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March 21st – The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Hello again everyone, and apologies for another long delay in updating after our UL testing. As many of you know from e-mail, we ran into a string of hurdles that kept getting worse and worse – so this update is unfortunately mostly bad news, though there are a few bits of good news sprinkled throughout. The TL;DR is we ran into two more QC issues – one of which is solved, one of which is undergoing endurance testing – and then had a pretty major issue with our shop.

The good

We passed our UL factory inspection! Our HiPot tester works, we passed all of their testing, and after waiting longer than we’d hoped to get approval, we are good to go on that front. At this point, the only thing holding us back is our own in house issues, which we should have solved soon.

The bad

We ran into two more QC issues, one of which we actually brought upon ourselves when we solved our earlier grinder issue. The second, we didn’t catch until we completed our final testing after UL where we load, calibrate, and test each unit before shipping.

Issue #1 – grinder interlock is now “too good”.

Most of you will remember that we had to design and manufacture a plate to hold the electromagnet, so that the interlocks would disengage at the right torque – this is covered in a previous post. Unknown to us at the time however, is that this solution – while it solved the problem it’s been meant to – introduced a new one, in that the interlock would sometimes energize itself to the point of sticking. Other improvements in our production and assembly process also meant we’d removed more static friction from the entire assembly, which is normally a good thing, but combined with the sticky interlocks this meant that the grinder would no longer “pop out” under it’s own internal resistance, which of course is not good for safety reasons!

The solution we’re using for now to get units out the door is to re-introduce some internal friction so that the grinder will pop out on it’s own. This has proven to work so far and we’re currently endurance testing a few units to ensure that the internal friction won’t “wear away” over time and re-introduce the issue where things stick. We should know definitively by the end of the week, and be able to implement the change quickly to move forward.

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Some shims we’ve laser cut to sandwich at the input of the grinder gearbox, which create just the right amount of friction for the grinder to disengage on it’s own!

 

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It might be hard to see, but between the input gear and the housing are our shims. By torquing the input gear bolt to the same torque every time, we get a consistent resistance that kicks out the interlock when it should. 

Issue #2 – stater interference with the auger

This one is a bit more annoying because we should have caught it earlier. While our “In house” stators we used for endurance testing never had this issue, the production versions – made from the same drawing, to the same spec, but with more room for variance within that spec – did. Ultimately, the 4 bolt pattern that holds the hot section, insulator, stators, and cold section together was not sufficient to accurately locate the stators around the auger. The stators need to be centered around the auger or the auger can rub on them at a certain point, introducing tiny bits of aluminium into the filament and clogging the filters far too quickly (which is how we noticed the problem on some units).

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Far, far too much aluminum in the nozzles! 

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The very tip of the auger sticks past the stators, and is the original / correct diameter. The rest of the auger has been ground away by the stators…not good!

The obvious solution and the one we’ve implemented is to ensure that the stators are always exactly located around the auger. This involves precisely locating and machining two dowel holes in both the stator and the drive section, which aligns everything exactly on center, instead of relying on the four bolts to hold everything in alignment. As an added safety measure, we’re also taking a tiny bit off the diameter of the auger just where it sticks into the stators, to ensure that any slack introduced over time won’t suddenly start wearing away at the auger. We’ve tested this solution already, and  have confirmed it works on multiple units – so now we just have to machine the dowel holes into all of our stators and drive sections.

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The old stator on top, the new one on the bottom showing the alignment holes for the dowels.

The ugly

I’d been hoping to post an update on the above two issues early last week, as it was getting to be too long since our last update and we wanted to get the news out. Then something much worse than two solvable QC issues happened – our laser cutter caught on fire. While fires in laser cutters are relatively rare, they are possible, and cutting flammable materials like acrylic and fiber board can leave behind very flammable residue that, if not cleaned regularly, can catch fire. Unfortunately for us, this proved true, and despite catching the fire almost immediately a combination of flammable particles left in the bed, flammable material being actively cut, and an air pump shooting right at the fire can escalate things quite quickly. We were able to put it out and no one was hurt (though the fumes did require a temporary evacuation of our unit), and the damage isn’t too severe or costly…but we do have to completely take apart the unit to check for anything else, completely clean off any residue whatsoever off all of the optics, rails, and electronics, wait for the new parts to arrive, put everything back together, and re calibrate for use. We’re currently planning for this to take about a week (2 weeks total), and between fixing the stator issue and getting the laser up and running as quickly as possible, production is on standby for the next few days.

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The laser right after we put out the fire (and the air cleared from the fumes) – there’s extinguisher dust on *everything*

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The laser after we’d removed all of the damaged components, and started to do some of the cleaning work. You can see where the fire was on the left side of the bed and on the left side of the window.

