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© central standard timing Business | June 24, 2015

CST-01 parts ways with Flextronics

Platforms like Kickstarter are full of cool gadgets. And even if funding goals are reached, there is no guarantee that it will make it into the market space.
Central Standard Timing—a small start-up which successfully funded itself through Kickstarter 2 years ago—seems to be an unfortunate example of this. A 0.80mm thin flexible wristwatch with an E Ink display housed in a single piece of stainless steel … that was the plan.

The watch—the CST-01—collected almost USD 1.03 million in funding.

The company partnered with Flextronics: receiving the deal—above two other manufacturers—because “of their expertise in wearables, their location in the US and because they included us in their LAB IX incubation program”.

“We’re sad to say that even with all the knowledge Flextronics has about wearables, little could be transferred, or was relevant to, the specific challenges of the CST-01, namely because of its sub-1mm thickness and sensitive components. We thought working with one of the world’s largest wearable manufacturers would set us up for success. We certainly didn’t think we would ever have to be writing an update like this.”

The company ran into trouble.

A smooth transition of a prototype product—assembled in a workshop—to something that could be mass manufactured seemed impossible. Suppliers added to troubles: E-Ink (the supplier for the display) shipped an estimated 20 percent broken units that appeared to have been broken due to too much force applied to a component during assembly; the original battery manufacturer went out of business (a replacement battery with similar chemistry and form factor, had, unfortunately, not the mechanical properties and the production quality of the original ones).

It seems that—after running in some dispute in the production process too—Flextronics now halted production. At the beginning of May, there were 135 units ready for shipment and roughly 200 in process. Yield issues—a 54 percent yield CST states in one of their updates—also meant that production costs increased with an additional USD 1.2 million; leading to the watch actually costing USD 260 (double than what was previously estimated).

As of the latest update, production has been terminated by Flextronics and CST is asked to pick up everything they own from the production site in Milpitas. “Hindsight is always 20/20. If we were to do this all again with the knowledge we now have, we would likely search for a partner that had specific expertise in developing new processes in ultra-thin electronics who was used to working on 10,000 unit runs. We would likely not have limited ourselves to US manufacturers, although, at the time, it was important for us to try to keep as much of the watch made in America as possible.”

At the moment it seems very unlikely that CST can find a new production partner for the watch. The company is even thinking of selling off its assets or publishing all associated design documents as 'open source' to its backers. “We’d share all CAD, schematics, drawings, and design-for-manufacture documentation down to a detailed bill of materials that have all part numbers and suppliers down to the last resistor.”

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© CST
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