Tricorder update #17 – Pre-production commences – The voyage home

(This article was first emailed on May 23rd, 2023 to fans who had registered an interest in finding out more about our Tricorder.)

Space is big … journeys are long, and as it transpires, so is this project

Season 1 recap
In late 2016 we started serious discussions with CBS about the possibility of developing a replica tricorder. However, it would take another three years until the stars fully aligned and we met with Greg Jein in Burbank to scan his screen-used hero prop so that we could properly kick off the development. After six months working with scan data we became increasingly confident that we could successfully tackle such an ambitious project and by the summer of 2020 we were ready to announce our development. Despite the havoc created by Covid, the initial development work progressed quickly, and by March 2021 we began these newsletters to bring the detailed story of this epic challenge to as many fans as possible with the expectation that as the story unfolded we were easing the project into production.

Yes, you read the headline right… pre-production has started with the first 30 units being built up to test the production line and provide a suitable quantity for functional, performance and final regulatory testing. Here you can see some of the built-up button PCBs ready for assembly into programmed tricorders.

So close but so far
However, even as we were getting ready for production, for many different reasons, the finishing line continued to be tantalisingly out of reach. It seemed as though every time we turned a crucial development corner a new and previously unconsidered issue came into focus. After a few false estimates of when production would start and 14 blog posts ramping up excitement, at the beginning of September 2021, we decided to stop trying to predict how long it would take to get the tricorder into production with potentially disappointing dates, and concentrate fully on completing the development. At the time, one of the main chips we needed was on a 52 week lead time and we felt that even attempting to estimate when production would start more than a year out was futile.

Moiré bezel mounting plates ready for assembly

Almost two years on from then, and nearly two and a half thousand days since we started scoping out the project, as we have now completed the critical component acquisition and as we move into the last stages of pre-production, we feel that it is at last time to start telling you more about the tricorder, and the final developmental steps that will culminate in full production in a few months time.

Texture and form combine to ensure the tricorder parts mimic the original thermoformed Kydex as closely as possible.

At last, we are happy with the textures and how they map over the surface in a way that is faithful to the prop, yet creates a look of a solidly engineered piece of scientific equipment. The aluminium side frames are precision machined before being hand finished so that the brushed edges match the top and bottom of the frame. Each of the aluminium parts requires a different set of processes and skills to make them – the 80,000 data discs needed for the first full manufacturing run are each turned on a lathe and then individually laser etched, while the cross bar is extruded and wire cut. As the software enters the polishing stage, the mechanical processes that need to come together not just to make this iconic prop but to manufacture it as a collectible piece of equipment are finally securely in place.

The aluminium side frames are precision CNC machined to provide the high accuracy needed for registration and location of many of the mechanical components that make up the structure of the tricorder.

We know it has been a long journey for fans eagerly waiting for news about the tricorder development, so thank you for your patience – hopefully it will be rewarded with a lovely product that is worth the wait.

LLAP 

Chris

Coming next time

Captain’s logs – All of them

Fans who register with us will be the first to read our news and the progress of this exciting Tricorder development and, later, where and when to purchase it. You can catch up with the story so far here on this blog, but if you haven’t already done so, why not register your interest in the Tricorder – you’ll then receive a personalised registration certificate and early access to these updates (before we publish them on our website).

58 thoughts on “Tricorder update #17 – Pre-production commences – The voyage home

  1. Michael Shaffer

    Glad to know that the project is still proceeding and that you’re making sure it’s perfect before its release.

    Reply
  2. Richard

    “…the final developmental steps that will culminate in full production in a few months time.”

    Hopefully this means the first production run will be offered for sale late October or early November, allowing suitable lead time for Christmas purchases. I’ll be savouring the anticipation like a glass of fine Tranya…

    “…80,000 data discs needed for the first full manufacturing run…”

    With each tricorder requiring eight discs, the first run apparently will be 10,000 units. Hopefully this will be enough to fulfill the demand from us die-hards who have been waiting with bated breath for several years, will sell out completely, then allow TWC further production runs to reap large profits (which they so very much deserve) from this complex, beautiful and incredible product!

