Well, despite our best efforts, it's happened again - we disappeared for over a month. We've got quite a few angry customers, and rightfully so, and while we've got lots of good news to share, we've also got a new challenge that we're struggling with - though we did manage to finally overcome another *major* issue that, behind the scenes, might have been the death of us. First, a quick review of our last update (Do our torque sensors work? What about clear filament?). Then, the new challenge we're trying to deal with, and an apology for letting our communication slip. Finally, an update on our roll-out schedule and plan, and a quick word on shipment schedules.
Torque sensor issues have been corrected, all in software. Those who already had units shipped will need to update to the latest firmware - Alex should be reaching out soon to handle all of that, but please be patient with us as we work to get it rolled out to everyone, and continue to refine the updates to completely solve the issue. In short, we're accounting for the torque measurements by calibrating them at the factory - but it led us to realize that they can drift over time, and that's not quite implemented yet. The very good news is that after this software update, everything should start being a lot more automatic - you won't need to put any effort in on your end, as our software will automatically check and update the firmware for you.
In terms of clear filament, we've done very little work in that regard - largely because of our new challenge (see below) taking up all of our time and then some. For now, every unit going out the door is getting masterbatch - but it is our largest priority right now other than ensuring everyone's unit works as expected when it arrives. We've gotten some great feedback from everyone on suggestions like IR, and even some algorithm theory - and we have had quite a few customers print with clear filament successfully.
Some really bad news at a really bad time
Those that live in Toronto might already know this, because it's made local news - our building is being torn down for condos, and we got three months notice to be completely vacated on November 15th, literally two days after we posted our last update - see the below letter (which took two days in the mail to get to us). We always knew that one day our beloved "Factory" would end up in greener pastures - we just didn't realize it would happen so soon after we'd moved in, in the dead of winter, with the entire rest of the building getting equally screwed over (and fighting tooth and nail for any alternative space we could lease going forward).
The worst news we could get after our last update.
Had we finished all outstanding commitments by the date, that would be one thing - but as everyone knows, we're behind, and we were not expecting to finish all outstanding orders by the end of January. This means we now have to move right in the middle of our production run...and right as we've finally gotten up to speed.
So, with our only main priority right now being to deliver the units we're already so far behind on, the past month has been incredibly hectic. Roughly three main things have been happening - making units, finding a way to keep making units when we move, and trying to deal with moving. We've been making as many units as fast as possible, with Derek, our new communications guy, finding himself in assembly and packing to try and speed things up...leaving him no time to actually communicate with everyone (our fault, not his). Alex has handled every support request we've gotten, and has worked tirelessly with Ben to both implement the torque sensor calibration, as well as continue to improve our algorithms so that our units perform more consistently and uniformly. I (Dennon) have been desperately trying to find new space for us to move to, as well as fighting back against the developer with the rest of the building to try and get more time to move - and to push the move out period into the spring, so that we're not trying to forklift our lathe out on an icy driveway in the dead cold (for instance). David and Siraj have been frantically trying to see how much of the machining we can outsource right now, so that while we are moving, at least parts will still be getting produced as fast as possible. Everyone else has been working non stop, full time, on fulfillment.
The good news is that between all of those efforts, we're not quite as screwed as we were a month ago. We've lined up a few really good vendors, locally, who are able take over production in the meantime once we give them the go ahead. We've so far managed to push the move out date a full month, to March 15th, and are now working to get another 2 months bringing us through May - which would be enough time to finish our run completely and still have time to move out before eviction day comes, never mind not having to move in the middle of winter. We've got the media, local, and provincial government on our side - and we're starting to find some spaces that would work well for us in the future, without the potential of getting torn down a year after we move in. And, we've had an incredibly productive month, with nearly 100 units getting assembled since our last update - a new record for us by a long shot.
Another 32 units ready to go in boxes!
The bad news is that everything else got put on hold. We do not yet have a confirmed solution for clear filament. Our inbox has over 300 e-mails right now, most of which are (very rightfully so) from people near the end of their patience, and getting pretty upset. And while we've made some good headway on solving the rest of our problems, we're not out of the fire yet.
Moving forward - what are our plans?
First and foremost, we're shipping as many units as possible this week - as I mentioned, we assembled nearly 100 since our last update, and most of those should be shipping out before the holidays. But we've also got around 40 hours of e-mail to respond to, so now that those units are ready and in boxes, Derek and I will be dedicating most of our time to getting back to you all as quickly as possible. Going forward, the "info" inbox will re-direct to Derek automatically, and his full time job is to keep in touch with you guys - even with the building issue, there's no point in shipping out units if we can't keep our customers happy both before and after they've shipped.
We are also going to shift a bit more time and effort towards tech support, so it's not just Alex trying to help everyone at once. This balance will shift more and more as more units get shipped out, but we have to balance updates to our user manuals, instructions (the grinder has to be plugged in to work - our bad on not clearing that up quick start guide!), etc with continuing to fulfill orders, as we're a little over 2 years behind on our oldest orders now. Now that we've gotten quotes back and ready to go with some external suppliers, as soon as they're back from their break on January 2nd, we'll be re-organizing production to keep it going at full speed regardless of any move - but we still need to keep our pedal on the gas for fulfillment until we're effectively caught up with our backlog.
