First, the bad news. As some of you may already suspect, the delivery of Kossel Pro kits will be delayed, due to a few minor technical difficulties. We have faith in our engineering and design but we will not be able to make the original Christmas deadline.
As someone who had delivered the last kickstarter ahead of schedule (and had padded this kickstarter schedule too to hope to achieve the same thing), I am obviously disappointed at having to make this announcement and take full responsibility for the delays. We understand that some of you may have purchased this as a Christmas present; we are going to create a set of downloadable engineering prints that people can print themselves as a token gift for Christmas, with the understanding that the real McCoy will follow shortly. We will also be looking into some form of compensation, likely in the form of a discount coupon to the OpenBeam store, to ship with our kits.
We are currently projecting a ship date of early March, 2014, based on schedules outlined by our injection molding, extrusion, machining vendors as well as our lead times for electronics. At the end of the day, given the scope of the project, and how tight funds can get, we did not feel it was prudent to launch the capital expenditure in tooling without sufficient testing and until the rest of the printer, including the electronics board, were fully developed and at least protototyped.
The Kossel Pro features very high degree of intergration; we specifically laid out our control board with delta geometry in mind and paid a lot of attention to connector placement and compatibility across the various sizes in the Kossel Family.
To give you an idea; the original OpenBeam project raised over $100,000, and less than $10,000 went into tooling. The rest of the expenses went into spinning up the company and support infrastructure, as well as merchandise for the initial system launch. We had 5 molded parts that didn’t really have to interact with each other, an extrusion and 2 stamped parts. We could afford to be more aggressive on the launch schedule for all the tooling; in fact, we purchased all the tooling “at risk” before we had money in hand from the Kickstarter to get a jump on shipping.
As a comparison, the OpenBeam Kossel Pro currently has over 20 unique injection molded parts, with suppliers in the EU, Asia/Pacific Rim, and the US. The budget for our tooling is well over $40,000.00. The rest of it had to be earmarked for the BOM of the printer. We simply cannot afford to make a mistake - a few thousand dollars here and there in a mold change will quickly make this project run into the red. As the great Shigeru Miyamoto once said: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad”. We’d rather take our time to make sure things are done right and do the right amount of testing, before releasing the printer.
Now, for the good news:
- We have received the first engineering prototypes of the new Brainwave IIs and although there were a few hiccups with initial testing, we believe that we are on a good path forward.
- We have signed the final round of die approval prints and paid for our extrusion die. We hope to have first articles in about 4 weeks, and we were able to keep this part of the project on US soil by finding what appears to be a good, competent US based aluminum extruder.
- We have started building the test fleet of printers to stress test the new Brainwave II boards. Part of this printer fleet will be deployed at Metrix Create Space in Seattle to print - you guessed it - more reprap Kossel parts. The original Mini Kossel Prototype 2, featured in the 2014 Make Ultimate Guide to 3D printing, have now logged hundreds of print hours. We are looking at the different failure modes that have occured and making sure that these design issues are adequately addressed in the Kossel Pro.
- We have received all the extrusions for kit fulfillment, and the quality is top notch.
- We are in the process of sourcing validation quantities of all the rest of the printer’s hardware - the power supply, bearings, screws, nuts, bolts, etc. We have already received into inventory some of this material, such as the timing belt pulleys and ball bearings.
The longest “tent pole” in the schedule is our injection molding. We have released all parts, except for the auto-levelling probe, to injection molding. We will be launching the tooling this coming week on all parts except the touch probe; we hope to launch the touch probe tooling the week of Dec 2nd when I return to Seattle.
Currently injection molding is sitting at 8 weeks lead time for T0 (first shots off the mold). These first sample parts have to be qualified - basically measured against the engineering prints and signed off, before mass production can begin. There’s still plenty of work to do, even during this time when tooling is built; packaging needs to be defined, documentation needs to be written, machines needs to be tested, CNC machines (performing the second-operation machining after extrusion and cutting for the metal vertices) needs to be programmed, videos needs to be shot and edited. Our team will have a busy season ahead of us, but we will rise to the challenge.
In fact, while I am writing this update in Germany on my honeymoon, the crew at Metrix is already busy putting together the printer test fleet, and Matthew Wilson is diligently working on the bootloader and patching Marlin for our new Brainwave II. Finally, for a glimpse of the Kossel and how it stacked up against other machines, consider buying a copy of the Make 3D Printer Review. We are very proud of how the prototype did and what lies ahead for the project.
The Kossel Development Team
PS: For more frequent updates, please follow the OpenBeam blog at: blog.openbeamusa.com or the OpenBeam Flickr stream at flickr.com/photos/openbeam