IVI: The Closed-Loop 3D Printer

Created by IVI 3D Printer

Easily achieve high-res 3D printing, laser engraving, CNC carving with IVI, the 10 microns’ repeatability, closed-loop 3D printer. Check project updates here: https://forum.ivi3d.com/c/general/kickstarter-updates

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Progress Update [Late May]
11 months ago – Sun, May 31, 2020 at 02:08:35 AM

Dear IVIers,

Before we introduce the latest progress, we want to thank @Josh, @Robin, and @Ian officially for the kind help they offered to advance this project by reviewing the PCB design from their professional perspectives. Every one of them devoted time and effort to review and feedback. We are thrilled with their professionalism and grateful for their kindness. Their valuable suggestions made the design better. We never expected this kind of help from our backers. Especially when they were still busy with their own business, they sacrificed leisure time by staying up late or getting up early to review the design in detail.

With the understanding, support, and help from you, we feel "Together, we are a team!" so strongly!

Below is some of the progress.

1. Control Board

So far, plan A (in-house design) is advancing faster than plan B (outsource design).

We received the redesigned control board on 28th May. The hardware was verified. The next is to test the functionality with the printer. Except for the control board, we have several affiliated boards for controlling stepper motors and tool heads. The design of those boards was completed on 26th May and we expect to receive those boards in early June.

Regarding outsourced PCB, some minor problems were found on the hardware. The outsource team is working on it and developing the firmware of stepper motors.

2. Embedded Firmware

We developed a basic version of the printer firmware. To test the firmware as soon as possible, we bought a development board with the same chip as the control board and embedded the firmware on it. We have been testing the printer with the firmware-embedded for 1 week.

Next, we will implant the firmware into the redesigned control board to test. If it works well as the development board did, we will continue developing the firmware by adding sensor recognition and information processing.

3. LCD

The first beta version of LCD was completed as scheduled. After the firmware is ready, we will start joint debugging on the printer.

4. Slicer

The first beta version of the slicer was completed as scheduled too. We’ve finished the first round of testing and fixed the bugs. Currently, we are testing the printing parameters with the slicer to optimize the recommended printing parameters. Please check the latest test result below.

3D Printing
Laser Engraving

5. Mechanical Hardware

A. The optimized design of the print head was completed a few days ago and we expect to receive the sample next week.

B. The metal parts we mentioned in the last update, including metal plate base, metal plate base cover, and metal plate top front door were received one week ago and tested. The plate base and the metal plate top front door passed testing. There are two overheated spots (over 50℃) on the metal plate base cover. Our plan is to add insulating materials to solve the problem and the solution is under testing currently.

6. Testing & Production

After the comprehensive analysis, the risk of certification based on the current prototypes is mainly about electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), thus we took this into consideration when we design the control board. We should be able to start applying for certification after comprehensive testing of the printer.

The NPI engineer already finished the forecasting of production and assembly cost based on the quotation of assembly factories and assembly SOP. Yes, the assembly SOP was finished as well.

These are what we achieved in the past 3 weeks. We didn’t prepare more photos/videos in this update, because the content team is busy with the User Manual, Quick Guide, and other necessary documents for you to experience IVI better. Happy weekend and see you in the next update.

Status Update [Early May]
11 months ago – Sun, May 10, 2020 at 07:04:01 AM

Dear IVIers,

It has been almost a month since we found the problem with the control board and started plans on resolving it. In this update, we will share the status of the plans and the work of other groups.

1. Redesign of the Control Board

Our hardware engineer has completed the components selection, schematic design. He is working on the layout, which should be completed by May 15. In the meantime, two backers (Josh & Robin) with profound experience in electronic hardware are helping to review the PCB design. We have received their detailed first-round feedback. And we are deeply grateful for their kindness and help. The new control board is planned to be completed by late May. If everything goes well, we can start the functional test then.

2. Outsourcing of the Control Board

The external team has completed the components selection, schematic design, layout & PCB processing. They are soldering now which is expected to be completed by May 15. If everything goes well, they will start the functional test then.

3. LCD

All the development of the LCD is advancing as scheduled. The first beta version is scheduled to be completed by early June. Then we will have it test on the printer, of course with the control board problem solved.

4. Slicer

All the development of the slicer is also advancing as scheduled. The first beta version is still scheduled to be completed by early June as well.

5. Mechanical Hardware

80% of the mechanical hardware is completed and waiting for the functional test of the whole printer. The other 20% includes the following issues. 

A. We are still improving the design of the print head for auto bed leveling. 

B. A new metal plate base, a new metal plate base cover, and a  new metal plate top front door are being produced (they were plastic before), we are expecting to receive them by late May. 

