Cody Wilson sent an update to Ghost Gunner buyers, along with this atmospheric video:
The Defense Distributed email says:
Today [24 April] the first wave of orders has finally shipped for our pre-order campaign that began all the way back in October! It’s difficult to even count the obstacles we’ve faced since almost that very month, but by your patience and support we are today able to announce our product’s shipment and the release of its design files and operation software to the public. We thank you immensely.
Over 100 units are shipping/will have shipped since the end of last week. Our output is at such a pace that we estimate current backorders from the original campaign will all be fulfilled within six to ten weeks’ time. Our manufacturing processes were difficult to engineer and perfect since December because of our troubled part stream, but we now realize our capacity and are doubling our work force to increase throughput even more than in the past two weeks.
They’ve also opened up orders for the first 200 of those on the wait list, as opposed to those who already paid and are in the queue (wait list members paid a small sum for a place on the list).
The biggest news, perhaps, is the release of the design files, software and manual. These files are contained in a .zip that can be downloaded from here or here. (Note: this does not work with the Safari browser; Safari users will need a Plan B). The manual looks like this:
It is 30 pages long, although you only need the first six of them if all you plan to do is run .DD files created by others. The rest of the manual is an intro to creating .DD files and otherwise using Grbl to control the machine.
And we strongly urge you to read it now if you have a GG coming. It contains several things you’ll want to know before unboxing, like system requirements (in this initial version, “it’s complicated”), and what not to use as a handhold when pulling the machine from its box (the stepper motors!).
The machine’s planned cross-platform promise is not delivered yet, with the initial version of DDCut software, the automated software that runs a .DD file off on the router, initially live only on Windows 7 (and, if you’re brain-dead or your computer is, Windows 8). They still plan to make this work on Linux and MacOS, but it’s not there yet.
Users of the unix-like systems are not completely out in the cold, however. You can run g-code on these computers, controlling the mill by using GRBL. There’s much more of a learning code than that.
One of the problems with relying on someone else to write your DD file is that g-code is extremely powerful. A miscreant, then, could, if not exactly brick a Ghost Gunner, at least cause a head or spindle crash — not a good thing. Fortunately, Wilson and his merry men have included a short set of instructions about what g-code commands are usually safe and which are potentially hazardous, allowing any user to evaluate a .DD file’s safety. For better security yet, they suggest using only files from trusted sources.
We’ve been following this for a while (and yes, we have one on order, but we’re well down the list). We see real potential in g-code and .DD files.
UPDATE 0930R 20150425
This post was written rather rapidly last night when we came in from a long drive at 2300 with no 0600 post in the queue, so we have a few more points (both ours, and Cody’s) to get across to you.
How are the machines shipping? The answer seems to be, via US Mail.
When we say we see real potential in g-code and .DD files, here are some of the things we could see people developing and sharing:
- Profiling files, for converting an M16A2-profile lower to an A1 profile for a vintage/retro repro.
- Engraving files, to duplicate retro markings or to make custom designs.
- Lightening files, to remove metal and skeletonize a lower (which, we must stress, saves no significant weight; it’s a style thing. Imagine a steampunk AR… now it can be done, and the design shared).
- Things we can’t even imagine yet. If that doesn’t make you squee, what will?
Wilson sees that, too, maybe clearer than we do. Re the closed forum for owners only, he says:
As you receive your machine in the mail, you will find in your package a card with credentials to give you access to the Ghost Gunner forums. We expect this will be a place of exchange and development that will quickly travel more adventurously afield of DD to see just the range and extent of Ghost Gunner’s capabilities.
We note that Ghost Gunner does not require internet access to run, unlike some other modern manufacturing technologies. (MarkForged, we’re lookin’ at you, although we’ve been told they will be selling an extension to their software that will let MarkOne buyers opt out of the MarkForged cloud and run their own servers, in that pungent Silicon Valleyism, “Real Soon Now”). Yes, there is a forum for Ghost Gunner users, but you don’t ever need to go there. You bought the machine, you own it. What you do with it is your business. (We suspect Wilson shares our loathing for hardware and software involuntary “licenses”).
[F]orum membership is not a must! Everything you need to operate the machine comes in the box, software and guide included. No need to connect to the internet to access what you’ve purchased.
And, in a very important and (to us) unanticapated update, the Ghost Gunner will now be offered Internationally, outside the USA as well. Release of the software was held up for months because:
[T]he Feds literally took until last week to give GG a commodity classification.
It’s anyone’s guess where the hold-up was. It could have been Fed animus towards Wilson personally, but Occam’s Razor suggests that it’s just Feds moving at their usual snail’s pace. But an aside of the classification and approval is this:
[W]e will begin selling and shipping Ghost Gunner outside of the United States. Many of you are not from the US and have inquired for months about access to the machine. Well, we now have the clearance to ship to over 30 countries, of which you are likely a citizen. Our international backers will be reached out to individually at this time, but you will note a separate path to get on the wait list if you’re outside the US when you now visit http://ghostgunner.net.
Finally, it seems meet to close with Cody’s own elegiac closing, expressing as it does gratitude to those of us who have waited through all the Ghost Gunner drama.
Above all else, THANK YOU for your support. We’re a small shop of friends and relative kids from Texas (and parts) around who had no business opening a manufacturing operation. But we wanted to see this concept succeed, and we wanted it to succeed on bold and defiant terms.
Though it will still be some weeks before we’re caught up with orders, we know it was you, our backers, with your patience and good will that allowed us to get to this moment.
I for one will not forget it.
It’s unclear from the email when ours will ship. It looks like the first hundred is well in hand, but we’re just barely into the third hundred.