So come up to the lab / and see what's on the slab / I see you shiver with antici


Wow! @pichenettes, is the 5k production volume because of the bulk quantity of the new processor needed to make it cost effective? Has something changeg in your supply chain/ manufacturing houses? I certainly see why there might be some hesitation to start producing if a batch size needs to be that large!

I’d never thought of the FCC compliance testing side of things, that it had to be done out of house. Is this something that becomes necessary beyond a large enough batch of consumer equipment?


One thought that just came to me concerning clones:
wouldnt it be quite effective to release only the code of the module as cc-by-sa, not publishing schematics at all? That way, someone wanting to hack/learn/play around with the firmware could do so but cloning a module would be quite a bit harder and time/cost intensive. Might discourage some of the most blatant money grabs…


Maybe omit board files, but schematics have been a massive help for me and alot of other makers of open source modules.


I have to say, I’ve found the board files really helpful from a learning perspective too, deducing “lessons learned” through the evolution of MI modules. (Much in the same way that I have some hazy memories of old @pichenettes blog posts about layout that I wish were still around… I don’t think they are, are they?) Though I’d of course still support/understand any decision to stop releasing them.


Isn’t there a solution in the DIY community? There are so many people hand building SMT now. There are lots of people that could build a 4 or 5 prototypes in a day’s work by hand or with a small oven.


I’m not sure it would be a good idea to sell a product manufactured in dozens of small locations all over the world, each with their own processes.


No maybe not :smiley: … I understood wrong that the problem was mainly in prototyping.

But…the more time i read your sentence…

The less nonsense it seems to make.


It seems your modules sell very quickly, even in large batches. Maybe give yourself more time to benefit from your troubles? It might be time to reconsider when you open source your work.

Regardless of how you get to a happier place, thank you for your inspiring modules, Émilie!


I’m curious about this too. This past month, I was listening to a lot of podcasts on the pro audio side of things (pres, eqs and comps and such), and one of the reasons people cited for moving towards the 500 series as opposed to standalone units was because of certification needed on PSUs.


It is always necessary. At least as soon as you have enemies and something to lose.


The accidental “mode of production” (to borrow a term from Uncle Karl) for O&C may be of interest…

O&C was designed and released by Max Stadler as a strictly DIY digital ASR module (to recreate Keith Fullerton Whitman pieces) with open-source code, but not open-source hardware (you had to buy PCBs from Max, PCB layout files and full schematics were not published), with the expectation that it would have only niche appeal. But purely by chance, Patrick Dowling and I started hacking its code (and 99% of the credit goes to Patrick, who as a professional embedded system software engineer worked miracles), and various bits of Mutable Instruments code were folded in and re-purposed (similar to the way Mutable code was used as the basis for the XAOC Batumi), and then Max joined in, and before we knew it, O&C had the potential for mass appeal. At that stage we thought it best to formalise the open-source licensing of the code, and to publish full schematics and PCB design files, so it would be fully open-source in the same way that Mutable designs are. I admit to persuading (but in no way pressuring) Max to do that, arguing that it would encourage more DIY construction, reduce the burden on Max on having to fulfil requests for PCBs, and it might spark a sort of distributed cottage industry production facility to produce O&C modules for those who weren’t in a position to DIY one or two for themselves. Before releasing the PCB files, we seriously debated manufacturing O&Cs ourselves, but we all had (and still have) full-time jobs, and it seemed like too much hassle.

Thus, the O&C PCB files were released under a CC-BY-SA license, together with a request that anyone wishing to manufacture (or have manufactured) and sell O&C PCBs and/or finished modules on a commercial basis please contact us to discuss the proposition and arrange a small contribution to ongoing O&C development (and I mean small, of the order of a few euros per assembled module, and a few euro cents per PCB).

To our surprise, a lot of people, and some established synth stores, and some niche designers/manufacturers (eg Northern Lights) started to offer O&C PCBs and/or finished modules for sale. Some of these people did the right thing and contacted us and offered to make contributions to the “O&C R&D fund”, and some of those even sent us some funds. The Northern Lights people were particularly good in that respect, but so were many others. All together we have received a few thousand euros, which has been spent on things like a proper multimeter to allow thorough testing of the calibration mechanisms in O&C, and on quite a few development boards and the like to explore possibilities for an O&C mk2 design (but with no definite conclusions in that respect).