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This is what’s left of our “X” axis gantry belt…

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Our limit switch also got pretty badly melted, and will need replacing, along with some other wiring and electronics mounted on the gantry.

Unfortunately between all of these setbacks, we are nearly a month behind our most recent schedule: ~1 week from waiting on UL, ~1 week in solving the QC issues, and ~1 week due to the laser fire. As always, we’re happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have over e-mail, and we are endlessly thankful for your patience while we work out the struggles of producing and shipping our product. It’s taken us much longer than we’d hoped and setbacks like this are incredibly disheartening, so it’s extremely helpful to have some of the best customers a team could ask for supporting us!

Hopefully our next update in a week or two is that we’ve started shipping, and until then, wish us luck!

-The ReDeTec team

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 22nd – HiPot tester, China parts are in!

Short but sweet – we got our Hipot tester, calibration certificate, all accessories, and have booked UL for Tuesday. As a random side note, our final order of components arrived…so we now also have every component for every unit we’ve sold so far! (Sheet metal for the last units comes in very soon as well).

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Our Hipot tester, with certificate, leads, software, and universal plug! Yay!

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Our final shipment of components – Also yay!

Feb 20th – Shipment update, website updates, pellet sales

Hi everyone, and apologies it’s been so long since we last posted. We ran into one final, very disheartening delay from UL that’s pushed us back another few weeks, but should start shipping either this week or next. Production is still flying along and in this update we’ll go over the high – level overview of exactly what goes into making a unit. We’re planning to get ~40-50 units per week out as soon as we start shipping, meaning all of our pre-orders will be shipped by April. And, we’ve finally finished our pellet prices, and are moving forward with new updates to the website (a forum, pellet sales, user manuals, open source stuff, etc) as quickly as possible. In that same order, we’ll go over everything on more detail in this update:

HiPot testing 

We were extremely excited to ship out our first run units, and contacted UL for their final approval (they have to ensure we didn’t “cheat” and build something different than we submitted). Unfortunately, at this point we found out that they would require us to HiPot test each unit before it left…something that was not mentioned anywhere in our certification directive, or ever mentioned before. In short, this means subjecting the device to significant over voltage, and ensuring it won’t electrocute you. They perform this test as part of our certification, and we of course passed, but we’ve now been informed that we have to do the testing on every unit and that UL must verify our test procedure before we can ship anything. This ultimately meant we had to find a HiPot tester we could actually afford, have it calibrated and certified to our requirements, and have it shipped here. We were very excited to finally have gotten it last Thursday, and post the update saying we had everything and would begin shipping…until FedEx missed both our pickup and delivery. The good news is that it should arrive tomorrow (it’s a holiday today), then UL can complete their inspection and we can start shipping out units and make a dent in our backlog!

HiPot tester delivery
Fedex missed our scheduled pickup of Wednesday, then claimed we were “unavailable” on Friday…despite us waiting at the door all day, and never even getting an attempted delivery slip! We’re calling them first thing tomorrow morning when they open again to ensure it arrives tomorrow, and will keep everyone updated when it has.

 

Production process – what goes into making ProtoCycler

Given we’re now building units regularly, we thought it would be interesting to start over-viewing the assembly process. After all, once we manufacture all our parts, we have to put them all together! This week will see a high level overview, and then we’ll move into the specifics of each component as we go.

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The first major component to be installed is the grinder. It’s the heaviest, and the easiest to fit everything around…so it goes into the chassis/enclosure first.

 

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Next comes the extruder. It drops in right beside the grinder, already wired and assembled itself. These are the two core pieces of ProtoCycler, but there’s still lots more to make it a full product!

 

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To make it much easier to install the grinder and extruder, we laser cut a special mounting plate that you can see in the previous two pictures. It has holes where all the screws go, so we can fasten things from underneath without having to support anything or build any complex jigs. Installing the grinder and extruder only takes a few minutes!

 

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Once the core components are installed, we add the user interface panel and the side enclosure pieces. It’s amazing what a difference these components make – ProtoCycler is now only missing it’s lid and spooler!

 

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Next up, some tests are run. Each unit undergoes a number of tests to ensure the diameter sensors are calibrated, the torque sensor reads properly, everything is correctly set up, and that it can properly extrude and spool filament. This includes startup and shut down, and of course “priming” the unit with either ABS or PLA!

 

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Last but not least, the units are packaged, boxed, and (once UL gives us the final go ahead), shipped to you!

 

We’ll start digging things apart in reverse order next week, starting with the U.I. panel, the extruder, and then the grinder.