    Reply
  3. Mark Browning

    What a coincidence, I just thought about the Tricorder and wondering if it was still on the books and I see it has not been abandoned. Warp back to 8 Captain!

    Reply
  4. Randy D.

    Videre est credere! Almost 1 year since last post! By the time this is finished the real Star Ship Enterprise – will be retired for 100 years!

    Reply
  5. Thom Franklin

    I’ve enjoyed all the blog posts about the Tricorder tremendously. Has TWC considered making a booklet of them and including the booklet with the Tricorder?

    Reply
    1. Chris Barnardo Post author

      That is a very good idea and a nice thought. We will certainly investigate the possibility of doing just that.

      Reply
    2. Michael Bastraw

      I second that, Thom—the Blogs are a wonderful chronicle of the whole process and I’m always a sucker for the DVD extras.

      Best. Mike.

      Reply
  6. JiminSTLouis

    Wonderful news Chris! We (well most of us) knew you and your team were still hard at it. We waited for the next update and you sure put out a great one. Anxiously looking forward to pre-orders opening up.

    Thanks

    jim

    Reply
  7. Dan Korzun

    Chris,
    Is this where I raise my hand and volunteer to be a product tester? I’ve got 11 years experience in both UAT (User Acceptance Testing) SIT (System Integration Testing) and Functional Testing. If you’re still looking for testers that is.
    V/R
    Dan

    Reply
    1. Michael Bastraw

      As a veteran of numerous UIs and GUIs over the decades, and a fan of Trek & the Tricorder since the ’60s, I would like to believe that I might fit your beta testing demographics. Please, put me on this hypothetical list.

      Best. Mike.

      Reply
  8. Adam Boots

    I’m guessing from the comment that production will be starting in a few months time that the end of year may be a possible release date.
    I am hoping that pre-orders will be able to me made at some point, maybe even with a deposit for it. I am definitely looking forward to it, have been since I saw the prototype in person.
    It has been a long wait but it will be worth it.

    Reply
  9. Peter Briggs

    I’m desperate to have one of these suckers! Been waiting for so long, but…very happy to wait for as long as it takes.

    Reply
  10. Dan Korzun

    Peter,
    Look at it this way, its still coming. It hasn’t been canceled, it hasn’t even been stopped (just slowed) but it’s still coming. And eventually it will be here. Fingers crossed, it will make if by Christmas this year.
    V/R
    Dan

    Reply
  11. George

    Thank you for staying the course and refusing to compromise on your vision. I have been content to wait as long as necessary for a product that incorporates all the impressive functionality you envisioned. I assume many here are like me, having spent hard-earned money on “convention specials” that always left something to be desired and a lingering “buyer’s remorse.” Not so with your replicas. I remember unboxing the Wand Company Communicator and thinking to myself, “this isn’t a prop… this IS a COMMUNICATOR!” I am eagerly awaiting to experience the same revelation with the Wand Company Tricorder.

    Reply
  12. Eric Kralicek

    Hi Chris, thank you for the update. I’m jazzed about the pre-production status. Given the level of interest and the potential ramp up time for production, how long after production starts will we be able to order the tricorder?

    Reply
    1. Chris Barnardo Post author

      It’s a technical thing, we want to do it correctly and are working on a solution for preordering… more details to follow once we have a workable solution in place.

      Reply
  13. mike

    Hi Chris, when you have a working solution. will the preorders be available for Canadian customers who registered and how much would it cost. I have the communicator and the phaser i would love to have the Tricorder to finish the landing party set thanks.

    Reply
    1. Chris Barnardo Post author

      Mike, we will hopefully be selling the tricorder from our own new store, which we very much hope to have up and running soon. We are aiming to make preorders available to all the people that kindly registered for news on the tricorder and we are still aiming at the cost of approximately $300(USD)/£300(GBP) but that is unlikely to include shipping.

      Reply
  14. Doug Curtis

    Looking forward to the to the next update occurring on 6/22/23, it’ll mark the 57th year anniversary (6/21/66) of when Wah Ming Chang delivered the original 2 Tricorders to Desilu for Star Trek The Original Series.

