Molded Parts, Help Us, Timeline with Realistic Goals, Addressing Concerns
We have continued to work on getting parts converted to and molds made for injection molding the plastic parts. All of our parts were designed with things in mind that would ensure they were not impossible to have injection molded - as there are some things you can do with 3D printing that you can't with injection molding. That said, only a few of the parts were initially designed specifically for injection molding - the corner brackets and the spindle holder - the rest we had originally planned to 3D print. That is why we've had to spend time reworking the other parts to be "more" injection friendly. This process has involved substantial back and forth with a few different injection molding companies - who's biggest concern has been that the parts are too thick and don't have enough voids in them, so they will warp when they cool - since injection molding cools all at once and rapidly, very much unlike 3D printing which cools slowly as the layers are built up. We've made progress on this and some other smaller injection molding issues - but the process has been slower then we can accept right now, and any time you are working with another company's engineers there is some question of "is this a change they want to make it easier for them, or better for us?"
We have decided to take a step back now (on this part of the process, and only this) - we have been in "go, go, go" mode for a lot longer than you folks or us expected to be - and so it is hard to not just push ahead and take what we can get from the factories. But - based on advice from people with more injection molding experience then us and failures we have seen in other projects with molding that has led to very long delays - we know that this is something we have to get right. We have a plan, and we are going to take one week and continue to get all the help we can from the factories but also from some outside engineers who specialize in this sort of thing.
Want to Help?
And because we know our backers collectively cover many fields and skills - we also want to invite anyone out there who is a mechanical engineer with injection molding experience - or just an injection molding expert to help us out!
If you would be interested in helping us out, have some time to spare in the next week, and have the qualifications to really steer us in the right direction, please do message us! We will be more than happy to compensate you for your time.
Of course this is not the only route we are taking, as mentioned above we will continue to work with the factory engineers, as well as seeking the help of a few people we know who are mechanical engineers with extensive plastics experience.
We will be back during the week of the 15th-21st to update you on how this process is going.
We have had an increasing number of requests for a timeline update. Quite frankly we're quite frustrated and disappointed that we haven't delivered a printer to you yet - and what is even more difficult is to not be able to say "we will start shipping approximately X" - but we completely understand that many feel a goal/estimate is better then nothing. So here we go:
- Injection molding issues discussed above.
- Test of final injection molded parts and final circuit boards together with existing finalized printer.
- Final packaging design.
- Full scale assembly.
- Final shipping logistics (with some changes due to time and changing trade environment).
So where do those place us as far as a timeline -
I'd like to do my best to set some truly realistic goals for getting us to completion, setting aside the best case and optimistic thinking which is key to keeping at it, but not very useful to all of you, our backers.
Injection molding issues discussed above - as detailed above, we are going full stop on these parts for the next week to see how much we can improve them before we have the remaining parts turned into molds. So that's a week, plus molding time and transit time of the new parts - this puts this at 2-4 weeks.
Test of final injection molded parts and final circuits boards with the rest of the parts - the final circuit boards that remain will easily beat the injection molding parts, so this really depends on that. We will test with as-close-as possible 3D printed parts up until we have the injection parts which should be direct replacements mechanically. At this stage we would call the full assembly the "ready for production" sample. This is a week - we are reaching the point where nearly all parts involved are not functionally changing. Otherwise this would trigger an update.
Final package design - the ready for production samples go to the assembly and packaging factory - and they take the box we've picked out, the packing order we've spec-ed, and determine the foam inserts needed to pack it all in with the padding we've spec-ed. This is a matter of several days at most as it is something we can have our QA people on the ground in China approve, while we wait to receive the final samples.
Full scale assembly - at this stage we'll be past the mass production hurdles of injection molding, circuit boards, and sourced parts - this is all about getting the first production runs of the parts and then answering questions about our assembly specs, quality control, and receiving the first many shipments (and random samples on an ongoing basis) ourselves, and checking them. These first shipments will effectively be the first public beta units in that we'll ship them out to backers in return for immediate feedback, this rolls into making any needed changes and continuing production. For this process to reach that point it will take 2-4 weeks after the last step above (some of this happens during the steps above).
Final shipping logistics - concurrent with the Full scale assembly we'll be taking the leads and research we have already and making the final choices of logistics - prices, tariffs, and freight shipment lead times are all over the place right now so there is really no good way to finalize the logistics patterns until we can say "we'll have either several hundred packages or a 20ft container in one week." I will say this about our logistics - the open questions that will remain are bulk shipment to EU (very likely) and bulk shipment to North America (looking much less likely - though bulk shipment into Canada instead of the US is a possibility that we will be working on). Nearly all other locations will receive direct shipments from Hong Kong/Shenzhen via DHL or a similar carrier, when possible selected for reliability first and ease of import a close second.
Today is July 8th - realistically this places shipments starting in 6-10 weeks (mid August to mid September) with a steady stream after they start, likely spanning a month to hit about 90% of shipments - by that we mean 6 weeks and 10 weeks are both realistic numbers, 6 isn't an optimistic everything goes perfectly number and between the 6 and 10 there isn't much we can accurately predict right now, so we better not try. Of course we will be doing absolutely everything we can to hit that 6 week number, and even more so to ensure we don't go past that 10 week number
We know this is not what you want to hear, and it is not what we want to have to say - but we think at this point a realistic timeline is the most important thing we can offer, in addition to our continued promise to continue to work hard until we deliver.
Addressing Some Concerns
I want to address several concerns that I have seen reoccurring in both comments and messages -
This project will be (nearly) a year late! - Yes it will, and for that I sincerely apologize. I understand the frustration that backers are feeling about the numerous delays - some of which should have been foreseen - no doubt, even after 5 other successful Kickstarters, making a 3D printer is harder then we could have known, and we knew it would be hard! We share that frustration with the delays, and it dictates what I do nearly every day until we deliver this printer. The team over at Kodama - who is also trying to deliver a $99 3D printer - has one complete printer project under their belt and they too have seen numerous delays and currently do not have a published shipment timeline of any sort (to the best of our knowledge). Making a $99 3D printer is harder then even those with more experience then us thought it would be - but we are getting close, we are solving the roadblocks, and we won't stop until we deliver printers to all of our backers.
Is this project vapor ware? - no it is not, this project and the companies (Digistump and Robotic Industries) involved are how I make a living and support my family, this is my full time job, and I will continue to work on this full time until it ships.
Will this run out of money before it ships? - we still have over $600k of the funds raised in our accounts or holding accounts with suppliers/factories - we have never been in a position, given the price point, to waste money or be able to afford overly expensive changes, but we have used the funds carefully in this slow march towards production and they will cover production and shipping.
How do I change my address? - we will send an email before we ship requiring you to confirm or change your address, there really is no need to worry about it at this time.
What are the exterior measurements? These have been posted in comments a few times - but here they are again - approximately 12x11x12 inches or 300x275x300mm without any spools or room for operation - suggested work area for it is 17x14x16 inches minimum for a single extruder setup.
We want to see more media! - understood, and we know we've been lacking here. Until the next week we are going to be working completely on the injection molding issues, when we come back with that next update we will start knocking items off this list based on suggestions recently in the comments - somewhat in order they are likely to get done (for a variety of reasons)
- overall overview / look / pan around
- non-boaty prints
- circuit boards
- 3d scanner
Thank you again for your patience, support, and feedback as we continue to work hard until we deliver a great 3D printer.