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The first truly consumer 3D printer should be incredibly intuitive, easy to own, and seamless by design.
The first truly consumer 3D printer should be incredibly intuitive, easy to own, and seamless by design.
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11,855 backers pledged $3,401,361 to help bring this project to life.

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June Mega Update

54 likes

Dear Backers:

We're on the home stretch of one of the biggest Kickstarter projects in history. When you get a product off the shelf, you’re getting product number 10 thousand or even 10 million. Those products have usually gone through massive internal testing in a large company as well as multiple rounds of testing by beta users, focus groups, and generally, several cycles of improvement before they were released to the public.

What Kickstarter has allowed us and the rest of the world to do is share that otherwise enigmatic process with you. We’ve shown you the ups and downs of what it takes to accomplish the tough goals we set for our product, ourselves, and our business. It is a story of true grit and one we hope to recap soon, but our work is nowhere near completed with the fulfillment of your rewards. In fact, it has only just begun.

Current Priority - Customer Support

Every customer interaction is sacred to us, and everyone on the M3D team truly cares. We admit that we were overwhelmed by the number of support tickets that started coming in around April, and we could not systemize support quickly enough to respond in a timely manner. For that, you have our sincerest apologies, and do not take it to mean that that is how we want things to be.

You are still watching a very young company grow. Nearly everyone in the company is now working daily to address customer support needs, and we've invested a great deal of our resources in helping you. With new systems in place, we are almost caught up, and we aim to resolve support tickets in a matter of minutes instead of days.   

The Biggest Improvements:

  • As promised, we’ve built printers for the vast majority of your rewards and pre-orders, and we have moved many team members from production to support. We now have over 20 team members working on customer support: 8 off-site, 4 on main support, 2 on social media, 5 on tech support, and 5 on web programming.  

  • The Knowledge Base (www.printm3d.com/solutions) - We’ve created detailed articles to address common customer and technical support questions.

  • The User Forum (www.printm3d.com/portal) - We are monitoring and addressing concerns through the portal, and it has grown into a great support community as well. We will also be opening the M3D forum to the public in a few weeks.

  • The Support Page (www.printm3d.com/support) - We’ve created this page for software downloads, first-time video guides, contact links, and most importantly, live support chat.

Live Support Chat Details

Live support chat is a single channel for both general and technical support and is also monitored by many senior M3D team members, including the creators. Expected hours of availability are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). By using live support chat, we can provide immediate turnaround and personalized support without using 10 phone lines. It also serves as a well-balanced alternative to email. If live support is down, please use the "Contact Us" button at the top right of our homepage.

New Live Support Chat
New Live Support Chat

What is an “Exception?”

There were around 100 exception types that were causing support tickets to be answered slower than we would like. Examples of these exception types include change of address, payment errors, adding filaments, country not-enabled, credit card alerts, combining of orders, adding a warranty, filament out of stock, modifying printer color, etc. Each exception type requires a dedicated programming/web team member to make a script to help automate the issue and prevent mistakes. Without the these scripts, it was taking hundreds of hours to address each issue manually.

We have also spent a great deal of time improving the back end system to clarify and solidify policies to allow people to respond faster to requests and create fewer exceptions. Part of our problem was that we never want to say “no” to anyone, but saying "yes" to everything created indirect delays. We now recognize that timely and good customer support requires saying "no" when reasonable to keep things organized and in process.

Regarding Spare Parts and Warranty Replacement Parts

Please email the helpdesk@printm3d.com team to request pricing, and for the next few weeks, we will continue to request payment for these parts through PayPal. The parts are shipped daily. Our main website has spare parts but they were only intended for orders with a printer. Otherwise, the shipping calculation is inaccurate; this will be corrected in the coming weeks.

We kindly request your patience this month as we catch up on a few hundred remaining support ticket requests. Emailing us more than once will not increase our response time and can delay things further. If you feel that your emails were not responded to sufficiently or that there was no acknowledgement from our team, please reach out to us through live support chat  in case there is an email filtering issue on either end.  

