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The first truly consumer 3D printer should be incredibly intuitive, easy to own, and seamless by design.
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M3D LLC

11,855 backers pledged $3,401,361 to help bring this project to life.

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April Mega Update

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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

30 Comments
86 likes

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

86 likes

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

December Micro Update

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Dear Backers,

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):

Blue Micro

Green Micro

Orange Micro

Silver Micro

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:

http://printm3d.tumblr.com/

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.

Printers ready for calibration > testing > shipping
Printers ready for calibration > testing > shipping

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.

Significant Z wobble improvements over time: A few months ago (left), last week (middle), current (right)
Significant Z wobble improvements over time: A few months ago (left), last week (middle), current (right)

We will have much more news to share in our next update, but for now, we just wanted to share some holiday cheer.

Season's greetings from some of our M3D team members
Season's greetings from some of our M3D team members

Yours truly,

The M3D Team