Things are still incredibly busy on our end, so a quick update this time - all good news!
1) We've been a bit behind on videos the past couple of weeks - our apologies! We should have both our laser cuter /bending, and grinder wheel tooth cutting up by early next week...feel free to request anything else you'd like to see :)
2) Production...parts are rolling in, things are being made, software is being finalized. All we're waiting on now for our First Run units are the sheet metal and gears...though we are getting concerned that they've taken longer than we expected to arrive. We're staying busy producing everything for the rest of the Indiegogo so that they can still roll out as soon as possible.
3) Press - when it rains, it seems to pour. Hot off our mention in Bloomberg Businessweek - AWESOME - we also just got notified that we made the top 25 in the Extreme Tech Challenge, out of over a thousand new tech startups(!!!). This is amazing news for us and gives us a shot at pitching and presenting live at CES this January, which would be an incredible opportunity to kick start our future development. If you can give us a shout out on social media, that would be awesome, as we'd love the opportunity to show the world ProtoCycler at this year's CES. Last but not least, we'll also be on Bay Area business radio this Friday (Yes, tomorrow - we just found out today) around 2 pm PST to talk about what we're trying to do, the challenges we've overcome in getting to this point, and where we're hoping to take things in the future.
4) Website, forum, software, support, etc. We've been getting tons of questions on this lately - when will the manual come out, is there going to be a support forum, what happens if I want to take it apart, etc etc. Rest assured we're working on this as well, but truth be told we've prioritized shipping of the first run and campaign units. By the time they've shipped, we'll have the beta release of both our software and manual up and running for everyone to see. Shortly after and based on ongoing feedback, we'll begin to update the manual and software as often as we can to ensure everything works as well as it can for everyone. This, of course, leads directly into the forum - we're going to be adding a forum to our website as soon as the software and manual have been published, along with more educational content on both ProtoCycler and 3D printing, as well as a dedicated "hacker zone" for those that want to really dig into the project and contribute to our development going forward. This hacker zone will require a quick sign up for UL/legal purposes, as it voids all safety certifications for somewhat obvious reasons. But we'd much rather get everyone that wants to start tinkering involved and educated on what we're trying to do, rather than close it down to enforce our UL.
A few more details on the Hacker vs. UL topic - every ProtoCycler comes certified out of the box, for use as directed in our manual. This is part of safety certification and required for UL testing...we have to explain to them exactly how the unit works, what "standard" use is, and what "non standard" use is, so that they can certify us for standard use. For instance, using PLA in ProtoCycler is UL approved - whereas overridding the thermal cutoff to try and extrude ULTEM or PEEK is not. So, if you want to take some random plastic and try to extrude it into filament, you can, and we want to help you try - but you'll no longer be safety certified since it's not "standard" use as defined by UL. More importantly, if you want to take things apart, hack the internals, load your own firmware, disable the thermal shutoff, etc etc...that's definitely not allowed by UL, will definitely void your safety certification...but is definitely encouraged (with some very serious safet considerations) if that's what you want to do! We want all of our customers - whether they be safety conscious or hackers with decades of experience - to get the most out of ProtoCycler, so we're opening up both experiences as much as possible. Here's a quick intro on what that means for both:
Safety, plug and play, etc
Even without ever plugging ProtoCycler in to a computer or downloading our software, you can still make great filament from raw or recycled plastics. It supports ABS and PLA right out of the box, fully automatically. You can change the spool size, use recycled ABS or PLA from your 3D printer, and extrude great quality filament right out of the box...just like we've promised. If you're willing to download our software, you can also plug it into a computer and monitor / data log everything in real time, for educational, research, or development purposes. Linking with our software will also allow you to get free firmware updates as we develop them in conjunction with our community, meaning that you'll get fully certified, automatic operation for any other supported printing material like PVA as soon as we can confirm the right settings. It's simple, easy, and certified - perfect for teachers and classrooms, or those that just want it to work as expected.
Hackers, tinkerers, etc
We fall into this group ourselves, so we wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to make the absolute most of your investment should you want to go beyond the "certified" usage. A few of the things we'll be doing to make hacking ProtoCycler as easy as possible - full, instructive documentation on what each and every part does, as well as assembly and disassembly guides for each module. Breakout pins to interface with the MCU - 2 PWM, 2 analog in, +5, and GND to be precise...easily accessible with just 4 screws. Those same four screws let you switch out or tweak stepper drivers, replace or upgrade regulators should your experimentation take things a little further than our 5V needs, and load your own firmware. Speaking of firmware...we'll be posting firmware online so you can change it, add to it, or replace it completely using the standard AVR / ICSP standards. And, like our hardware and components, we'll provide full documentation (comments in addition to a read through) on the firmware, so you know exactly what does what and how to change it. Of course, all of this will require you to sign into the "hacker zone" on our website, as UL specifically prohibits this type of behavior. So there will be a separate EULA for those wishing to take things apart, with the explicit agreement that doing so voids any and all certifications or guarantees. This is the only way we can fully offer both sides of the coin - safety and hack-ability - without sacrificing anything on either side.
We strongly encourage both sides to keep asking questions so we can answer them as effectively as possible leading up to delivery! We want everyone to be ready to hit the ground running once they get their unit, as you've all been waiting long enough already. And, of course, we'd be more than grateful to receive some social media love for both Bloomberg and the Extreme Tech Challenge :)
That's it for now - take care everyone, and stay tuned for videos early next week!
-The ReDeTec team