A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into building these printers, and it frankly scares me to think that any moment driving to the UPS depot the retail value of the merchandise in the back of my little Mazda5 Microvan costs more than the current price tag of my car. We are also pretty mindful that we are running almost a year behind delivery schedule - people move, etc. Therefore, for anyone receiving a printer kit (so $500.00 and up on the pledges, except for the pre-assembled machine folks) we are asking that you confirm your shipping address, before we ship the printer. The last thing I want now is to ship a printer to some lucky person that's now living at one of our backer's old addresses.
Pre-assembled machines, as well as plastic part pledges, will now be delivered in the January time frame. Our current focus is to get the kits out the door to our backers first - as that is the majority of our orders, and it's a relatively low hanging fruit to get out of the way.
It's been a long and bumpy road to get us here, but we're happy on the progress that we've made and we are happy to hear that the ones who have already received their printer kits think very highly of the machine. This is the first step in a long journey - we can't wait to get all the rest of our kickstarter and preorder liabilities fulfilled so that we can get back to R&D and improving open source 3D printers.
If you have not responded, please check your inbox for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Or email kickstarter@OpenBeamUSA.com your current contact information and shipping address. We'll get you taken care of.
Finally, feel free to drop in to the forum and say hi, to the rest of the Kossel Pro community.
The short version of the update: After lots of blood, sweat and tears, we are finally ramping up shipping.
At this point, we will shut off the ability for backers to change their addresses in the Kickstarter system on Wed, Nov 19th. Shortly after the shut-off, I will send confirmation emails to confirm all the shipping addresses for backers. This is what will happen next:
1) Each of you who will be receiving a printer kit have been assigned an ID# in the form of KS-0??. This number will be emailed to you as part of the confirmation process. The email will come from kickstarter@OpenBeamUSA.com, so please make sure that this doesn't end up in your spam mail folder.
2) We've already done the legwork to set up UPS to print bulk shipping labels from a CSV file. Each of these labels will be set up such that when the label is scanned by UPS upon pick up, UPS (and I) will receive an automated message containing the package's tracking number. This way you will be able to know when your goodies are on your way to you.
3) Roughly once a week, we will update a publicly shared google doc here:
4) Generally, we will ship in sequence of the KS# list, which, for the most part, reflect the order that people pledged at. We did move a few people / groups around to facilitate manufacturing, for example, we'll be shipping all the non-HBP kits in one week, all the mechanical only kits in another week, etc. It's easier (and less error prone) for our kitting resources to focus on one or two SKUs at a time. The other thing we reserve the right to do is to move some of the international shipments back, as these require more paperwork to process and I have to type and print the paperwork pouches individually for international shipments (no automations there). I have the week of Thanksgiving off and I expect to be filling out international shipping declarations for a part of this time off (I'll be spending Thanksgiving in Chicago with my parents-in-law, so while I won't be able to work on printer and printer profiles, I can get some of the administrative work done and catch back up on emails, etc).
On the subject of international shipments - due to the size of the printer, and our negotiated discount with UPS, we will be shipping all international rewards via UPS. It may cost us a little more than USPS (although not significantly more) but it will also mean that our customers will get their packages sooner. Our record from our last kickstarter campaign was close to 4 months - That's how long it took one package to clear Canadian customs via Canada Post. With UPS, and especially with the volume of business we give them, I actually have a little bit more recourse if something was to be stuck in customs than say with the Ukrainian post office. It's nice to be moving up ever so slightly in the world. :-P.
Per our tradition, we will be declaring a very favorable amount that is approximately the BOM Cost of the printer, minus labor costs, for our international backers. This reduces their import tax liability significantly, and keeps in spirit of a kickstarter being a gift and being a sponsorship of a good idea - your generous gift that had allowed us to go and develop this printer is getting you a gift in return. :-).
Now the longer, more in depth update:
This weekend, Chris, Mike and I sat down and built a printer from one of the kits that our kitter had assembled. We do this for a few reasons: 1) I need to train someone up to start building the ten pre-built machines to close out the kickstarter fulfillment, 2) it's another sanity check to make sure that the kits, as we envisioned, does indeed contain everything to build a printer, 3) we need additional printers to use as a test fixture to speed testing of the Brainwave Pros along, and 4) we also needed to build a machine to verify our work-in-progress assembly instructions (making sure that the steps we propose are correct, see if there's a better way to do things, etc.
Unfortunately, during this build we found that the stepper motor kit was missing stepper motor cables. This is an assembler error, not a documentation error (ie, our build docs calls out the cables, but our kitter missed it). We also found that one of our packets was missing a bracket (again, a miscount, the build instructions are correct).
