s waterproof servos, extra T100 propellers, extra thruster cable, M100 propellers, and t-shirts!

Last, we are moving! It’s finally time to upgrade from our tiny space to something that we can grow into. We’ll be moving ten minutes south into Torrance, California. Once we get moved in, we’ll share pictures!

BlueESC

The BlueESC is now in early production and we will ship around 50-100 units in April. Below is a picture of the first six that we built.

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BlueESC Production Run Ordered!

We’re happy to report that we have ordered the first production run of assembled PCBs for the BlueESC. We’ve been testing our production prototypes and we’re really happy with the results! The waterproof and water-cooling aspects of the ESC are truly unique and advantageous.

Here’s an image of the production prototype, completely waterproofed and protected in its aluminum enclosure.

The BlueESC production prototype. The ESC is protected in thermally conductive potting compound.

This update won’t be long because we made a short video to show the BlueESC prototype in action! The BlueESC is living up to all of the specifications that we promised and more. Besides being waterproof and water-cooled, it has temperature, voltage, rpm, and current sensors onboard. In terms of performance, it can handle up to 20V and 25 amps in air. In water, it stays ice cold, even at 25 amps. We haven’t had a chance to test the limits in water yet, but we can guarantee that it will be much higher than that required for the T100 or T200 thrusters.

Check out the video:

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Standard OpenROV Compatible Kits Shipped!

It’s been a while since we sent out an update, but we’ve gotten a lot done! We’ve shipped almost 450 T100 Thrusters so far and we’ve shipped out all standard OpenROV Compatible Kits! We haven’t revealed a whole lot about the OpenROV Kit, so most of this update will describe that. Upcoming in the next week or two, we will have reports on the BlueESC and T200 Thruster as well as some very exciting depth testing results.

OpenROV Compatible Kit

Here’s what comes with each kit:

  • 2 x T100 Thrusters (standard)
  • 1 x M100 Motor (vertical thruster)
  • 1 x M100 Propeller
  • 1 x OpenROV Mounting Hardware Kit

You already know what the T100 Thrusters look like. Here’s what the M100, propeller, and mounting hardware kit look like:

The propeller is 3D printed in polished black plastic and designed to fit the OpenROV vertical thruster position. It uses a similar blade profile and shape as the T100 Propeller. It’s designed for efficient thrust in both directions, which is particularly important on the OpenROV.

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Many more thrusters shipped + status update!

Hello everyone!

We hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season! We wanted to give you a status update on the project and let you know what’s coming in 2015!

Thruster Shipping

We have made significant progress on orders of T100 Thrusters. We sent out a big shipment last week as well as two weeks before. To date, we’ve shipped 285 thrusters and fulfilled orders for 106 Kickstarter backers! Despite that, we’ve fallen a little behind our original schedule. We’re planning to pick up the pace in 2015, especially as we launch the BlueESC and T200.

Just so you know, when your order is shipped, we’ll send you a message via Kickstarter.

Packages of T100 Thrusters sent last week.

OpenROV Compatible Kits

The OpenROV Compatible Kits will be shipping in mid-January. We we’re hoping to get them out the door in December, but we chose to spend a little more time optimizing the propeller design for the vertical thruster. The propeller is custom designed and 3d printed for the M100 Motor and the OpenROV kit.

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Support Forums and Announcing the M100!

A number of thrusters shipped last week have been delivered and they are officially all over the world!

We’ve got some very exciting news for you in this update! We are introducing our online support forums and a new product: the M100 motor!

Forums

We’ve been getting a lot of questions over the last few months and now that we’ve shipped quite a few thrusters, we want to introduce you to our support forums.

http://forums.bluerobotics.com

The forums are a place to ask questions about our products and to discuss applications. We want to keep this as simple and helpful as possible. Please sign up for a forum account here! If you’ve purchased through our online store, you may already have an account. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be able to ask questions and respond to others. Note that the forums are still in beta and there may be bugs but we’ll make sure to address them quickly. Please report any issues.

The M100

If you are an OpenROV Compatible Kit backer, I’m sure you’re still wondering what the “modified T100 thruster” for the vertical thruster looks like. Well, here it is: the M100 Brushless Motor.

The M100! Note that on the real motor, the motor shaft extends 10mm out of the motor to attach prop adapters and other hardware.

The M100 is a simple brushless motor version of the T100. It uses the same internal components but uses a metal base that has standard brushless motor mounting holes. Its propeller (not shown) is a bit smaller to fit in the size constraints of the OpenROV.

