We are preparing to send the final round of surveys for January and February tier backers within one to two weeks. As a reminder, both early and super early backers will get their surveys before those in the February tier. We are also in the process of sending batches of final checkout invitations to November and December tiers and collecting applicable payments/taxes. Please make sure to fill out all required survey sections with correct information so that we can deliver your order as soon as possible.
Right now, our production team has a strong baseline of about 400 printers assembled per week.
On the checkout page, we have added terms for our standard (3) month limited warranty and the ability to purchase optional extended limited warranty coverage for up to (6), (9), and (12) months total. In the event of any manufacturing defects, we would send you a replacement or upgraded unit right away. We are providing this option to our backers at a discounted monthly rate of $10. Exact terms of coverage are included on the checkout page.
We’ve added an end-user agreement to our software and a purchasing agreement to our website, which defines all terms for using our products, expectations for normal use, safety notes, warnings, liability limits, software terms, warranty terms, return policy, repair policy, and any other limitations provided by law. It is important to clearly present these terms and expectations so that everyone is on the same page; for example(s), we mention things such as:
- The printer nozzle is hot and could burn your fingers.
- The printer is capable of making custom parts, creating the potential for a choking hazard or copyright violation. The user must accept responsibility for their prints.
- Any modification of your printer without permission can, and will, void your warranty.
Our team is happy to see increased activity on social media and so many backers helping each other out with questions on our forums. We really appreciate you guys!
Finally, in case you missed the earlier announcement, we have posted an unofficial, first-time set up video on YouTube for you guys. Watch it here:
The M3D Team
The much anticipated update is finally here! We apologize for the delay in getting this out to you, and we hope 2015 has been treating you guys well so far. Now, let’s dive into some news!
Backer Account Management
Surveys and backer accounts have now been turned over completely to our website management system. All November and December tier backers should have access to the user account portal. If you are in the November or December tier and have NOT signed into the portal yet, please follow these instructions:
1) Go to http://printm3d.com/portal/.
2) Click on "Forgot My Password."
3) This will allow you to select your password. Your account is already active with your information; please do NOT select "Register.”
If you have any trouble with this process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is very important for everyone to follow the provided instructions to assist us in tracking your Amazon Transaction ID. This is vital information because, often, the names of the payer vs. the Kickstarter backer do not match. This causes a very time-consuming, and sometimes impossible, task of confirming that a backer’s payment information is up to date.
To find your Amazon Transaction ID, please follow one of the steps below:
1) Search your inbox for an e-mail with the subject line, "Your payment to Michael Armani has succeeded,”
2) Go to https://payments.amazon.com, log in using your Amazon ID and password, and look at your historical transactions.
As a reminder, the payment feature in this portal has still not been enabled; however, the extra amount that you pledged should show up automatically and can be used to add on extra filaments to be shipped with your printer with no additional shipping fee (exceptions may apply).
In the situation that you bought extra filaments separately on our pre-order page, we will do our best to consolidate the order into a discounted or consolidated shipping rate, but please make sure to contact us and let us know to include you on our exception list, so that we know not to ship the orders separately.
We apologize for the payment feature taking some time to get ready, but it brings great news for those international backers who expressed their concerns about our decision to use DHL for shipping. Between that and other factors, we have decided to use the services of UPS for our international backers at this time.
We are happy to announce that M3D now has a user forum. We would like to encourage all backers and Micro users to participate in this forum as a way to assist and educate each other. We are seeing repetitive questions being asked via email, and it is our hope that by posting these questions on a forum, users will be able to find the answers to their questions quicker and easier, especially for troubleshooting. This will also help cultivate the community that we envision growing around The Micro and its users. We hope to reach the point where we can pick out the backers who are extremely helpful in this forum and make them moderators. Please keep in mind, we expect that it will take a few weeks for the number of members in the forum to grow to a lively amount.
To access the forum:
If you currently HAVE access to the backer portal - Please visit http://printm3d.com/portal/ and login using the same information as your backer account. You will see a link to the forum.
