Kickstarter Update - Linear Rails shipping soon (and should be back in stock at Amazon.com soon)

Hello Kickstarter! 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. :-)