2020 Update: COVID-19 delays and precautions

I didn’t do my traditional 2019 wrap-up/2020 preview post this past December. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing I didn’t, because there’s no way any plans for 2020 would have held for long. Things are a lot different around the world than they were in December.

First and foremost: I don’t anticipate any interruption to Aion FX. By a stroke of providence, my timing for going full-time at Aion FX last fall couldn’t have been better. I now work from home exclusively while the world is being told to stay at home. My wife’s job has switched to working from home, and we have in-home childcare, so we feel pretty insulated from the virus. We’re basically not planning to leave the house until we’re told otherwise.

I understand that there are so many in the world out there who are not as fortunate. I only mention this to say that since Aion FX is a one-man show, there’s not a lot that can cause interruptions. I expect the mail will continue to run since it’s the primary lifeline we all have to the economy right now. As long as I can get PCBs manufactured and ship out orders, it’s business as usual.

But with that said: none of us knows what’s going to happen in the next few months. I may be able to continue shipping PCBs like normal, but at some point some of the parts suppliers might not. (The whole state of New York was just given a stay-at-home order this morning, which will have a huge impact on Small Bear, for instance.)

I supply a Mouser parts list with all of my projects, and right now they’re putting measures in place to remain open all across the world, so hopefully they are successful in those measures and are able to keep us all supplied.

But there are always some parts you can’t get at Mouser. Fortunately Tayda Electronics has really improved their selection of pots during this past year, with nearly every value of Alpha 16mm right-angle pots, exactly the type needed for my projects. And Love My Switches has a great assortment of toggle and stomp switches as well as enclosures and other hardware. (He’s a single-family operation just like I am, so hopefully he’ll have the same insulation from the virus’s potential impact.)

So with that said: we’ve all got a lot of time on our hands now to make pedals, but it’d be better to get your orders in sooner rather than later. Fortunately, I’m doing a 25% off sale for PCBs this weekend, so I’ll make it easy on you!

COVID-19 precautions

The NIH and CDC say that COVID-19 can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel. While transit time from China is rarely less than 3 days, I am going to err on the side of caution. All shipments received from China will sit for 3 days before I open them. You may consider giving the same 3-day quarantine period to any received mail just in case of contamination during transit.

(Along those lines, please understand that international delivery times may be delayed. This will vary by country. I don’t know if there are presently any delays, but it seems inevitable.)

New PCBs

The PCB factories were shut down for about two months, from the middle of January through early March, so I ran out of stock on a few things. They’ve all resumed production, though, and I got my first orders last week, so things appear back to normal here.

I’ve got a huge backlog of new projects that need to be prototyped, so I will be releasing those as I am able. One exciting thing to mention is that I’ve now created a platform for the 125BB/1590BBS enclosure, which will allow a lot of new effects that I’ve previously had to skip over because they wouldn’t fit into a 125B. There will be a few of these released very soon, but it also opens the door to a lot more in the near term.

Kits

This is the area where my 2020 plans are being hit hardest. While the PCB factories in China have re-opened, the enclosure factories have not—at least not the one I rely on, which is also the one that supplies the bulk of 125B enclosures to the USA market. I’ve had enclosures on order with them since the middle of December, but since the COVID-19 shutdown in China came immediately after the Chinese New Year, they still haven’t been produced.

I was planning on releasing six new kits in March. Those have now been postponed indefinitely. Things are under control in China and slowly returning to normal, so I expect the factory to re-open in the next few weeks, but they’ll have a huge backlog to work through, so it could be 3-4 months before the enclosures are finished and the kits can be released.

This means that while 2020 was originally going to have a huge push toward kits, I’m going to have to shift my focus and work with what I have available. Which means PCBs!

I do still have a lot of current kits in stock, but once those are sold out, the restocks will be on the same schedule as new releases.

New website

I’ve been hard at work the first few months of this year on a new website after sorely needing it for about three years now. The design is complete, programming is a little over half finished, and last week I had a photo/video shoot for the remaining assets. I am extremely happy with the way it’s turned out, and it will set the stage for a new era of Aion FX now that this is my full-time job.

So that’s all for now. I’ve been pretty quiet the past few months as I’ve been catching up on things that needed to get done behind the scenes, but I hope to ramp things back up soon and start pumping out more releases in the coming weeks.