Our first product, Copernicus is an important part of our identity as a company. It laid the foundation for our product engineering processes as well as evolved our brand identity from the logo to our choice of colors. Back when we started building the product for the first time, we decided to name it Copernicus in honor of Nicolaus Copernicus. It has become a tradition since to name our products in honor of the scientists who we feel represent the values of the product.
The product looked very different at the start; it was a holonomic drive system back then. But when we started taking the robot out to the roads, the vibrations because of the hard wheels often made our entire structure apart. This got to a point where we could not even get the system to navigate autonomously. That is when we decided to transition to a 4-wheeled differential system using pneumatic tires with the hope that it would give us a smoother ride. This was version 2 of Copernicus. Little did we know that this would give us even harder problems to solve.
With harder wheels on smoother surfaces, the rotation exerted minimal stress on the drive train. But when we switched to pneumatic tires and operated on the harsher asphalt surfaces, the stress was so great that the drive belts within the drive train snapped. This led to the 3rd generation of the product, where we upgraded our drive train to a much more resilient chain drive system. The design although more resilient, presented challenges in terms of precision of movement, which in turn affected the accuracy of the navigation system.
Copernicus V4 was designed to make the system sturdier while improving the precision by introducing a more direct drive from the motor to the wheels. This however, perhaps, presented the biggest challenge that we had faced in the product development journey. The rotational movement of the robot on road surfaces produced such high surges in the current draw that the fuses blew in the power circuit to the motors. We tested extensively and at one point we had enough fuses for a small plantation.
Being in the middle of a customer deployment, we had one chance to fix the design and deliver a robust and reliable system to the client. We had the experience of 4 failed designs, and we had 2 months to make the design changes and manufacture the system for a successful deployment. That was perhaps the fastest design and development process we had gone through. We had the least amount of time as compared to the previous versions, but this was perhaps the best design we had come up with.
The Copernicus product development journey helped us identify the process inefficiencies of our design process, and this has helped us accelerate future design work. Our product quality has continued to improve since, and if anything this would not have been the case if it were not for the multiple failures that we had gone through.