Batch 3 preorders shipped out today (2/14) so check your emails for tracking #s! New orders will have a little lead time (3-4 days) as I ran out of split loom and had to order more. Once I get the rest of them built I’ll update the order page, until then, just use the pre-order form.
Batch 3 is on schedule for Feb 15 ship date! Building 40 sets this time, which leaves 10 sets worth of parts left in Batch 4 to experiment with different designs or for custom orders (harnesses, DRLs, etc).
Some fun stats about 40 sets of SKBOWE (80 units):
- 320 wires cut, 640 stripped, 400 soldered
- 400 capacitors + 240 diodes + 80 resistors = 1440 leads soldered
- 80 heatsinks cut and bent, 80 enclosures notched, 80 covers taped
After stuffing the enclosures (heat wire, form wires, tape wires, then test-fit heatsink and insulator), it’s time to mix up some potting compound.
Then each one gets a thin layer of compound, board goes back in, another layer of compound, cover gets glued and goes on, then the whole thing gets wrapped with electrical tape to compress it. Once all of them are done, into the oven for 2 hours at 165F.
I ran out of ABS cement (more on order) so for now there are 11 (so the 9 pre-orders will go out on time).
Stay tuned for more updates!
Batch 2 Sold Out!
Wow! Hard to believe but all 50 of the original Batch 1 / Batch 2 SKBOWEs have sold in just 6 months. They have shipped all over the US, as well as Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Netherlands. While there were 16 units in the initial pre-order, sales have been stronger than I expected, averaging 6 units/month from August onwards.
Batch 3 / 4 open for Pre Order
It’s sad to see the bin empty, and thinking of the stories that I have heard I can’t let it stay that way – so I have decided to go ahead and order parts for another 50 SKBOWEv2. Again, some the capacitors are backordered so there will be a Batch 3 shipping in February and Batch 4 shipping some time after that. The pre-order is open now if you want to guarantee yourself a set.
It kills me to do so, but after selling the 50 Batch1/2 units with an average profit of -$3.49/each (negative three dollars) I have no choice but to raise the price for Batch 3/4 to $110 to cover the rising cost of components and unanticipated PayPal fee increases (which happened during the course of Preorder/Batch1/Batch2).
Again I apologize and hope that a small price increase is better than no SKBOWEs at all.
The original SKBOWE business plan called for 100 units total, and at this time it looks like Batch 4 will be the last of SKBOWE v2. There are several ideas for features to SKBOWEv3, such as a removable harness and a DRL detector, but the design is still tentative. I guess for now, you’ll just have to wait and see!
I found the connectors that AL use on their bi-xenon projector solenoid control boards (Mouser #571-2-1718346-1 and #571-965906-1-CT) and ordered a few to make pigtails that connect the high beam solenoid into the factory wiring. The OEM connector locks securely into place, and the 12″ (30cm) automotive GXL wire is designed to hold up inside of the headlight housing. Wire is color-coded to match factory wires (yellow = +12, brown = ground) to ensure correct polarity and not look out of place inside of the housing.
AL (OEM) Salvaged Projectors
Most used (salvaged) projectors come with short (cut pigtails) of various colors or no harness at all. I have never seen a set in yellow and brown, the wire colors used in the Volvo headlight housing for the 9005 high-beam connector.
If you want to wire up a projector retrofit without using messy splitters, I am selling these for $20 shipped (Priority Mail) to the US, or $12 with your SKBOWE order (just contact me first!) anywhere. Each order comes with a pair (2x) of 12″ GXL pigtails and four (4x) 4″ black zip-ties to match the OEM internals. You will need to provide insulated butt-style (if you cut-and-splice) or 9005 female (join inside of the high-beam connector) crimps – see this post for details.
Replica Projector Pigtails
Replicas use the same connector but a different pinout: the yellow wire is on the center (pin 2) rather than on the end (pin 1). All new replica projectors come with pigtails, usually white (+12) and black (ground). These will work fine, but if you want to go for a 100% OEM look, you can order a set of these color matched pigtails and swap the pin across. It is pretty easy to swap the pin over using a jewelers screwdriver. Or let me know first and I’d be glad to do it for you.
There are 15 units available to ship from Batch 2 – get them while you can!
I had originally said October (based on the DigiKey backorder estimate) but the caps came early. Haven’t had too many Batch2 orders yet so I thought I’d get a head start on building them…
Got all of them soldered together, and 10 sets potted…
I’ll be traveling for the rest of the month, so I am pushing to finish these tomorrow so orders placed before 9/15 will get in the mail on Monday. If you haven’t ordered yet, yours will ship out before October 15th.
Sorry for the delay since the last update – been really busy getting Batch 1 together – so I’ll consolidate the last of the build updates into one post.
The second order of potting goop came Thursday so I knocked that out.
As it turns out, it’s 10 units to the ZipLoc gallon bag, and two bags to the 0.45 Gallon kit, so it was only 6 pairs, not too bad.