 

Pellets

We’ll be selling pellets in 250g and 500g amounts – this makes it easy to make as little or as much as you want, without worrying about moisture or waste. It will also let you pick different colours so you can really experiment with things. We’ll be selling PLA in both 4043D and 3D850, and ABS in 250-X10. As mentioned in a previous post, all pellets will come individually packaged in Mylar bags for 100% moisture protection, and pre blended with the colour of your choice. We’ll be selling them through Amazon to minimize shipping and fulfillment costs, and making it easy for you to buy them. The final cost will be 3$ / 250g, and 5$/500g. There’s also a $3 fulfillment fee for each order (i.e. if you bought 2kg in 500 bags, it would be $23)…shipping should be free within the USA, Canada, and Europe, but we’re still working with Amazon to confirm that. Once we’ve got everything completely finalized, we’ll put up a link and you can start purchasing pellets!

 

Website updates

Last but not least, we’ll be updating our website as soon as we start shipping to include tons of support features, like a community forum, software downloads and updates, manuals, and of course a whole section for those that want to hack their ProtoCyclers, experiment with new plastics, etc. This will likely take about a month to get fully up to date as we’re still very busy with production, but bear with us as we get all of these new features up and running and let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see on the website that I haven’t mentioned yet! Instructional videos, a special educators section…you name it, and we’ll see what we can do.

 

That’s it for this week. Apologies that UL has yet again put a kink in our plans, but units should be headed out the door right after we can show them our HiPot tester!

-The ReDeTec team

 

Jan 25th – QC update & promo stuff

Hey everyone,

A quick update this week – we’ve sorted out both of our QC problems from the last update and can confirm things are moving full steam ahead! The new interlock electromagnet mounting plate allows the interlock and electromagnet to be precisely mounted, every time, and loosening the tension on our spooler means it’s now easy to assemble it without any risk of bending the motor shaft.

We’re back at assembling the units with the new parts and should be able to ship in a week or so – UL is coming by to inspect our facility and make sure we’re not cheating in any way (don’t worry, we aren’t) and then we just have to box and ship the first batch! Once they’re out the door, everything should start running more and more like a well oiled machine so we can tackle our backlog as quickly as possible.

We do, however, have two exciting items on the agenda for this week. The first is that Dennon will be on BNN (Canada) as part of the “The Disruptors”, tomorrow at 7 pm EST! Since we’ve made XTC finals more and more people have been interested to find out what ReDeTec does, who we are, and what are plans are going forward – and this is a great way to share that information from more of a business perspective.

Last but not least, it turns out one of very first supporters – in fact, the very first after our campaign ended – is actually planning on (hopefully, maybe, in some form) sending ProtoCycler to space! Julielynn @ 3D4MD has big plans to 3D print medical devices in space, and then re purpose them whenever needed using ProtoCycler. She’s already managed to get a finger splint 3D printed in space…and we couldn’t help but think that this is a super cool application of 3D printing. On that note, we’d like to start featuring some of our customers in our blog posts and social media, as we know a lot of you are doing some very cool stuff with 3D printing. Let us know what you’re up to and you might end up in our next update!

That’s it for this week – be sure to watch the XTC finals on Necker island next Thursday, the BNN segment tomorrow, give Julielynn a huge shoutout for her work, and get excited for the first shipment to go out!

-The ReDeTec team

January 17th – Progress, QC, “Big” news

Hi everyone, and welcome to 2017! It’s already shaping up to be a big year for us at ReDeTec – we’re about to start shipping out units, we’ve got two new awesome pieces of news to share, and things are generally looking pretty good for the next few months!

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Production Update

First though, some news on shipping – we were supposed to have shipped out our First Run units by now and be well on our way to Indiegogo…but that hasn’t happened yet due to 2 QC tests that are/were failing far too often :(

Both of these tests are performed based on initial user feedback to ensure each ProtoCycler performs to the same level. While almost everything is self calibrated and taken care of in software, there are a few areas that are causing too much variance for our liking and can’t just be changed in code – the spooler clutch, and the grinder interlock. Both of these perform a very similar purpose, engaging when they need to and disengaging or slipping when they shouldn’t. For the spooler, this ensures you can spool your filament tightly without affecting the diameter feedback control, and for the grinder it ensures that you don’t overload your grinder and break something…but that you otherwise have as much torque as possible available to crush some plastic!