6. Testing and Production

The testing engineer is testing part of the functionality of the heated bed and the print head. He is also gathering information and requirement for certification of the printer and evaluating the risks with potential suppliers based on the current prototypes we have. The NPI engineer is working on the production and assembly cost evaluating and forecasting, preparing assembly SOP, evaluating assembly factories, etc.

7. Team Introduction

As suggested by a backer a few days ago, here is a brief introduction of our team at the moment. We have 19 team members in total now. You can find most of them in this video. Some have left because of various reasons and there are new team members joining in. No matter what, we will keep working hard for our shared dream. 

Thank you all for your continuous understanding, patience, and support. Please stay safe and strong.

Status Update [Late April]
12 months ago – Sun, Apr 19, 2020 at 05:25:17 PM

Dear IVIers,

We are sincerely sorry for the long waiting. And we are also sorry that you have to go through the comments section and our Forum for the latest information from our replies. Many of you have made your concerns very clear and you’ve also made many great suggestions. All of your comments make us feel again that you are IN this project with us and you are sharing everything you can think of to help us make it come true. We’ve read all the comments and we agree these are all fair concerns. That’s why we are making this update even though it is not as substantial as we want it to be because of the limited progress in production.

First things first, we received the new prototype at the end of March. We didn’t show you because we encountered some serious problems with the control board and the prototype cannot print yet with the revised control board that we plan to mass-produce and use for the mass-produced printers.

Both the original control board that we previously used for demonstrating both in our videos and in the CES show and the revised control board that we’ve been testing cannot be used for mass production for the following major reasons.

1. Some sensors are not successfully embedded on the board yet;

2. The board heats up after a short time of printing which makes us concern about its lifetime;

3. The design issues of the board cause the stepper motor to generate a lot of noise;

4. For sensors already embedded, the readings are not accurate enough.

Right now, our hardware engineer is redesigning the control board, starting from components selection. The following steps include the schematic design, layout, PCB processing, soldering, functional testing, and testing on the printer. The whole process takes about one month. In the meantime, we’ve also implemented Plan B, which is outsourcing the motherboard to an external team. We just finished explaining all the technical and functional requirements to them and settled the contract with them. In this way, we should have two solutions for the control board at around late May.

The problems with the control board are the biggest challenge at the moment as it jeopardizes our testing plan and mass production plan, thus it affects our delivery schedule. Besides the electronic engineering group, here are what our other groups have been doing.

1. Slicer. As many of you mentioned the safety, privacy, and copyright problems with the Cloud slicer, we’ve decided to develop a local slicer instead of a Cloud slicer to start. The Cloud slicer intends to make slicing easier by making it online. According to our plan, we should be able to share the beta version of the slicer with you in early June and you can test it beforehand for slicing. The Slicer group can start iteration with the help of all of you. We have also made the files for slicing with Cura, Slic3r, KISSlicer, Simplify3D. Our marketing team is proofreading and revising the instructions of the settings. The local slicer is a must as it is necessary for CNC and Laser functions.

2. LCD. Because of the change of the slicer, the LCD needs to be changed as well. We’ve removed the Explore section and the UI is being refined. There will be four major sections, Files, Control, Status, Settings. All the development for the LCD should be completed around early June and we will share the details with all of you by then.

Home Page of the LCD Display
The Control-Filament Section

3. Package design. We’ve completed the appearance design of the package. Considering the transportation fee and safety, we have two plans, one-piece /fully assembled and half assembled. Many of you have been kind enough to share your feedback with us about your feelings and questions about assembling the printer yourself. We will take the transportation fee, transportation safety, the influence of the assembly on the functionality into consideration. In the end, it will be decided by the testing result.

Design of the Package

Right now, all of our team members are still working towards the goal of starting trial production in July. We can see this is a very ambitious goal and you deserve a more accurate schedule. We think after the new solution for the control board is tested, we can provide a more accurate timeline.

This is one of those dark times in our project and we were worried if all of you would still be okay when we break the bad news to you. But we’ve seen how strong and thoughtful you are from all of your comments. To our whole team, we believe that it is natural to meet challenges and difficulties in a big project like IVI and no challenge or difficulty will stop us from keep trying. So we want you to be assured that we will not give up until we make it. And we hope that you can give us some extra time to navigate through this difficult time. Thank you all and hope all of you and your family and friends stay strong and healthy.

IVI 3D Team

Schedule Update [Mid Feb]
about 1 year ago – Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 02:33:04 AM

Dear IVIers,

Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, our CNY holiday was extended from Feb 2 to Feb 10. To ensure the safety of everyone, we are now still waiting for government notice and local inspection to return to the office.

