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Fitbit production prototypes are created

Last week, we went to Singapore to watch our manufacturer create production prototypes that they will use to uncover any remaining issues and to tweak the design before the Fitbit is sent off to mass production:

Observing the assembly process Looking dapper

Here are some pictures of the production prototypes. You can see the OLED display shining through the translucent plastic case. Ignore the temporary scotch tape :). It’s there so we can pop the case on and off easily. The case color is also a bit reddish. We could not get the right color plastic in time for these prototypes, but the final version will be charcoal grey.

It's alive! Four in a row

So where do we go from here? Typically, products are initially designed in some kind of 3D CAD (Computer Assisted Design) tool, such as Pro-Engineer or SolidWorks. Here is the Fitbit base station as a CAD rendering:

CAD rendering of the Fitbit base station

However, you need to build physical prototypes to understand the assembly process and to uncover any problems, either functional or aesthetic, that were not apparent in the 3D file.

Here are some examples of what we uncovered:

1. Assembling the first Fitbit was long. It took our manufacturer’s engineer 30 minutes to assemble. This is obviously not acceptable for a mass volume consumer product. The engineering team then came up with design changes to the device that will greatly accelerate the assembly process. For instance, it was really difficult to stick one of the circuit boards into the case, so the mounting mechanism was redesigned slightly.

2. The button press is way too stiff. We made some design changes and also adjusted the softness of the rubber of the button.

3. The charging contact mechanism was unreliable, mainly because the contacts would bend when we tried to insert them during the assembly process. We are trying to solve this by switching from phospher bronze to beryllium copper (which is stiffer) and by increasing the contact thickness. There are also some changes to the plastic housing that resulted from this. I’m personally particularly sensitive to this issue of contact reliability because I owned a first generation Logitech Harmony universal remote that was extremely difficult to charge. It drove me crazy because if I didn’t place the remote just right on its charging cradle, the remote would reboot!

In any case, there’s nothing unusual about problems like this occuring during prototypes. There’s always a gap between theory (CAD files) and reality (the physical prototypes).

At this point, it will probably take us another week or so to fix these problems and generate a few more runs of prototypes. Once we feel comfortable with the overall design, then we will move onto the process of creating the plastic molds for the housing, which will take about 4-5 weeks.

Also, remember to check out our photos on Flickr.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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41 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Awesome update – thanks! I love hearing all about the process and can’t wait for the product to ship – I need to lose a few holiday pounds and what better way!

  • Great update! It sounds like you are moving closer to getting the product out of the door. Based upon your time estimates — 1 to 2 weeks for the prototypes and the the building of the plastic molds, do you think that you’re looking at a middle/end Q1 production roll out date? I am anxious to get my hands on one!

  • Thanks for the updates! I pre-ordered and looking forward to getting mine. I love hearing about the process of getting these made. I like if more companies would let us know about the process and how much work goes on behind the scene.

  • I am so excited to get mine. I preordered 2 and can hardly wait for them. Thanks for keeping us up todate on what is happening. If they work as great as it says, I have become your greatest salesperson.

  • I’m impressed by both the design of what promises to be an awesome device and the transparency you’re showing during the design of it. While I wish you hadn’t said it would take another “4-5 weeks” for the plastic molds…I’m glad you’re taking your time to get an excellent version 1 of fitbit out the door. I’ll try and be patient…

  • I also have had the same frustrations as you recharging my Logitech Harmony remote. So its reassuring to know/hear that you are paying attention to the users experience in all areas of the Fitbit. 😀

    thanks

  • I know you said 4-5 weeks on the plastic molds….just wanted to let you know that on your fitbit.com site it says that shipping will start January in the FAQ’s section.

    I’m excited! From the sounds of this you are being careful and making it the best it can be. I’ll wait as long as needed. 😉 Thanks!!

  • This is an excellent application of technology fighting back to keep humanity fit instead of technology adding to our inactivity. I am wondering if there will be a FitBit application available to the Iphone?

  • Haven’t seen any updates since Christmas Eve….hint hint :) Those of our who dying to get the product would love to hear. Where are you at now? Thanks, V

  • Found your website and was so excited about the Fitbit….just the gadget I wanted. But then I saw you were only launching in the US :( so very disappointing as I live in Sweden :(
    Well, perhaps I’ll buy one in the US when I go there before the summer and then bring it home with me.

  • Rudolph it’s much like the bodybugg or gowearfit in that the device tracks your movements (using accelerometers) and uses algorithms to determine calories burned.

    As far as calories in you use the website and input what you have eaten throughout the day. check the faq or my website.

  • Rudolph needs to read the website and then he would not have such questions. Cal in, cal out, on website – when is it coming out, on website or even on the blogs that he is commenting on. wow!

  • Mine is ordered and I am watching for it in the mailnow. Will I be able to wear it overseas and then download after I return home? Going to Israel and Jordan in March. Thanks, M.

  • You have NO idea how excited I am for these little puppies! I am STOKED and cannot WAIT until mine ships. I check back religiously for blog updates. Keep em coming!

  • Could you folks please give us an update? Nothing heard since this last post and I’m eager to know if there’s a set delivery date yet on pre-orders?

  • I find it ironic that a company selling something called a “Fitbit” can be so lazy with their blog posts and product updates! Any news? I preorded sooooooo long ago….

  • I read about Fitbit in Wireless magazine, and I was so impressed that I ordered one. I hope the product lives up to it’s marketing promise. I am not a patient person so it is killing me to wait for my Fitbit, but I have worked in manufacturing for thirty years so I understand the need for quality.

    There is a product on the market that only tracks your sleep, and the cost of this littled gem is $600, OUCH:)

    Fitbit, I really hope that the July 27 tarket date ends up being the ship date, and I hope you receive enough product to be able to ship the Fitbit to everyone who has ordered it. I know my friends will want one right away if it works as stated.

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