32d9172461d774d78f5a177faf5f573b42006bfeLast week we had some good news from Glowforge, as the company announced that they were beginning shipments of their much-anticipated subtractive laser printer. In September of last year, Glowforge began taking pre-orders of the printer with the intention of shipping them by the end of 2015; unfortunately, that plan didn’t quite come to fruition. After pushing back shipment twice, Glowforge assured customers of delivery this month, but it now looks as though those customers will have to wait once again.

On Thursday, just two days after the shipping announcement, CEO Dan Shapiro sent an email to backers, explaining that Glowforge had come to the realization that the printer just wasn’t ready for shipment yet.

“One morning early in November I arrived at the office,” he said. “On my right was the row of Glowforge printers that we use every day. On the left was the row of printers that were not working, waiting for troubleshooting. The row on the left was longer than the row on the right. I realized we had a problem.”

Shapiro continued by explaining that he and the Glowforge team had pulled out all the stops to race to get the printer perfected and ready to go by the promised December ship date, but it just wasn’t enough. Rather than sending out a flawed product, he said, the team made the difficult decision to pull back, spend more time on testing and troubleshooting, and begin shipping next summer.

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“This is our new plan,” Shapiro continued. “We will be manufacturing hundreds of units per month through February and scale up to thousands starting in April. Most customers will get their deliveries in May through August. All orders placed before Oct 26, 2015 will be shipped by July 31, and all subsequent orders by August 31.”

You can read Shapiro’s full message here. Customers, many of whom have already been waiting for over a year, are understandably upset, particularly as the company confirmed only last week that they were ready to go. Replies to Shapiro’s forum post largely express distress at Glowforge’s lack of transparency, and doubt that the company will be able to deliver on their repeatedly postponed promises.

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Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro

“There is a general concern from many people (myself included) that the company has a failure to communicate and almost zero transparency,” one customer told 3DPrint.com. “The CEO Dan Shapero is still refusing to provide additional transparency and communication other than his random private forum comments and their once a month update, which usually contains very little substance…Glowforge will be over 18 months late IF they can hit the July date.”

Feedback from pre-release beta testers is one of the reasons that Glowforge realized that the printer wasn’t ready to go yet, according to Shapiro, and a recent review on Tested, though largely positive, pointed out several factors that still needed improvement, and customers’ concerns are reflected strongly in the comments on the video as well.

To their credit, Glowforge is obviously very concerned with delivering a functional product, and they’re offering customers compensation for being forced to wait once again. All customers will receive a $50 gift certificate for materials from partner company Inventables, plus a gift certificate for either Glowforge’s Proofgrade materials or designs in their store. The gift certificate will increase in value by $20 for every month customers have to wait past their originally promised delivery dates of either March or December. Plus, several designs in the store will now be offered for free, including every design featured in the website’s demo video.

Glowforge has also announced several “secret” features that they were unable to announce until now due to nondisclosure agreements. An expansion port will allow users to eventually swap out the laser head for other accessories such as a 3D printing extruder, while 50-point sensor monitoring has been added to ensure optimal printing performance as well as safeguards against accidents. 3D engraving and photo engraving capabilities have been added, plus laser shielding and permanent laser alignment backed up by sensors. In addition, the printer’s warranty has been extended by six months.

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Still, though, customers’ frustration is understandable, and Shapiro acknowledges this, giving customers the option to cancel their orders for a full refund. 

“You deserve better,” he said. “We are heartbroken to disappoint you…As hard as we’ve tried to make our schedule, we failed, and that’s entirely on me. Our team has done work that’s nothing short of heroic to get the job done for you. I’m the one who came up short, and I am responsible for this delay.”

It remains to be seen whether customers will patiently wait until next summer or begin jumping ship. It would be a shame to see all of Glowforge’s development, fundraising efforts, and financial investments go to waste, so hopefully they can really deliver on this latest promise. Will the Glowforge printer be worth the wait? Will they go down as another massive crowdfunding failure? We’ll see next summer. Discuss in the Glowforge forum at 3DPB.com.

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