If you DO NOT HAVE access to the backer portal - Please visit http://printm3d.com/portal/ and click on “Register” to create a new account. You will then see a link to the forum on the main page.
Thanks to ongoing production consistency and software improvements, the printer quality has now begun to surpass our original Kickstarter video. We are finally starting to see the consistency and quality we expected in the production version.
Specifically, we have implemented much better raft control, more sturdy Z-level positioning, and more robust bed leveling, with a targeted accuracy of 25 microns. We will leave the raft as a permanent feature while we debug The Micro and will allow expert users to disable it as an option in the future.
We found several critical bugs that we fixed in the last month. One of them was a memory programming error that caused printers to be unresponsive. We sent a few units out that had this bug and had those sent back to the factory for reprogramming. The bug, which caused firmware to become permanently corrupted less than 1% of the time, was due to unexpected interruption of a memory writing process.
We’ve solved that bug and have not seen it in over several thousand tests. Another bug was showing up on specific printers, with specific prints, so it was harder to catch. We found and corrected the error, which was in the auto leveling code and miscalculated the position of a print by shifting it over several millimeters.
Our goal right now is to get The Micro working perfectly on Windows first, then Mac and Linux, and then much more development will be needed to make the system completely open G-code compatible. For example, pre-processing is currently used by the M3D software to offload processing from The Micro electronics itself, such as with bed leveling compensation.
We are currently working on the next version of the software release, which will have two major improvements:
The first improvement involves reducing the permanent raft feature from an oversized square to just a small brim around the bottom of the print, which will save significant material and time. We've also improved print times, increasing movement speed by about double and putting it much closer to the maximum print speed we can achieve. Finally, we are working on a better software library, filament loading control, and a possible version of the software that can control several printers from a single USB hub.
First Time Printing
PLA has really proven itself as the workhorse for The Micro, and we very strongly recommend this material for first time users. Not only does PLA have a subtle, pleasant, molasses smell, but it is really proving to be capable of printing large objects extremely well. In the past, we would have recommended ABS for difficult prints where support removal or fine features were needed. However, we have really optimized the quality of PLA compared to previous generations, mainly through actual PLA material improvements. For example, our first batch of PLA that we scaled up was made from a different supplier; like most PLA that we tried, it would absorb moisture from the air in large amounts. This in turn reduced control during printing by causing stringing, unsmooth layers, prevention of raft removal, and even print temperature consistency was an issue.
We’ve switched to using an entirely different formulation and advanced methods to solve all of the above issues. That is why we believe PLA has really caught up in terms of having better support removal and retraction to prevent ooze, whereas ABS was better for this in the past. We are seeing that PLA could provide infinite use of the printbed, extreme strength, and most importantly, really neat translucent colors.
The only disadvantage of PLA is that it is tricky to get working with the internal port, and it requires longer print time on very small objects to allow cooling. Comparatively, ABS is better for very small prints that need faster cooling, more flexibility, and require solvent-soothing (for desired painting). In the future, we plan on releasing improvements on our current formulation of ABS that are still durable, yet slightly more flexible materials that print easily for first time users.
Based on initial surveys, we found that the quantity of colors that we had originally planned for ABS and PLA were just too many. Colors such as brown or fluorescent yellow vs. light yellow had too few people to allow us to meet the minimum order quantity for a production run. In addition to the above switch in formulation of PLA, we are now offering a set of 12 new colors in ABS and PLA. Most of these are in stock, with a few gaps in the PLA colors.
Previously, the ABS and PLA colors were nearly identical. We have decided to change this, which would give us more options for a variety of colors. The eight main PLA colors that you will see in our survey are actually translucents. When tested in-house and shown to backers at our trade shows, everyone agreed these were the best colors, providing a luminous, elegant, and high quality sheen that can’t be found in the previous solid colors and are hardly available in the existing market. For instance, the PLA white is a slightly off-white pearlescent and gives a really great appearance while hiding layers. In place of ABS white, we offer HIPS-white, which is a translucent ghostly-white color that also gives great appearances and performance.
The neutrals (black, clear, silver) are still pretty similar between ABS and PLA, but in total, we now have 20 unique colors. Once Kickstarter is fulfilled, we will focus on working on additional materials and colors.
