Hey everyone, this is an update for this month’s production update, covering the status of some of the parts that we are waiting on to have come in as well as other details.
If you’re learning about the LongMill MK2 for the first time, please check out this post for more info.
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We now have a definitive answer on when the power supplies we need to start shipping LaserBeams and LongMills again will be arriving to us. The container of parts and materials has been loaded onto the train this past weekend (March 19) and are expected to arrive in Brampton at the end of the week (March 25). Unloading to the warehouse can take between a few days up to two weeks. So we are conservatively estimating that the first units will start shipping at the start of April.
When will the LongMill MK2s start shipping? The saga of delayed container MAGU5348230
The last time we had a “saga” was back when we were scrambling to figure out the v-wheel situation. 2021 and 2022 shipping delays, especially for that last batch of parts have been another epic saga in itself.
Around June last year, we started Batch 5. Knowing the current world situation with COVID and everything, we started production on Batch 6 in the first quarter part of the production of Batch 5. This was the earliest we ever started sourcing parts for a batch, as we typically wait for the middle of the batch to start ordering parts. Batch 6 is also the largest batch we’ve ever created, as we wanted to hedge having part shortages by keeping more inventory on hand. With the majority of parts produced for Batch 6 being produced between August and December of last year, we expected to have a lot of buffer between each batch.
Well, then things went gangbusters from August to the start of this year, throwing our projection that we were going to run out of machines at the start of 2022 straight out the window. Instead, we ran out of LongMills sometime in December.
Given that we saw this upward trend happening, we had ordered as much stuff as we could early in advance. But there were a couple of minor issues. One of the biggest that is having repercussions now would be the chip shortage.
Due to the chip shortage, our regular suppliers for power supplies were 1) significantly increasing their prices 2) had an extremely long lead time that couldn’t deliver on schedule for our production. It was also uncertain if the power supplies could even be made, as the estimates we were getting relied on whether the chips would actually come back in stock again. With this going on, we started vetting and testing power supplies from other suppliers. For many producers, it was a similar story of very high prices and being unable to ship quickly due to the lack of chips.
Luckily we were able to work out the production for the power supplies with another manufacturer that was able to provide a high-quality product with the proper certifications and also have everything completed and ready to ship by December 1, 2021. Materials were picked up from the factory and prepped for transport on a cargo ship.
Although it was cutting it tight, we let customers know that we were expecting to start shipping LongMills in February to end of March, which would have given us just about 4 months to wait for the arrival of the power supplies. Back before the pandemic, ocean shipping speeds were fairly consistent and reliable, typically taking around 6 weeks for materials to arrive from China. Most delays, if any would generally be with loading and unloading, as sometimes things would get held up with customs or waiting for the next ship to arrive. During the pandemic, we saw shipping times shoot up to 8 weeks, and near the end of 2021, get to 12 weeks.
The estimated time that the power supplies and other parts would be arriving was January 30th initially, and we first set up our timelines based on this initial estimate. However, that has shifted due to delays in shipping. There were a couple things we believe caused these delays.
First was the aggregation of three other shipments that were getting sent here from China. We had two other shipments that were leaving from the same shipping company. We suspect that the shipper aggregated them together to save costs, rather than creating three separate shipments. Although when done properly, this does not affect the shipping time and usually is a win-win for both parties if the savings are passed onto us as well, combining shipments generally creates longer shipping times as each batch of cargo needs to wait on each other and can cause customs complications. Because of this, we never ask our shippers to combine cargo, and this was done without our consent.
Unfortunately, if we were to cancel the shipment, the time it would have taken to rebook shipments would offset any potential time savings for the shipment, so we had to go ahead with the current shipment.
Next was the trajectory of APL Vancouver, the cargo ship our stuff was on. Cargo ships can either make a straight trip from one port to another, and some will pick up and drop off cargo from multiple ports. In this case, it was the latter. Due to port congestion happening in many ports, this also added total transit time for our shipment. We weren’t aware of this until it was halfway across the ocean as well.
And lastly, general port congestion in Prince Rupert and on the rail system further delayed the shipment. According to Vanterm, the location that the container finally arrived at in Canada, there have been railcar shortages delaying containers from moving out of the rail terminal. Although our shipment arrived on Feb 13, 2022, it had been sitting waiting for rail cars to arrive for over 4 weeks.
So where does that leave us now? We now have confirmation that the shipment is now on rail and is expected to arrive on March 25th. Once the cargo arrives in Brampton, which is where the next railyard is, it will be unloaded and placed in a warehouse for pickup. Then we can arrange a truck to pick our shipment up and we’ll have everything ready to go for shipping.