    Reply
    1. Michael Bastraw

      Doug:

      Chang received $286 per back then—$2,669.31 in today’s dollars. As they say, “just sayin’…”

      Best. Mike.

      Reply
  15. Trent White

    Absolutely loving these updates, Chris.
    You know what would be a fantastic future product add-on to go in the lower compartment? A medical scanner that functions as a digital forehead thermometer. 😉 wink wink.

    Reply
  16. Joe

    Sooooooo looking forward to completion of this project , it is the final piece of the jigsaw for all us Star Trek fans 🙂

    Reply
  17. Cary L. Brown

    I’m absolutely thrilled to see this coming to fruition, finally! I was a bit surprised that my name seemed to have “fallen out” from the registered notifications, as I never got the email. I went ahead and re-registered. (Glitches happen, huh?)

    As a mechanical design engineer who’s worked on many similar (but “real life”) projects along these general lines, it’s been a blast following your own development cycle. I’ve got a few bucks set aside just waiting for this to hit the proverbial street… but no pressure, guys!

    I’m just excited to see it. Big thumbs up!

    Reply
  18. Mike S.

    This is off-topic, and I’m sorry if anyone feels I’m hijacking the thread…

    I remember first hearing about the comm, just before its release. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the beauty shots. Someone actually brought this to reality. This was a bucket-list item. When it showed up at my door… I was literally shaking. Truly… a childhood dream come true. 7 years later, I can finally admit that I would gladly have paid twice the price. It was everything that I had hoped it would be.

    I took it with me on a trek to Ticonderoga, NY, to see the TOS set tour. It was a four hour ride, but well worth it. Sitting in the captain’s chair was the next childhood dream to come true. The bridge is all that.

    This tricorder looks beautiful. I’m gonna a really dumb question: What exactly will it be capable of doing? I haven’t read all the blogs.

    Thank you, Chris. Your dedication to TOS has made a LOT of people happy. I should know, cuz…. I’m one of them.

    Reply
    1. DL

      Hi Mike,

      Your experience with the Communicator is a shared one, as well as your experience with the Chair at Jim’s. There’s an indescribable feeling to relaxing and looking around a Starfleet bridge. Its shared among those of us lucky enough to have sat in the Chair.

      The blogs have been great and I encourage you to read more about this amazing effort.

      Reply
    2. CLB66

      Well, I’m not him, but I have been following very closely, and here’s what we know are there. Pretty much the typical set of sensors found on higher-end cell phones are present. Meaning, light levels, sound capture and analysis, acceleration measurement (including but not limited to motion and gravity), and certain radio-frequency EM bands.

      How these are USED is a whole ‘nother matter, and that’s yet to be fully explained. But, we know that it can pick up and play audio radio broadcasts, measure weather conditions, and I BELIEVE it can even detect magnetic or electromagnetic distortions (ie, like a “studfinder” or an in-wall wiring detector) though that last one is not certain.

      It can record and play back audio. I SUSPECT that it can play back, but not record, video.

      There’s nothing it can do that a typical smart phone can’t do, and plenty a smart phone can do that it can’t. But… that’s not a BAD thing. It’s not designed to replace your phone or tablet, after all, is it?

      The primary operational modes of this are switched by inserting different read/write “disks” into the first (rightmost) position. These don’t actually hold data, but “pretend” to. Their cores are color-coded and the tricorder identifies the disk in that position by color. It then and switches the device mode accordingly. Pretty much every REAL piece of data is stored in the “head” of the unit.

      It charges by USB… it looks like USB-C… at the lower rear of the device.

      The disks are non-functional as data-storage, but DO serve the aforementioned “mode selection” feature. (It may be possible to bypass the mode selection, but I sort of hope not!)

      The moire disk (which I’ve always taken, on both the tricorder and communicator, to represent a circular monitor screen which shows electromagnetic fields in its primary mode) is functional, of course. I BELIEVE that they’ve built in a way of setting the moire mode to “stop” on a particular display condition… the “cross” mode being the most likely, I believe.

      I THINK that the batteries are in the unit lower housing, though I would have preferred a pair, with one in either “side panel” of the device, personally. That’s how I always imagined the “real” tricorder would be constructed, anyway. The lower section DOES fold out, and has space for a sensor, or if you’re a fan of Leonard Nimoy, an Tootsie Roll Pop. You have to provide your own sensor or lollypop, however.