We’ve gotten down to the root cause of each issue and once we modify all of the first run units to spec, will be able to ship them out – we should be able to request the changes direct from our suppliers from all the other units going forward, though our Indiegogo units might also come with a tell tale sign that they were ordered early (more on that in a second – see the section on spoolers). Here’s what was going wrong with each, and how we fixed it:

Grinder Interlock

In addition to disabling the grinder whenever the lid or drawer aren’t closed, the interlock pulls double duty as a torque limiter…and that’s where the problem comes in. We initially designed and tested the grinder to be used with a “perfectly” flat mating surface between the electromagnet and interlock plate, and spec’d everything accordingly in all of the important dimensions, i.e. interlock plate and mounting holes. The electromagnets vary considerably in strength, but we’d already accounted for that with an adjustable lever length (longer lever = more torque).

Sadly, two issues arose that mean all of our previous efforts to negate variation didn’t quite cut it – largely due to the height of the electromagnet and the resulting angle it would contact the interlock at. The first issue is that between the variation in electromagnet height and in sheet metal bends, our electromagnet to interlock distance could vary considerably from unit to unit. And, it turns out that the angle the electromagnet contacts the plate at actually has a *massive* effect on it’s strength…far more than we could adjust for.

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Short magnet, tall grinder – big gap. This meant that there would be a gap between the electromagnet and the plate, lowering the torque considerably!

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Similarly, this is a tall magnet with a short grinder! Also not good, for the exact same reason as above. 

In our first 20 samples, largely due to variances in eletro-magnet height and sheet metal bending (which have traditionally much worse tolerances than machined parts), the spread of height offsets was significant – see above pictures. So, to fix things, we’ve designed and are machining a built in plate mount that directly links the electromagnet to the interlock plate, so that we can exactly tune things for a flat mating surface. This should fix the problem and we’ll be able to confirm it’s function in a day or two, and resume production and assembly by the end of the week at latest.

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Our solution – a precision machined component to mount the electromagnet at exactly the right height for each grinder, instead of relying on the sheet metal chassis. We can machine each one to exactly the right height for each magnet, it only takes  a few minutes to make, and it’s all in house so there’s no supplier delays! Yay!

Spooler Clutch

The spooler also has an important job – it has to pull the filament tightly, but not pull so firmly that it over-pulls the filament relative to the diameter control wheels. So the clutch has to be able to provide reliable and consistent torque to the spool. The issue we were seeing is that our spoolers would have wildly inconsistent “max torques”, and perhaps more importantly, it would get better or worse simply by trying to examine the problem. After a few days of focused problem solving, we finally found the issue. Because the spooler can be taken apart for transport and put back together again, the timing belt has to come on and off. A long story about tolerances and specific applications made short: Despite spec’ing our timing belt exactly, that ended up being a tiny bit too tight for our specific application, and the repeated “put on / take off” would slightly bend the motor shaft. Taking it back off to inspect a unit would either re straighten the motor shaft, or make it even worse, depending on the angle of the motor at the time! And of course, a bent motor shaft would mean inconsistent torques across the angle of spool.

The simple solution, of course, is to give the timing belt slightly more play so that it doesn’t risk damaging the motor. We’re endurance testing the solution right now to ensure this looser fit won’t start slipping over time, but so far everything seems promising.

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The “new” spooler on the left. It’s identical in almost every way, but we’ve laser cut some new uprights with slightly more wiggle room for the belt (hard to see, but the timing belt on the right is taught, not so on the left). To avoid further delay, we’ll be shipping out first run and (potentially) Indiegogo units with these new, black laser cut uprights – a subtle reminder that you got the very first ones, and the quickest way we can fix the issue without compromising on quality.

Similar to the previous delays, this affects first run and Indiegogo units the most – the later you ordered, the less affected you’ll be, as we’re able to keep moving forward in a lot of areas and avoid these issues with any later units. So, we should have the first run units out within 5-10 days depending on how testing goes with these issues, with all of the other dates getting pushed back less and less based on the original date.

We definitely understand this is a little frustrating, especially after getting so close right before the new year. However, we’d much rather send a top quality product that will live up to your expectations, than rush it out the door in these last critical stage of quality control – it just wouldn’t be worth getting it a few weeks earlier if it didn’t last or perform the way it should, especially after waiting so long to get it!

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“Big” news

Now onto some fun news concerning the overall business here at ReDeTec – we’ve had the incredible fortune of getting not one, but two amazing opportunities going forward! The first is winning top 3 at the Extreme Tech Challange, and the second is receiving a government grant to scale up our recycling technology for high volume use across all types of plastic. Some details on both:

XTC Top 3

This is still a bit surreal, but we’ve been selected as one of the top 3 tech startups in the world by the Extreme Tech Challange (XTC). Over 1000 companies entered, an external selection process managed to place us in the top ten – and then we had to pitch live at CES in Las Vegas to a panel of industry experts and VCs. And, despite putting in almost no time to prep (we’re far too busy with production for that)…we won a spot in the top 3! This is a huge opportunity for us to grow our reach, increase our knowledge and talent, and hopefully start building relationships to really expand our technology. We’ve always wanted to encourage as much sustainable creation as possible, and the more muscle we have behind that belief, the better – so thank you XTC for believing in what we do!!!