Our suppliers for cube boxes and our supplier for filaments (both in the USA) have successfully scaled up to over a thousand units this month. With that said, there is no longer a delay in production due to parts. The only delays that remain are due to training, quality control, and the increasingly small chance that established suppliers don’t continue to deliver on time.
The unforeseen issue that caused the biggest backlog in production this month was an extruder problem that caused well-working printers to suddenly have periodic, inconsistent flow. When we scaled up the production of our extruder gears, we found some of these gears were installed in such a way that they could become loose and wobble under the force of crushing filament. We have since fixed the issue using a new gluing method and ordering gears that have a tighter fit.
Check out this video showing all of our production progress over the past few weeks:
Our timelines are provided here to provide you our best guesstimates; that is to say, until we have a stable production process, we can’t guarantee the delivery dates and are doing our best to meet them as shown. While almost 1,000 units will have been built by the end of this month, percentages of rework (repair issues, etc) were high, so we intend to scale up to the range of about 350 units shipped by the end of this month to October backers and most of the November backers that offered to get their printers early. After we deliver all those units, most of the bugs will be eliminated, and we will deliver all remaining printers to everyone in order of their tier (unless there are unexpected problems/delays). Due to redesign of the production flow this week, we are expecting a massive drop in rework percentages and are looking to catch-up towards the end of February with close to 2,000 units being produced a week. Since our last update, we have also improved the time it takes to build a printer from 6 hours to about 1.5 hours, and we will keep working to reduce this time.
October Tier Backers
Nearly all October tier printers are built now (225), including an additional 275 printers ready for final print testing (still a barrier, with rework amounts going down each day). As we mentioned in our last update, there had been a delay in box tops from our supplier due to mold issues, but they have caught up. Boxes have arrived and printers are moving fast; the only delay is still with silver and blue.
We currently have 900 box tops in stock, so we are giving blue October backers the option to get a very unique printer faster. We have all of the engraved bases, so by taking your colored, engraved base and print bed holder (also called the "mid" or "fluff", see image in update 24) with a black, green, or orange top, you would be able to receive your printer almost immediately.
For silver October backers, we are still delayed in both the box tops and engraved bases. Our box making supplier is up to speed, but the issue is that their painting supplier is not. They are actually demanding double the original quote, and we cannot work with somebody who goes back on their word. We apologize for the delay, and we hope that you guys can understand. We would like to give you guys the option to choose either a black, green, or orange printer and we will get it engraved for you as soon as possible.
Please email email@example.com, so we can update your information for both of the above options.
With the above mentioned delay of silver and blue box tops, we would also like to extend the offer to you guys to switch your printer color for faster delivery. If you have chosen to receive a silver printer, we recommend that you switch to either black, green, or orange. If your selection was blue, you can switch to black, green, or orange if you would like your printer the soonest. If you don’t mind waiting longer, you can leave your selection as blue.
To document this change, please update your color preference on your backer portal account (November and December backers). If you are a January or February backer, please make your selection once you receive access to that portal.
We've had some challenges shipping products safely, especially internationally, so we have been forced to slow down on international orders while we re-evaluate and test some different packaging methods. International shipping is particularly harmful for us because it costs over $50 for return shipping (more than exporting), and we may have to pay customs fees in order to take our own product back!
It turns out that parts of the printer can become undone during air and ground express shipping because it is considered an “industrial environment.” The main parts affected included the fan, gantry sliders, printbed, and internal electronics. While these are all things that can usually be fixed by the user, it’s still a bit unsightly and concerning. We have since consulted a packing and shipping company and verified new shipping methods.
As always, thank you guys for your patience and understanding as we are finally in the home stretch. We would also like to give a special thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello to Michael and David at FETC last week.
