Revolution Micro Electronics
Grow Gear Reviews
Insider REPORT: Revolution Micro Electronics
How Reliable is YOUR Gear?
If you garden indoors under lights or in a greenhouse, you re quite likely counting on electronics to keep your crops growing healthy and strong. When the growing environment is in tune, growth rates and yield potential are substantially increased. Experienced growers know the many benefits of environmental manipulation in the grow room or greenhouse. There are lots of advantages to reap when dialling in the growing environment at different crop stages.
Benefits of Monitoring and Controls:
- Growth habits like stem elongation can be controlled with accurate day/night temperatures rather than harmful chemicals
- Crops that don’t experience environmental swings or extremes are much less likely to encounter problems with crop pests and diseases that favor stressed and weakened plants
- Better use of costly inputs like power for cooling, heating and lighting
- Fertility monitoring and controls for pH and EC make for faster growth and healthier plants, often using less fertilizer and water
- Can significantly reduce time required by the grower performing repetitive tasks
[quote]Reliability in your electronic growing equipment is not a luxury, and should NOT cost more.[/quote]
Clearly, there are many benefits to be had by monitoring and controlling the growing environment.
Over the last decade specialized controls have become more commonplace and affordable for hobby and smaller scale commercial growers—all of this sophistication and ease isn’t just for the big guys anymore.
Recently, there has been a flood of controls and monitors made available to gardeners at their local garden supply or favorite online hydroponics shop. In a way, this has been great, because prices have come down for growing automation. However, another trend is sometimes reliability and performance is compromised in a cost competitive market, especially with a lot of this grow gear originating from overseas factories.
Having a growing control fail can spell disaster-even with something as simple as a lighting timer, and even more so with temperature controls that help prevent plants from overheating and working themselves into an exhausted state that reduces crop potential.
A situation like this could be equated to having the Autopilot fail on a plane; simply put, a situation you cannot afford to have occur, especially where there is an investment of resources like time and money on the line.
Reliability in your electronic growing equipment is not a luxury, and should NOT cost more.
Revolution Micro Electronics (Revolution Micro) is an example of this. We caught up with Greg Richter as he was back at their Thailand based manufacturing facility arriving from the USA, along with the other half of this budding technological company, Marisa McRainey.
Now just to provide some perspective of how serious Revolution Micro Electronics is about producing reliable controls, let us tell you that Greg comes from the Aerospace Industry and has contributed to the FAA’s flight training manual on Autopilots and automatic flight controls. If you are an American flier, you’ve studied Greg Richter’s work.
If you’ve been around the hydroponics scene for any length of time, you’ll recall Greg and Marisa are the same people who gave us the GroBot, a ground breaking growing automation control that allowed remote access and control over your entire growing environment from anywhere in the world—even over your smart phone. Smart indeed.
Part of what we wanted to know more about was why Revolution Micro Electronics chose to work with a Thailand based factory, while it seemed everyone else was lining up at the Chinese border for electronic manufacturing. We also wanted to know what kind of failure rates and returns are standard these days in the hydroponic industry—is stuff getting better or worse in quality? We know for sure that price continues to come down-is there a connection?
Here’s what we learned from a fun and highly informative talk we had the pleasure of having with Greg recently.
GZ: Grow Room Electronics. High value items, and not user or grow store repairable typically. Also a lot riding on their function and accuracy. How well do you sleep at night? It seems given one fault in manufacturing could render 1000s of controllers in a single batch designated as NFG. That’s a lot of follow ups and expenses.
GR: While I do tend to work a lot, more because I enjoy it, when I do sleep its quite sound. And that’s not by chance. It took a lot of planning to get our manufacturing to the level we set out to accomplish. Coming from Aerospace and Military grade levels of quality control, you know that reliability is not a luxury–it is a MUST.
GZ: What are some of the projects you are currently on, what kinds of growing gear are you manufacturing?
GR: All kinds. I’ve just finished revamping the CAPs line of controllers on behalf of HydroFarm, for example.
GZ: You are modest, Greg. Wow, that’s kind of a big deal. In case anyone doesn’t already know, CAPs were and may still very well be the longest running and widest range of grow room controls. We’ve used them for years in many of our gardens. Still have some of their gear in operation, going on 6 years now.
GR: As you know, things change over time, factories in China got very cost competitive and a lot of controllers weren’t living up to the standard Hydrofarm had established. After HF picked up CAPs, they didn’t want Good Enough. They wanted Bulletproof.
GZ: Does that have anything to do with why you are overseeing their manufacture in a Thai factory versus China?
GR: Oh, man… Literally a world of difference. The factory I work with is ISO certified, and does lots of UL-listed high-spec products. As a matter of fact, UL inspects our factory four times a year. We are also able to meet Automotive Certification standards–even to US MIL-Spec if we need to. Besides having the right equipment and handling processes, it means that our training and testing standards are high. The people in our factory know how to assemble, test and repair these devices, not just slap ’em together.
GZ: Not fooling around there.
GR: You said it. The factory is climate controlled both in production and parts storage to protect against ESD (static) damage and solderability problems with humidity-sensitive parts like OLED displays. We even use X-Ray inspection to verify the boards are 100% before even going into software … The human eye can’t see underneath things, but my X-Ray and computer-vision inspection stations can. On average, one of our circuit boards is inspected four times by machines and six times by people. We don’t want to guess. We want to KNOW.
GZ: Care to compare? What’s considered to be the Industry Standard, and where are you ranking in comparison?
GR: That’s easy. Zero. Here’s an example, we did a run of 4500 pieces 8 months ago. We had three come back….we tested those, and it turns out they were not defectives. Somebody just looking to return them we found out. A three percent rate of return is the standard others aspire to, and frankly few out of China achieve–we aim for ZERO and so far, we’ve been able to do it.
GZ: Besides the standard of the factory, how can you hit this goal? It IS rather remarkable.
GR: It’s just neurotic design. Like why would anyone use a temperature sensor that’s not waterproof? It’s a GROW ROOM! It’s wet in there. It’s a dime more, but most of them aren’t waterproof. Why not? A lot of grow room controls also go to sleep in the cold! Our circuits run quite happily in a room you couldn’t stand to be in for more than a minute. The difference between building an XBOX that lives in an air-conditioned house and a controller that lives in a hot factory is significant. The difference between a factory and an airplane, even more so. For just a little bit more, why not build ’em rock solid? Zero returns make customer happy, stores happy and my customer happy. I see people using them and growing, which makes me happy too.
GZ: Thanks for the inside scoop, Greg. On behalf of all us growers out there, high five, and please keep up the great work.