So, there was a blessing in disguise - setting up the UPS bulk shipping CSV files and the mail merge had taken me much longer than anticipated, and we were able to open the printer kits up and check and verified that the stepper motor cables were indeed missing from the kits. These kits have now been reworked and sealed back up and Mike and I will be driving these kits to the UPS store tomorrow on our lunch break. Every early bird backer that ordered the full kit, who filled out the survey and confirmed their shipping address, will be getting a printer. We expect to be able to send all the early bird mechanical kits this week as well and also catch back up a bit on shipping printers this week. And, as an added bonus, the early bird backers will be our test guinea pig of our automated shipping label generation program. As these packages are received into UPS's setup (sometime tomorrow) automated emails should go out advising backers of their tracking numbers.
We have bought on additional kitting resources to help blow through the rest of the kitting process. Kitting accuracy is more important than kitting speed (the Kossel Pro has 293 unique BOM line items, 405 line items, 19 kits and 40 different subassemblies - miss a single item and you will have a frustrated builder instead of a complete kit). We'll likely implement additional quality control steps (such as weighing individual ASY packs before they roll up into a kit. We'll also be stuffing some replacement kits and asys onto Amazon to be held as replacement parts to allow us to drop ship using Amazon's ecommerce system replacement parts to backers, should problems arise.
In the meantime, I'm hoping to get the first draft of the assembly instructions published this week, and we'll launch www.KosselPro.com where all the documentation (for both Reprap and Pro branches of the Kossel) will sit. We'll also start posting some of our initial KissSlicer and MatterSlice settings onto the forum at forums.openbeamusa.com
Finally, we will be taking advantage of the upcoming Thanskgiving vacation and spinning up our assemblers to start assembling the pre-built machines as well. (That is one of the reasons why our instructions are such a high priority, not just for the early birds that are starting to receive the kits, but also for our assembly folks who are building the pre-built machines as well). Currently, the expectation is that we'll be sending these printer kits partially disassembled (with no more than 5-10 minutes of reassembly required - we'll take the end effector off, take the carriages off the ball rails, and separate the vertical towers with the upper and lower triangle. The lower triangle will contain all the electronics pre-wired - that's the one really nice thing about this design is we've managed to concentrate all the electronics in the base). We are aiming to be able to ship all 10 of the pre-assembled machines in the mid December time frame to get them into our backer's hands by Christmas.
Our team have returned from our annual downhill biking vacation. We are happy to report that no one was seriously hurt; there was no need for any OpenBeam + 3D Printed braces and splints and no broken bones.
Since our return, our team have hit the ground running (yes, bad pun).
Before I dive into the fulfillment update, I am happy to announce that we will be partnering up with Matter Hackers on the software side of things. We will be getting a custom built version of Matter Control with our printer, and along with this custom version of Matter Control will come phone support. This is good news and a big step in the right direction for Mike and I, as we have our day jobs and we’ve always worried about how we can provide proper support to our end users. We are still in the negotiations phase with Matter Hackers with regards to hardware support (up to and including the possibility of them helping with replacement parts, broken printer bits, etc). We are very excited to partner up with a company that’s been around in the 3D Printing world for so long and we look forward to many good things in this partnership.
Now, for an update on fulfillment:
The Short Version:
After many issues, and considerable delays, we are happy to announce that we have released the first set of subassemblies to our kitting contractor. She had already started subassemblies for the hot end and heater cartridge and will work up through the end effector and chassis kit this week. Next week we’ll be kitting the Kossel Core – which contains the common components required to build a Kossel Reprap and a Kossel Pro. If all goes well, we should be able to ship early bird kits next Friday and the rest of the kits in about 2 weeks after the early birds.
We are, at the current time, still waiting on updated plastics (samples are on their way, but the production run is slated for delivery first week of October).
We are also waiting on the heated build platform – originally it was scheduled to be delivered last week, but our vendor came back and pushed out the delivery date to the end of the month. This is because the material specified for the HBP – 0.125” thick TG170 substrate, is a rather high end material (read: not commonly encountered) and their supply chain hiccupped a bit when given the order.
The good news is that the board, aside from mechanically stronger and more warp resistant due to the higher temperature substrate, is exactly identical to prototypes that we've tested and we are sure that the calculations are correct and that the board heats up evenly.
To make some of the deliveries, we have resorted to 3D printing parts, and shipping our backers a “patch” with the injection molded part when they arrive from our vendor later. It is not a cheap or fast way to go (each plate takes over 24 hours to print and post process, and yields parts for a measly 8 printers, and Stratasys charges close to $500.00 per spool of filament), but we do want to get parts into our early bird backers hands ASAP to get feedback on the kitting and assembly process.
The Long Version:
We came back from our vacation to find boxes stuck in customs, issues with our vertices being machined and also major issues with our hot end. We have been pounding the pavement pretty hard to get these issues resolved and we are confident that we have resolved all these issues.
For the vertices, we have a rotary table setup to machine all 4 sides of the vertex. This worked really well for the upper vertices, but we found that the lower vertices had trouble holding tolerances. A quick check showed that the cuts from the factory are not quite straight. Over a 15mm vertex, this slant is not noticeable, but over a 75mm vertex, it becomes quite problematic. The solution is to fixture the part by holding it from both ends with a soft jaw. Our machinist is reworking his setup and we should be able to get parts some time later this week.
