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Written by Clare Difazio

02/09/2022

ObXidian Update - An Abrasive Timeline

It's been nearly a year now since we first revealed ObXidian at TCT in 2021. At that moment in time, ObXidian had hit design lock and we truly believed that we would be bringing the nozzle to market within a matter of months. We’re regretful that this is not the case, and we know that we owe you all an explanation. For almost a year we’ve been battling setbacks, and now that we’re through the worst of it, let us shed light on some of the issues we’ve been up against.

The E3DLC™ coating on ObXidian is applied by a technology called plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition. For all early prototype testing, we coated small batches of nozzles using generic part fixturing. However, for production volumes we knew we would need something bespoke. Following TCT in 2021 we manufactured a sizable batch of V6 ObXidians for our pre-production run, which was the first time using this fixturing. During what was supposed to be our final validation testing we noticed something very strange…  

What we found was a symptom of resonance in the plasma flow within the coating chamber. Somehow, we’d ended up with an incredibly unlikely situation. Our specific part geometry, paired with our specific method of part fixturing and the specific orientation of these parts in the chamber was generating a resonance in the plasma flow. This phenomenon prevented the coating from forming properly on certain areas of the nozzle. It’s also undetectable unless parts are run through wear testing. So, it’s fair to say that establishing the root cause of this issue took a fair amount of head scratching and left us with no choice but to revalidate all the parts. 

This brings us to the validation issues. If you want to properly test a nozzle for wear resistance, naturally, you need to do A LOT of printing with abrasive filaments. At E3D we use a wide range of filaments to assess and confirm nozzle performance, but there are a couple that we use more heavily. They are fantastic for this sort of abuse testing as they are particularly aggressive. At one point in the development process, we found out that we had exhausted all supply options for our primary “workhorse” filament. We bought every spool we could find directly from the manufacturer, from resellers and even tried reaching out to members of our awesome community to see if they happened to have a spool or two in their stockpiles. What’s more, the manufacturer had run out of the carbon fibre needed to make more, so we were faced with a three-month delay before validation could be fully completed. 

Alongside wear performance we also did a lot of work developing our E3DLC™ coating to optimise non-stick performance. We’d established a range of filaments that we were using to benchmark different coating recipes and determine these properties, but there was one that was particularly effective for allowing us to quickly establish if a coating was good or not. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of this filament had a ‘colossal incident’ at their factory meaning they lost access to their site for months and couldn’t continue their supply of filament. We went looking for an alternative, but these things take time. 

Putting these setbacks aside, like other manufacturers we’ve been suffering the side effects of the pandemic. Material availability went mad, and this was a real problem for us given we don’t just use common copper alloys. The best one for the job is only produced in a handful of places worldwide and to ensure we had what we needed, we resorted to buying Europe's entire stock of this particular alloy. We also had major issues with lead times, for ObXidian parts but also for the production machinery we needed to assemble the Nozzles. 

There are a lot of complex processes involved in making a product like ObXidian. If one process changes even subtly, work must be done to make sure all the others are still fine. Sprinkle in ludicrous lead times and you have a recipe for major delays. There have been countless occasions when we couldn’t get good parts or sometimes any parts at all. 

We understand that Soon™ might have become frustrating and unamusing, but when we made it ‘a thing’, we really weren’t expecting to be saying it for this long. We just didn’t want to get people’s hopes up with concrete timelines when internally we’ve been experiencing production hell. Anyone can make one of something. When you start to make thousands, you find new challenges and things get complicated.  

If you’re wondering what happened to V6 ObXidian, don’t worry, it’s still coming. We originally set about developing ObXidian as a separate project to Revo. This way, there was no dependency between the two projects and should one experience a delay, the other could continue. This is why we initially debuted ObXidian in V6 form at TCT 2021. At that point in time, V6 ObXidian was scheduled to come out before the Revo ecosystem. We’ve since prioritised Revo ObXidian because as we all know, the elephant in the room is that Revo currently has no abrasive solution!

You may have noticed some influencers now have ObXidian in their hands. These are production samples and are no different from the ones customers will be receiving in the not-too-distant future. To reiterate, we’re sorry it’s taken so long. It wasn’t our intention, nor our expectation and we are still very excited to be bringing you ObXidian, even if it is far later than we could have imagined! 

With all that said, we are currently aiming for a late-October launch. We're (successfully this time) manufacturing ObXidian Nozzles as we speak!