Next Generation Arduino Manufacturing Problems?

[The Moogle] just got his new Arduino Uno; wow, that was fast. What should have been a happy unboxing turned sour when he took a close look at the board. It seems that it exhibits several examples of sloppy fabrication. The the lower-left image shows unclean board routing, a discolored edge, and a sharp tooth sticking out from the corner. The shield header shown in the upper left is not flush with the board, resulting in a weaker physical union and a crooked connection. There are vias that look like they’re not be centered in the solder mask, and areas where raw copper is exposed.

It saddens us to see this because the original Arduino boards were so well manufactured. Keep in mind that this may be an isolated case, and as of yet the company hasn’t been given the chance to swap out the board for one that has passed a more rigorous quality control inspection. But if you’ve already ordered one of your own, take a close look and make sure you’re satisfied with it upon arrival.

Not sure what we mean by next generation Arduino? Take a look at the new hardware that was recently unveiled.

Update: Here’s a direct response from the Arduino blog.

Update #2: [Massimo Banzi], one of the founders of Arduino, took the time to comment on this post. It details the organization’s willingness to remedy situations like [The Moogle] encountered and also links to the recent Arduino blog post.

119 thoughts on “Next Generation Arduino Manufacturing Problems?

  1. Dont get me wrong @arduino team.

    I think your device is an awesome contribution to the community. I think the tooth and the copper showing are minor cosmetic issues. My main surprise is that the headers (and ive seen atleast 2 of the notably 100k of them) got past you.

    I personally design all my own boards. The reason I chose this route was the price tag of things like basic stamps , and their equivalent. (i would put arduino a few levels over a basic stamp any way)
    That price range is 50-100 EA.
    What I see happening with arduino is the price is being worked to where you will actually compete with the cost of (including my time to design it) the boards I design and use.

    Arduino is a quality idea, and with how big it is obviously is doing something right.

    My posts here are not intended to berate the arduino team…. or their product. It is to express surprise that their quality team let something like the headers slip past them.

    You guys have to admit though even one board making it out with the headers as shown in the link above is simply unacceptable. The other stuff I will give ya is trivial. But the headers , had any one looked at these boards how could it not be noticed? (simple answer is they processed 100k of them on a deadline)
    Arduino is the best option out for what they do this is a fact.

    Bottom line is the reason people seem so outraged is because they expect better from you guys because thats what you deliver normally.

    But if there are more then the 2 with headers like ive seen I think on that one you apologize to your customers (admit it fell short of your own expectations) and promise action will be taken so it doesn’t happen again.

  2. Well, this basically explains why people with experience tend to dislike Arduino. Only an arduinist would waste so much time making a post about a splinter-making piece of electronics. I looked hard at the pictures in the article and I don’t see what’s the loving problem. Some headers got slightly crooked? The Earth is going to stop spinning now, I can feel it already.

    Why not take 15 minutes to let your cat resolder the headers straight, instead of making all the noise? Straight soldered header pins don’t make HaD news, is that why?

  3. This product is more or less pointless as your average EE student should be able to breadboard one in their sleep. Because of this, I would assume that they aren’t expecting to make much money on this, as it isn’t patentable as a concept and is really only usable by a school looking to teach software concepts (or very basic MCU concepts).

    I say that you get what you pay for, and there is no reason to complain. If you want a nice MCU board, build your own. It’s pathetically easy, and if you aren’t capable of wiring it yourself, there’s a million examples out on the ‘net.

