Over the last couple of weeks, Chris and I have been working hard on building the machines for our first set of orders. We decided to try putting together a few kits so that we would know what steps we would need to take to put them together for our Kickstarter. This also helps us figure out the lead times and what sort of quality our suppliers can provide.
Parts fromÂ Shenzhen:
We received our parts from Shenzhen Â through a supplier that manufactures 3D printer and CNC parts. We ordered a small number stepper motors, eccentric nuts, and Delrin V wheels through this supplier, and they were kind enough to take our small order and ship it to us through Express Shipping. Even with a 3 day delay after Typhoon Nida slamming the area and people unable to go to work, we got our shipment on time for our first set of deliveries.
Since last week I have brought the kits to two companies in Ontario. There were a couple of hitches but after ironing them out, things went fairly smoothly.
At the first session I found that the M3 screws that hold the NEMA 17 motors to the angle mounts were slightly too long… 2mm too long in fact. This was causing the screws at the other end of the motor to start turning out, and I had to go find the proper screws for the machine. I also discovered that we would need to tolerance the through holes wider to make assembly easier. We didn’t get to complete the assembly of the machine that day, but since then I’ve found the correct screws and will be going back this week to finish up the build.
At the second session with another company, I found that the second issue was that the the front shield of the machine offered too snug of a fit. Luckily I had a shield that was slightly thinner, and was able to replace and complete the assembly. After I left, the customer discovered that without the bed being completely level, the machine had issues cutting out materials from a blank stock. Under typical use, this small discrepancy would not make a difference, but in applications like PCB milling or cutting very thin materials, even cuts can be critical. I am working on this with the customer to provide the documentation needed to level the bed, or issue a refund if things cannot be resolved.
I can’t say these past experiences were completely smooth sailing, but with what I learned from these assembly sessions, we know what to watch out for when start mass manufacturing these machines. As Paul Graham Â states in his essayÂ “Do Things That Don’t Scale”, this initial step of getting out and putting our machine in an uncontrolled environment is a important step for us to learn what it will be like when we do scale.