Last but not least, we're going to ask for your help a little bit - if you live in the Toronto area and happen to know of any industrial buildings for rent with ~3000 sq ft, please let us know! And, please give Derek a chance to catch up with everyone - while I fully deserve the anger and disappointment at repeatedly breaking down the communication channels, he's here to help you out as much as he can now that we've finished our assembly for this month, and should be fully on top of things by January. We're going back through the inbox and facebook comments in a "first posted, first served" manner and we'll get to you ASAP - though if you've sent more than 1 e-mail in the past month or so, we might only respond once to all of them to save time. Finally, please be patient and understanding with us as we ship units out. I know there are a lot of people wondering why their unit hasn't shipped when other people's have. The unfortunate answer is that for many, many reasons, we can't ship exactly the units we want every month. For instance, if you've been following this blog, you know we've had some issues with importation in the past. Europe was the latest victim and so, other than a few test shipments this run with our new CE documentation (see below; don't laugh too badly at our translations), those units are being held until we know that fulfillment channel works. On the flip side, if you're right here in Canada, your unit might get held up so that we can send out a few more test units to Germany or Switzerland, to see if we can move forward with all of the older orders being held for those regions in the meantime. Similarly, our supplier ships us a set number of black vs. silver units a month, so if the colour you ordered happens to "run out" for this batch, we don't feel it's fair for everyone else with the other colour to wait in the meantime. We are otherwise doing the best we can to ship units out on an "as ordered" basis, even if it might not seem so at times.
Horribly translated short forms of our manual, like these, will hopefully allow us to get back on track with EU shipments!
Otherwise, we couldn't ask for more from all of you. Despite the occasional silence and the continued set backs, almost all of you have continued to be patient, have put up with our broken record delays and communication breakdowns, and still send us e-mails with "Happy Holidays - hang in there guys!", or try to take some flack for us on social media. We've even had a few local Torontonians offer to come help us move, for free. If there's a better group of customers in the world, I don't know who they are. For those that have gotten your units and posted videos - thank you! For those that have issues with their units, please let us know...we know we're not perfect yet, and it will take longer than everyone wants, but we're nothing if not dedicated to ensuring you're happy and everything works as promised. And for those keeping us honest, and bugging us to stop ignoring everyone (a special shout out to Mike C), thank you as well...it's sometimes very hard to "see the forest through the trees", and this loomingly large tree of having to move in a few months had made us lose our focus yet again.
This is likely our last update before Jan 1st of 2018, as most of the team will be taking next week off after an incredibly stressful and hard working fall - but we'll continue to be there on e-mail and facebook for the next few days, and in limited capacity over the holiday, and back in action as dedicated as ever in about 10 days. So from all of us to all of you - THANK YOU for being so amazing, and have an equally awesome holiday!
-The ReDeTec team
Wait...we mentioned a major issue that nearly killed us. What happened?
PayPal. PayPal happened.
Shortly after we charged all of our orders, just over a year ago, they decided that we were too "high risk", and could not be trusted with any orders. They withheld 100% of our revenue. In some ways, given our delays, I don't blame them - but this happened before any of our delays, less than 3 days after we charged everyone. They didn't even give us a chance. I cannot stress how much of an issue this was for us - we're a small business, who have to pay our suppliers up front, and we'd already dealt with endless setbacks from UL and likewise. Now we had to arrange loans just to keep the lights on, tell our suppliers we couldn't actually pay them yet (and nothing drops you down the priority list faster than that news!), and deal with the extra stress of knowing we might not be able to fulfill everything before we ran out of cash. They promised they would release some funds if we shipped out units, so starting in November we cautiously released 1 or 2 ahead of schedule...and they released some funding. Then we shipped one or two more, also ahead of schedule...and they refused to release anymore revenue. Some of our customers asked for refunds through PayPal, and PayPal refused to refund them. That's right - they'd taken 100% of our revenue, and wouldn't give it to us *OR* refund it to our customers. That may seem illegal, and it certainly did to us, but hidden deep in their terms of service are a few clauses that state that they can hold onto any amount of money, for any amount of time, with no reason required. They are the literal scum of the earth, and a few other startups (like Prusa) already know this far too well.
Thankfully, as of Friday December 15th, that's all over. It's a long story, but the end result is that we finally have our revenue - meaning we can move forward with everything full speed, instead of desperately trying to survive on ever increasing personal loans. We can get back to dealing with all of the other problems we encounter, instead of trying to do it all on close to $0 in our bank account. Instead of having to ignore our e-mail and facebook, because we literally did not have the time to do anything but ship units, we can now run a proper business, because we're not being held hostage by a faceless corporation that cares exactly 0% about us, or about you. It is, to say the least, some of the best news we've ever gotten, and one of the most amazing reliefs we could have ever asked for.
This is one of those things that we weren't sure if we should make public or not when it first happened. Ultimately, due to the faith and support our network has had in us, and our ability to scrape by, we decided to keep going instead of fold up shop a little over a year ago - and we hope you'll agree we made the right choice, all frustration aside. Unfortunately, though we try to run as transparent a business as possible, there are some things we're not allowed to discuss for legal reasons - and until we'd resolved this issue with PayPal, we weren't allowed to discuss it publicly. Now that it's over, we feel it's only fair to keep you all in the loop, even if it's slightly after the fact. It's no excuse for why we're behind - as I said, we've been trying to move forward as quickly as possible regardless. But it has taken quite a toll on us all, and with the news that it's all over, we all feel incredibly renewed and ready to tackle things more effectively and quickly than ever, building demolition be damned! See you all in 2018 to kick some serious ass :)