  4. hi folks, to get the disclosures out of the way i founded hack-a-day, i work with MAKE & adafruit and i’ve met the arduino team many times and consider them friends as well as pioneers in open source hardware.

    now that’s out of the way – i think it’s always good to share information and work towards better products, the personal attacks and name calling aren’t needed though.

    the arduino is an open source hardware platform and it’s doing ok – with maybe 200k units out there they’ve done a great job publishing everything, keeping up with demand and in my opinion – very high quality. i say high quality because i’ve personally handled about 10,000 or so arduinos in some way or another and while there are rare issues, they are really really rare.

    these arduinos are used thousands of times a week per customer, plugging stuff in and out, doing crazy things, going to the desert, even space. the quality in my opinion has always been fantastic. the support more so.

    in this example, the arduino team quickly responded with a post on their site, very publicly. they went through each photo and issue and explained what may or may not be accurate, or what can be done. and as always they offered a refund and/or a replacement, no questions asked.

    moogle didn’t give anyone an opportunity to resolve this, he didn’t contact the arduino team or allow the reseller to replace or refund it. in the sparkfun IRC channel he also claimed the he was offered “$30 to keep quiet” – that is not true, i asked him about this when i saw it he told me that he didn’t mean to say that and since apologized.

    i know it’s fun and easy to go lynch mob and score points for criticizing, but arduino is not a giant company, it’s a handful of hard working people trying to do good and i think doing a great job for their customers. if there are issue the arduino team will take care of it, and i think their response here, their site and their forums demonstrates that.

    out of all the orders i’ve seen go through MAKE & adafruit (and others) the arduino team has always been the best to work with as far as suppliers go – from keeping the resellers informed to excellent customer service when it’s been needed.

    so folks, be good to each other – debate is good, fair critiques are always welcome – i know the arduino team and everyone else in this great DIY electronics community value them – just be kind to each other, ok?

  5. Typically PIC=4 clocks/instruction, AVR=1 clock/instruction, 4-times faster machine code with AVR. Forget Arduino, just breadboard your own.. then you don’t have to deal with the wonky Arduino header gap.

  6. I too had some issues but with a freeduino, an older model, it had tiny spatters of solder and those shorted the LED that show serial activity, connect in and out, and 2 of the pins of one of the headers also had a short by some droplets of solder, but they were easily scratched away though, but I do think the chinese(?) should try harder and just do it a bit slower, so you populate 800 PCB’s instead of 1000 per hour, but in the end you have less dropouts and more appreciation, and you are also nicer to the personal, they ARE humans.

    In the west/US they went too far with the ‘virtual’ money and it got so much out of hand that the system crashed, so those manufacturing countries should learn from that and realize that they can do the same in their way and field, push the underpaying and overworking people too far and have their system collapse.

    You might think I push the conclusion too far but I’ve seen a great many instances of the solder spatter issue lately, it seems an epidemic, and I’ve seen video of workers in chinese and such factories and if you see how quick (and uncaring because of it) they have to do their soldering I’m not surprised it goes wrong.

  7. M4CGYV3R its an avr with a voltage regulator and a usb chip, it even includes an ISP header for programmers

    coming from someone who has never shown a single bit of work, and only speaks up to bash a premade board (though other premade boards are A-okay?) do us all a favor and kindly STFU

    its easy to spout off 3 letter names, and hate, but seriously what have you done? what have you shown?

    nothing and that you are nothing (please respond with some 10 year old child bull about a NDA and a 6 figure a year income, but be warned we can smell shit a mile away)

  8. To those saying the things listed are just little things, that is no excuse. Whoever passed those through QC needs to find another job. Look at boards like the bus pirate, good quality and a lot lower demand for it than arduino . If they can do it right so can arduino.

    I’m sure they will address the issues and correct the problems in the future. If they don’t then there are other vendors who will.

  9. Even people in quality control are allowed to make errors. Maybe you should try to get and keep one job yourself before you demand some chinese’s livelihood to be destroyed.

  10. I was going to mention merely re-soldering the header connector as well.

    I can speak from experience that sometimes something put together in a way that would make you cringe can still hold together and be reliable for a very long time.
    It’s frustrating as hell too when you’re the person who encounters it like…seven years later, in operation.

    I think this is a non-issue until we see a non-functional unit.

    Good on the Arduino team for being so responsive to what appears to be a tempest in a teacup.

  11. Did anyone take the time to look at the rest of [The moogles] site?

    Looking around it you get the feeling that he’s a bit more than just an arduino user, those board designs tend to suggest that he can and does get his own boards made.