Anyway, the end result is that there are, we estimate, several thousand O&Cs out there in the wild, most of which have been manufactured by hand in a cottage industry fashion. We were worried by the potential for disasters due to absent or poor quality control, or shoddy calibration etc, but in fact, there hasn’t been a tsunami of complaints, nor a huge number of support issues relating to such third-party manufacture. There are certain DIY support issues, but we’re happy to deal with those (up to a point, and there are now a lot of people familiar with the O&C hardware, so it is a shared burden). We always refer buyers of assembled O&C modules back to the original supplier for support in the first instance, but often other of the cottage industry manufacturers (probably better called “makers”) also offer to fix modules at minimal cost.

So, it certainly hasn’t been a disaster, and as an accidental experiment in unintentional distributed manufacturing (which dodges all the regulatory and compliance responsibilities to which @pichnettes referred), it has been mostly a success.

The only slightly sour note has been the PCB “group-buy” people led by Pusherman, who also order and sell Mutable PCBs by the thousands. Our complaint was not so much that they were doing such PCB sales on such an industrial scale, but that they were doing so without bothering to contact us, rather, organising it all in secret via closed Facebook groups. That seemed contrary to the open-source spirit, if not to the letter of the open-source licensing. Anyway, that’s ancient history now.

What would we have done differently? Personally, I think that we should have used a CC-BY-SA-NC license on the PCB design files – the NC bit standing for “Non-Commercial” – and then made it clear that we would potentially offer a secondary commercial license to those wishing to manufacture and sell O&C modules (or sell PCBs etc). The main reason for doing so would be to ensure that the third-party commercial “makers” were technically competent and prepared to offer some after-sales support. I know the NC clauses are almost impossible to enforce, but they do at least provide a clear moral imperative. There’s nothing that we would do differently with respect to licensing the code - any approved open-source license is fine, although personally I favour copyleft licenses such as the GPL.

Anyway, I think the O&C “mode of production”, with the tweaks mentioned above, could serve as a model for a line of “punk” Mutable modules.

I haven’t mentioned panels or the manual and other documentation files. There are additional issues there, but I’ve run out of time.

Yes, I understand such concerns. It worried us. We seem to have gotten away with it for O&C mk1, but I don’t think we’d do it again without the modifications mentioned above, which would allow some vetting of the distributed manufacturing workforce. But I can also foresee issues, particularly if someone who applies for a commercial cottage industry license is then declined. Bad blood is likely to follow. But a by-invitation only approach might work and avoid such nastiness, in the same way that the Mutable beta testing program works.


I personally dont want this.
Ive come to love MI because of the interfaces, the sound and thw build quality.
I dont want to buy some random dudes smt solder project if i have no clue wether it will work or not.
Smaller batches seem like a more consistent option to me personally.
Im curious, how do makenoise or intellijel handle this? They seem similarly sized, no?


I don’t know about Makenoise, but Intellijel works in close collaboration with a contract manufacturer located very close to their offices. At least that’s what I heard a few years ago.

They have employees, probably approaching 10, and there probably is some labor specialization (like, a dedicated EE, a dedicated firmware person…). Since they assemble the mechanical part of the module (faceplate) and do the testing in-house, they sit in a closer loop to identify and fix problems. On my side, I have to rely on procedures – the people doing the QA at my contract manufacturer follow the procedure to the letter (and it’s greatly automatized now), the downside is that they might not be able to identify by themselves issues that are obvious to someone who understands the final function and use of the product.

They probably have initial batch sizes of 500 or 1000, and might have not faced yet the problem of starting right at 5000.


Five thousand is a big number.
So the central problem is the possibility of the whole batch going bad and sinking MI, right?
And there is no way to know 100% before full production that there wont be a problem?
Not even by producing an initial batch and testing that to its limits, as you said.
Is there a type of insurance for this? Big manufacturers must have safeguards against these kinda of things happening i assume?


Why do the current batch sizes necessarily have to be larger than they used to be?


“indispensable implements.”?