The M3D Team
We have a little bit of news for you, just in time for the holidays! Several people had asked if we could create a special holiday placeholder, and it’s finally ready for you guys to download. Please use the templates below for your holiday paper Micro(s):
This brings us to our second announcement:
The new M3D blog is up and running and waiting for your participation! Just click on the link below to check it out. You'll also find a full photo tutorial on how to create your holiday paper Micro:
Drop us a line, and don't be shy! We hope this blog becomes an outlet for our community to grow and share together. Through the blog, you will be able to ask questions (think of it as a direct line to the communications team), submit or suggest new content, and discuss different topics with your fellow community members.
As far as production goes, engraved October tier printers have arrived and are being assembled by our team. Several printers have already been shipped out this week, and we’re on schedule to ship dozens more by Christmas.
As mentioned in our previous update, we've also received new pulleys sets and solved the issue with wobbly prints. The picture below is an example of just how much prints have improved over the past few months to where we are now.
We will have much more news to share in our next update, but for now, we just wanted to share some holiday cheer.
The M3D Team
We hope everyone is doing well! This is our first update in nearly three weeks because we really needed to buckle down and work out final component changes. These changes are critical as they directly affect production speed for the December-February tier rewards.
We’ve put in all remaining orders for the parts to those tiers and a great deal of effort into critical software updates. We are pleased that, with a final round of improvements across the board, we’ll be moving into true mass production shortly.
High Volume Production has Nearly Begun!
In the last few months, we dedicated most of our resources towards scaling up production, which started with just a few people able to make a single printer every few days. Now, we are quickly approaching a team of several dozen people who can make one printer every few minutes. Although it may seem that this isn’t possible with our current status, we want to assure you that we are catching up fast and we mean business: High volume production has nearly begun!
Our production process is complex and involves many components (orderings, delivery, QC, and rework), sub-assemblies (assembly, QC, and rework), calibrations (five stages including final print testing), management (training, logging, and paperwork), and shipping. While we’ve been scaling up and mastering these different elements, every now and then, we would get a great working printer out of the learning team and send these out as one of the Beta units.
When every piece of the system comes together as a whole, we will be able to reap the benefits of mass production. To show you how powerful a difference this is, we’ll illustrate some of the production system changes over the last month. For example, we have twice as many people on the production team this month compared to last month. Additionally, they are working longer hours, and they are much more experienced. In the August Beta tier, printers had to be reworked multiple times because of failures in a few parts, and now, we’ve solved nearly all of those issues.
Components, which previously required a lot of detailed rework, are nearing completion, and new components that are coming in can be assembled as is. Previously, the leveling operation could take hours, and now it's down to a few minutes with our automated leveling rig. All together, improvements like these will allow us to increase production by a factor of 100, and we’ll soon aim to produce thousands of printers every week.
We mentioned in the last update that we were experiencing some delays due to production parts, particularly injection molded parts, and we’ve been hard on our suppliers to resolve all of those issues.
We now have 2,500-10,000 pieces of every non-molded part that we need. We have also begun to scale up the molded parts that have been verified. Our suppliers are now able to produce a few thousand per week. Over 1,000 bases and fluffs are also being produced and coming in regularly.
We received new and improved molded pulley sets from two molding companies and solved the pulley problem, which plagued our printers for the past few months by causing wobbly prints. We now have 2,000 of these new pulley sets in!
Almost all of our parts are now in and component rework is well under way! In the last few weeks, we finished adjusting tens of thousands of parts, including sanding print beds, trimming rubber feet, tapping gantries, and programming PCB boards. We are waiting on a rig so we can polish the carbon rods to a more accurate length, and after that, all component rework will be completed.
There are, however, unexpected developments that will cause some delays:
This week, our U.S. molding company had the cube box mold running and produced a few dozen black colored boxes, which will serve the October tier printers. However, the mold had a few water leaks in it and couldn’t operate at volume, so it had to be shipped to a tool shop for a quick turn-around repair. Fortunately, our supplier says it will be back in their hands and running within a week.
Our U.S. filament manufacturer had only one of their machines up and running the last few weeks. It will take them a bit longer to fulfill our order than we were hoping for, but they expect to be able to knock it out quickly after two weeks. We are planning to use our existing stock of filaments to ship as many printers as we can in December, and the biggest challenge involves having enough stock of every color to fully meet order demands.