    *HE IS* entitled to complain, whether anyone likes it or not, which is what he did, even in the face of knowing that the trolls would be out for him. Thanks Moogle for taking the time out to post about the issues.

    On the flip side, Arduino + friends have responded exactly as you would *like* your tech companies to respond, quickly resolving this issue.

    Looks to me like everyone has won over this issue, even the trolls got to come out from under their rocks and get a little sunshine….

  12. I call BS on pt’s claim that “arduino’s” are going to space. When going to space, every gram of weight counts. “Arduino’s” have a lot of unnecessary weight.

    Unless he means “MCU” when he says “Arduino”, then yeah, there are lots of MCU’s in space. People need to get it out of their heads that “Arduino” means anything. It’s just an MCU dev board that someone else built for you, so that you don’t have to learn any hardware concepts. Great for CS students, pointless for engineers.

  13. @pt

    See, that’s a case where they allowed students to submit payloads, and their only concern was to stay below a target weight. I’m talking about a real-life situation, where cost/efficiency/etc is actually an issue – You’d never see a company putting an “Arduino” in to space; That would be incredibly inneficient/pointless unless they were actually trying to advertise an “Arduino”.

    In this case, some high school students wanted to put an MCU board in space to collect & transmit data. That is exactly what a pre-built MCU board (some called “Arduino”) are for. Now, if those were college-level EE students that submitted the “Arduino” for the payload, that’d be pretty embarrassing for them!!!

  14. @jake,

    hi again, please review my comment. it’s my opinion, based on the thousands of arduino projects i’ve seen and written about *and* the tens of thousands of arduinos i’ve seen in one way or another – that they are durable and well made.

    as far as the arduino being the right tool for everything, of course it is not. many people are doing completely ridiculous (and amazing) things with arduinos.

  15. Its weird, I work in a circuit board manufacturing plant in QC and all I see is good stuff. Everything is according to IPC-A-600. And the via’s don’t have exposed copper, it’s just thin mask.

  16. for anyone except art majors today it is embarrassing to use arduino, and I dont want to hear about learning crap, learn to connect crystal and power, no more complications than that

  17. @therian

    Exactly. If you’re an engineering student, or someone who considers yourself more than a very basic electrical hobbyist, you should be embarassed if you can’t build your own MCU board in a matter of minutes.

    These “arduino’s” prevent people from learning. They are fine for non-electrical people wanting to learn software, or for beginners who want a little head start on I/O, but that’s about it. As I have stated before, I work with a large university that has an electrical engineering program. We discourage all of the ECE students from using these pre-built nub boards for their projects, there is no skill nor learning in that.

  18. @jake – which large university do you work at where you “discourage all of the ECE students from using these pre-built nub boards” ?

    also, which boards do you specifically discourage not to use?

  19. @pt
    I don’t work for any university, but I go to one part time and am very involved with many student groups. When I mean discourage, I mean that when a group wants to build something, and they decide that buying an “Arduino” and plugging a bunch of crap in to it (when writing software) is a good idea for an EE project, I tell them NO.

    I don’t make decisions in these things, but I have a significant amount of influence because of my experience in the industry. If you want to play with an “Arduino” (or any other pre-built MCU board) and learn something from it, then you’d better be a CS student. There’s no point to an EE student plugging a bunch of crap in to a pre-built MCU board unless they understand ALL of the underlying concepts (and can easily build one from scratch) first.

    Now, there are obvious exceptions to this. If you want to play with a monster FPGA, you’re not going to build that board from scratch unless you’re a pro. “arduino’s” are not advanced, and can easily be built from scratch if you know what you’re doing. Therefore, IMO, they have great potential to kill great creativity. There are kids playing with these things that couldn’t wire one up on a breadboard to save their lives.

  20. @jake – you think arduinos “have great potential to kill great creativity”? – i’ve only seen the opposite, many people who do not know “ALL of the underlying concepts” are able to quickly create amazing things and learn more as they get more experienced.

    the arduino isn’t for every project or everything but even the most prolific engineers i know (from ladyada ADAFRUIT to bunnie CHUMBY to windell EMSL) use arduinos and dev boards to quickly prototype ideas before moving forward on many projects.