Once we are caught up on tickets, the M3D team will scour the forums, social media, support channels, and the entire internet looking for people with remaining issues until everyone is thoroughly pleased with their rewards/pre-order purchases.

Fulfilling the Last 10% of Kickstarter Pledges

We have shipped about 90% of Kickstarter pledges. These are pledges where backers have followed up with us at least once (to give us their shipping information). However, the remaining 10% are taking much longer to deliver than we expected because of one of the many exceptions types listed above. As we nearly reach completion of the Kickstarter, the exceptions are becoming more complex and difficult.  

One of these exceptions is transaction ID verification. Kickstarter only gave us one way to reach you - an email. We’ve contacted backers up to four times to complete their surveys. However, if someone contacts us using an email other than their original backer email, we have to verify that they are who they really say they are, and this must be done manually.

In 3% of cases, backers’ payments also had issues or were canceled. That is why we set up the Amazon Transaction ID verification as a challenge question to automate the process. This was necessary for our project due to the large number of backers. At the time of our Kickstarter, Amazon Payments did not provide a direct link to the backer’s account or email information - the accounts could be different. We review dozens of cases manually every week when someone cannot find their Amazon Transaction ID and solve all of these cases with some additional information.

VAT Payment Issues

Another common exception relates to VAT payments. All of our prices did not include VAT or taxes as pricing is presented the same for everyone. We cannot account for all country-specific fees or worldwide fees that change over time. It is such a huge time investment, and it is common even for large companies (like Amazon) not to include or provide VAT estimates for foreign countries. For those of you who accepted the non-EU friendly shipments to speed up fulfillment, we will refund you any VAT that was paid to us upfront, but you will need to pay your country’s VAT to receive your package. Fortunately, VAT has proven to be quite predictable to Europe, around $50-$100 depending on the order size, but if the amount is unusually excessive, you should ask the carrier to place the package on hold and contact us right away.  

We hoped to have EU-friendly (VAT-paid before shipping) options sooner, and we do apologize for any inconvenience to those who didn’t want to deal with their post office. We appreciate the vast majority of those who could not wait longer and accepted shipping without VAT included anyway. On that note, we have finally started some very early trials for EU-friendly shipping. One trial is through UPS, and in a few more weeks, we will try dispatching VAT-paid orders through a fulfillment warehouse in the UK to see how that goes. At best, it looks like this process will save a few dollars, and its main advantage is that it is more convenient for the recipient.  

Remaining Countries to be Scaled Up Through Automated Order Invites

There are several countries we have not scaled up through automated order invites. These countries are: Russian Federation; Hong Kong; Brazil; Mexico; India; Taiwan, Province of China; China; Romania; Turkey; Ukraine; Chile; United Arab Emirates; Saudi Arabia; Cyprus; Colombia; Puerto Rico; Macau; and Brunei Darussalam.

They include about 250 affected backers, and are under final testing, one package at a time. Another 25 or so backers are also included in other countries not named here as they are usually the only backer in those countries. If you are in these countries, please be patient with us for two more weeks as we finalize shipping methods for these regions to make sure that you get your packages safely, and so we can nail down the best customs strategy for your country.  

If you do not have an order from one of these countries and have not been invited to your customer portal to pay for shipping, please contact us at info@printm3d.com so that we can look into your status.  

Pre-Order Backers

Pre-orders are and have always been in line after backer orders that came first. The tiers have, however, become structured by the necessity of dealing with exceptions. US orders are the easiest to process, followed by major international countries, and then the final remaining countries listed above. Within these tiers, we still follow the tier order as pledged during Kickstarter. In many cases, we are often waiting on follow-through or responses from users or dealing with special exceptions, which seems to put things out of order.

Silver Printers

We have shipped about 40% of silver rewards/orders and aim to reach 60-75% in a week. The painter (and M3D) are very picky about quality knowing you have waited this long, so a few more days to make sure we get you a high quality paint job is worth it. Although production has been limited due to our high quality standards, the printers have looked amazing thus far and are incredibly scratch resistant for the upgraded option.