For the hot end, we had a batch of hotends that failed in internal testing. Our first batch assembled just fine and printed great, but we had a batch that jammed immediately when filament is applied. This was rather tricky to debug, but we finally root caused the issue to machining issues on the PTFE liner. We switched to machining the liner out of PTFE tubing instead of PTFE solid stock, and we also came up with a method of fixturing the PTFE to the brass nozzle to ensure alignment during assembly, and loosened the tolerance on the retainer cap to correct for higher-than-expected manufacturing tolerances on the PEEK holder. Short term, I (Terence) will be personally assembling all the hot ends (and of course, if we have an issue in the field we will replace them. We have lots of spare parts). Long term, it turns out there is a very specific “touch” for tightening the PTFE retainer nozzle and we’ll need to buy a calibrated torque wrench and spec out a torque spec on that particular fastener.
Manufacturing in small quantities such as ours is a particularly challenging endeavor in statistical process control. When you are only building 110 printers, doing a 100 piece pilot run and then doing statistical analysis on the part seems a bit silly. Proper inspection is therefore an interesting compromise.
For our electronics, we do a 100% inspection by flashing the firmware on and plugging it into a 3D Printer test fixture and running a G29 routine to validate the all the motors and end stops work. We then briefly fire up the heaters and fans to ensure that everything is working before disconnecting the board and packing it in anti-static packaging. Since there is no way to visually inspect electronics for flaws, this is the only way to go.
For other subassemblies, we try to remove as much part-to-part variances with fixtures.
Pretty much for every cutting, wire stripping and crimping operation, we have a specialized tool, or a custom designed (and assembled, tested) fixture to make life easier for our assemblers. This is a lot of grunt work up front, but we expect that it will pay dividends in the near future.
Other administrative stuff:
Once upon a time, before this Kickstarter business, I used to be a fairly decent amateur photographer. Now, every camera in our household have been re purposed for shooting our assembly videos. I will be shooting our assembly videos this week.
For the camera geeks that's interested, this is the setup: Overhead cam is my 5D Mark III with a 100mm Macro lens. My buddy DaveM's GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition on the Manfrotto articulating arm should provide about the same view point as what I'll see when I'm assembling the kit, and a 5D Mark II with a Rode shotgun mic and a 70-200mm for the frontal "speak into the camera" shot. We will run all 3 cameras simultaneously then cut the footage together - at least that is the current plan. Incidentally, the 5D Mark II and the Rode Shotgun Mic was what I shot the original OpenBeam kickstarter video with.
And a zoomed out view of the lower living room, to show just how much the Kossel stuff has been taking over our household. Thanks for hanging in there with us – believe me when I say this, (my wife and) I would like to get these printer out to our backers, but we want to make we do it right.
It's been a busy past week or so at OpenBeam. 3D Printer World Expo has crept up on us. When we first agreed to participate in 3DPWE, we thought for sure that all the kickstarter rewards would have shipped by now. I feel bad for being distracted at such a critical time when we are preparing to ship kits, but since I am slated to lead some workshops in the expo it would not be proper for me to back out.
The least I could do, however, is to get a discount code for all my backers that are local to the Seattle area. The conference organizers have given me a discount code, which will be going out in a separate, non-public update, that will get you into the expo floor for free. So, if you are in town, please stop by at the Bellevue Hyatt and take a look at the newest build of the Kossel Pro HBP with experimental FSR bed levelling, and also the Mini Kossel Pro with our traditional touch probe.
In other Kossel news:
1) We expect to be receiving the new, fully assembled end effector PCAs, and the balance of our Brainwave Pro PCAs next week. Cable assemblies should be arriving soon too. The cable assemblies and the end effector PCAs were the last items gating the product launch, so we are excited and looking forward to receiving them. (We have already tested the "green board" version of the end effector PCAs and they work great.)
2) We've started testing and tuning our temperature and extrusion profiles for the heated bed version of the Kossel Pro. Since most of the backers have selected the HBP option, we are opting to tune for this first.
Here's a video that I shot on my cell phone with the Kossel Pro printing the Maker Faire robot:
3) we've been stress testing the SD card reader too:
(That was 90Mbs of G-Code)
4) We're bringing on additional help, in the documentation / manufacturing engineering department. Chris Martin, another friend of mine, will be helping out on writing the instruction manual. Chris writes the instructions for our assembly line workers at our day job to teach them how to build cool microscopes, so we should be in pretty good hands.
Finally, another administrative update. I will be going on my annual downhill biking vacation next week, returning on Monday, September 1st. I am under strict orders from expedition leader (and Brainwave Pro designer) Mike Ziomkowski to not bring the Kossel Pro prototype or my CAD laptop on vacation. We'll be back, well rested, after labor day weekend to push the project through to completion.