IRAP Grant for “Big Cycler”

Since we first came out with ProtoCycler, we’ve had more and more requests for units that could handle production level demands, and recycle a lot of waste. Similarly, a lot of people want to recycle many different types of plastic beyond the standard 3D printing types that ProtoCycler currently supports. So we’re extremely excited to announce that we’ve just secured some funding from the government of Canada to scale up our technology both in scope and scale! This will allow us to expand our resources so that we’re able to start these projects now, instead of down the road when our lead time and business have both settled into a more regular rhythm – which is very awesome news. Specifically, we’re going to be researching exactly how well ProtoCycler’s technology can scale up, and creating far more complex algorithms to automatically detect and recycle as many types of plastic as possible – all with minimum human intervention. This will ultimately allow a whole new range of users to recycle whatever they want, at a scale that’s much more suited to their demands where ProtoCycler just isn’t big enough. And, with any luck, we’ll be able to take some if not all of those advancements and bring them back down to ProtoCycler scale so that everyone can benefit! We are of course exclusively focused on production and fulfillment of ProtoCycler right now, but once that’s under way and we’re shipping out orders regularly without trouble, we’ll start sharing this story as well – it’s a key piece of where we want ReDeTec to end up.

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That’s it for now – another update later in the week to confirm QC issues have been solved, then on to shipping!

Here’s to a great 2017 – The ReDeTec team

December 23rd – Sheet metal & gears are in, so is packaging!

Good news everyone!

Sheet metal and gears arrived on Wednesday / Thursday morning, so we now have everything we need to assemble and ship our first run units – and the rest of the campaign won’t be far behind. We also got in our foam packaging for the Indiegogo campaign…we’re going to need more storage space. Like the other update earlier in the week, this one is mostly a photo dump – but we do have a few other quick things to say:

1. We made it to the Top 10 of the Extreme Tech Challenge and will be presenting live at CES this year…AWESOME!!! It is an incredible honour to be selected as one of the top ten new tech startups, for the largest startup competition in the world, out of over 1000 entries…And we couldn’t have done it without all of you. So, from the very bottom of our hearts…THANK YOU!!!

2. A very merry Christmas / happy Hanukkah / happy Kwanzaa / happy holidays for all of our customers and supporters around the world! We won’t be getting much of a break with all of these units to assemble, but we hope you enjoy yours after a tough 2016 :)

3. Between a few days off and assembly, we’ll likely be harder to reach than normal over the next week or so. Please be patient with us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

And now, what we’ve been waiting for…

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The packing list for our sheet metal – we’ve got quite a few parts in quite a few boxes!

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Box 9 – the puller, spreader, and filament guide brackets. 

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Box 8 – all of the user interface panels, and a few of the grinder brackets!

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Box 2 – The enclosure top and lid, and sensor brackets, are all hidden beneath the 4 chassis brackets!

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The bottom enclosures in box 3 – a few need to be powder coated black, but they’re already looking beautiful!

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Onto the gears…these massive gears are mated to the grinder shaft. They are, in a word, beefy.

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These gears are part of the interlock system that both torque limits the grinder, and keeps it safe.

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Last but not least, these gears transmit the power from our BaneBots gearbox to the main grinder gears above. There’s two per grinder, so the load is always balanced!

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We also got all of our foam packaging in…there’s another 4 bags worth stored around the shop. It’s not very heavy, but it sure takes up a lot of space!

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Unrelated to the rest, but still beautiful – our nozzles and nozzle mounts. We initially had aluminium nozzles that threaded directly into our hot section, but durability testing showed that the threads could be damaged after repeated nozzle changes. So, we switched them both to brass – still great thermal conductivity, but now far more durable!

Well, that’s all of our photos for now. As always, let us know if there’s anything you want to see and we’re happy to post about t. Otherwise, have a very happy holidays, and thank you for everything!

-The ReDeTec team

 

 

 

 

December 20th – More inventory pics + Sheet Metal

Hey everyone,

This update is mostly a photo dump of some more stuff we have. We got another shipment in on Monday and now have enough components for our entire Indiegogo campaign! The first batch of sheet metal arrived Tuesday morning and the rest of it should be here tomorrow. We’ll do another post once everything is here, either tomorrow night or early Thursday…but in the meantime, some more components!