Low Stock of Black Printers

We have fewer black printers in stock than expected for two reasons. First, black scratches more easily out of the mold than other colors, so fewer black box tops were deemed suitable for production - these were rejected and are being sold as refurbished units. Second, many more people switched from silver printers to black printers than we anticipated. Fortunately, we expect to receive more black printer cases in about 10 days. In the meantime, we're sending out a survey to anyone who selected a black printer who would have to wait (about a hundred units) to offer them alternative color options.  

Highly Stocked Colors

We have over a thousand finished orange, green, and blue printers in stock. These printers are available to backers who have not yet selected a printer color, as well as to any customer (backer, pre-order) who would like to switch colors in order to get their shipment out sooner. They are also available for new orders.  

On the Home Stretch - Fulfilling and Shipping All Remaining Kickstarter Pledges and Pre-Orders
On the Home Stretch - Fulfilling and Shipping All Remaining Kickstarter Pledges and Pre-Orders

Limited Edition Clear Printers

We have confirmed that we will be receiving 300 clear printer box sets at the end of our next molding cycle, which should be built into fully-functional Micros around mid-July. The first samples we received are reasonably clear, similar to car headlights or acrylic glass. As backers, you get first dibs on this option.

Please realize that there may be some internal mold lines and tool marks that aren't normally seen in other colors. That said, if you are okay with this and are interested in the clear printer, simply hold off on finalizing your order in the backer portal (including paying for shipping) and send us an email requesting the color change in two weeks. Switching to a clear printer may also be enabled as a backer portal option soon.

Filaments

Our backers ordered double the amount of filament that we expected, which is a great thing, because once you received your printers you ran through filaments quickly and ordered more. However, it has led to a temporary shortage of filaments, which delayed some orders. Fortunately, we've ordered 20,000 additional filament spools, and they are on the way! Their estimated time of arrival is one week and many have already shipped.

If your order contains out of stock filaments, you will have an extra link in your user portal where you can edit the color of your filaments. We have plenty of crystal clear PLA in stock, and we highly recommend it for those who want their orders to ship as soon as possible. By selecting filaments that are in stock, your order will ship out within a few business days. However, we suggest waiting a few days so that all colors are back in stock.   

We also have a Chameleon (color-changing) filament, which we are giving a few people in place of regular PLA colors. This unique filament is wound a bit too tight to be used in the printer’s internal spool holder, but it prints like our regular PLA filaments. While we don't have a set price for the Chameleon filament, it costs about 50% more to make than regular PLA, and we did not want to sell this new product with everything else going on, so we consider it a cool bonus. Nine varieties of Chameleon should be on our website and Amazon within a few weeks.

Making Changes to Orders

Please try to avoid making unnecessary changes to your order if possible. Doing so may cause delays because it needs to be manually processed to make sure there are no mistakes. Combining orders, in particular, can take the most time to process manually.

Software

The major part of our support experience is the software that drives The Micro. We are now releasing joint Mac/Windows updates every one to two weeks. The latest updates are often released early in the Beta subfolder. You can find all software downloads at www.printm3d.com/support.  

Our programming team’s focus is to work on rare bugs and improve access to customization and open features. We are also heavily focused on streamlining the Mac software. We are very thankful for feedback from our users, which helped us identify many obscure bugs already. Future versions of the software in the coming weeks and months will include many additions such as: Automatic gantry clip detection during first time setup; guidance for first time users on selecting print options; quicker homing and end-stop detection without noise; automatic and manual backlash calibration; printer self-diagnostics; open access to modify slicer settings; multi-printer support; print view fixes for rotation; showing measurement units; solutions to special print cases; release of code and formulas for better compatibility with open-source slicers; enhanced compatibility for video cards; faster print speeds; and better Mac and Windows compatibility.

As with our other departments, we have a few very talented but busy programmers on the case, so we appreciate your patience as we improve things.

