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June Production Updates

Hey everyone, this is our June production update. For previous production updates and other company news, please check our blog.

It’s continued to be a busy month for April, but as we talked a little bit in our previous update for April/May, we have continued to shorten our lead times. We’ve taken the time to train some of our staff on new responsibilities and reorganize and plan production for the coming months. We are near the end of our run of Batch 4 machines and are starting to prepare for shipping Batch 5 in June.

In terms of COVID, Ontario has slowly seen a decrease in cases and more of our staff are becoming vaccinated. We are fortunate to have had no cases so far, and hopefully none until the end of the pandemic.

A new batch of motors, lead screws, and drag chains

Lead Times

Lead times are expected to average around 1-2 weeks for this month, however we are starting to face shortages in parts that will rely on the timely arrival to keep up with production. Some of these parts include:

  • E-stops
  • Touch plates
  • Arduinos
  • Delrin V-wheels

We expect these parts to arrive in 1-2 weeks. However, this may change if we face delays in transit. We will keep lead times updated on the product page to account for these changes.

Supply Chain

There have been some minor bumps along the way in terms of supply chain especially due to current worldwide events, but luckily with early planning and dedication from the manufacturers we work with, the supply chain process for Batch 5 has been relatively smooth.

One area that we’ve seen a large spike in prices have been with drivers and Arduinos. Due to the chip shortage, many of the components that go into the LongBoard controller have gone up in price. Most ICs that go into this production have doubled in price, and new products that we are working on that involve chips may be delayed due to the unavailability of chips. We have acquired parts for the next 500 controllers with approximately another 100 controllers in stock, but we may need to be cautious of continuing shortages for the rest of 2021.

On the topic of spiking prices, steel prices have gone up more than double since the start of the pandemic, affecting the price of gantries and other steel components that go into making the LongMill. On a lesser level, copper, tungsten carbide, and other raw materials have increased overall prices for many components as well such as E-stops and end mills. Cardboard shortages with our packaging manufacturer have also affected costs and lead times a few times over the last few months too.

Luckily due to improving processes and increasing batch sizes, we have been able to find other ways to save costs and so we don’t expect to have major changes in pricing for our products, however, it is a reality that we may need to face at some point that our company will have to account for changing material prices by increasing the prices of our products.

We have also been affected by the shipping fiascos that have been happening around the world as well. Although we weren’t directly involved in the Suez Canal crisis, we have experienced slowdown in some shipments due to this situation. At the time of writing, most of the parts that we need for Batch 5 production are in transit within Canada (by rail) or are in production with local manufacturers. A couple of parts that we are still waiting on that are in transit by sea include:

  • Router mounts
  • Couplers
  • Delrin nuts
  • 3D printer filament

The remaining components for Batch 5 are expected to arrive this month but won’t be complete for shipping until these parts arrive.

Manufacturing

There have been a few changes in manufacturing at Sienci Labs. Here are some of the things that have been going on.

One small change is the material that we have made the ACME nuts from, switching from stainless steel to brass. Brass has shown to be easier to work with in terms of manufacturing and forming threads. In previous manufacturing batches, a portion of nuts were rejected due to rough threading that made it difficult to thread onto the lead screws. The new brass nuts are of much better quality.

As part of the transition from steel shoulder brackets and drag chain mounts, Batch 5 kits will use M8-16mm bolts instead of M8-25mm bolts to mount these parts. There is no functional change, as the longer bolts are a carryover from when longer bolts were needed on the 3D printed parts.

Next, we are switching to e-coating our gantries from powder coating. We believe that e-coating is an excellent alternative to powder coating as it provides a cleaner, more consistent surface which is important for our XZ gantry assemblies. In some of our recent batches of powder-coated steel, we were running into issues where paint contamination and dripping would either produce cosmetic defects or affect the assembly of the parts because of the unevenness of the surface. E-coating does have a thinner surface, which theoretically means that it offers less scratch resistance on parts. However, based on samples that we have been provided of our parts after being e-coated, we have seen significantly better resistance to chipping and surface quality, without much difference in scratch resistance. This change should decrease manufacturing costs while improving overall quality.

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In the last batch, we switched to using M3 screws with captive washers to help keep the screws from coming loose. For these screws, we have switched from stainless steel screws to Class 12.9 alloy, which is a much stronger screw that will prevent head stripping. Head stripping has been a minor inconvenience as removing stripped screws takes a while.

We’ve added three new CR30s (3D Print Mills), a belt based 3D printer. These machines will add additional 3D printing capacity with the benefit of being able to continually print repeated parts. We are currently in the stage of testing and tuning these machines, but we expect each printer to do the work of 4 standard 3D printers, increasing our print capacity by approximately 25%.

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Design

Batch 5 comes with some very minor design changes to the LongMill.

First to mention is that motor shafts on the X and Y will be fully round. This is due to a very small number of customers reporting their motor shafts breaking off. The engineers at LDO Motors and us have confirmed that the full shafts will prevent this.

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We are manufacturing a slightly modified 65mm router mount to eliminate the need to use M5-12mm screws. Because of the drill tap depth of the four mounting screws in the back of the router, shorter M5 screws were needed compared to the rest of the machine assembly. With the new router mounts, M5-25mm screws can be used on all parts of the router mount. We have also relocated the additional tapped holes that are used for mounting to the front of the mount for easier installation of accessories such as the LaserBeam.

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New ACME Delrin nuts have been manufactured without the counterbore, which were an unnecessary feature for our application.

Shipping

Shipping to US and Canada have been reliable overall and seems to have returned to pre-COVID speeds.

We had some delays with Canada Post shipments going to the US via US Air Parcel, so as an alternative we would recommend using UPS.

We have had several issues with customs for shipments going to Mexico this past month that are new. If you have an order that needs to go to Mexico, please let us know in case we need to make other arrangements.