Getting the details right.
BCycle Dash was meant for an outdoor environment and consistent use by a city’s worth of riders. It had to be durable. It had to be watertight to keep the electronics inside protected from rain, snow and whatever weather Dash would encounter. Everything had to be sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear of daily use or even extreme cases like vandalism.
To make sure no water could get inside the kiosk unit, it had to pass the UL rain test. It’s an intense process. Three to four times a week, we would test for leaks by subjecting the product to an hour long, continuous spray of water from three sides, hitting every possible angle. Remote cameras inside the unit would show us wherever water was leaking into the device. While there had been some preliminary testing before BCycle had partnered with Plexus, most of this had been theoretical. The harsh, practical testing environment revealed design considerations we needed to readdress. We would then iterate the prototype, changing gaskets, moving the seams, modifying tolerances, and finding different materials or thicknesses. If Dash was going to succeed, it had to be entirely free from leaks before we could hit the market.
Closely connected to the ingress protection, we had to address tough flammability ratings. All open electrical leads had to be protected from dust, water and other elements. Batteries had to be self-extinguishing. To meet UL standards, the entire material list had to be flame retardant. We collaborated across engineering, supply chain and manufacturing to pore through every material. Together, our integrated team was able to find solutions and source materials quickly to meet UL ratings under intense time pressures.
But there was another, more critical element to successfully getting the product to market. Dash had to meet the FCC’s electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements to even be cleared for legal sale. This testing is all about uncovering any electromagnetic issues, like harmful radiation or communications interference, caused by the interaction between parts. And this isn’t a test you can plan for — it’s an iterative debugging process that requires a fully functioning prototype. The process takes time. So we had to compress our timeline to get a manufacturing prototype completed as soon as possible. Working as efficiently as possible, we were able to create the prototype about 30 days before launch, leaving maybe 15 days to work out any EMC issues so Dash could make its delivery date.