Distributors

We are now seeking and ready to field requests for new distributors worldwide. Before now, we have generally taken our time to respond to distributors because we were so focused on our backers. Distributors outside the USA can accomplish great things for us and our backers. They deal with the process of importation and set up sales in their own currency. They can take returns locally, servicing them at a much lower cost. They bridge the cultural divide and explain things in their own language. We are currently looking for additional distributors that want to work with us on international sales and can be a partner in helping us get warranty parts and service to our many users world wide. If you are interested in distribution, we’re finally ready. Please contact us at distribution@printm3d.com.

In Summary

We are working to be as proactive as we can with updating you about where we are at with the remaining pledges and our progress as a company. Improvement is not always simple or instantaneous, but we have a very determined, talented team here at M3D, and we will provide you with the amazing customer support and user experience you deserve. After all, M3D and The Micro would not be possible without you!

We are aiming to ship all remaining pledges and pre-orders with exceptions within three weeks. If you have completed your survey but your printer hasn’t shipped yet, we would appreciate your patience over the next two to three weeks. This way, our staff can focus fully on getting your printers out as soon as possible rather than responding to requests.

As always, we appreciate your continued patience and support.

Yours Truly,

The M3D Team

April Mega Update

49 likes

Dear Backers,

Today marks a very special day for us! Exactly one year ago, we launched our campaign. Thanks to you, we massively surpassed our funding goals in minutes and became one of the most funded Kickstarter projects in history. We are privileged to have so many backers like you pledge their support and belief in The Micro 3D Printer, and we are very pleased that we have successfully made this project a reality together. In turn, we reaffirm our commitment to you: We will not rest until we address all of your requests and make sure everyone is fully satisfied with The Micro 3D Printer.

This may just take a little bit longer, as our current priority is getting your rewards to you, followed by pre-order backers whom many of you referred. To optimize our time, we are  focusing on the problems that have quick and easy fixes, such as any printers arriving in an unexpected condition, which is increasingly rare now. Next, we will focus on improving printers with quality issues. After that, we will focus on resolving more specific technical concerns, software issues, and increasing support overall.

Looking back on the last month, we have dramatically matured as a production facility by rewiring the flow-path that makes printers come off the assembly line. In doing so, we are about to realize another big boost in production output and continuous quality improvements. We hit the usual number of snags, and with so many orders of different types going through simultaneously, we had to come up with ways to deal with numerous exceptions. International fulfillment was much more challenging than we planned, so we re-evaluated our strategy for shipping country by country, in many ways matching backer requests for things such as carrier preference or customs strategies. Meanwhile, we had the inventory to ship almost 2,000 printers, which were largely sent to the United States. We also worked out a new method for handling manual exceptions, including cases of people who were not able to find their Amazon Transaction ID. A mass of filament orders also just arrived in stock, and extra filament orders are being delivered within days.

By the end of April, we will have delivered the majority of your rewards. When that happens, we will shift our focus towards any remaining issues as we want to get back to our roots and move forward in our mission. All of you backed us because you think that 3D printers are either cool, useful, or will become an integral part of our future, and you wanted to be a part of that history. Help us discover, innovate, and nurture the field of consumer 3D printing. For those of you who already have your printers and are happy, we would love to hear from you!

Surveys and Payment Checkout

By now, every backer should  have received their backer survey, which can be found in the backer portal. On this first survey, you can update your current shipping address as well as choose your Micro printer color and filaments (please note that the payment feature is still separate from the survey). If the survey is NOT available when you sign into the portal, please email info@printm3d.com, and our team will enable it for you. You must complete the survey in order to receive your printer, so please make sure to fill it out.

After we finalize fulfillment plans for each country, we will invite backers to submit payment one-by-one, and several thousand have already been sent out. This is an additional step after filling out the initial survey. We’ve also added two options that can be selected after you’ve paid, but only if your order hasn’t shipped. If you would like to change your printer color or shipping address, you can now do so on our new “Edit Order” page. On this page, Mac users can also choose to hold their orders until Mac software becomes available.

What to Expect for April Production

As mentioned in our last update, we've been sharing very detailed internal data with you on the forums about our production, usually within 24 hours. As you've been watching the numbers go up (on average), we've been working in the background to improve the line every single day. We're happy to report a few things:

  • We have a full crew of 40 people covering day and evening shifts.

