So, less than 1 week into receiving the funds from Kickstarter, we are handed a few minor speed bumps. Rest assured that we are working around them, but in the interest of full disclosure, we are sharing them with you. Speedbump number one came from our extrusion vendor. We were expecting the first article sample this past week, but for some inexplicable reason, the vendor sat on the extrusion die for a week. They will be running the die next Tuesday, and the parts will land in Seattle on Wednesday - the day I leave for MakerFaire San Mateo. Worse case comes, I'll receive them at a FedEx Kinkos in San Mateo (I'm roughing it in a Motel 6, I doubt that they'll sign for my packages..).
Unfortunately the extrusions first articles being late is a day-per-day slip on the project schedule. As much as I am tempted to, I am not launching a 6000 piece order sight unseen! In the gantt chart below, highlighted in black and purple is the critical path tasks on the project. Currently, our Gantt chart is projecting that the extrusions (production quantity) will arrive on Friday, June 8th, or Monday June 11th. I am, however not 100% confident that the 3 week lead time for extruding and anodizing can be met - Any further delays there will delay the shipping of the product (Currently now projected to be June 10th).
My extrusion fulfillment partner and I are doing the best we can to keep the extrusion provider on track. Unfortunately, we are a relatively small order, on an industrial scale, so there's only so much we can leverage. It's really unfortunate, because I've already got my booth at Seattle Maker Faire and it would have been nice to have extrusions there both for people to play with and for sale.
Our second speedbump came from our sheet metal supplier for the NEMA17 motor brackets and servo motor brackets. The plan was always to go with a local, US based sheet metal vendor - I estimated the part cost based on previous experience on similar parts and I didn't think too much about getting hard quotes and launching the parts since it's typically a pretty quick process. Well, unfortunately after a week or so of back and forth, the vendor essentially "No bid" the part because he realized that he couldn't hit the price target I had set at the beginning of the process.
I have since secured a quote and launched stamped sheet metal tooling in China. The lead time for this tooling is 20 working days, and I am trying to get them to expedite this (by respectfully offering to pay for expedite fees). We are paying for DHL dropship from China for these brackets and we expect to land first article brackets here by Friday, 6/1, and hopefully be able to receive the production parts by Wednesday, June 13th. And, the good news is, all the brackets will come black anodized (and thus can also be laser engraved).
So our revised shipping dates for now are:
June 14th - 15th for the parts kits June 18th or so for the camera rig June 25th or so for the trebuchet kit.
Compared to the original promised date of "End of July", we are still early, but we are not as early as I would have liked. Sorry about that, guys.
(And this is why engineers are trained to always try to get things in as early as possible, while minimizing risks. Early discovery is good.)