Making hardware. The hard way.

A project log for Axiom: 100+kW Motor Controller

High Power, High Performance 400V 300A 100+kW Motor Controller fully compatible with VESCĀ®

Marcos ChaparroMarcos Chaparro 09/14/2019 at 20:212 Comments

Even if the VESC platform was born in the green and thriving lands of Sweden, the Axiom project found its roots in much less fertile soil.

This particular log is likely going to go over the heads of the folks living in developed countries -even my newfound Canadian mates-, but I think it can resonate a lot on the rest of us.

There are many great stories about large companies being born in a garage near Silicon Valley, but for many of us a garage in a developed country is a dream, you can't help but feeling hopelessly excluded from the aspiration of achieving such great feats.

Like most people in this community, I started working with my mate Maxi in my dad's garage. But our garages come with some extra handicaps, they are located in a  ̶d̶e̶v̶e̶l̶o̶p̶i̶n̶g̶  collapsing country that has been edging populism for years. Argentina has been home of brutal customs paperwork and requirements to deter people from ordering stuff from other countries (think digikey, a pcb, or a fancy oscilloscope), plus 50% of import taxes and the recent come back of the immediate "pesification" of the income we get from international jobs (it means that if you charge $100 for a prototype, it gets converted to a devaluating AR$, you never get to hold USD, even if you need to order stuff in USD to do the job). The concept is to take money from the productive sector to fund government affairs, so being productive here takes way more effort and willingness.

After we got our engineering degrees we started the search for contracts and good ideas. We landed a nation-wide award for a top 5 most innovative product and all that $ was invested in setting up our current Palta Tech lab and a corporation figure that can import stuff. You may imagine a sci-fi lab... and you would be right!

Meet our Batcave in Argentina

That's the current google street view, It took us an entire summer of sanding the old paint, preparing and painting the inside, the award couldn't afford the paintjob (much less pavement!). The lab outside is nicer looking now, but google won't notice for years because they don't come here often.

Having a workplace we focused on the actual work, contributing to VESC, earning some traction in the forums, and meeting amazing people like our canadian mates Arlin and Sonny, and the oh so fulfilling development of Axiom, which made our team an international, far reaching endeavor. We still ship boards from Argentina, but with a new company in canadian jurisdiction we are trying to leave behind the struggles.

It takes years of (extra) effort to get you this far when you live in a poor country, and this log has 2 purposes:

I don't know if there are other hackaday prize finalists emerging from a non-developed country this year, certainly not many. Hopefully this will help more outsiders getting into the business!




Marcos Chaparro wrote 10/01/2019 at 03:45 point

I'm not kidding about import BS. This week hell broke loose when some Argentinian developers got their overseas PCBs stuck in our customs for protectionist reasons. The paperwork to release them costs $350 plus a couple of weeks.
There was a war in the main electronics community of argentina because of this:!topic/embebidos32/9VOeefFr2GY%5B1-25%5D

The terrible thing is that there is no PCB factory in Argentina capable of making via holes <0.4 mm, so if you have a BGA chip you have no other choice than importing the PCB.... which now you can't take for granted since so far no one reported a successful PCB import into Argentina. Fun times!

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Marcos Chaparro wrote 09/24/2019 at 01:18 point

A fun note is that Baticueva was the name we clueless nerds used, but people actually thought it was a "cueva de paco", an underground place where cocaine paste is sold; mostly because of the frequent stop by of expensive cars: hybrids and PEV are rare and expensive here!

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