Based on estimates from the shipping company, it takes roughly two days for unloading the train and two days for it to arrive at the warehouse. We are working on arrangements for a truck to go pick up the parts now so that it will be here the same day it is released.
So in regards to everything else, once we have those power supplies, we can start shipping. We have all of the other parts here to start shipping (minus some final packing materials), so we’ve been packing and prepping everything to go as soon as possible. As Kye (inventory manager) would say…
I’m glad that the saga is coming to an end. In hindsight, there could have been a couple of things we could have done and a few things we learned. One of them would have been to express ship a small batch from the original batch of parts to have them on hand as an emergency. Second would have been to get more visability on the status of the shipment. One of the problems was that on the system, it was showing that our stuff would be arriving on time, but that was because our operator was not updating the system. We needed to find info out about the shipments by calling or emailing directly. If we were aware of the delays earlier, we may have been able to react faster and make other arrangements.
Status of materials
In our last update, we talked about parts that were expected to arrive on the week of March 7th. I’m happy to announce that these parts have now arrived and are being packed and assembled:
- X, Y, Z gantries
- Dust shoe brackets
- Drag chain brackets
- Dust shields
- Assorted packaging
- 3D printer filament
- Inductive sensors
Here are the parts that we are still waiting on:
- Power supplies (1-3 weeks)
- Dust shoe boxes (this week)
- Rail boxes (this week)
Production and assembly
We’ve been making good headway into production and assembly, and materials needed to ship the first batch of machines that we have on hand have now been pre-packed.
Future lead times
Once container MAGU5348230 arrives, we will have 1500 or more units worth of components for the LongMill MK2 12×30 and 30×30 with some exceptions. The two major parts that will be our next bottlenecks are likely to be the aluminum extrusion and the steel parts (gantries, drag chain mounts, feet). Both the rails and steel parts were made at 500 units worth, so we can make tweaks to these parts after the first batch.
Even with delays, sales have continued to be strong. We currently have around 400 units accounted for, and are expecting 500 units sold in the next couple of weeks.
Currently, another batch of rails is expected to ship in early June for another 500 units. We may be looking at extending lead times once we sell the first 500 LongMills as we may be waiting for the next batch of rails to arrive. Almag has been good at getting things shipped out on time or early so there is a chance we might get these parts earlier.
Steel parts are now starting production. We’ve given the go-ahead for some parts that don’t need changes, but we are expecting to finish the tweaks this week. Nithside, our manufacturer for the steel parts has told us that they are shooting to finish the batch this time within 3 weeks, as they were able to streamline some of their processes during the last batch. Total turnaround time with cutting, forming, and coating is expected to be around 6 weeks.
Once we are a bit further into the production, we’ll update our pages with new lead times.
I talked with Ikenna about the status of the pending LaserBeam orders. We were able to ship some once we had more power cables arrive, but we are now waiting on copper heatsinks and power adapters to arrive to complete the production. The parts that we need for shipping are in container MAGU5348230, so we are facing the same delays as the power supplies for the LongMills.
We are currently producing and stockpiling parts and assemblies for the driver enclosure and shields, and we also have received another batch of laser goggles, fans, and lenses to cover for the next batch.
LongMill MK2 48×30 and Extension Kits
We’ve now received the:
- T12 lead screws
- 6001 Flange Bearings
- T12 Delrin nuts
- T12 ACME nuts
- Longer drag chains
To get prepped for shipping, we still need to get:
- Extension cables and wiring
- Y gantry plates
- MK1 to MK2 Delrin nut adapter
We just received our sample batch of extension cables. These will let our customers extend the length of the motor cables and inductive sensors. One they have been checked and tested, we’ll order a batch. We’ll also sell these on the store as extras so that customers can extend their cables if they need.
I’ve been using our 48×30 machine here and it’s been great! Currently, it’s just been used for general projects both large and small. Here’s a subwoofer box that I was working on for my car.
One thing I realized that was actually super handy about the 48in width was the fact that I didn’t need to cut any material down to fit the machine. All I did was put some half sheets of MDF that we had on hand, and just moved the mounting for the material down the middle, so I could just reposition the material to the area I wanted to cut.
I also put together a prototype machine for the MK1 to MK2 extension kits. At first I had a lot of issues with it, as it was getting stuck in travel, but it turned out that I had used a bad batch of prototype plates that had offset the bearing spacing by 3mm, causing the machine to bind. Replacing them has fixed the issue.
We are now starting to work with our beta testers to get the larger machines in their hands. The first two beta testers will receive their machines this week. Watch out for more news!