In early 2013, over 65 backers on our Kickstarter Campaign chose to make the plunge into Gigabot ownership. The unit they backed (later dubbed “GB1”) was first in its class: rugged, huge, and priced orders of magnitudes below other large-scale 3D printers. Backers trusted our story, our founding team, and the engineering behind what they saw in our Kickstarter video. In the last 9 months, this trust has been our guiding light as we established our young enterprise.
This summer, after Kickstarter had wrapped up, re:3D had a significant decision to make: Do we deliver GB1 to our backers, maybe even a little early, and wait until 2014 to make all of the upgrades (to accommodate the pre-orders that were beginning to roll in)? Or use all of the feedback from our Gigabots in Chile and Austin to make a better, more robust, cleaner design to deliver on Kickstarter? I think you can guess the answer. We decided that we would deliver the upgraded “GB2” within the estimated delivery timelines that we originally set out. This would have several benefits: All parts, tooling, and drawings would be common between Kickstarter versions and the follow-on deliveries. Our Kickstarter backers would not have a divergent version of hardware - it would be the same unit featured in our 2014 product line. Most importantly, the knowledge base of our community would be seamless between 2013 and 2014, allowing Gigabot owners to trade tips and tricks, successful print techniques, and even customizations that improve the design even further.
What are the changes from GB1 to GB2?
Bed leveling: A huge bed equals large changes for even a slight angular difference between the frame and the bed. A 4-point bed leveling system was employed, and a dial indicator is included with every bot, in order to pinpoint the bed to within 100 microns across all 600mm.
Filament spool mount: Binding or caught filament can be the nemesis for failed prints, as the motion across a 600mm bed would sometimes cause our tangling or twisting of 3mm filament into submission with quite a bit of force. Too much force and we’d see under-extrusion. Mounting the filament spool below the bed, and having a long tube guide it the rest of the way has alleviated filament tangling and feed problems and also shrunk the overall height of Gigabot by at least 6 inches.
Electrical box: Our electrical box design keeps everything in one place and is mounted just below the filament spool for easy access (when unplugged, of course). We also designed in enough space for several upgrades, such as a heated bed, or dual extruder. The enclosure has been upgraded to a hinged door heavy gauge steel NEMA 1 unit normally found with industrial electrical service. We didn’t stop there and properly mounted everything on a back pan with din rail mounting for the terminal block and a bonus double fuse protection.
Viki integration: A tethered remote was an exciting stretch goal which we have found to be invaluable, now that we have a few Gigabots making their checkout prints at our Houston HQ. No longer do you have to say goodbye to your computer for 16 hours, hoping that the screensaver doesn’t ruin a print 60 minutes into it (spoken from experience!). With SD card integration, the Viki LCD can initiate prints, test motors, monitor temperature profiles, and allow the Gigabot to truly be “off the grid”.
Belt protection: After several months in a makerspace in Santiago, as well as a short trip to the Atacama desert, we learned something about durability. Much of the design fared very well, but it became clear that the exposure of the belts on the outside of the Gigabot’s frame could could come in contact with fingers and long hair of printer operators and observers. Moving the belts to within the perimeter of the frame increases the safety and even the performance of your Gigabot
Width of a US doorway: Possibly the most unappreciated upgrade made by our Chief Hacker was the modularity and form factor of the GB2 model. The overall width of the Gigabot is of course driven by our 600mm X 600mm platform, but specific effort was made to allow the GB2 model to (a) assemble and disassemble easily if needed for packaging and transport, and (b) barely fit through the width of a 3-foot US door, fully assembled. Yes, sometimes you might need to take a door off its hinges if it doesn’t open all the way, but allowing this flexibility can mean that your (very quiet, in fact) Gigabot can be part of your home, just as easily as it can be part of a fabrication shop.
The unforeseen and honestly quite stressful part of the GB2 upgrades is this: developing and delivering GB2 to our backers had taken all of our margin out of the delivery schedule. We used every week of lead time before delivery to upgrade to GB2. Without an upgrade, we could have gracefully dealt with supplier delays, packaging challenges, and everything that goes along with making custom parts in-house, and probably even have delivered many of our bots early. But it also would have meant delivering a sub-performing product to our Kickstarter backers, as compared to what we would begin selling in January 2014. Looking back, our entire team supports the decision that was made.
We’re taking all of these challenges in stride, with our eye toward several successive goals, with our original promise to our backers guiding us every step of the way as we press on. As it turns out, it looks like we won’t be too long past our original estimated dates, and these still a very good possibility that all of our backer shipments will happen in 2013. We do, of course need to balance delivery timelines with customer support, instruction set development, and software upgrades. All part of the challenge we signed up for, and know we are held accountable for too.
We will always value community growth and interaction above all, and your continued feedback and support is so valuable to us. Thanks so much for being part of this crazy ride, which together we launched a short 8 months ago!
The re:3D Team