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Snap discs – hundreds of them – make sure the heater doesn’t get too hot, even if the software fails.

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Fans – also in the hundreds – cool the filament. These particular fans have a flow rating of 23 CFM and pressure rating of 2.23 in H20 – so they can cool your filament quickly! They also have built in PWM to ensure it’s never too cold for spooling.

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Chains for our extruder drive!  They’re #25 roller chain, which can hold 140 lbs…far more than we’ll ever need.

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It’s a little hard to see what this box is, but these are some of our power cables – the EU ones, in this case.

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Our fiberglass heater insulation keeps the heat where it should be – in the melt section – and improves the efficiency of ProtoCycler.

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These USB breakout cables provide a sturdy, reliable, off-board USB connector for you to plug into. They bolt right into the enclosure so you can plug in hundreds of times without ever damaging the circuit board.

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We also, of course, have tons of fasteners – screws, nuts, washers, and circlips…the list goes on.

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In total, we have over 200 lbs of fasteners…

DSC00133DSC00134DSC00135And they’re all organized in beautiful little boxes!

DSC00120Timing belt pulleys! These drive the spooler.

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Many, many stepper motors. Our NEMA 23 auger motor provides 190 oz.in from just 1 A – so your drivers stay cool, while still providing plenty of power.

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These are the main auger sprockets, that are driven by the stepper and chain. Combined with a 9 tooth stepper sprocket, these 45 tooth auger sprockets give a gear ratio of 1:5, for nearly 1000 oz.in at the auger!

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Again, hard to see what these are all wrapped up – but they’re the crank handle for the grinder (left) and the ball plungers for the grinder lid (right).

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Here we’ve got some brass bushings used in our torque sensor (left), and some gaskets for our insulator stack that separates the hot and cold section (right).

DSC00123 The big one we’ve been waiting for…sheet metal! We’ve gotten three boxes so far with most of the smaller parts.

DSC00122 These include our hoppers, seen here…

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And our extruder mounts, interlock plate, and crank handles. We also have our stainless steel plates for the insulator stack (see bottom right), the stators, and a few other small brackets hidden lower in the box.

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Last but not least…boxes! One metric ton of boxes, in fact.

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This is the final packaging – CE compliant, and sure to protect your ProtoCycler as it travels to it’s final destination…you!

Stay tuned for the final few days as components arrive and we start shipping! And if you miss the next update, a very happy holidays from everyone here at ReDeTec.

Cheers,

– The ReDeTec team

December 14th – slow suppliers & production update

Hi everyone,

We’ve got some good news and bad news for this week. The bad news is that we are still waiting on our sheet metal – almost a month late at this point – and our gears.  The good news is that all of our in house production is still on schedule and moving smoothly, and we now finally know that our gears and sheet metal will be here by early next week at the latest…which is much better than the “ASAP” we’d been getting until this point!

Once they’re here, we’ll be able to assemble and ship out our first 20 “first run” units within a few days, and immediately move forward with the rest of the campaign units. We should be able to have the first run units out the door right around Christmas, with rush shipping of course, and the rest of the Indiegogo units shortly after. We should still be able to ship all of our pre-orders on Celery by March as originally planned, with the first shipments beginning near the end of January.

It’s extremely annoying that both our gears and sheet metal are roughly a month behind, especially when we’ve been in constant contact with both suppliers! The fact of the matter is that everyone is struggling to increase production for the holiday season, and pretty much every other client of our suppliers can throw more weight (read: money) at the issue than we can. It’s a little disheartening to have built up relationships with our suppliers over the past year or so, only to have them fall by the way side when it really matters…but other than communicating to them how urgent it is, there’s not much we can do.

That being said, we are finally making some progress on all fronts. Our gears have been shipped and are in transit, and David is going into our sheet metal vendor tomorrow to help them finish everything so they can package and ship us all of our sheet metal. Then next week we finish final assembly, do some testing and final calibration, and ship! And of course, we haven’t been just sitting around waiting – as mentioned we’ve kept moving forward with in house production, and built assembly jigs and test chambers to help speed things up even further once everything has arrived:

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Moving ahead with production for the next batch – here’s a bunch of grinder parts waiting to be assembled! 

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Our new multi – unit test chamber. The original plan was to test the units one by one, but given how things have turned out we invested some time into this 8 unit test chamber. Fully vented, isolated, lit, and powered – all with one master computer so all 8 can be tested simultaneously! This will have a serious impact on our testing and QA going forward as well.

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One of the assembly jigs / stations patiently waiting for some sheet metal. This particular area is the sheet metal chassis area – the bottom chassis goes onto the pre slotted black base, after which the rest of the chassis and components can be bolted in using the right hardware. 