  21. “There are kids playing with these things that couldn’t wire one up on a breadboard to save their lives.”

    That’s kinda the point. The Arduino is a great prototype platform. It fails to be one when it is so complex as to take a PhD to use. I WANT it to be that easy. There will always be a place for needing to know much deeper amounts about the “underlying things” but for me, the easier to connect together and “just work” the better.

  22. Kids? Maybe just not everyone has the time to keep haxoring nand gates together to make a fucking microchip.
    Arudino is just perfect, you code it up and you can make things with it what you would never do with your hobbist skills, not to mention the additional unique ICs you would have to buy for your project.

    But the point is that there is no money in electronic engineering, it’s a dead occupation. You need to put like 30 years from your life in it then u can get a crap microelectronics job.
    Programming pays out 10 times much so electronics is just a hobby.

    We don’t try to repair stuff anymore just throw them away buy new one. I so regret I wasted so much time from my life for it and there wasn’t arudino back then :*

  23. @pt,CutGuy

    That’s just the thing. A majority of the EE students that I’ve seen use them could not build one, or even explain exactly what was going on with their hardware. The problem I have with “Arduinos” is that when you make this common hardware/software platform, you get infinitely more projects requiring no skill to build. A kid buys the “arduino”, programs it with someone else’s code, hooks it up, then goes around pretending that he’s done something worth mentioning. It just makes *real* EE students and electrical hobbyists look bad, that’s all.

    People who *depend* on an “Arduino” to build their microcontroller projects need to know their place, and that place is below someone who actually *builds* something on their own.

  24. @Jake
    If an EE student should never use an Arduino but should always wire up their own circuits (even if for some prototyping ideas) then shouldn’t you build a computer from scratch each time you want to comment on a post? I still think there is a place for Arduinos in the world (I guess since they’re selling a bunch i’m not alone) perhaps there are more people in the world then EEs.
    People who *depend* on a “Computer” to comment on a blog article need to know their place, and that place is below someone who actually *builds* a computer on their own. But that’s fine :-)

  25. @Paul you comparison is failure
    more fitting will be users that use program VS programmers that wrote that program OR kid playing Lego VS Lego engineering team.

    “use arduinos and dev boards to quickly prototype ideas before moving forward on many projects.”

    don’t make it sound like you need to design PCB and send it to manufacture for each prototype idea you have.

    it more like plug in chip into breadboard (thanks Microchip for DIP :p ) and headers for ICSP, it takes like 1 minute more than plug in power to Arduino but I gain advantage of real time debugging :P

  26. wow, so much hate.
    I am an EE student and sometimes use an arduino for my personal projects. It simply abstracts that parts that are not “fun”, such as digging through datasheets to find what bit to set to enable xyz peripheral.

    Not to mention buying a generic HK arduino is often cheaper than making one yourself. Last time I bought a HK arduino mega it cost the same as what farnell want for just the atmega 1280 chip in singles.

    Not to say that building your own boards isn’t an important skill. I have both designed my own PIC micro PCBs and built PIC boards point to point on protoboard, but sometimes you just want to bypass that and build something fun.

  27. @UltraMagnus “I am an EE student and sometimes use an arduino for my personal projects. It simply abstracts that parts that are not “fun”, such as digging through datasheets to find what bit to set to enable xyz peripheral.”
    If you hate digging through data sheets than perhaps EE major was a terrible choice. Digging through data sheets takes 70% of any serious design project

  28. @therian Don’t hate it, just not exactly how I enjoy spending my precious free time.

    Also, I am in the UK, we don’t have any concept of “majors” here, we simply focus on a single subject.

  29. You guys don’t get it. I’m not saying an EE student should *never* use a pre-built MCU board (Like the ones you guys call “arduino”); I’m saying that they better have a damn good understanding of the concepts, and already be able to easily build one from scratch before they start getting lazy. That’s all. There are soooo many kids using boards like an “arduino” that have *never* wired up their own MCU and couldn’t if they tried. That is unacceptable, and those kids don’t belong in EE.