We are glad to let you know that all of IVI team members are in good health and we’re all safely back in Shenzhen. We’ve delivered every member’s PC to their home and started working from home since Feb 5.

During this time, our R&D team and marketing team will work at full speed to prepare for the return to the office, including 3D and 2D drawings design optimization, BOM output, tooling DFM review and quotation, PCB drawings, package design, etc.

It is certain that this epidemic will have an impact on the delivery time of IVI as all the factories in Guangdong province have not been back to work. Most of our previously contacted suppliers and factories said that they may be back to work by the end of Feb. This may lead to one or two more months of delay in our delivery. The exact impact will be calculated and announced after our suppliers and partners are all back to work. The good news is that there has been a decrease for 8 consecutive days in terms of the new confirmed cases outside Hubei province (the epicenter of the outbreak). More and more people are being discharged from the hospital after recovery.

As the words printed on the supplies packages donated to us by Japanese for epidemic prevention and control, “Together we stand, my armors thine.” What the virus has done is cruel and will not last. What the people have done is touching and will be remembered forever. We will strive to return to normal life and work at an early date.

Thank you all for your understanding and support during this difficult time. Stay safe and stay strong.

Schedule Update [Early Jan]
over 1 year ago – Tue, Jan 07, 2020 at 01:54:32 AM

Dear IVIers,

Happy new year and sorry for the long waiting. With all of our deep regret, we want to let you know that the delivery date will now be postponed to June 2020. This is a hard decision. We know all of you are waiting anxiously for the printer and we gave you an expectation to receive the printer at around March 2020. 

We got the 2 new prototypes successfully at the end of December 2019. To speed up the production, we could try and go with the 2 new prototypes and start the mold making and trial production. But there are still some key issues unresolved and it will be too risky to move onto the next step.

  1. The 2 new prototypes have not been thoroughly tested in terms of software and hardware;
  2. The feasibility of the printer assembly has not been verified by professional testers and the assembly plant;
  3. The printing accuracy doesn’t meet our requirement, which is 0.01mm repeatability at 300mm/s speed. 

Taken all the unresolved issues into consideration, we have a new timeline.

  1. One new prototype machining, assembly, and testing--Feb
  2. The first round of 3D and 2D drawing modification--Feb
  3. Mold DFM Review--Feb
  4. Mold design and machining--March
  5. Engineering samples assembly, testing, the first round of mold modification--Mid-April
  6. Pilot run and testing--April
  7. The second round of 3D and 2D drawing modification--April
  8. The second round of mold modification--early May
  9. Mass production--end of May
  10. Shipping--June

Looking back at the progress and setbacks in the past 6 months, we are not happy with the progress ourselves and we should take full responsibility for the status quo. Below is a summary of our reflection and we are determined to avoid the same mistakes in the coming 6 months.

  1. With our subjective high expectation and limited experience in production, we often make a too-optimistic-to-be-possible timeline for each major task. A timeline with a low error-tolerant rate is most likely to be unfulfilled. 
  2. Sometimes, we were trying to save spending on things/matters that should not be saved. For example, to save personnel cost, Elvis was not only responsible for mechanical design but also testing. Both tasks are very time-consuming and critical. As the product designer, he is not suitable to be the tester as the tester is supposed to find problems with the design. BTW, because we have been very careful with every spending, the financial status of the company is good at the moment. 
  3. Priority issue. Because Elvis & Andy are the designers of the printer, whenever there is a problem with the printer, they would automatically think that it must be solved immediately. When faced with a massive amount of tasks, they and their team sometimes lost track of what's the top priority and we slip into the circle of constant modification and optimization. 

These are only some of the main reflections we made. We will have a more detailed summary of our past mistakes and we will set specific rules and working procedures for each mistake. 

Below are some photos of the 2 new prototypes and the prints printed with them. Sorry about the quality of the photos as they are taken here in the US while we are attending the CES show. CES 2020 is the exhibition that we booked a long time ago. We will showcase IVI at the start-up zone, which is the cheapest booth. During the exhibition, our team members in China will keep working on the production. 

The prototype without front shell
Print head without fan
Print head with fans
Tiny owl printed at 30mm/s speed

Based on the new prototypes, there are a few changes on the printer specifications: 

We are deeply sorry that we have let you down in the past 6 months. We have let ourselves down as well. But we’ve decided to get up from where we fell down and learn from our past. “When the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, but never the goal.” We will never give up on the goal of delivering a high-quality printer to all of the backers who believed in us since the very beginning. This is a belief of our whole team. 

Thank you and we wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.