Last but not least, our update frequency definitely fell a little bit over the past few weeks. We didn’t want to post the same update – “still waiting on gears and sheet metal, should be here ASAP” – until we actually had some final, concrete dates. And since our sole focus now is on production, there isn’t really anything else to update on. But we finally know for sure that we’ll get everything next week, and then we can start shipping! It’s extremely exciting, and a great way to wrap up what’s been a delay ridden 2016. Next week should be exciting as everything finally arrives and gets ready to be shipped – stay tuned!

All the best,

-The ReDeTec team

Nov 25th – Quick progress update, pellet update

Hi everyone,

We’re keeping it brief this week as almost everyone seems to be out shopping for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, or enjoying family time for (American) Thanksgiving! That being said, we do have a few quick updates –

1) Production is moving along smoothly, though we are still waiting on our gears and sheet metal to arrive. Supposedly, the gears will ship out on Monday, and the sheet metal will be here ASAP – we’ll keep everyone posted. We are continuing to produce everything in house so we can catch up for any lost time as soon as everything gets here. Jen’s been particularly busy with our wiring harnesses, and Siraj has been making a ton of extruder hot sections…and producing a lot of waste chips in the process! We are, of course, recycling all of our waste metal from in house fabrication using a local scrap metal recycler :)

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So many wire harnesses…

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Another batch of 20 hot ends, ready for nozzles!

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We produce *a lot* of chips when we make stuff…and it all gets recycled! Apologies this is so out of focus…my camera *refused* to focus for some reason.

 

2) More parts are in! We got more bearings, steppers, servos, power cables, and boxes for the unit…things are really piling up. Of particular note was the recent arrival of all of our gearboxes…they weigh 850 lbs together! These are used to power the grinder, to make sure you can shred things quickly and easily.

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Thank god for pallet jacks…we definitely needed one to bring in all of our grinder gearboxes. A HUGE shout out to Bane Bots for getting all of them done so quickly!

3) Speaking of the grinder…we now have video up of the grinder wheels’ final machining step: cutting the teeth. This takes the “wheel of discs” you’ve already seen that our lathe spits out, and cuts precision teeth into each one at exactly the right profile. While grinding is definitely pretty trivial compared to extrusion, balancing speed with effort is still really difficult, and we’ve gone through over 40 iterations of the grinder wheel profile before settling on our final choice…which makes it easy to grind, without being too slow. Check out the video of our Tormach 4th axis machine cutting out the grinder wheels here, or below:

4) Last but not least, an update on pellets. We’re still negotiating with our fulfillment partners to get shipping costs down, as we think the shipping should cost less than the pellets, and right now that’s not the case. That being said, we have finalized the following: 1) We’ll be packaging in reinforced Mylar due to it’s fantastic ability to block moisture, and protect your pellets. No other retailer does this! 2) We’ll be selling our pellets in quarter kilo (250g / ~0.5 lb) increments. This makes it very easy to produce as little or as much as you need at a time, and is particularly useful for those wanting to make lots of different colors without having to make a full spool of each. The only other supplier we know of that does this is ColorFabb…but they charge way more than we’re planning to. Our pellets will be competitively priced on a per kilo basis, but available in smaller amounts to make your life easier. 3) As mentioned, we’re going to offer quite a few varieties of pellets, and will continue to increase the offerings as we can confirm more variations that work automatically with ProtoCycler. As time goes by, you’ll be able to extrude more and more polymers, each with different strengths for 3D printing, and all through free firmware updates. We’re pretty excited to see just how many different plastics we can do!

That’s it for this week – happy thanksgiving to our neighbors down south, and we’ll have more news next week!

-The ReDeTec team

November 17th – super quick update

Hi everyone,

Things are still incredibly busy on our end, so a quick update this time – all good news!

1) We’ve been a bit behind on videos the past couple of weeks – our apologies! We should have both our laser cuter /bending, and grinder wheel tooth cutting up by early next week…feel free to request anything else you’d like to see :)

2) Production…parts are rolling in, things are being made, software is being finalized. All we’re waiting on now for our First Run units are the sheet metal and gears…though we are getting concerned that they’ve taken longer than we expected to arrive. We’re staying busy producing everything for the rest of the Indiegogo so that they can still roll out as soon as possible.

3) Press – when it rains, it seems to pour. Hot off our mention in Bloomberg Businessweek – AWESOME – we also just got notified that we made the top 25 in the Extreme Tech Challenge, out of over a thousand new tech startups(!!!). This is amazing news for us and gives us a shot at pitching and presenting live at CES this January, which would be an incredible opportunity to kick start our future development. If you can give us a shout out on social media, that would be awesome, as we’d love the opportunity to show the world ProtoCycler at this year’s CES. Last but not least, we’ll also be on Bay Area business radio this Friday (Yes, tomorrow – we just found out today) around 2 pm PST to talk about what we’re trying to do, the challenges we’ve overcome in getting to this point, and where we’re hoping to take things in the future.

