First, the bad news. As some of you may already suspect, the delivery of Kossel Pro kits will be delayed, due to a few minor technical difficulties. We have faith in our engineering and design but we will not be able to make the original Christmas deadline.
As someone who had delivered the last kickstarter ahead of schedule (and had padded this kickstarter schedule too to hope to achieve the same thing), I am obviously disappointed at having to make this announcement and take full responsibility for the delays. We understand that some of you may have purchased this as a Christmas present; we are going to create a set of downloadable engineering prints that people can print themselves as a token gift for Christmas, with the understanding that the real McCoy will follow shortly. We will also be looking into some form of compensation, likely in the form of a discount coupon to the OpenBeam store, to ship with our kits.
We are currently projecting a ship date of early March, 2014, based on schedules outlined by our injection molding, extrusion, machining vendors as well as our lead times for electronics. At the end of the day, given the scope of the project, and how tight funds can get, we did not feel it was prudent to launch the capital expenditure in tooling without sufficient testing and until the rest of the printer, including the electronics board, were fully developed and at least protototyped.
The Kossel Pro features very high degree of intergration; we specifically laid out our control board with delta geometry in mind and paid a lot of attention to connector placement and compatibility across the various sizes in the Kossel Family.
To give you an idea; the original OpenBeam project raised over $100,000, and less than $10,000 went into tooling. The rest of the expenses went into spinning up the company and support infrastructure, as well as merchandise for the initial system launch. We had 5 molded parts that didn’t really have to interact with each other, an extrusion and 2 stamped parts. We could afford to be more aggressive on the launch schedule for all the tooling; in fact, we purchased all the tooling “at risk” before we had money in hand from the Kickstarter to get a jump on shipping.
As a comparison, the OpenBeam Kossel Pro currently has over 20 unique injection molded parts, with suppliers in the EU, Asia/Pacific Rim, and the US. The budget for our tooling is well over $40,000.00. The rest of it had to be earmarked for the BOM of the printer. We simply cannot afford to make a mistake - a few thousand dollars here and there in a mold change will quickly make this project run into the red. As the great Shigeru Miyamoto once said: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad”. We’d rather take our time to make sure things are done right and do the right amount of testing, before releasing the printer.
Now, for the good news:
- We have received the first engineering prototypes of the new Brainwave IIs and although there were a few hiccups with initial testing, we believe that we are on a good path forward.
- We have signed the final round of die approval prints and paid for our extrusion die. We hope to have first articles in about 4 weeks, and we were able to keep this part of the project on US soil by finding what appears to be a good, competent US based aluminum extruder.
- We have started building the test fleet of printers to stress test the new Brainwave II boards. Part of this printer fleet will be deployed at Metrix Create Space in Seattle to print - you guessed it - more reprap Kossel parts. The original Mini Kossel Prototype 2, featured in the 2014 Make Ultimate Guide to 3D printing, have now logged hundreds of print hours. We are looking at the different failure modes that have occured and making sure that these design issues are adequately addressed in the Kossel Pro.
- We have received all the extrusions for kit fulfillment, and the quality is top notch.
- We are in the process of sourcing validation quantities of all the rest of the printer’s hardware - the power supply, bearings, screws, nuts, bolts, etc. We have already received into inventory some of this material, such as the timing belt pulleys and ball bearings.
The longest “tent pole” in the schedule is our injection molding. We have released all parts, except for the auto-levelling probe, to injection molding. We will be launching the tooling this coming week on all parts except the touch probe; we hope to launch the touch probe tooling the week of Dec 2nd when I return to Seattle.
Currently injection molding is sitting at 8 weeks lead time for T0 (first shots off the mold). These first sample parts have to be qualified - basically measured against the engineering prints and signed off, before mass production can begin. There’s still plenty of work to do, even during this time when tooling is built; packaging needs to be defined, documentation needs to be written, machines needs to be tested, CNC machines (performing the second-operation machining after extrusion and cutting for the metal vertices) needs to be programmed, videos needs to be shot and edited. Our team will have a busy season ahead of us, but we will rise to the challenge.
In fact, while I am writing this update in Germany on my honeymoon, the crew at Metrix is already busy putting together the printer test fleet, and Matthew Wilson is diligently working on the bootloader and patching Marlin for our new Brainwave II. Finally, for a glimpse of the Kossel and how it stacked up against other machines, consider buying a copy of the Make 3D Printer Review. We are very proud of how the prototype did and what lies ahead for the project.
