This article is the second I dedicate to the VK-X development. It presents more precisely what we did in the past months, and introduces the step we are currently in: the mechanical prototyping.
1 – Precise definition and management background of the VK-X Project
Having outlined the principle framework of our project, let’s take a look at our timeline. Our long-term development has largely been the result of a continuous back-and-forth with my team, attacking new challenges as they have come up. The timeline below presents the main steps:
My point of departure for this project was the first design (published in a previous blog post), as well as the first decisions that we made for a design resembling our other VK products, which were pivotal. This first design choices were rather clear: maintain at all costs the design of the VK family line, characteristic of our precedent VK-1 and VK2 headphones with solid aluminum elements housing the frame and earpads, and offer an over-ear pair of headphones to optimize comfort.
Technical brief – November 2017
During this period, I took the opportunity to define some technical aspects of the headphones, mainly electronic ones, and to identify overarching constraints from a mechanical and logistical perspective. For example, we examined the question of maximising the size of the battery in our headphones, which is limited by the size of the ear cups. A more detailed version of the technical draft has been previously published for further information.
Design brief – November 2017
Once the technical brief was defined and validated by the team, I worked on its transposition from a design perspective (I will cover this subject in another article). This design brief was then given to our designer, Eugeni Quitllet, in order to adapt the existing model to the new constraints of wireless headphones.
Budgeting – December 2017
As in other projects, our financial resources are limited so we outlined the budget during this period. The knowledge we have gained along the way from past project designs has helped us to obtain a correct quote (+- 10% ) of expenses. Several spending lines needed to be considered:
- External development services
- Prototyping costs
- Tooling and molding costs
- Travel expenses
- External components sourcing
- Certifications costs
- Unexpected costs
Mechanical development – January to March 2018
Launching off of the technical and design briefs, we started producing 3D and 2D modelizations that take into account all necessary mechanical components (ear cups, drivers, cables, electronic circuits) to have a complete and theoretically feasible simulation of the VK-X. This step is particularly critical and requires multiple iterations between the design, the mechanics, and the electronics. Indeed, it is often during this step that we discover constraints that must be solved by the research of compromises, original solutions or by updates to our design and technical briefs. The electronic development started to come together as well, but from a mechanical perspective, as we make sure that it will be correctly taken into consideration in the mechanical model: choice of components, electronic circuit, cables count. The Electronic development proceeds after, but from a conception and software perspective : electronic circuit design, components placement, and software programming.
2 – April 2018 : Where are we?
The mechanical development is nearly complete and I am currently in China to monitor the production of the plastic and aluminum components that we manufacture on site. My goal is to come back to France with a working model by the end of the month in order to assemble our first prototypes of the VK-X. Meanwhile, the electronics and software for our product are currently being developed and completed in France.
For those who may ask, aëdle designs and assembles exclusively its products in its atelier located in Montparnasse, Paris. However, it is impossible to manufacture all of our headphones components in France for reasons of feasibility (solid-cut aluminum elements manufactured with such precision are no longer produced in France, for example), as well as financial constraints. This is how we came to make the choice to source parts and components from all over the world: France (Electronics, Leather), China (Aluminum, Plastic) and others such as the US (Electronics), Hong-Kong (Audio, Wires), the UK (electrical connectors), Austria (Electronics), Japan (Electronics, LED). Please find a map below that summarizes our international sourcing:
In my third article about the VK-X development, I will present a fundamental aspect of it: the team!
Talk soon, and at your disposition to answer to your reactions.