Silver Printer Color Finalized
We have great news for anyone waiting on a silver printer: the paint specification made by our American painting company was finally verified!
All of our product cases have the color molded into the plastic. Although we also molded the silver printers with silver flakes embedded in the plastic, the particles striate as the plastic flows through the mold. To achieve the look we wanted, we have to paint it with one coat of silver, wait for it to dry, and then finish it with a special top coat to ensure that it remains in great shape for years to come.
These finishes are very similar to the silver finish on high-end consumer electronics, such as tablets. We really appreciate everyone’s patience in this matter, and we are happy to announce that we finally achieved the look and feel we were going for!
The only downside is that we don’t have a clear schedule from our painter during the holiday season, and paint is not something that can be rushed. While we have some black printers in stock that will make it out of the door the quickest, and some colors that will come in soon, we don’t foresee the silver printers making it out by Christmas. Aside from Christmas Day, we’re not going to stop working, and our production schedule will still be accelerating during the end of this month.
Options for October Backers
We know that some of you are anxious to receive your printers in time for the holidays, but we need extra time to complete silver painting and engraving. So, we’re offering October backers the option to choose a non-silver printer or cancel their engravings, which will secure faster delivery. Non-silver printers can be shipped 10 business days sooner and non-engraved printers can be shipped 4 business days sooner. If you choose to cancel your engraving, you’ll receive an additional spool of filament of your choice, free of charge. If you would like to keep your engraving, please be aware that your printer should still ship in December, but it might arrive after Christmas.
Next week, we will be emailing all of our October backers with a link to our new website and a survey to ask your preference.
Priority Options for Production Tiers
In the last update, we asked November backers if they wanted to receive their printers as soon as possible, or if they wanted to wait as long as it takes to get all the hardware issues sorted out and to receive an improved product. We had an overwhelmingly positive response to not rush their printers but to ship them when things are sorted out. This really opens up the chance for those people who are most eager to get printers in the December and January tiers sooner. That’s why we’re extending this choice to all of our backers.
To be clear, the first choice is to get a printer as soon as possible. These printers will have very well-functioning hardware but may run the slight chance of something needing repair/replacement, which we will support. They will also need ongoing software updates.
The second choice will be to accept ongoing delays, allowing us to take our time resolving any remaining issues, so printers perform well and without hassle when you receive them.
We will send you these options through our user account portal. We’ll also be offering additional options on this new backer management page to help you interact with us better.
Automated Leveling Rig
The automated leveling rig that was mentioned in our last update is now finished! This has been a significant accomplishment in our mission to improve production speed and consistency. Previously, bed leveling was done by hand and could take hours to complete. With our custom designed rig, built in-house by our engineering team, the task can now be performed automatically in just a matter of minutes!
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve made significant improvements to the software, focusing on user experience and print consistency.
We have improved the raft code so that the raft adheres to the print bed more consistently. Over the next week we plan to implement and test a faster raft version which will only require one or two layers instead of three.
We are making great strides towards achieving a simple and easy to use interface which will enhance user experience. We have improved the 3D rendering feature to make it faster, so it can process larger files without slowing down, and we are simplifying the process of loading and changing filament. We have also been able to make some important improvements based on various regional and language settings due to wonderful feedback from our beta users!
Additionally, the software settings now include a calibration tab, making it even easier to run the auto calibration features of your printer. We have included a button in this tab that will allow users to re-update their firmware in case of any update errors. Thanks to some new firmware, we have been able to speed up the auto calibration process for sensing bed orientation as well!
Finally, the fill density setting of “None” in the print dialogs will allow the user to actually print a hollow model!
UL Conformity and International Safety Certifications
We are happy to announce that our UL safety certifications are going well and should be finished this month! Currently, we have two printers at the UL facility undergoing EMC and safety testing. This testing is essential to verifying that our product performs as expected (if the manual is followed) and ensures that our printer is safe from fire and electrical hazards. Basically, it is our guarantee that things are standardized.
We are really excited to have almost all of the parts finalized and in high volume production! As always, we would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding about the delays and for all of your continued support.
The M3D Team