  • Our rate of shipping today is approaching 3,000 units/month.

  • We expect significant improvements in efficiency to continue through this month, allowing us to ship between 4,000-6,000 units and produce your Kickstarter rewards faster than you are filling out surveys. This will give us excess inventory for fulfilling pre-orders, but repair exchanges and backers who fill out their payment requests are still top priority when they enter the queue the first time.

  • By the end of April, any delays in shipping will be due to the lack of a specific color being in stock, backers changing their emails, and exceptions in shipping, rather than a lack of production capacity.

There will always be outliers and exceptions, such as those with an overly-aggressive spam filter, those who changed their email and can’t be reached, or those who think 3D printers should be a certain way because they prefer a specific style. Nevertheless, we aim to make everybody happy and would appreciate your help reaching everyone.

A Reflection on Production

We would like to take a moment to reflect on what we've learned as a company; one of those things is production efficiency. When we started, we thought we were pretty good at predicting things, and in most areas, we were. When it came to production, however, we were always falling short of our expectations, and this was a frustrating mystery for the longest time.

After studying the problem, we've identified several key causes for our projections being off. We've started to approach these issues head on, and we are using them to quickly close the gap for our predictions:

  • Gaussian accumulation: This is the idea that if you build 10 parts, we are likely to see 10 normal assemblies with a good average completion time. However, as time goes on, more exceptions occur and expand further out on the bell curve. The further out they go, the more they reduce the average completion time. On average, the time to build something in a time trial is much faster than over the course of a day by a factor of two.

  • Human performance: People vary in performance from their best day to slow days and by getting fatigued over the course of a shift.

  • Team performance: The average time of the team is slowed due to differences in peoples’ performance averages.

  • Exception outliers: Every day can have a reason for being abnormal, such as tools breaking or having a change in procedure, but exceptions are actually continuous and need to be accounted for.

  • Training losses: This is the loss from having people working on a station where they do not have a good performance number.

  • Rework losses: This is the loss from having to rebuild a printer because an issue wasn't caught at the earliest possible step.

Thus, at every step in production there is additional time lost, unexpectedly compounding to give slower rates. With newer strategies, such as working on one printer instead of a batch of sub-assemblies, we eliminate poor training, confusion, fatigue, and team losses. We’re also better able to find errors before they move down the line since multiple trained people handle the same part to catch mistakes.

We've recently tried boosting the front-end production (base station) with a new production line, which improved our production output by nearly 40%. We are nearly finished doing the same with every station. By switching the production floor from a batch process into a line, we feel a sense of calm and order, mistakes and poor training are caught early, rework doesn't have to be done in batches, and line issues can be visualized immediately.

Colors

Finally, our suppliers were able to give us blue box tops, and we are expecting the first shipment later this week. So let’s recap and find out: Why was this so hard?  

Well, it turns out that pigment for colors like orange, red, green, and black are very easy to produce, so there are many options to choose from. On the other hand, blue only has a few pigment options, so when something goes wrong, a lot of tweaking needs to be done. In our case, the extreme pressure and temperature of the mold creates an environment that stresses the blue pigment and breaks down the color. As a result, blue degrades into a very light blue as it fills the mold and causes blemishes. The blemishes you see in the picture below are where the mold flow lines meet and cause more obvious color separation, but through a new formulation and extensive mold optimization, we were able to reduce these blemishes to the point that you’d have to look under intense light to notice them.

Old blue box tops with noticeable blemishes (left). New and improved blue box tops (right).
Old blue box tops with noticeable blemishes (left). New and improved blue box tops (right).

The news on silver tops isn't as good because our original supplier of silver paint did not honor their contract and couldn’t produce a high quality silver that resists scratching.This turn of events is upsetting as the supplier is located just down the road from us. Fortunately, we've been working with two other companies in Maryland, and we’re aiming to finalize another supplier soon, but the timelines are not clear and are expected to be slow. To help reduce the chance of delays, we are separating the painting contract from the painting specification. This is so we can lock down key features, including the paint formulation from the actual painting company, which increases our chances of quickly moving forward with alternates.

