Monthly Archives

May 2014

Frustrating times

By | Kickstarter, News | No Comments

Once again we have to start with an apology – we promised prompt delivery times and we’ve not delivered. I know this is no consolation to you but it is as frustrating to us as it is to you, we pressed the ‘GO’ button on the beta production some time ago and there has been a stream of small issues ever since.

Firstly, sorry for the lack of information we are passing on to you. This is because we want to give you definitive points and dates, but the list is long and we just don’t know if each of these issues are design problems, mechanical faults or software related until we have tested each and proven our theories.

Listed below are some of these issues so at least you know what the hold-ups are and what we are doing to fix them.

Electronics Faults – The products arrived in the UK from our factory, and of course the first thing we did before shipping out to you was to open a box and see what we were going to be shipping. We ran a lengthy sequence of tests and found a problem on the main PCB. The thermistor in the head was not reading the correct value. We had them 100% tested and printing before they left the factory so we know they were working then, so only shipping could have caused the problem. What do we do now? Test every machine again? Even if they all worked would that still be true after they reached you? We opened 3 more and found it to be an isolated problem, fixed by replacing the Main PCB. The worry for us in this case is that the beta testers would not have been able to fault find and test the machine in the same way we can here. Dealing with such an obscure fault remotely would have cost us severely in time and resources.

PLA Printing – Even though we have had some of our best quality prints in PLA we are struggling to get any good results from the Beta Production Robox units. We don’t want any more delays, so the decision has been made to get the hardware to you, and ask that you print in ABS in the short term whilst we diagnose the problem. When a solution has been found we will issue any hardware/software changes to you. Before we ship we want to do a few more tests to reduce the downtime of each unit once you have it.

New Post-processor for GCode – We started this project by modifying Slic3r to make it work with Robox, but we ran up against limitations that were causing print quality issues. Instead, we’ve decided to make a program that takes the GCode generated by Slic3r and amends it to work with Robox. This change was as simple and successful as we had initially thought but the integration back into the GUI took much longer than we had anticipated. The good news is that now we are ready for all future updates to Slic3r without a lot of work and we can easily modify our GCode post-processor to accept code from other slicers. This will be seen as a huge step forward once Robox is in common use.

GUI and Firmware Fixes – As you can imagine there is a list of bugs and future improvements that we are continuously adding to our GUI tracker. It’s time to prioritise – we need to decide what must be fixed now, and what can be saved for future releases. Our problem here is not expertise but resources. Each amendment took longer than we anticipated and because Ian has not only been working on the GUI but many other aspects of the system to keep our mechanical tests going, there have been delays. There is good news however – we’ve taken on more software engineers and are ploughing through the list much faster now.

Framework around release – Before we start getting feedback and sending you updates, we need a load of systems in place to handle it. We’ve got an update and fault logging system in place now and this will help us be more responsive and be less draining on resources. This same support portal will become a FAQ and resource of settings, commands, fault finding, confirmed fixes and other useful data that will keep us all happily printing.

Just plain scared to let an unfinished project out – I know one of the points you may make is that we have experience in releasing products to the market, and indeed we used this knowledge to sell ourselves to you. The truth is that we DO have experience getting products to market and this has been invaluable, but there are areas of this project that are new to us, some sections are pure research and have never been done before. The learning curve has been steep and the challenges are significant. We are still moving forward, most days.

We hate having to apologise again for not updating you more and further delays with the product, we’re sorry and we’re trying to be as honest as possible. I would like to stress to you guys that this is what you’ve signed up for, Kickstarter is not a shop; the projects and products here are not finished and all estimates for completion date are just that, estimates. We really do appreciate your backing and are disappointed to not have met our own delivery dates, but the big picture here is that we are trying to develop the best 3D printer in the world and a micro-manufacturing system that will endure and sell in volume around the world. We are working extremely hard and your backing is enabling us to reach this goal. Please bear with us and we promise to keep you closer in the loop with more regular updates going forward.

Our short term plan today is to have the software with you by the middle of you next week and the hardware to follow shortly after that.  This will enable us to ensure that installation and initial use is smooth before the hardware turns up so we can segregate the two things.

Chris Elsworthy has been beasted to make sure that at least one update is with you each week keeping you better informed about exactly we’re doing, and how we’re achieving the goal that you’re backing us to reach.  Again, as always, thank you for your patience and support.