Manufacturing things ethically in a globalized world on the verge of climate collapse is a difficult thing. Some companies label their products "sustainable", "carbon nuetral", or "ethically sourced", but the meaning of those terms is opaque and untrustworthy. Rather than claiming something like that, we've decided to provide a summary of the techincal details of the materials and labour that go into making OVUM. As a small manufacturer, we don't have a lot of buying power, so we're forced to stay on the beaten path more often than we would like - but a great deal of care and thought went into the makeup of this product, and we hope it shows. This summary is likely to change over time - we will endeavor to keep this page up to date, and revise as our processes improve.
• Country of origin
Every OVUM is made with care in our workshop in Vancouver, Canada. But "made" can mean a lot of things. We did not mine the metal or cut down the trees that were used to make these instruments. By our accounting, weighted using the cost of parts and labour, each OVUM was made:
- 52% Vancouver, Canada
- 25% Shenzhen, China
- 23% China / Unknown1
1 Many of the components we use are made by companies with factories in different countries, and they do not make public which specific factories make each component. Since these components arrive to us via China, our assumption is that is their country of origin.
Our goal is to source our parts and materials from places where human rights are respected, and labour protections are strong. However, most of what we need is only available from places where we can't verify if they meet that criteria, or if they are available elsewhere they are prohibitively expensive to meet our goal of an accessibly priced instrument. We are actively seeking to improve this. If you have suggestions for better sources or alternative parts and materials, please let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Assembly details
- Circuit boards are printed in Shenzhen, China.
- Surface-mount electrical components are placed on the circuit board by robots operated by humans, and reflowed in ovens in Shenzhen, China.
- Aluminum top panels are milled by robots operated by humans in Shenzhen, China.
- Through-hole electrical components are hand-placed and hand-soldered in our workshop in Vancouver, Canada.
- Wooden cases are robot-milled, hand-sanded, and hand-finished - all in our workshop in Vancouver, Canada.
- Port panels are laser cut and engraved in Vancouver, Canada, at Vancouver Hack Space.
- Each OVUM is then hand-assembled from all of the pieces mentioned above, tested, packaged, and shipped, all from our workshop in Vancouver, Canada.
• Climate impact
The actual climate impact of anything even slighty complex is nearly impossible to calculate. As an example: our company will never be able to determine how far the sand for the semiconducters we've used traveled before being turned into chips, or if it was moved by trains or trucks. Even something like how far the workers commuted to the factory that made a part matters if you want to actually know the impact of something. Operating at the scale we are, we can't make many choices on hard data - but when we can, we do. While putting a specific number on it may not be possible, we can say that we believe that the climate impact of OVUM is quite small, as long as it's used often and for a long time.
• Materials composition
The matrials composition of every component isn't something we can perfectly gather, since parts manufacturers aren't legally required to disclose that information, and we're not a big enough customer to require them to disclose voluntarily. When we can't know, we make an educated guess. By our accounting each OVUM contains:
- 0g of lead - all parts and solder are RoHS certified lead-free.
- 93g of new and salvaged plywood (cellulose and epoxy)
- 61.7g of aluminum
- 46g of FR4 (fiberglass and resin epoxy)
- 29g of other metals
- 17g of plastic
- 4g of solder (paste and flux-core, all lead-free)
- >0.5g of glass
- a very small amount of other materials (silicon, precious metals, ceramics etc.)
"-" indicates data still being assembled / calculated.
|92||Resistors||0.92||Plastic, glass, ceramic, silver, nickel||China||SMD resistors in 0805 packaging. Manufacturers have multiple factories, so exact origin is unknown.|
|16||Ceramic capacitors||0.24||Plastic, nickel/copper, ceramic||China||SMD capactitors in 0805 packaging. Manufacturers have multiple factories, so exact origin is unknown.|
|10||Rotary potentiometers||19.2||Plastic, metal, graphite, epoxy||China||Pitch and tone control.|
|6||Integrated circuits (ICs)||0.62||Plastic, silicon, precious metals used for doping, unknown conductive metals for pins||Unknown/China||Texas Instruments (TI) LMV324 op amps and an LP5907MFX voltage regulator, XPTEK Tech XPT4809 headphone amplifier. TI has multiple factories, so exact origin is unknown. XPTEK manufacturs in China.|
|5||Discrete transistors||0.019||Plastic, silicon, doping metals, lead metals||China||Controls oscillator reset - toggling the triangle core from rising to falling and vice-versa.|
|5||Slide potentiometers||3.53||Plastic, metal, FR4, graphite, epoxy||China||Voice level control.|
|5||Slide switches||4.5||Plastic, metal, FR4||China||Toggle between triangle and square wave.|
|4||Threaded inserts||0.74||Brass||China||Glued into the wooden case to attach the top panel.|
|4||Top panel mounting screws||1.21||Steel||China||Screws into the threaded inserts.|
|2||Electrolytic capacitors||0.72||Plastic, metal, liquid electrolyte||China/unknown||Used to decouple the headphone output from DC. Manufacturers have multiple factories, so exact origin is unknown.|
|1||USB-C Connector||0.44||Metal, FR4, plastic||China||16 pins connected.|
|1||Headphone/line connector||0.79||Metal, plastic||China||3.5mm / 1/8" stereo TRS socket.|
|1||Volume Wheel||0.72||Metal, plastic, FR4||China||Master volume control.|
|1||Aluminum top panel||61.7||Aluminum, plastic||China||No details about the origin of the metal are available.|
|1||Printed circuit board||41.3||FR4 (epoxy resin, fiberglass), copper, plastic inks||China||No details about the composition or origin of the blank board are available.|
|1||Wooden rear panel||0.76||Wood, epoxy glue||Canada||Upcycled from waste plywood, various types|
|1||Wooden enclosure||92||Wood, epoxy glue||Canada||Upcycled from waste plywood from wood shops in the area whenever possible. Usually aspen, pine, or baltic birch.|
"-" indicates info not yet collected / calculated.
Service & repairs
OVUM is powered by it's USB-C power port. It uses about 43mA of power at 5V.
OVUM does not contain a battery, but it can run off a standard USB powerbank, like one that you might use to charge your phone. Every battery pack is different, but it can run for just under 5 days straight off a basic 5000 mAh battery pack.
In the interest of transparency, as this document changes - ideally because we've improved things - changes will be noted here:
- March 27th, 2023: all component weights collected, added power consumption info.
- March 26th, 2023: added weights and compositions for many of the components - still gathering data for about 1/3 the components - added country of origin details.
- December 3rd, 2022: initial outline is complete. Still missing a bunch of data (origins for many parts, weights of everything).