In the meantime, we have two remedies if you backed a silver printer: one immediate and one medium term. We have an excess of 4,000 black printer sets in stock and 2,000 sets each of green and orange. A few hundred blue cases will also arrive soon, and if they succeed, we will have more blue cases by the end of April. If you have been waiting and want your printer as soon as possible, you can change your pledge color in the backer portal to get a printer sooner. The second remedy is to accept a pre-release of two new colors, gloss white or clear, which we made specifically in response to the lack of silver tops. We can't promise that the white tops won't have similar issues as the blue, and we need some time for optimization, but it should work with much more ease. Clear tops, which feature a classic look, have already been tested and look promising. We'd like to hear if there is any interest in the clear tops, so please let us know by posting in the comments. We haven't finalized the specification for either color yet, but we hope to do so within one to two weeks.  If you are interested in putting your order on hold to wait for one of these new colors, please enter a note in the "comments/instructions" section of the backer portal. 

Lastly, we are also looking to paint some boxes in purple, but we would have to charge extra for them because of the low volume of requests expected, which would put that paint well into double digit cost increases for us.  Based on your responses in the comments, we’ll see if there is enough support for this option, which could be painted onto the clear version of the box.

International Shipping

Many of you may have noticed that we've already shipped thousands of printers, mostly in the United States. While there are several ongoing challenges to shipping internationally, we've finally started to sort them out.

The short answer for why this has been the case is to protect us and our international backers from unnecessary delays in customs screening and expensive return shipping costs should something go wrong. Luckily in the past month, we've learned from repeated experimentation that our shipping process has matured and can survive shipping in the United States with less than a 1% failure rate. Now that we know what to expect, we are starting to expand our international shipping program.

In the case of international shipments to most of the European Union, our original promise was to take away your risk of unknown and unexpected VAT by collecting the VAT from you and assigning ourselves as the importer of record. This is commonly known as “Duties and taxes paid” or "EU friendly" shipping because once it clears through customs, it ships to you as if it originated in the EU, can be tracked, and should eliminate most hassles of international purchases.  

We've had a long standing contract, in which a major shipping and fiscal representation company agreed to be the importer of record in the UK, allowing us to bulk ship the package there and then break the shipment into smaller shipments once it cleared EU customs. This process helped  us all save on the costs and consistency of international fulfillment. Unfortunately, we had to craft a whole new deal, which should be finalized within one to two weeks.  If your request is urgent, we can ship to you right now in the EU, but because this is a different carrier and shipment method, we would have to charge about $10 extra or more and let your country’s customs charge you for VAT instead of collecting it ourselves. The good news is that the fees are fairly predictable as no one in our EU trials seems to be encountering unexpected fees beyond VAT or normal country-specific import fees. We hope that most of you can wait just a little longer so we can provide EU-friendly shipping, and in the meantime, we are putting your rewards in boxes on reserve for the moment we can launch.

Again, if you want a shipment in the EU and are okay with accepting the VAT on your side, please let us know and we will process your order this week. We are so sorry that this is the case and did not see it coming.

In addition to the above issues, it's been a big concern if a printer was mispackaged by us enroute to you. The cost to us would be extreme at over $35 to ship even the smallest component and over $100 to return. That's why the recent bulk shipments were helpful in informing us of where we have to improve accuracy in processing shipments before they go international.

We've been receiving many reports from all countries that our country-specific power supplies are working and that customs isn't giving anyone too hard of a time, if any. We know that some carriers may use a “hop,” where products crossing the border ship by air instead of ground, resulting in fewer to no customs duties. Duties are separate from VAT and cannot be avoided in some countries but are generally free in most areas. We’ve been methodically evaluating each country separately to give you the best experience.

Finally, there is an increased risk of exceptions when shipping internationally. Two issues that have come up are incorrect addresses and phone numbers. Please note that the address you provide is exactly how it will be stored into our shipping system, so be sure to confirm all information. It is also crucial to provide a correct phone number in case you need to be contacted. If you do not answer the phone from customs or have a package returned or destroyed, we cannot be responsible for associated costs.