  30. @jake – which university / student groups do you work with where you’re telling them they cannot use arduinos and they do not belong in EE if they choose to use one for a project?

    between MAKE, adafruit and the OSHW outreach i do, i talk with a lot of schools, i’m curious which one you’re telling student they “need to know their place” + ““arduino’s” prevent people from learning” & you “discourage all of the ECE students from using these pre-built nub boards for their projects”.

    where is this happening?

  31. @pt

    It’s not just me. It’s the general consensus amongst most motivated EE students that the arduino has no place in anything more than a first-step class to teach the very basics of a microcontroller. At my university, they would never use an “Arduino” for anything other than one of those events where then bring in high school kids and try to teach them about electronics. When we vote (in our student groups) on what projects we will be building that semester, we cut anything having to do with a pre-built board (like an “arduino”) unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary, say if we were building something with a huge xilinx FPGA or something (doesn’t happen very often).

    I say again. There is NO SKILL involved with these “Arduino’s”, and they have great potential to kill creativity and learning in college environments where the goal is to be an electrical or computer engineer. They are ok for teaching THE BASICS but should not be relied upon if you cannot build one from scratch yourself. THAT is why in the classes here, you use a motorola dev board in the first class, and in all subsequent classes, you prototype and program several MCU-based circuits over the course of the semester.

    Sounds like you have some financial motivations for pushing these. That’s fine, but just know your place. I understand that you want to make a buck, but just realize that you’re quite possibly giving a lot of non-engineer types the idea that they should join an EE program, just because they copied someone else’s project and code, and “it worked”.


  32. @pt

    You are wasting your time. It is obvious that he is very clueless on the subject of what prototyping is or that it has many different forms. I know many colleges and universities would encourage students to use whatever means are available to them to get a project done.


    So the only thing that you can do as an EE is build boards? Is that the end goal for an EE class? Ever heard of the term “black boxing?” I’m sure you know it. It where you design something with around the notion that you don’t exactly know how a part of it works. Even if you don’t have the technical knowledge of how that part works, as long as you have some operational knowledge, you can still design something that can do stuff. And if for some reason you do wish to know how that part works, then you have that option available to you to learn( if not to make it work better than to just to know). Last I heard, that’s the essence of what hacking is all about.

  33. @Jake you say the is no skill involved with using an arduino, this may be true. However I would contend the is also a similar lack of skill in just wiring up an atmega, crystal, and usb uart chip.

  34. @jake – which university / student groups do you work with where you’re telling them they cannot use arduinos and they do not belong in EE if they choose to use one for a project?

    you continue to avoid the question and i think we’re all curious where you’re telling students they “need to know their place” + ““arduino’s” prevent people from learning” & you “discourage all of the ECE students from using these pre-built nub boards for their projects”.

    where it is the “general consensus amongst most motivated EE students”?

    when you say “There is NO SKILL involved with these “Arduino’s”, and they have great potential to kill creativity and learning in college environments”

    which university? which student group? can you post any examples of any projects you’ve done with these students?

    where is this all happening?

    i’ve said my disclosures, founder of hack-a-day, senior editor of MAKE and creative director at adafruit – it’s fair to disclose yours now.

    financially, i do better when people buy non-arduino things from the businesses and causes i am involved with (margins are higher) but that doesn’t mean i do not see the value in using arduinos for certain types of projects.

  35. Hahahahaha, I *love* how worked up people get over this.

    Here’s the point to a dev board, just in case you didn’t know:
    1. Use the board to get familiar with the MCU.
    2. Build your own goddamn board.
    3. Profit (In the form of knowledge, or money?)

    It’s as simple as that. I have no problem if you like using “arduino’s”. Here’s the reality: 2 kids submit projects in a student group. One kid uses an arduino, and plugs a few things in to it. The other kid builds his own board from scratch.
    The kid that built his own board gets the recognition. The kid with the “arduino” will get a pat on the back too, but everyone knows that the other kid knows that the hell he is doing.