Dimensional drawing of the M100 motor.

What else can it be used for?

Even if you don’t have an OpenROV, this is a really cool product. You could use it to make an underwater actuator, camera gimbal, even your own thruster! For instance, if you want to build a thruster into the frame of your vehicle, you can use the M100 to get the same performance as the T100 without all the extra plastic.

When will it be available?

We’ve added the M100 to our online store, but we won’t be taking any orders for it until most of the Kickstarter rewards have been fulfilled. Check out the item on our store here.

We’ll have an “M200” as well in the future. We’ll also be selling a propeller specifically for the M100 as well as the T100 propellers, which fit great on the M100.

Details

Here’s the specs:

  • Voltage: 6-16V
  • Max Current: 12.5 A
  • Max Power: 135 W
  • RPM/V with no load (Kv): 540 rpm/V
  • Shaft diameter: 4mm
  • Shaft length: 10mm
  • Connections: 3 copper pads (soldering and waterproofing required)

This is one of coolest parts: solder pads on the motor instead of loose wires. This allows you to solder wires directly to the motor and then seal them with potting compound or liquid tape. No need for waterproof wire splices or underwater connectors!

Solder pads for wire connections makes the motor easy to waterproof.

That’s all for now! Have a great week and Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US. We’ll have more updates for you soon!

Shipping the first thrusters this week!

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since we’ve sent out an email but a lot has happened – enough for several updates, so will try to send a few over the next few days. Everything is going great! Let’s start with the coolest news.

We are shipping the first 100 thrusters this week! Some have been shipped already and the rest will be in the mail by Friday. The shipments are mostly going to early-bird thruster backers as well as a few people who needed their thrusters as soon as possible.

Building 100 thrusters in a single batch is a big milestone for us and we want to share what was involved.

As you may remember, all of the thruster’s parts are custom, and we order them from all over the world. We still have to do a lot of work here in Redondo Beach to get the thrusters ready to ship.

First, here’s some of the “raw” materials as they arrive to us.

Some raw parts. Don’t be fooled by the small boxes. We have *18 boxes* of nozzles like the one at top left.

It’s amazing how much stuff we need to build all of the thrusters that you guys backed. We are literally up to the ceiling in boxes full of injection molded plastic parts. We have 1,000 cardboard tubes to package the thrusters in. We have 21,000 screws as well as thousands of other components including aluminum shaft collars, steel flux rings, and stainless steel motor shafts.

Wound and sealed motor stators.

The motor stators are wound and waterproofed elsewhere, fortunately, but we still do some extensive testing here to make sure that they are in great shape. Every stator spends at least three days in ocean water after which it is inspected for any signs of corrosion. Our supplier does a great job and the first batch had a 100% success rate.

We’ve been working hard the last few days to make sure that we could ship thrusters this week. Here are some pictures during the production process. We’re going to go into more detail about the tools and processes in a future post, so we’ll just show pictures of the in-process subassemblies here.

Stator bases while installing PCBs (left) and after stators and cables have been installed and sealed (right). The ends of the cables are sealed into the sealant so that water cannot leak through the cable and into your vehicle.

Here are the assembled and coated rotor assemblies. They consist of a steel flex ring road or base stainless steel motor shaft, and 12 custom arc magnets. They are coded in a tough protective coating that resists both abrasion and water.

Here are the motor cables, with the ends stripped and ready to be attached to the thrusters. The cable is a tough urethane jacketed cable that can handle abrasion and is very water resistant.

The Result

Here’s a pile of finished thrusters. Have you ever seen so many thrusters in one place??

Finished thrusters!

Each thruster is carefully packaged into a cardboard tube that protects it during shipping. The cardboard tubes are shipped in rectangular boxes for extra protection.

Each thruster is individually serialized and labeled. Here’s thruster #0001:

Each thruster comes in a protective tube and includes a counter-rotating propeller and mounting bracket.

Here’s all of the thruster tubes that are shipping this week!

Packed thrusters ready to go!

That’s all for now. Some of you will be receiving thrusters next week!

We’ll follow up with some more updates in the very near future. We’re going to cover the manufacturing process and tools, updates on OpenROV and BlueROV, and then talk about documentation, forums, and user contribution!

Things will be a little slow here during next week (Thanksgiving in the US), but we are expecting to ship the next batch by December 12th. If all goes well, we plan to have all T100s that were ordered without BlueESCs to be shipped in December. That will also include the OpenROV kits. We’re hoping to ship BlueROVs by early January.

