eShapeOko and MakerSlide problems and availability

I had sized this batch of MakerSlide and eShapeOko kits to last enough to allow us to get the next batch seamlessly.  That would have worked, but lots of MakerSlide came damaged from the factory.  Part of it was from insufficient packaging and daft arrangement on the pallet, but a lot of the damage seems to have happened between extrusion and anodizing, or during maneuvering in the factory.  For some lengths, more than 50% of the rail had at least one dent, ding or scratch that made it unusable; some lengths were better, but still 30% rejects.

At some point, I realized more rail was damaged than I had initially estimated, and I wasn’t sure whether the stock would cover the open orders anymore. I had to stop accepting new orders. The factory agreed to take back the damaged MakerSlide (or at least that’s my understanding of the conversations I’ve had), so most likely I won’t be out of pocket on that, but I still need to unwrap all of it and check it, then pack the bad ones and get the factory to pick them up. I checked all the 2000 mm, 1400 mm, 1000 mm, 500 mm, most of 750 mm and 250 mm, and some of the 375 mm. I haven’t checked the hardcoat anodized MakerSlide yet. I have to check all of it this week, so that I can place another order. It usually takes the factory 4-5 weeks to schedule, extrude, cut, anodize, wrap, re-cut, pack and deliver a batch of MakerSlide.

I have a few 1 m lengths left, nothing longer, very few 750 mm, and no 500 mm. In theory, I could cut down longer pieces (e.g. ones with damage near one end) to make a few more eShapeOko kits. I had to do just that to put together some of the kits that called for 500 mm rail. I try to avoid cutting, though, because it’s messy, time-consuming, and my cuts are not as good as the factory cuts. Once I’ve finished counting the MakerSlide, I’ll decide what to do with the meagre remaining stock. I’ll probably put the 1 m lengths and the hardcoat anodized lengths back in the shop.

Packing a kit takes way too much time. I’m trying to improve it so that it goes quicker, and more of it can be done by my other (generally better, but physically weaker) half. We got the small part counting and bagging pretty much under control, but we’re still struggling with the rail and outer packaging for larger kits. One problem with custom-made boxes is that it takes large, and I mean large, orders to get the prices down to a reasonable level. That means I can’t afford to have a different box size for each kit size, so I have to do with one or two sizes and pad, cut, or telescope. Telescoping boxes sound ideal, and they would be if the kit consisted of rail only, but with the other bits and motors plates, it’s actually more work than other methods. There’s the additional complication that some people order a lot of stuff along with their kit, some order just the kit, so the box needs to have some spare capacity. I have plenty of boxes for standard 375 mm × 500 mm kits (remember, large orders) but I need a solution for the longer kits, ideally one that lets us pack the small bits separately, but offers good protection for the rail without additional foam, bubblewrap, or corrugated cardboard wrap (which take time to apply). High-end solutions, such as boxes with custom foam inserts, are very expensive, so they’re right out. Custom cardboard inserts would be more reasonable, if it weren’t for the MOQ in the thousands. I have a possible solution, but I need to run it by the box manufacturer to check whether it makes sense financially too.

This lot has been a sobering experience. Lots of things went wrong, and we were unprepared to deal with most of them. They caused extremely annoying and embarrassing delays. I am very sorry for keeping so many people waiting for their kits for so long. It’s hard to imagine how stressful this is, knowing that so many people are anxious to start playing with their machine, or angry for the outrageous delay.

Thank you so much for your patience, support and understanding.

The tl;dr version:

  • We’re ordering MakerSlide from the factory next week, takes a month.
  • There may or may not be a few eShapeOko kits available in the meantime. Most likely not, expect decision next week.
  • A few 1 m lengths of MakerSlide may make it to the shop next week.
  • Sorry for the huge delays, and momentary lack of availability.

GAUPS 0.2 (beta version) on sale

asl_stepper_shield_assembled_2I have a small number of PCBs for the beta version of the GAUPS driver shield. They work perfectly, so I’ve decided to sell them at a discount. You can save £4!

The schematic is the same as the final board. The differences are some small details (also, the beta boards are green, not blue). The PCB is the same good quality as the final version.