    I’m not telling you what university I attend. You know damn well that neither of us will ever tell our real names and locations, so let’s just leave it at that. I’m not even in school right now, I am working full time until next semester. Deal with it.

    You obviously don’t know your place. BOOM! ROASTED!!!

  36. Also, maybe you guys just aren’t seeing it from my point of view. Let me give you an example:

    Senior engineering student, on an internship, I’ve been training him in the lab to do basic prototyping work for the APD team, etc.
    Well, for one, the kid couldn’t solder worth a damn when he got here. Claimed that he’d only used a soldering iron once before, that is a shame and I can’t believe that he comes from 4 years in an EE program in a state university and hasn’t used a goddamn soldering iron. Ridiculous.
    The other day, kid says to me ‘Well, I finally bought an arduino so that I can start making some of these projects I see on the internet. Do you have any idea how to make an arduino work? I plugged it in and it said it needed drivers.’
    Seriously? Really?
    …You are a senior EE student with a 3.2 GPA and you’re asking me these questions? You think that buying a board everyone else has, and then copying their projects is actually doing something???

    Kill me.

  37. @jake – i use my real name on the net and real examples for all of the points i wanted to make in the comments.

    you have not, you continue to avoid the questions i asked or provide any examples – you also do not seem able to say where you “control” all these students and “put them in their place”.

    if want like to demonstrate the merits of learning electronics in the way -you- think is best you’re going about it in the wrong way and i feel bad for all the young folks you “put in their place” and may influence.

    since you’re unwilling to say what school, what student groups or post any examples of this amazing hardcore way you teach kids, everything you’re saying is doesn’t really mean anything – they’re just unproductive comments that no one will ever read besides you and a handful of people.

    i think your time and efforts could be better spent working on tutorials in the style of learning you’re so adamant about here.

    if you’re willing to do this, i’d gladly post it up on MAKE, on adafruit and i am sure hack-a-day would want to post about it to.

    in the end, make something to be proud of that you can put your name on instead of skulking around anonymously hating on other people’s work.

  38. You don’t get it. I don’t control anyone, my opinion is just valued more in the groups that I am involved with. People who *are* in control have the same or similar mindsets.

    You have to get out and work with these kids to understand. There is some fundamental failure somewhere in these kids upbringing/education that is resulting in a large number of students in college who just should NOT be. I just want to sit down with them, ask “Why are you here? (they don’t know) Do you want to be here (no) Then why don’t you just get the hell out?”. Everyone seems to have this mindset that anyone can do anything, therefore many kids are being encouraged to fail. Not that failure is always a bad thing, at least in some cases, but failing at university IS bad.

    Do you get at all where I am coming from? I have to deal with this crap each and every day, and it gets really old, really fast.

  39. @jake – which specific groups value your opinion that you are involved with? which projects can you point to that you’ve been involved with that has benefited from your “put them in their place” method of inspiring kids.

    kids having a mindset that anyone can do anything is good, you should use that to your advantage instead of twisting it in to something ugly.

    if you don’t like “dealing” with the optimism of youth being around kids clearly isn’t for you.

  40. I disagree. It’s bad to tell a kid that they can do anything, then let them continue to do something that it’s obvious they aren’t cut out for (or don’t want to put the necessary effort in). Too many teachers have this mentality that failing students is bad, and so they just curve the class up, pass 98%, and call it good. It shouldn’t be that way, especially in a high tier program like EE. That’s how you destroy an industry – By passing kids who have no business in the field, and therefore devaluing the degrees of those who really do work hard.

    There’s nothing wrong with optimism, as long as you’re also putting forth your BEST effort. I don’t see that very often. I see lots of optimism, but little effort. That is unacceptable! Work hard, do well, or GTFO. I’ll be a prof someday, and I’ll be that prof that the high-GPA students will love, but the low-GPA losers will hate xD

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