If you have any questions/comments/concerns, please feel free to email us at info@bluerobotics.com.

T-Shirts and Stickers Shipped + More Updates!

We apologize for the long delay since our last update but we promise that we have been working hard to get your thrusters to you as soon as possible!

Where are we at with that?

Well, there’s good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

The Bad News

A few days ago we were notified by one of our suppliers that they are delayed an additional two weeks before they can ship our order. That’s a bummer because we have everything else ready for assembly and the delay will push our delivery schedule back a few weeks.

Right now we are expecting to deliver the first batch of thrusters in the second half of November. This will only affect people who ordered thrusters with no speed controllers or with the Basic ESCs. Thrusters ordered with the BlueESC will not be affected.

The Good News

Fortunately, there’s a lot more good news than bad news!

T-Shirts and Stickers for “Supporter” and “Founder” Reward Levels

Most T-shirts and stickers were shipped on Wednesday! Many of you have probably already received them. There are few people who haven’t provided their shipping addresses yet and we will follow up with them directly through email. If you haven’t responded to the survey please do so!

Static Thruster Testing at Depth

We were out in the Santa Monica Bay this week testing the SolarSurfer. While we were out there, we performed a static (unpowered) depth test of the thruster to determine if there would be any structural damage to the thruster at great depths. We lowered it to a depth of 800 ft (250 m) for a few minutes. There was no damage whatsoever and no change in performance after the test.

800 ft is really nothing compared to the full depth of the ocean. Fortunately, we are working with a testing facility to test the thruster to full ocean depth of 11 km. It will be a few months before we get the results but we are very excited to see what the thruster can do when pushed to the limits.

BlueESC

We now have a prototype of the BlueESC squeezed into the form factor necessary to mount in the front of the thrusters. And it works! It’s got a few bugs to iron out, but nothing major. We’ve tested it to full load with the T100 and will test with the T200 prototypes in a week or two.

The production BlueESCs will be built by CircuitHub, which is a very cool service for PCB manufacturing and assembly. We will do final assembly (soldering leads, LEDs, and potting in the aluminum enclosure) here in Redondo Beach.

T200 Thruster

The T200 prototypes will be tested in the coming weeks. We have the stators in hand – we’re just waiting for 3D printed parts to arrive for testing. If we’re happy with the design, we’ll order the injection molding tooling and parts immediately.

We’ll share results as soon as we are able to test the prototypes!

BlueROV

After the Kickstarter campaign we decided to redesign the central water tight container (WTC) of the BlueROV for extra security and reliability at depth. We’ve gone through a few design iterations to reach the best design.

We started with a flat gasket seal on each side of the tube with rods to clamp the end caps on securely and compress the gaskets. This works alright but requires the ends of the tubes to be very smooth to avoid leaks. We’ve abandoned that design in favor of a double O-ring design. There are a few advantages to this design:

  • No need for rods to hold the end caps
  • Double O-rings provide better leak protection
  • The end-caps now support the tube for better performance at depth

Additionally, we came up with a clever way to pass connections through the WTC so that they are removable. It doesn’t require expensive connectors! We’ll share more details when we are closer to shipment.

SolarSurfer

We did a big test of the SolarSurfer this week. Unfortunately, it didn’t go exactly as planned, but we learned a lot, which is why this is still listed under good news. 😉

We were attempting to send to the SolarSurfer from Los Angeles to Monterey, CA. The trip, as planned, is approximately 300 miles and would take several weeks to complete. We launched on the 14th but (literally) hit a snag on the second day of the trip. One of the thrusters sucked in a piece of sea grass and jammed. Fortunately it was still close enough that we were able to recover it!

We think this will be fairly easy to fix with some plastic mesh stretched over the front of the thruster and secured with the four outer screws. Since this would be useful to all of you, we will post instructions if it works. Anybody have any other clever ideas for seaweed avoidance?

What to Expect Next

Here’s where we think we are at in terms of schedule and deliveries.

Approx. November 20th: Shipment of the first hundred T100 Thrusters and Early-Bird OpenROV Compatible Kits. This covers all early-birds who didn’t order the pre-installed BlueESC or T200s.

Approx. December 12th: Shipment of remaining T100 Thrusters that do not have the pre-installed BlueESC plus the remaining OpenROV Compatible Kits.