      The top section is where the magic occurs, of course. The entire unit is controlled by three controls. One you’ll likely never see… it actuates when you flip open the “hood” and turns the unit on, and turns the unit off when you close the hood. There are three “button/knobs” on the lower portion of the main panel in the hood. Had it been ME, I’d h ave made the two outer ones rotational controls (perhaps with one controlling volume?) but those are merely pushbuttons. The central one is a pushbutton/4-way “hat” device, similar to what’s found on many game controllers. It can be used to scroll left/right/up/down, and to select.

      The “modes” are defined by disks, as mentioned before. The disks have the following labels:

      1) Archive
      2) Audio
      3) Atmosphere
      4) Radiation
      5) Logs
      6) Planetary
      7) Status
      and
      8) Orientation

      What those all mean is anybody’s guess at this point, but a few we know about. We know, for example, about the recorded “captain’s/ship’s logs” from every episode being available in that mode. I PRESUME that “radiation” really is the “FM radio” mode (and perhaps “wire finder mode?) Audio is pretty straightforward, though it does appear, as of now, that there may be some crossover between that and “logs.” “Atmosphere” is likely using the temperature and barometric pressure monitors, perhaps also connecting to Wifi in some fashion to get forecasts and “trekify” them? (Lots of Android-based “weather stations” do the same, collecting standard weather forecast data over the internet or over radio signals and reformatting it however they like). “Planetary” seems to be a series of data slides relating to fictional planets and phenomenon in the Trek world. Possibly… hopefully… with some animation included? “Status” seems to be the “diagnostic and updates” mode for the Tricorder device… think of it as “service mode.” And finally, “orientation” might be a “user’s manual for the tricorder” in digital form, shown on the display, or an in-fiction “orientation mode for new starfleet officers,” or it might be a “navigation mode” using GPS and magnetic orientation features. Personally, I’d prefer the latter, but I suspect it may well be one of the two earlier options.

      In ANY case, this will do quite a bit. But it will NOT detect Gorn in caves a few hundred feet away. Which is a shame, isn’t it? 🙂

      Reply
      1. Chris Barnardo Post author

        Nice and thorough summary. Please note, the tricorder will not be able to record video and at present not be able to play video.

        Reply
        1. Richard

          “…at *present* not be able to play video.”

          Does this imply that the tricorder WILL be able to play video at some point after initial release, perhaps via a software upgrade? If so, fine, but I hope we won’t face a situation where us enthusiasts rush out and buy units from the first production run only to find that in a few months a “new and improved” version gets released with a slew of upgrades including video capability. Please…don’t that to us!

          Reply
          1. B Leigh

            Agree completely.

            I *suspect*, though by no means am sure, that Chris means the capacity exists for the Tricorder to play videos. But that – perhaps for legal/financial reasons – the software/programming required to do so is something that The Wand Company cannnot/will not provide. As such, after market methods may be suggested and/or offered by TWC or ‘enterprising’ third-parties.

      2. Eric Kralicek

        Thanks for the detailed description. I am very much interested in getting my hands on one and taking it through the paces.

        Reply
      3. Mike S.

        Ya know… if it can’t pick up a Gorn’s heat signature… then what the hell good is it?

        Thank you so much for spelling that out for me. That was quite a dissertation. Honestly, I thought I was gonna be met with, “You’re a fan, and you don’t know?” Instead, I got the full gamut. Thanks for taking the time to be so thorough. If I ask anything else, I’m gonna get spoiled.

        Honestly… when I was watching the show, I bought into whatever they said it was supposed to do. So, I didn’t have any great expectations as to its functionality, other than being some kind of computer/sensor thingy. Back then, like most of us… we had AMT’s Exploration Set. I think I was about 8 years old when I got it. I begged my mother to order it, from the Johnson Smith Catalogue. Remember that? Well… it was like the real thing, and it was good enough, regardless of having to majorly suspend your disbelief.

