February Update 1 - Production Update
As you know, in December we shifted our focus to batch 2 and in the last few updates we shared some of the changes we are making. Although these changes will improve the product, if we're being honest, the additional effort is going to result in delays to this production run.
Let's rewind to give you a bit more insight into our product development journey and where we now stand.
Original Timeline (est. summer 2015)
When we began production last summer we expected to have batch 1 units shipped in the October/November time frame. Orders for batch 2 would be placed at that point and parts would ship from China to Canada in December/January. Assembly would commence here in Canada, and units would slowly begin rolling out thereafter.
Batch 1 Issues Began To Surface
During Batch 1 we faced a few issues. Quality is incredibly important to us, so we deliberately slowed production to deal with these problems, including:
- Low yields on our aluminum extrusion
- Sheet metal fasteners were not embedded properly
- Misalignment between the x and y axis
- Delays with wire harnesses
- Poor tolerances with CNC parts
Revised Timeline (est. fall 2015)
As we neared the end of batch 1 assembly we decided that longer-term solutions were needed to ensure higher quality parts, shorter assembly time, and less calibration (see previous updates for details).
We expected to have all the changes to the parts and assembly drawings done and prototyped by the Christmas holidays. Orders from our Chinese and North American factories would be placed at the end of December and everything would be shipped to us before Chinese New Year for assembly.
What we did not take into account was:
- The number of changes that we made was higher than expected
- The time it would take to move manufacturing processes like CNC machining and sheet metal to North America
- How much time shipping the Batch 1 printers would take
- How long it would take to develop a contract manufacturer (CM) relationship in China (we’re actually pretty excited about this and will have more info in the next update)
- That all of these things would make us miss one of our biggest purchasing deadlines: Chinese New Year
China Has Their Own New Year?
Considering the electronics-savvy demographic of our backers, we’re sure most people have at least heard of Chinese New Year. It is a time of feasting, festivities, and fireworks. Want an intro to the fascinating Chinese holiday, culture, and history? HowStuffWorks has you covered.
The length of the vacation and the weeks during which the vacations happen vary by factory. Here is a diagram one of our engineers put together to illustrate his frustration:
As you can see, missing this deadline can be really disruptive to production schedules.
We’ve had at least one person from our team in China almost constantly since July 2014, so it’s not like we were unaware of this celebration. It seems like we just underestimated the number of improvements between batches and overestimated how much we could get done in the time frame we had.
Revised Timeline (est. winter 2016)
Since we’re making more changes than expected, we don’t feel comfortable building several hundred printers before validating the updates - ie: we don’t want to sacrifice quality to rush them out the door. That is why we will be building 50 units first to validate the changes.
The good news is that since we moved a lot of the higher risk items to North America, we can get started on those while we wait for our overseas factories to return from the holidays.
The first 50 units will be run through our rigorous quality control tests to ensure they meet our standards. If they pass, we will move forward. If not, we will fix the issues before producing the remainder of the batch. We know this is disappointing news, and trust us - no one is more disappointed than we are.
What You Can Expect Next
As mentioned earlier, the next update will discuss how a new relationship in China will be making manufacturing easier for us. Following that, we're going to update you on changes to two-layer printing that should be more reliable and more familiar to you.
We are also going to commit to posting a Kickstarter update every two weeks. We hope the level of detail works well for you, but if you ever have any questions please just ask!
Thanks for reading!
- The Voltera Team