A quick for-word for everyone anxiously awaiting status updates - we're still roughly on track for everything. UL is about 2 weeks behind as we're still waiting on a few samples, but as you'll soon see in the rest of the update our post UL production time has also dropped about 2 weeks, keeping everything on track for shipment beginning in July. All of the samples that have come in though, look great! Here's our final circuits, now with UL spec AC section, our metal/ flame proof timing belt pulleys for the puller, and the new extruder mount and cold tube for mating with the new, all metal hopper:
With that aside...We have some very exciting news for this week! With all of the UL revision and sample delays going on, we decided to take as much of the production as possible in house. We're very excited to announce that we've hired two new individuals to help us out, and have a whole new gamut of machines on the way to ensure your ProtoCyclers are made to the highest quality possible. We're also taking over another space in the same building to fit all of this new equipment, and be able to hold larger inventory at one time, further increasing production efficiency. While this doesn't really have an affect for cost on this current round of manufacturing (the added cost of machines is roughly outweighed by the reduced cost of production), it does allow us to produce them more affordably in the future, meaning we won't have to raise our price as much as we'd originally planned once we're in production.
While we'd always planned on doing some machining in house, and indeed have started with these original parts, there were some items that were just too big or difficult for us to do on our existing equipment. One perfect example is the grinder wheels. We'd been prototyping them with waterjetted plate and square shaft, and while it worked well it wasn't well suited for mass production. The tiniest variance in plate thickness, over the 60 plates in the grinder (30 teeth and 30 spacers, 15 each per wheel) could result in significant variation - almost a millimeter - and the assembly time was way more than we would have liked! We'd planned on machining them out of house, as they're a large chunk of solid steel to CNC machine and our existing equipment just couldn't handle it. But now that we can't 3D print things anymore, we have to switch to laser cutting and machining, and we realized that it made more sense to buy a laser cutter, two CNC mills, and a CNC lathe to bring all of that machining in house than to hand it all off to external vendors. This upgrade in machining capability means one of our biggest production bottle necks has now been seriously reduced, meaning that we can get hundreds of ProtoCyclers out the door every month and ultimately delivering to everyone faster now and in the future! It also means there's no back and forth with manufacturers if a sample is wrong or if UL requests a minor change midway through - we can do it ourselves, in house, without affecting the timeline by more than a day or two instead of a week or two.
This all means that our timeline is now much "safer" or more immune to undiscovered issues than it was before, as well as becoming shorter overall for those further down the list in terms of ordering. To detail all of these changes and give a full new timeline (it hasn't slipped, don't worry) we're going to offer a full update next week once all of the details have been finalized. But we thought we'd offer a quick update today because our first machine - our Okuma CNC lathe - just came in yesterday, and boy are we excited!!!
For those who care about CNC equipment, it's an early 90's CADET LNC 8 Cadet lathe with 12 position tool changer, 3,000 RPM spindle with 2.75" bore, chip conveyor, etc etc. It's in *immaculate* condition and is guaranteed to hold half a thou of tolerance (+/- 0.0005"). New, a machine like this would cost around 100k - but we managed to snag an incredible deal and pick up ours for around 1/10th of that! Getting it delivered was a little scary - it's 10,000 lbs - but other than positioning it in the new space and wiring it all up, we're ready to start production on everything as soon as we get the word from UL, meaning we can hopefully start shipping out in a week or so after the final approval!
That's it for now, other than many many many pictures of our Lathe - We'll do a longer post next week detailing the full changes, along with some shipping / logistics updates, but for now enjoy some photos of our newest "team member", the Okuma Cadet CNC Lathe.
-The ReDeTec team