Filaments and Additional Parts

We’re happy to report that our filament supplier has caught up, and filament-only orders will ship within a few days. We've made the shipping cost much lower for filament-only orders: a flat rate of $5.95 in the United States for two filaments and slightly higher rates for more. For international filament orders, we can ship at a lower cost than the printer because it uses less volume. However, the cost is still over $25 to ship internationally, so we're working on getting a local distributor in 22 different areas, and they will be able to stock parts and possibly service returns.

To order additional filaments, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/pbcbget.

To order additional parts, such as BuildTak sheets, please email us.  We will add them to our website ordering page soon.

Payments for Pre-Orders

If you are a pre-order backer who paid for their order from May through November 2014, your transaction was completed using a system called “Celery.” Your data will be converted into a survey to use on our backer portal site within the next few days. That data will then be imported and you will  be asked to confirm your selections via email. We are still in the process of enabling the payment feature for international backers, which will become available as your printer is ready to ship.  Please be on the lookout for these emails.

Customer Service and Support

Many of the people who handle your technical support requests are the same people working on the line to produce printers. Currently, we are focused on getting our rewards fulfilled during April, but we will start to migrate many of our team members to improve customer support afterwards.

In the meantime, we would like to provide the following estimations for addressing requests. We ask that you try to work with others in the forums for general information and to look over the FAQ for medium and low priority requests.

General Requests at info@printm3d.com: 1-2 days

Technical Requests at helpdesk@printm3d.com: 2-5 days

Requests for Repair Service at helpdesk@printm3d.com: 3-7 days

Special Considerations:

Kickstarter Page: We are monitoring this page rarely. Many of you found the streaming comments and our responses hard to follow, as we did, so we aren't supporting this feature for much longer.

Kickstarter Private Messaging: These messages are answered by the same team that responds to info@printm3d.com requests, but we would prefer that you use the email address.

Social Media: We love a lot of your comments and video links and acknowledge these when we have the time. However, we cannot help you with tech support because of the restricted nature of conversations on these platforms, so we ask that you direct your questions to helpdesk, info, or the new live support.

*NEW*  Live Support: The creators and other members of the team are logging in daily to try to get a feel for what kind of help is directly needed. You can access live support on our pre-order page at http://store.printm3d.com/.  If someone is available, a live support popup will be at the bottom of the screen.

Tech Support: Pictures GREATLY aid us in analyzing any problem you may be having. We ask that you include photos in your initial email requests to help us assess your situation more quickly and effectively.

Repair Requests: Please contact us before attempting to repair your printer or to send it back to us for repair. If you repair your printer without instruction from us, then we cannot identify any pre-existing faults. If you send us a printer without a return authorization number, it may get lost.

COMMON QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Why do you confirm Amazon Transaction IDs?

In short, because of manual entry: For our factory to ship 200+ printers a day, a team of five people must effectively QC, pack, and box a printer every five minutes. That gives us about thirty seconds to pull an invoice, print it, and run with it. A single exception can throw off this process by as much as 10-30 minutes.

With a normal Kickstarter campaign, consisting of a few hundred people, it isn't hard to find someone who is unique. With The Micro campaign, there are over several hundred people with the same first name. In addition, Kickstarter allowed people to make unique usernames that do not have to match the payer’s name, which creates massive possibilities for error or even fraud.

If you contact us using an email other than your original Kickstarter email, we need a way to verify that it’s really you. We appreciate the nearly 90% of you that were able to find this number to help verify your identity. In the case that your email has changed and you cannot access your original one, the verification process is much more time consuming. We are not abandoning your pledge, but rather, we have to prioritize the orders that we can process quickly. We’ve recently caught up with the exceptions, approving over 98% of the orders.

