First and foremost, a quick apology on not putting out an update two weeks ago as scheduled - we've been extremely busy producing units to try and make up for lost time, dealing with some issues in testing, and with importation. I completely lost track of time and it wasn't until the (well deserved) angry e-mails and facebook posts started flooding in that I realized it had been nearly a month since we've updated!
Unfortunately we are still *extremely* busy trying to keep things on track, so this update will be relatively short, but should give everyone an idea of where we are with everything:
Production is going well, though due to the below two topics, a little slower than we'd hoped. We're going to be contracting out some of the work so we can divert more of our time to testing and shipping logistics, which are both taking much longer than we'd hoped. No other issues to report on this front, however...which is always a good thing!
As many of you know, we're doing a full test of all of our units before they leave, including priming them with the plastic of your choice. Thanks to our 8 position testing module, this was supposed to be relatively quick and painless. However, we've run into two things that are causing this to go *much* slower than anticipated: Circuit board issues, and time required to actually complete the tests. The circuit board issues are extremely annoying and we're in talks with our contractor to get them fixed ASAP. So far we've had ~10% of our boards show evidence of improper construction, with results ranging from a stepper motor not stepping, to the heater turning on uncontrollably. While these aren't a "permanent" issue - the obvious solution is to switch in a new board - diagnosing and replacing the correct components takes quite a bit of time, especially since it involves partial disassembly and re assembly, and having to re test everything. See the pic below for what we're dealing with, but we should have this resolved with our supplier before we run out of "good" boards in a few months. The second issue is that loading the firmware, calibrating the servo movements, starting up a unit, loading it with plastic, and testing for functionality is turning out to take more human time than required. In other words, even though we can in theory test 8 at once, one person isn't able to keep up with 8 units. We're working on streamlining our test strategy and splitting things up - for instance, loading the firmware onto the boards before they're installed, and calibrating the servos when they're first plugged in for UL testing. By splitting these tasks up we should be able to save some time - and as noted above we'll be handing off some manufacturing going forward to make up for the rest.
This photo shows a massive log of solder across all three pins of our TRIAC. This caused the heater to turn on uncontrollably, and also allowed AC to flow directly into one of our optoisolators, so the whole AC section of the board is now damaged...ugh.
All of this means that it took a little longer than we'd hoped to get our first run of Indiegogo units out the door...but they're ready and waiting. The final issue we ran into, and it''s one we're still sorting out for our larger shipments, is importation. We've been planning on using fulfillment centers like Shipwire, as that allows us to save *significant* amounts on shipping to places like the US, EU, and Australia. By freighting a large group of ProtoCyclers to that region and then having them shipped locally, we avoid having to courier them internationally, which saves anywhere between $50 and $150 per unit in shipping (and results in what we've charged all of you). The issue that's arose is that if we use fulfillment centers in many regions, we're no longer exempt from tax. We don't want to have to contact everyone and re charge them tax - both because that would be infuriating as a customer, and a logistical nightmare for us...international tax law is no fun! So for the first run units, we've decided to individually courier them one by one straight to their final destination to avoid any of these issues. Tracking numbers for our first run units should arrive for nearly everyone tomorrow, June 30th, and please e-mail us if you don't get it by then (or post on Facebook). For the next shipment, which is nearly ready to go, we're still trying to sort things out among Shipwire, Canada Post, FedEx, and our tax lawyers / accountants - but it's looking like the best combination will be to freight as many countries as possible, via another country (which somehow voids the issue), and then direct send anything we can't fit into the above list. If this sounds ridiculous, complicated, and annoying...it is. But the last thing we want to do at this stage is delay things further or have to change our shipping costs, so we're working very hard to try and get it all sorted out.
With all of that being said, we're on track to start shipping out pre-orders in mid-late July, assuming we can maintain our current production schedule and sort out our shipping sooner than later. All outstanding orders should be shipped by the end of the summer at the latest. Thank you all as always for your patience, and another sincere apology we disappeared for a bit - we're still a very small team and our first priority is to get these units shipped. We will be adding things like pellet sales, a forum, all online documentation, etc once the shipping issue gets sorted out and it becomes more routine to send out units - and communication through e-mail and on facebook should improve as well. But as of right now we're all working around the clock on getting units shipped - so forgive us on our delays in everything else!
-The ReDeTec team