Approx. December 30th: Shipment of BlueROVs that do not include the pre-installed BlueESC.

January: Shipment of BlueESCs and shipment of the the T100s and BlueROVs with BlueESCs pre-installed.

February-March: Shipment of T200 Thrusters.

This is all more or less in line with our original schedule when you include the delays for BlueESCs and T200s. If you have an urgent need for your reward to be delivered sooner than shown above, and you haven’t talked to us already, shoot us an email at info@bluerobotics.com and we’ll see what we can do.

That’s all for now! Please email us or leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts! We’d love to hear from you.

Kickstarter Update #12: Backer Surveys + Updates!

It’s been one week since the T100 Thruster Kickstarter campaign ended! We’ve already been hard at work making sure that everything goes smoothly. Here are some updates:

What If You Pledged An Incorrect Amount?

A few people have emailed us telling us that they pledged the incorrect amount for the number of thrusters and ESCs that they wanted. We set up a “Kickstarter Credit” item on our online store. If you pledged an incorrect amount, you can use the Kickstarter Credit to fix your pledge. Each credit is worth $1, so if you underpaid by $20, you can purchase 20 Kickstarter Credits.

Here’s the link to the credit: http://www.bluerobotics.com/store/uncategorized/kickstarter-modification-credit/

Please only use the Kickstarter Credit if your pledge amount is incorrect. If you want to purchase more thrusters or ESCs, please do so through our online store. More products will be available for pre-order in the next week.

Production Status

In the spirit of being open about our company and products, we’d like to keep you all updated on the production status of your rewards! Besides that, it’s pretty interesting to see what goes into developing and producing a product like the T100 Thruster.

Stickers:

The stickers have been ordered. They are waterproof (as promised) and will look like this:

There are actually seven individual stickers on the sheet. Every backer who backed the “Supporter” reward level or higher will receive a sheet of stickers!

T-Shirts:

The T-shirts will be ordered very soon as well. We are still waiting on a few surveys. They are screen-printed and look like the shirts we wore in the Kickstarter video.

T100 Thruster:

We’ve been ordering everything we need to complete the thrusters and should be able to get the first ones out the door by the end of October. There’s way too much to go into detail, but here are some highlights of what we’ve been doing:

We already have the full quantity of:

  • Motor shafts
  • CNC aluminum rotor bases
  • Steel rotor flux rings
  • Plastic bearings
  • Custom shaft collars
  • Threaded inserts

On the way:

  • Several thousand feet of custom cable
  • Several thousand custom neodymium magnets
  • Production prototypes of wound and coated stators (from subcontracted company)
  • And 21,000 screws (crazy, right?)

Upcoming soon:

  • Thousands of injection molded plastic parts
  • Internal wiring PCBs (used to connect wires from stator to cable or BlueESC)
  • Full production run of wound and coated stators (after approving prototypes)

That list covers every single part. Once everything is received, the assembly process is the only thing remaining before shipment. We’ll provide more updates when we get there.

T200 Thruster:

We have a few sample stators and we are working on the mold design for the three new injection molded parts that are needed.

BlueESC

In one of the last updates, we showed you a low current test of the BlueESC. We’ve now successfully completed a high current test! We’re in the process of laying out the ESC schematic into a much more compact board that will fit on the front of the T100 and T200 thrusters.

OpenROV Compatible Kits

The OpenROV kits contain two regular thrusters, covered above, plus one modified thruster that fits in the OpenROV vertical thruster position.

What is that modified thruster like? Well, it’s not so much a modification as it is a new embodiment of the T100. We’re not going to say too much about it until we can show you the production version, but it’s very cool. It is not exclusive to the OpenROV at all and can be used in many different applications! Wait and see.

BlueROV

We’ve made a few minor changes to the overall design as well as some big improvements to the central water-tight container (WTC) that houses the electronics. The WTC is incredibly important because it protects hundreds of dollars of electronics from the water and pressure. Since this is a “Hacker Edition”, we expect you to open and close the WTC often to make changes, debug, etc., so we’re trying to make it as quick and easy as possible while providing a reliable seal that works at several hundred meters under water.

We have made several prototypes and have improved ones in the works. We’ll provide more info and test results as we progress!

That’s all!

Thanks for reading this far. We’ll continue to provide regular updates throughout the development and production process! Thank you to all of you for backing us and believing in us!

Happy Thrusting!

-Rusty, Joe, and Josh from BlueRobotics