4) Website, forum, software, support, etc. We’ve been getting tons of questions on this lately – when will the manual come out, is there going to be a support forum, what happens if I want to take it apart, etc etc. Rest assured we’re working on this as well, but truth be told we’ve prioritized shipping of the first run and campaign units. By the time they’ve shipped, we’ll have the beta release of both our software and manual up and running for everyone to see. Shortly after and based on ongoing feedback, we’ll begin to update the manual and software as often as we can to ensure everything works as well as it can for everyone. This, of course, leads directly into the forum – we’re going to be adding a forum to our website as soon as the software and manual have been published, along with more educational content on both ProtoCycler and 3D printing, as well as a dedicated “hacker zone” for those that want to really dig into the project and contribute to our development going forward. This hacker zone will require a quick sign up for UL/legal purposes, as it voids all safety certifications for somewhat obvious reasons. But we’d much rather get everyone that wants to start tinkering involved and educated on what we’re trying to do, rather than close it down to enforce our UL.

A few more details on the Hacker vs. UL topic – every ProtoCycler comes certified out of the box, for use as directed in our manual. This is part of safety certification and required for UL testing…we have to explain to them exactly how the unit works, what “standard” use is, and what “non standard” use is, so that they can certify us for standard use. For instance, using PLA in ProtoCycler is UL approved – whereas overridding the thermal cutoff to try and extrude ULTEM or PEEK is not. So, if you want to take some random plastic and try to extrude it into filament, you can, and we want to help you try – but you’ll no longer be safety certified since it’s not “standard” use as defined by UL. More importantly, if you want to take things apart, hack the internals, load your own firmware, disable the thermal shutoff, etc etc…that’s definitely not allowed by UL, will definitely void your safety certification…but is definitely encouraged (with some very serious safet considerations) if that’s what you want to do! We want all of our customers – whether they be safety conscious or hackers with decades of experience – to get the most out of ProtoCycler, so we’re opening up both experiences as much as possible. Here’s a quick intro on what that means for both:

Safety, plug and play, etc

Even without ever plugging ProtoCycler in to a computer or downloading our software, you can still make great filament from raw or recycled plastics. It supports ABS and PLA right out of the box, fully automatically. You can change the spool size, use recycled ABS or PLA from your 3D printer, and extrude great quality filament right out of the box…just like we’ve promised. If you’re willing to download our software, you can also plug it into a computer and monitor / data log everything in real time, for educational, research, or development purposes. Linking with our software will also allow you to get free firmware updates as we develop them in conjunction with our community, meaning that you’ll get fully certified, automatic operation for any other supported printing material like PVA as soon as we can confirm the right settings. It’s simple, easy, and certified – perfect for teachers and classrooms, or those that just want it to work as expected.

Hackers, tinkerers, etc

We fall into this group ourselves, so we wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to make the absolute most of your investment should you want to go beyond the “certified” usage. A few of the things we’ll be doing to make hacking ProtoCycler as easy as possible – full, instructive documentation on what each and every part does, as well as assembly and disassembly guides for each module. Breakout pins to interface with the MCU – 2 PWM, 2 analog in, +5, and GND to be precise…easily accessible with just 4 screws. Those same four screws let you switch out or tweak stepper drivers, replace or upgrade regulators should your experimentation take things a little further than our 5V needs, and load your own firmware. Speaking of firmware…we’ll be posting  firmware online so you can change it, add to it, or replace it completely using the standard AVR / ICSP standards. And, like our hardware and components, we’ll provide full documentation (comments in addition to a read through) on the firmware, so you know exactly what does what and how to change it. Of course, all of this will require you to sign into the “hacker zone” on our website, as UL specifically prohibits this type of behavior. So there will be a separate EULA for those wishing to take things apart, with the explicit agreement that doing so voids any and all certifications or guarantees. This is the only way we can fully offer both sides of the coin – safety and hack-ability – without sacrificing anything on either side.

 

We strongly encourage both sides to keep asking questions so we can answer them as effectively as possible leading up to delivery! We want everyone to be ready to hit the ground running once they get their unit, as you’ve all been waiting long enough already. And, of course, we’d be more than grateful to receive some social media love for both Bloomberg and the Extreme Tech Challenge :)

That’s it for now – take care everyone, and stay tuned for videos early next week!

-The ReDeTec team