        So, I didn’t really know what to expect of this recreation. No matter what it did… it was gonna look and feel like the real McCoy. The phaser doesn’t actually do what it did on the show. And it doesn’t matter. It was the real deal, and it felt great to hold. It actually looks like something you’d expect to be defending yourself with, in a given dimension. No matter tric’s limitations… I’d bet my paycheck that it’s gonna be impressive, on another level. Grained-black Kydex, with the aluminum trim… pretty damn sexy. Wah Chang was certainly ahead of his time. I don’t think he had the slightest idea how popular his stuff would become.

        Reply
  19. Dale Smith

    Can’t wait to get one very excited looks fantastic got the communicator and it’s fab it will be well worth the wait

    Reply
  20. Mike L.

    Huzzah! Great article. I just finished reading the latest update via email called “Tricorder update #18: Captain’s logs – all of them” and I’m pumped! Fascinating journey to say the least, having had a Granddaughter and other major life events during what I now call the “Tricorder” period. I plan to record her over the years and have them for playback as my personal journey continues. Almost like jumping through the Guardian of Forever.

    “MANY SUCH JOURNEYS ARE POSSIBLE. LET ME BE YOUR GATEWAY.” – Guardian of Forever

    Reply
  21. Tom

    this is amazing news! I was concerned you guys might have given up it was so ambitious.. Really looking forward to seeing the finished product!!

    Reply
  22. Roland

    Hi Chris,
    this all sounds awesome and as a star trek fan I can’t wait to see this tricorder in action.
    As you mentioned before you are going to sell the tricorder this time directly from your new shop.
    May I ask if it will be possible to order here from Germany and will there be some different payment
    methods as only credit card, as this is not so prevalent her in Germany as in your country,
    perhaps paypal would be great.

    Thank you for keeping us informed and all the best for your work so that the tricorder will be the greatest
    device for Star Trek fans ever.

    Sorry for my bad English

    With kind regards, Roland

    Reply
    1. Chris Barnardo Post author

      Roland, thanks for your kind words. There is no need to apologise, your English is excellent and one hundred percent better than my German. Also, please don’t worry, we will be making our tricorder available to as many fans as possible and we will be shipping to continental Europe (either from the UK or from a European warehouse) and be sure also that we will be arranging as many convenient ways to pay as possible, which will undoubtedly include PayPal.

      Reply
      1. Roland

        Hello Chris,

        thank you very much for your reply.

        That sounds great and now my pleasant anticipation is again a bit more intensive my registration for the tricorder

        I have to say that I can’t put in words how much work you put in this project and how much I appreciate this, thank you so much.

        All the best to you and your team.

        Roland

        Reply
    1. Chris Barnardo Post author

      We hope to have a presale window and of course that will be announced first to fans that have registered with us.

      Reply
  23. Eric Kralicek

    Hi Chris,

    Roland asked great question and your response was focused on Europe and the UK. Will you also include the U.S. market? As a Star trek fan who does not live in either the UK or Europe, I’m very interested in how I will be able to purchase a tricorder as well. As you may already observe from my past posts. I am very much looking forward to completing my collection. I already have the Communicator and Phaser; this is of great interest to me.

    Eric.

    Reply
    1. Chris Barnardo Post author

      Eric, yes the tricorder will be shipping to North America from our North American warehouse.

      Reply
  24. stephen Fugate

    after you guys get the production of the tricorder under way and finished, please consider to do a phaser reboot. Any possibility of you guys actually considering doing a phaser reboot? I think the phaser reboot would sell out pretty fast.

    Reply
  25. Gary Wakefield

    FANTABULOUS!!!! ( would have used the other Fword, but will restrain myself ), glad to hear that the project was not going to be abandoned, besides greg would have been seriously disappointed had he lived to see this through…But he is with you all in spirit. Sooo, have my funds set aside when the first units are available, to those of us who grew up with the TOS, back in the 60’s, yes I’m dating myself. Please keep us updated, good luck & expect to have my tricorder by christmas 2023/2024.

    Reply
  26. Doug C

    Will the pre-production tricorders make an appearance at any upcoming conventions? It seems like we haven’t heard anything in a couple of months, I hope the testing is going well.

    Reply

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