Many Crowd Supply projects are born out of two competing factors: passion and a problem. That’s certainly the case for Sherif Eid’s JuicyBoard, a robotic control system for building 3D printers, CNC routers, and other robotics applications. Sherif has a passion for DIY robotics, which he does on the side from his regular gig as a chip designer. He started out in robotics with 3D printers and a CNC router, but he quickly ran into a problem: he simply couldn’t find a control system that met his needs. As he puts it, “I would always find a simpler board that I needed to hack and wire features to it, or a bloated, complicated, and expensive board that still needed some hacking to get what I wanted.” To feed his passion, Sherif needed to fix this problem.
He fixed it by inventing JuicyBoard, a modular, open source platform that can be used as the basis for custom 3D printers, CNC routers, or any other device driven by stepper motors. Because JuicyBoard uses a modular approach, it avoids the issues of either having to hack features onto an existing board or having to pay for and work around extra, unnecessary features and functions. The main board only includes common, core functions and components, such as a microcontroller, USB port, SD card reader, and so on. Users can then install add-on boards specific to their application. Sherif created boards with stepper motor drivers, digital I/O, control switches for fans, LEDs, etc., temperature sensors, and more. That way, users can just pay for and install the things they need, and they don’t need to spend precious development time hacking apart commercial solutions.
This modular approach also turned out to be particularly well-suited to an open source approach. By publishing all the board layouts and other design details, Juicy Board modules can be developed by anyone who needs a function that’s not yet been built. This helps to build an ecosystem around Juicy Board and magnifies both the passion and expertise that Sherif brought to the project in the first place.
In fact, the open approach helped Sherif early on, when backers helped him identify a new feature he could add to the board before manufacturing. As he puts it, Juicy Board is “a product that was co-defined by the backers.” Of course, as he wisely points out, adding features this way has to be done incrementally, there “cannot be a large change or else the product won’t come out on time.” Nonetheless, as Sherif points out, it’s a great example of how “opening the designs and tools can benefit everyone when done correctly.”
That doesn’t mean JuicyBoard didn’t face some challenges on its way to market. One of his suppliers had an inexplicable six-week delay, which caused some issues with making his deadlines. He was able to mitigate this somewhat by having a conservative delivery schedule. Similarly, creators should plan on the near inevitability of having to do some re-work after the initial manufacturing run and build that time into the schedule. Sherif also points out it’s very important to specify details such as finish, board clean-up, etc. Manufacturers may have different standards than creators, so it’s up to the creator so specify the level of finish they want.
Sherif’s experience helped get him through many of these challenges, since he is well-versed in dealing with suppliers and PCB manufacturers. Furthermore, having Crowd Supply handle logistics and fulfillment and help out with marketing and communications allowed him to stay “focused on the engineering effort to complete the design.” These resources helped Sherif deliver JuicyBoard with minimal delay.
Backers must have agreed with Sherif that JuicyBoard makes “designing robotics easier for everyone” since the campaign raised 600% of its modest goal. Today, Sherif says JuicyBoard users have ambitious plans for JuicyBoard applications, which he is looking forward to supporting. Looking forward, Sherif says, “I have plans to expand [JuicyBoard] with some projects that require custom automation. I’m trying to find other people who can champion new projects and use cases based on Juicyboard, these by themselves can be independent campaigns on Crowd Supply, but they’ll need the manpower and drive. I also have a plan to release the next generation of JuicyBoard, which will incorporate all the learning from the first release and I think it will have some interesting features.”
It looks like there are exciting things coming for JuicyBoard, we are looking forward to seeing how the ecosystem evolves in the future!