Today, we're giving a production update on Bigscreen Beyond's development history and how we're handling bottlenecks in manufacturing. To build Bigscreen Beyond, we work with dozens of companies that help manufacture various components such as micro-OLED displays, injection molded plastics, fiber optic cables, glass lenses, electronics, packaging, and more.
We work with a couple overseas manufacturing partners that are responsible for assembling parts together into subassemblies and headsets. We also have a factory that we own and operate in Los Angeles, California responsible for the final assembly of the headset into a fully-custom unit built to a person’s unique face shape and eye position.
Our history so far
Bigscreen Beyond has been in development for more than 3 years. In 2021, we demonstrated the first prototypes to early customers who had secretly preordered under an NDA. In 2022, we shipped the first headsets to customers to play with at home. These units were engineering samples (commonly referred to as “EVT”) representative of the capabilities of the final product with our optics, electronics, and displays inside 3D printed plastics. By the end of 2022, we had production-grade injection molded plastics and most components were locked down (known as a “DVT” or “PVT” in manufacturing terms).
We kicked off 2023 in a big way. We quietly shipped around 100 DVTs to early customers and testers to use at home. After proving that we could successfully build and ship headsets that people loved using, we announced Bigscreen Beyond publicly in February 2023 and started taking preorders.
In 2023, our focus has been on listening to customer feedback (ex. top strap), ramping up manufacturing, and resolving engineering issues and bottlenecks. With a combination of software, automation, hiring, and process improvements, we’ve been able to overcome countless engineering and manufacturing challenges successfully.
When we announced Beyond in February, we estimated that US orders would ship in Q3 2023 (July-September), and global orders would ship in Q4 2023 (October-December). We were confident in this estimate, as we had already conducted multiple production runs successfully and it gave us 6 months of time to ramp up production. Due to a series of manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain delays, mass production did not start until July 2023, and we recently announced that shipments began in September 2023 on schedule.
Now, some bad news. Although we continue to ship units every day, we’re not yet achieving our target daily production rate. Our production capacity at certain bottlenecks is approximately 25% of the target rate and we're are actively working to increase our production capability and fix bottlenecks.
US Q3 Preorders: deliveries slipping into October and November
Approximately 20% of US Q3 preorders will have successfully shipped by next week. This is mostly customers who ordered in February (our biggest month of sales). The remaining 80% will take another 2-7 weeks to ship. We aim to complete all Q3 preorder shipments by November 6-November 19.
Headsets continue to ship every day as we ramp up to full capacity by November. Customers who ordered recently (June - September) and were given a Q4 estimate remain on schedule for Q4. Customers who ordered internationally (UK, Canada, EU, Japan, etc.) and were given a Q4 estimate also remain on schedule for Q4.
By early 2024, we expect orders to ship within a couple weeks of ordering. Here's our current plan:
Fixing bottlenecks with optics production, calibration, and QC
Bigscreen Beyond has several calibration steps using cameras and custom software. Every headset also gets customized, tested, and sealed by hand in LA. Calibration and QC has been a significant bottleneck, taking many minutes per device.
This might not sound like much, but at our scale it is far too time consuming. To fix this bottleneck, we automated several steps, built multiple calibration machines, and shipped them to our manufacturing facilities months ago. However, they were stuck in customs for the past 2 months and were lost.
Last week, we quickly built new machines and flew to China to deliver it. I'm happy to report as of late Thursday night, we have successfully installed new calibration machines in the factory.
We're taking this seriously. Solving these bottlenecks requires significant effort with multiple flights to China and our team in California working until 5AM. To ensure we improve our manufacturing and calibration bottlenecks, I will personally remain on-site at our factories in China for the next month to ensure ramp up goes smoothly.
In addition to these new machines, we will begin a second night shift at our factories to improve production. We’ve also doubled the size of our LA factory team in the past 2 months. You’ll see the team's signatures on the box!
Two other issues temporarily slowed shipments in the past week. First, we pivoted the team from headset shipments to building new machines and fixing critical bottlenecks. With much of this now complete, a lot more units will ship next week. Additionally, we're out of stock of certain IPDs causing some customers to experience delays of 1-3 weeks as we wait for additional headsets and parts to be produced. In the meantime, shipments continue for customers with IPD SKUs that we have in stock.
On behalf of the entire Bigscreen team, I want to thank the Bigscreen community for your support and apologize for the slowness in shipping units. Understandably, many people are anxiously waiting for their Bigscreen Beyond and will be disappointed with this news. I hope today's update provides some clarity on the problems, solutions, and schedule for when you can expect your device to ship.
I’m very proud of our team for our accomplishments so far. We successfully developed and shipped a world-class VR device that people love using. We accomplished this with a tiny team and a budget of just tens of millions of dollars (compared to the tens of billions invested by the giants). It hasn't been easy to achieve this. I kindly ask our community to be patient with us for these next few weeks as we continue to ramp up our shipments. The physical and mental toll is significant, but we're getting there! As always, customers can chat directly with us in the private Bigscreen Beyond Discord, and if you have questions or concerns, email email@example.com.
On a positive note, it brings me great joy to see so many of you now enjoying our magical device and I cannot wait for everybody to get your headset in the coming weeks! If you haven't seen it yet, check out these reviews from Norm Chan at Tested, VRFlightSimGuy, and recent customers!
– Darshan Shankar
Founder & CEO, Bigscreen, Inc.