Was a long day… Started with 52 potted units, each needs to be unwrapped, cleaned of flashing (belt sander), and given a good wipe down with isopropyl alcohol.
Then 7 hours here…
After the potting is set, the procedure is:
- Clip temporary zip tie, discard
- Cut wire loop to correct lengths for input/output/ground
- Crimp on ring terminal
- Heat shrink ring terminal
- Cut split loom to length for input + output
- Tape one end of input + output split loom and slide on to respective leads
- Secure split loom at base of enclosure
- Install weather seals on wires (4x)
- Strip wire ends (4x)
- Crimp terminals (4x)
- Install male connector housing and seat weather seals
- Install female connector housing, seat weather seals, and install retaining clip
- Tape up split loom
Anyway, around 1AM
Started packing. Each order gets a whole bunch of stuff that needs to be put together…
By 3PM I had the pre-orders packed and off to the post office. Not sure if they will get processed today or tomorrow, but they are in the mail! Finished the Batch1 orders when I got home and will take them in to the regional hub tomorrow.
Then I took a nap. And then wrote this post. Mic drop.
PS. There are only two lonely SKBOWE kits left that are in need of a good home… Can anyone take them in?
Epoxy Encapsulation (potting) serves to waterproof the SKBOWEs, insulate them from vibration, prevent corrosion, and conduct heat away from the components to the enclosure. It’s the messiest and trickiest part of the build process, as there is no turning back once you’ve mixed a batch of compound – and it’s $260/gallon.
Long day of work (8AM – 7PM) but Batch 1 is nearly complete! Enjoy the pics…
Last night, I was able to get all the resistors and the flyback diodes (R1 and D3) installed and leads trimmed. I also got the wires soldered on, and ended with this lovely ball.
This AM I got the primary wires trimmed, and capacitors stuffed, soldered, and trimmed… This is a lot of capacitors – 2,132,000uF aka 2.132 Farads to be precise.
Next came the diodes. As I had suspected laying out the new PCB, and confirmed when building #002, the heat sink (anode) of D2 does overlap the leads of D1. This shouldn’t be an issue if it’s assembled properly, but once the potting goes it it’s impossible to verify or adjust so I added some UHMWPE tape over the leads of D1 just to be safe.
By 3PM everything was soldered, trimmed, and ready to go. I have a lot of respect for the poor souls at Foxcon who do this all day, every day, with much smaller components. Wow.
Next I cut the wire pen into the enclosures. Took a little extra time to jig it up but it was well worth it.
Finally, and this was the most physically exhausting part, assembling the PCB assembly, heatsink, and insulator into the enclosure. But 2 hours later, sweet victory:
Also jigged up a workstation for potting so spills are easier to contain. Just a piece of plywood with the right shape cut out.
As much as I want to jump in to the potting, I’m mentally wiped and will almost certainly make a mistake. Better to wait till tomorrow.
The 11 hours I was working today I left SKBOWE #002 running on the testbench, powering Morimoto XB55 at worst case DRL duty cycle (50%). The temp never broke 90°F (ambient +20°) anywhere on the enclosure. That’s really cool (excuse the pun), especially compared to the only other error eliminator that seems to (barely) work on 82Hz PWM, which had a +80°F rise after an hour at 80% duty. For comparison, the XB55 was hanging around 140°F
After much ado, the production PCBs are here! Worked like crazy today to get everything ready for cranking up production this weekend.
And unit #002 put together for testing
Also made some heatsinks – enough for 50 pairs. Didn’t take as long as I thought it would, once I got the system figured out.
Also decided to go for cutting the wire, since I was on a kick. Each zip tie holds the wires for 5 pairs. The in/out wires will be soldered to the boards as loops, then cut to length and terminated after encapsulation to protect the ends. Here’s 50 pairs-worth of wire cut out:
Tried out the potting system, worked pretty well, but there will be a learning curve. Lots of wasted goop on the first try. Vacuum system worked well though.
So here we go, the first official pair off the line… Drumroll please:
Don’t worry, the real ones will be prettier! I mixed up the wire lengths on the first one, and then crimped the connectors backwards (out-in and vise versa) so had to cut off the connectors and ended up with short stubs. These will most likely be destructively tested.
Emboldened by this success I decided to just jump in and bang out the remaining 25 or so units left to build for the preorders and batch 1.
An easy way to speed up production is to split a complex process into small steps and do all of the same step at the same time, probably as a combination of deveohpling muscle memory as well as reducing the number of different tools required. Downside is, should you make a mistake, it is likely to be repeated many times. After going through all steps serially with unit #002, and stuffing #003, I decided to do the next 5 in parallel.
Only 4 pairs fit in my vice at a time, but by the time these were finished I found it faster to skip the vice all together except for soldering the wires, where they have to go in one at a time anyway.
Crimped connectors on #003A to check the process, and it tested good, so off to do the rest at once.
Hopefully be done with assembly today and can focus on potting this week. I just hope I can pot each one in less than the 2 hours it took me to do the first one (above).