The Kossel Development Team
PS: For more frequent updates, please follow the OpenBeam blog at: blog.openbeamusa.com or the OpenBeam Flickr stream at flickr.com/photos/openbeam
More information here:
As we exit the intense design phase of this project, we will be sharing out more and more information. We ask that you follow the project's updates via the OpenBeam Blog at:
We prefer to send status updates via our blog to our supporters because Wordpress's features are more useful for including photos, file attachments, and videos.
I will continue to use Kickstarter's update platform to announce shipping related information.
Our updates take on average 2-3 hours each to write! For this reason, we have mostly been focusing our efforts on the engineering instead of project update side. This is because we try to do a good job with including relevant background information, links, etc. They also tend to go through a more in-depth editorial process for error and spell checking, etc. For those of you who want to stay on the bleeding edge of the project, you can also check out OpenBeam's flickr stream for more pictures and updates. Usually, photos that are included on the blog are uploaded to the Flickr stream a few days before publications.
-=- Terence, Rachel and the furry monster puppy
About 3 weeks ago, we closed the fundraising part of the campaign successfully. Now the real journey begins. By now, all the credit cards have been processed, Amazon and Kickstarter have taken their respective ~10% slice, and the rest of the money had been safely transferred to OpenBeam’s bank accounts.
A project creator wears many hats. On a challenging project like this one, one of those hats is that of a project engineer / project coordinator. The sooner we design release engineering data and specifications to other engineers, the sooner we unleash them to do their work and the earlier we get into testing and systems integration. Towards that end, we have been working on solidifying the electronics specification; work has been progressing steadily on the Product Requirement Specification on Brainstorm - Brainwave’s big brother that we plan on shipping with our kickstarter printers. The Product Requirement Specification is a technical document that calls out the requirements of the product - from connector selection and population, to chipset selection, to cosmetic finishes and so on. Our electrical engineer, Mike Ziomkowski, has been working closely with Matthew Wilson and me on drafting the Product Requirement Specification and translating it into a schematic block diagram. The process is an iterative one with two way dialogue - and a careful tradeoff of adding features vs raising the retail cost of the board by too much. A good portion of this dialogue occurs at 3D Printer nights at Metrix:Create Space; if you are local to Seattle, feel free to drop in on Thursday nights and say hello to our team. We are not ready to share out the Brainstorm PRS yet, but we will at the completion of the board design.
On the hardware front, we have been working closely with Johann Rocholl, the originator of the Deltabot family, as well as the designer of the Reprap Rostock, Kossel and Mini Kossel, on trying to improve part compatibility. We believe that the more we make parts interchangeable between the Reprap branch and the “Pro” (manufactured using mass production processes) branch of the Kossel design tree, the better it will be for the 3D printer community in general. We are also putting considerable efforts into improving Johann’s auto levelling probe design by making it more robust, reliable, reproducible and modular.
On the marketing front, we recently helped Johann build and ship a Reprap Mini Kossel prototype to MakeZine for inclusion in their 2013 3D Printer Special Issue. From a user experience standpoint, the auto probe demonstrated its value - we were able to assemble the printer, flash the firmware with almost no modifications - and then proceed to crank out a perfect torture test print with zero calibration! (Johann’s personal machine and our design use different extruders, and we had to correct for the different E-Step value in firmware. That, along with compiling our software for Azteeg X3 instead of a Printrboard, were the only changes we made.) We are very excited about this; the Reprap Mini Kossel and even the low end Kossel Pro fall under the “entry level” classification from MAKE (based on a MSRP of less than US$1,000). We believe we are a very strong contender in this category given the print results.
We have initiated prototyping of some of the injection molded parts; we hope to complete the rest of the design (for injection molding) in approximately 2 weeks’ time and prepare for tooling launch after that. We look forward to, in about two weeks, sharing our completed redesign.
Finally, on the project administrative side, our vendor for linear rails should be finishing up the EDM operations on the linear rails. (The steel used in our linear rails are so hard, they have to be cut via a wire EDM - it is harder than the carbides used for cutting tools.) These rails will then leave our vendor in Shanghai for Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong go into consolidated air freight for their trip to Seattle. We’ve elected to bring the parts over by air freight because believe it or not, it is almost the same cost as ocean freight given the relatively small volume and weight, without the additional 3 week transit penalty or 1 week of waiting for a ship’s scheduled sailing. Along with our shipment will be samples of fasteners and bearings used on this project, along with a few power supply units for testing and evaluation. Our linear rail backers will be receiving a shipping survey when I receive confirmation of air cargo pickup. The rest of our backers can expect a shipping survey when we get closer to shipping their rewards.
That’s it for this update. We’ll be back in about two weeks with the completed Kossel Pro design. :-)
-=- Terence, Rachel and the furry monster puppy. :-)