The end of a Kickstarter journey

This update was originally posted on Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sienci/longmill-benchtop-cnc-router/posts/2712205

It’s been pretty crazy ride the last several months, but we’ve done it! We have now shipped all the LongMill Kickstarter machines to our 300+ backers in 23 countries. Thank you so so much to all of you for making this project possible. With the campaign coming to a conclusion, what better way to end it than with a walk through memory lane…

In 2018, the LongMill was born. We wanted to create a machine that was bigger and more powerful than the Mill One, but still kept the same philosophy of being simple and easy to use.

Here’s the first working prototype. (July/Aug 2018)

Our first working prototype

From there, we kept working on improving the LongMill (at that point it was called a LongBoi). This was when we were a scrappier startup: living in student residence, building machines in the garage, and running only a handful of 3D printers. 

As time went on and we started to share the development of the LongMill publicly, we started to gather more and more people interested in the machine and the project itself.

We also moved into an actual office at 44 Gaukel in Kitchener, an office space of around 500 sqft. (Aug 2018)

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Moving into 44 Gaukel

One of the folks interested in the project was Terry, who became one of the 10 beta testers for the LongMill.

We spent the next two months finishing building our beta machines and working with makers in Canada, US, and France to improve and further develop the LongMill. We built the LongMills by hand, making changes and updates along the way.

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Assembling the Y axis rails for the beta machines

Here’s us hanging out with our beta testers.

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Chris at Terry’s shop

 And also, here’s Greg.

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Our beta tester, Greg

With valuable testing and feedback from our beta testers over six months, we continued to improve the machine.

In February 2019, we went to our first woodworking trade show in Toronto. There were so many people interested in the LongMill that we felt pretty confident that it was a good time to launch our Kickstarter campaign.

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Interested folks at the Toronto Woodworking Show

From our Kickstarter launch on March 26, 2019, we quickly raised our $60,000 goal in 16 hours, and soared all the way to $436,197 during the 30 day campaign. 

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No one should have given Chris access to Photoshop…

And thus began our journey of manufacturing our first batch of 400 LongMills.

Here are some highlights:

– Growing our print farm from a small handful of machines to more than 40 3D printers

– Working with the BETS students from the University of Waterloo during the summer

– Growing our full time team from just me and Chris to 5 full time employees

– Having fun fooling around while packing hundreds of thousands of parts together

– Designing our own fun little touch plates

– Moving from our 500sqft office to our new 2400sqft office

– Designing our new LongBoard controllers with our friend Chris Hadjuk

– Being in the Record (our local newspaper)

– Loading enough steel into the cop car until the bottom of the vehicle would touch the ground

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The start of our printing farm (May 2019) with around 12 printers
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Today’s print farm (Dec 2019) with more than 40 printers! There are more behind me.

Here’s what our office looked like when we were showing it:

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Here’s the office in August (top), and today (bottom). It’s gotten a little bit more crowded.

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Top (Aug 2019), bottom (Dec 2019)
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Sienci Labs in the news!
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Packing router mounts (June 2019)
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Moving over 7000lbs of aluminum by hand
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Designing the control board for the LongMill (June 2019)
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Before and after loading gantry plates

We hit a lot of snags, some small, some big. We learned a lot of stuff.

Over the course of 7 months, we worked hard designing, testing and building. We started shipping in October, 3 months past when we were expecting to ship our first machines, but during that time, we’ve improved the LongMill in many ways.

Some of those improvements include:

– X axis reinforcements on the 12×30 and 30×30 to significantly improve torsional rigidity

– Stronger 3D printed parts all around

– Solid aluminum router mount

– Steel Z axis motor mount plate

– Improved bearing system for constraining the lead screw

– Better, more efficient motors

– New control board with integrated drivers, pinouts, and button control 

We wanted to make sure that we shipped a machine that was not only great, but something we could be proud of. The results speak for themselves.

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First backer to pick up their machine (Oct 2019)
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Loading the last batch of Kickstarter machines (Dec 2019)

Here’s some cool projects that have already been done by Kickstarter backers!

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Not to mention the awesome table setups that have already been shared to the community as well: 

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And to bring this whole story back around to the end: from everyone here on the Sienci Labs team, thank you to all of you guys for supporting us on this campaign and project. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks to your trust in us we’ve now been able to bring the LongMill to life in a way which is so exciting to see.

With the Kickstarter concluding, all our future communication will be happening on our already vibrant communities on both Facebook and on our Website forum, so come and join the discussion over there if you haven’t joined them already.

Lastly, we’re going to be having a party! If you’re in the area, then come join us this Friday evening at our Waterloo office to celebrate the conclusion of this momentous campaign! For more info, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/939478149771378/

Again, thank you everyone. Have a Merry Christmas and thanks for the great year. 

Until next time,

Andy, Chris, and the rest of the Sienci Labs team.