It is funny how almost everything has its own set of problems. Rich people complain about taxes. Famous people complain about their lack of privacy. It probably won’t happen us, but some Kickstarter campaigners find they are too successful and have to scale up production, fast. We’d love to have any of those problems.
[Limpkin] found himself in just that situation. He had to program several thousand Atmel chips. It is true that you can get them programmed by major distributors, but in this case, he wanted unique serial numbers, cryptographic keys, and other per-chip data programmed in. So he decided to build his own mass programming workbench.
The bench programs nine devices at a time (due to the number of I/O available) and uses a Raspberry Pi to orchestrate operation. A microcontroller monitors the requests for programming and displays status at each socket using LEDs. It also drives a status LCD. The total cost was about $1,500. Not cheap, but less expensive than the alternatives and actually a bargain if you need the capability.
The layout of the device accommodates three simultaneous operators to maximize the throughput. That’s the kind of thing you have to think about when you scale. If you are ever lucky enough to have that problem, we’ve covered scaling for production before, and you can learn some lessons from people who have been through it.