There have also been many cases where the person who pledged is different from the person who paid for the pledge. In these cases, we had to choose a standard and must respect the wishes of the person who paid for the pledge.  If you do not use the same email as your Kickstarter account and do not have an Amazon Transaction ID, we cannot verify your identity, so we are working to come up with additional ways to identify you. In the meantime, an Amazon representative has stated: “In this case, I'd suggest you to ask your backers to contact us using the link below, so that we can assist them in accessing their account and help track the details of the Kickstarter transaction.”

https://payments.amazon.com/sdui/sdui/contactussend

*Special Note*: Please contact us if you changed your Kickstarter email during the campaign as we have no other way to reach you.

Why the user agreement?

All we've done here is put together a list of typical concerns, and while some of these concerns may seem mundane, it is our moral and legal responsibility to let you know about them. Some of these concerns are as simple as “the nozzle is hot,” but others are necessary due to the unique aspects of owning a 3D printer.

How about the warranty?

It is our duty to make sure backers have the same benefits as someone who would buy an established consumer/retail product. There may be an implied warranty that provides protections for you as a consumer, but they vary greatly by location and often only provide a basic level of consumer protection. Therefore, claiming the benefits of such a warranty would be vague, varied, and difficult at best. That is why we provided an express warranty, meaning that in addition to any implied warranties, we make specific promises in an effort to standardize and simplify warranty claims.

Although we were under no obligation to offer an express warranty, we gave all of our backers the free 3 month warranty and options to extend to 12 months. Many well established companies are not offering the option of extending a warranty on a 3D printer anywhere near our price point, showing you just how much we are willing to stand by your rewards. Your extended warranty options are also 33% discounted compared to what they are likely to retail at. Through future additions to your backer portal, you will be able to extend your warranty if you didn't choose extended coverage as long as coverage is current (coverage starts the day tracking says your package delivered).

Also, it is worth mentioning that The Micro is one of the most mechanically complex consumer products ever made because it has so many moving parts and has to be incredibly accurate. With other consumer electronics products such as computer monitors or phones, there have been many decades to establish the technology, and products made with solid state parts have a  longer accepted standard warranty term.  There is virtually no marketplace history of the technologies used in The Micro, but nevertheless, we will go to great lengths to support you once everyone has their printers in hand.

Inside 3D Printing

Come see the M3D team and The Micro at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo, the largest professional 3D printing event worldwide, in New York City, April 15-17. The event will include a full day of workshops, as well as two days of conference sessions led by industry experts and demonstrations of the latest 3D printers and services.

For more information, visit http://inside3dprinting.com/new-york/2015/
For more information, visit http://inside3dprinting.com/new-york/2015/

Rewards Pool

We would love to reward backers who contribute to the community by creating value through posts, popular videos, tutorials, etc. Rewards will be determined on an ongoing basis and will include t-shirts, filaments, and other items.  

This week, we'd like to thank Mark Wheadon from the UK. Since receiving his printer, Mark has been blowing us away every day by sharing awesome photos of his prints. Here are some of the images he’s shared with the community (all photos were taken, shared, and are owned by Mark Wheadon):

As always, we thank you so much for being a part of our journey. The finish line is in sight, and we appreciate your support and understanding throughout this entire process.

Yours Truly,

The M3D Team

March Mega Update

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For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.

February Micro Update

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Dear Backers,

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T92OnQ_E38c

Yours Truly,

The M3D Team

January Mega Update

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Dear Backers,

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 info@printm3d.com.

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,”

-OR-

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.

Backer Forum

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.

Software

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.

Better print quality and consistency resulting from new software improvements (left) compared to old software (right).
Better print quality and consistency resulting from new software improvements (left) compared to old software (right).
Micro Speed Improvements Video
Micro Speed Improvements Video
      

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.

Test Prints:

Key Chain Print Video
Key Chain Print Video
      
Red Vase Print Video
Red Vase Print Video

Filament Colors

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.

Production

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: 

Production Progress  Video
Production Progress Video

Timeline

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.

Our silver box, before (right) and after painting (left).
Our silver box, before (right) and after painting (left).

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 info@printm3d.com, so we can update your information for both of the above options.

November-February Backers

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.

Shipping

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.

In Summary

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.

Yours Truly,

The M3D Team