Turn-Key Assembly - Star Wars, R2-D2

Brett BourbinToday I’m pleased to introduce . He is a recent Turn-Key Assembly customer. We loved what he made so we wanted to share his story and experience with you.
My name is Brett Bourbin, I am a technical director at one of the largest video game publishers/developers in the world and design electronics projects as a hobby. I’ve been working on electronic designs for the past 10 years, ranging from lighting effects to computer controlled locomotion systems. From my courses in electrical engineering in college, to working on one of the first video game modems, I have always enjoyed solving interesting problems with silicon.

The current project I am working on contributes to my desire to recreate a working replica of the Astromech droid from Star Wars, R2-D2. I belong to a club that creates these replicas and I have designed different electronic boards to mimic what we have seen this little droid do on screen. This specific electronic design implements two of the lighting effects seen on R2’s dome. They are called Processor Status Indicators, or PSI, and they are little round lights that sweep from side to side changing colors.

While I really enjoy all aspects of designing my own printed circuit boards and assembling the surface mounted technologies, hand-building 300 of these little items was too much for me to do in my spare time. So I researched different services that could assemble my designs saving me many hours of my time.

That is when I learned about Turn-Key Assembly. I found them from doing many internet searches and sorting through all the different companies capabilities (i.e. handling of circular PCB designs, lead times, PCB manufacturing, cost, etc.) Through my research Turn-Key Assembly bubbled towards the top, as one of the very positive features was their website for setting up a project.

Through a web interface you can upload gerber files, assign specific parts to your bill of materials, specify orientations and build it up over time by saving and continuing at a later time. The whole process was pretty painless and before very long I had my two projects set up, ready for the next phase.

Once I submitted my projects for review (they then have an engineer look over what you have submitted to spot check for any issues/missing information), I was contacted by a representative to help move the projects along. Pricing is based on many factors, one being if the client is supplying the parts, using Turn-Key Assembly stock or having them source the appropriate components. I had already purchased many of the components so I was going to supply most of what was needed, and used Turn-Key stock for some common items (like 0.1uf 0603 capacitors). Once they asked me a few more questions, they were able to quote me a price on my order.

They were very reasonable and friendly during all conversations, that I decided to use them for this project. They were able to produce all the boards I had ordered in less time than they originally quoted and when I got the finished products back I was very pleased with the results. They looked very professional and clean, well packed and after I finished soldering the final components to a few of the boards (I had Turn-Key Assembly just handle all the surface mounted devices, while I still needed to add a few thru-hole headers and a diode), I was ready to program them. After burning the code I had programmed into their flash memory, they worked perfectly.

Turn-Key Assembly have now earned my business for any future project I need to mass-produce and would highly recommend them to anyone needing an end-to-end manufacturing provider were quality, reliability and ease of dealings need to be high, while keep costs within budget.


Very nice! Is he using a 3D printed cover that gives the honeycomb look?

The hex pattern is actually a translucent rubber diffuser to help break up that I’m using individual RGB LEDs.


Did I understand it correctly that 300 PCB boards were ordered? If so, it is way out of hobby or prototyping level.
And the most important piece of information is missing in this article - what was the price. Without it you cannot do any conclusions after reading this.

Well I assure you this is a hobby, though this club as over 10,000 members world wide (not all are very active). I wasn’t sure if price should be mentioned in my write-up, but as I stated it was well in line with what I was seeing elsewhere towards the lower end.

Are these boards going to fit the PSI holders of McWhir? I assume so. Only thing missing is a gadgeteer socket. :slight_smile:

They do indeed fit. Tested the current ones along with the previous version. :slight_smile:

Haven’t been on the boards much since it went down. Are these the current run you had posted, or something new coming? If current, are there spots left?

@ iamin - they can do as few as 10 boards


unfortunately , they’re US based which means I’d pay more in freight than for the boards :cry:

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Robert, I’ve told you - lets make things on the CNC at the hackerspace :wink: