The M3D Pro Update 5: Status Update

Posted by M3D LLC on

Greetings from the M3D team!

We'd like to update everyone on the current status of your M3D Pro.

At this time, we have over 110 parts at different stages in the pipeline. ALL of these parts are vetted, are fundamentally working, and are proven to be manufacturable. The majority of parts have been ordered in bulk and a few have already arrived!

These parts are ordered in small batches and have to be shipped individually from each supplier. It is very important to us that each and every part is perfect so we can deliver a high quality product to you. We want to deliver the best Pro to everyone and, according to your feedback, that’s what you want too! To be able to do that, we need to get every part made by the manufacturers, rather than hand making them or painting SLS prototypes in house to get them to you sooner. What this means is that you'll be testing a unit that is very close to the final production units.

We hoped to have all of the parts for 1000 units purchased by now with 100 units of sample production-quality parts already in our hands. We are making good progress towards that, but due to the volume being ordered, some changes that were needed to ensure the parts are perfect, and some traffic we hit with our suppliers, the November and December tiers are behind by about a month. January and later tiers are still on schedule.

We have some news from the various stages of development to share with you, so please continue reading for further information and the current status of each component.

This chart shows a breakdown of the Pro’s status by department.

Engineering Updates

In the last month we have made a lot of progress and a lot of long term problems have been solved. See below for a synopsis of what we have been working on:

  1. We have made improvements to the gantry system. We found that the gantry redesign based on metal press fits wasn’t strong enough to last the test of time and it complicated the assembly process. The idea was to make a stronger grip on bearings so there would be no wobble on print walls. Going back to a side loaded bearing model would require a very advanced CNC technique, so instead we are molding it with ceramic mold and sintered stainless. This will change the look slightly because we have to coat it black to make it fit the design.
  2. We added a 5th and 6th motor awhile back to improve the power and symmetry of the system. We recently found the pcb overheating slightly due to the additional motors, so we are outfitting them with heat sinks.
  3. We found that glass broke too easily, even tempered glass, so we switched the bed to a material called aluminosilicate which will drastically improve the strength of the bed.
  4. The first few boxes we received had a very strong plastic smell, we are working to fix this by changing abs supply or adding deodorants to the batch mix.
  5. We found a flaw in the large filament spools which caused large sink marks in the center of the spools, we made some tweaks to the mold to improve it.
  6. We refined the case molds due to a fitting issue we discovered.

See above for the areas we were concerned about in QC where the case mold and screws were not quite right.

Short video of the new molded cube.

At this time, they finally look perfect and are on their way as fast as can be managed, but we will still not see the volume we need in order to meet our November delivery estimates in time.

The first of them arrived just yesterday You can see the extra level of quality after fine tuning each and every specification until it was just right in the shot below.

First shot and final finish polished shot side by side

Please take a look at the full list of systems and a description of their current status:

Parts' Status

Below see two short videos of the the sheet metal fitted with the Z axis belts, it will give you a clear idea of the robust belts and a real “inside” look.

The first finished spools are in! Aside from the soon corrected depressions, they look great and with the improved internal feed system, we expect amazing performance no matter whether they are loaded internally or externally.

Seen with final finish vs. Wrapped and ready

Small parts are still some of the most important. We have now reached volume for a majority of the Pro’s parts.

Look! The Pro’s feet, perfect for stability and low vibration on any flat surface.

Here we see the LED board. These arrived in volume and work perfectly.

Heaters and thermistors are in. It’s really exciting to see all this great tech coming together. With over 200 parts and each one carefully selected. Each step is a real experience.

Close up of the thermistor. It has a big job for such a little thing, we are proud of it’s performance in trials.

And here it is attached to its partner the heating element. We think they look and work great together.

These and a great number of other parts are already in house and vetted. It’s an exciting time and a busy one for us as we get them all put together.

When all the parts come together it really is a beautiful thing to see.

Here you see an assembled base made 100% hundred percent using full production parts

Then there are the other things not directly a part of the Pro but still important to the delivery of a quality product.

Here is a screenshot of the drafting of the Pro manual. We are including more infographics this time to make information clear to both new and experienced users. The layout is in progress as we have much more to go over so it lacks the smoothness and minimalistic design we had with the prior manual, but we're getting there through revisions.

Here is the first look at the retail box for the Pro. We think these will look very stylish on the shelves.

Software Updates

The software team has been putting its finishing touches to the firmware release that will ship with November tier hardware, i.e. first M3D Pro printers to be delivered. As we do that, we are shifting our focus to achieving smooth firmware upgrades for all customers, and also bringing up the factory tools (like programming station) that will be especially important as we ramp up production rates.

Here you can see the flowchart of the control and feedback systems in the Pro

Key accomplishments over the past month include:

  • verification and tuning of closed-loop heater control for both extruder and heated bed
  • programming and verification of essential procedures like homing and bed-finding / bed-leveling
  • proof of the architecture supporting our final smart recovery features in four axes - X, Y, Z, E (previous tests and demos had been monitoring single or dual axis motion)

In conclusion, we would like to reassure everyone that we are moving full steam ahead and expect no more significant delays. We are very proud of the Pro at its current state as it not only meets, but exceeds our original expectations! We are super excited to see what you will create with your machines and how they will fit into your hobbies, jobs, and personal projects. Please take your time to enjoy this holiday season, and we will be back with another progress update soon!

All the best,

Team M3D

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