Showing posts with label Cubify. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cubify. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cosmetic Issue - Bits & Pieces of Filament on the Print Table

I noticed that when I printed two objects of different colors, little bits and pieces of filament would end up on the print table.  This puzzled me because I knew that the Cube 3 had two wipers that should have taken care of that problem.  So, I decided to investigate and send the Cubify engineers my observations.

As some of you know, I often use the tools I learned as a science teacher in my analytical efforts.  But, I also have a video production background that also comes in handy from time-to-time.  And, that is what I turned to in this case.

I first shot a sequence of video that captured what was happening.  My camera is not capable of true 200 frames per second high speed capture,   But, it is capable of shooting at high shutter speeds resulting in sharp images of moving objects.  So, I used video editor to slow the action down as much as it could.  This resulted in this video sequence.

As you can see, the action happens very quickly in real time.  So, even slowing it down a little bit was helpful in determining the sequence of events.  Even so, it still wasn't completely clear how those bits and pieces where forming.  So, using Camtasia to capture my screen as I operated the shuttle in my video editing application I was able to analyze the video, and document what was taking place, on a frame-by-frame basis in this next video.

The Cubify Team is aware of the issue and working on correcting it.

I expect it will be addressed in a future firmware update.

Observation Conclusion:
  • The issue is cosmetic only.
  • It involves the resting placement of the print jet and possibly the extruder control (Prevent dripping)
  • It affects both left and right print jets
  • Most commonly seen in SOME two color prints (same layer color changes)
  • It should be able to be addresses entirely in firmware
  • Should hardware changes be required, it will only be to user replaceable parts such as wipers or wiper try assembly
I consider this a very minor issue that will not be permanent to the Cube3 user experience as it appears to be something that can and will be addressed through firmware updates.  While it's ugly, it is definitely NOT a "show-stopper" in terms of making a purchase decision.  While it does affect the first layer of all pieces, it's not a big issue unless the design of the object requires same layer color changes. 

This is the kind of thing I expect to see in an entirely new product.  And, is typical of the issues discovered so far with the 3rd Generation Cube 3D printer in that they do not demonstrate any flaws, serious or otherwise, in the hardware design of the basic printer itself. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cube3 Firmware Update is Already Available

IMPORTANT NOTE:  When the firmware update is complete you will be asked something like "Press the Button to Restart".  In my experience, a single button press does not automatically restart the printer.  It turns the printer off.  I then seem to have to press and HOLD the button again to accomplish the restart.  I will check this with Cube Support on Monday.

No sooner than I had uploaded my last post, than I saw that a new firmware update was available for the Cube3.   The latest firmware version, at this time, is 1.08B

Just as I have been writing, the Cube team is being very proactive at listening to us and quickly addressing those issues they have spotted or that users have reported from the field.

I urge everyone to upgrade their firmware to this latest version.

If you have the Cube3 connected to WiFi, the update is very easy.  Just go to "Setup", select the symbol that looks like a memory chip and press to check to see if you have the latest firmware update,  If not, it will download and install the update for you.

I have no idea, as yet, all the areas this firmware targets; but, it is my understanding that one of its functions is to refine the auto-gap process for even greater precision.

It takes a while to download and install; but, it should be well worth it.

I can say this with confidence because of my experience with firmware updates for the Cube 2.  With each firmware update from the date it was released, the Cube 2 became an incrementally and substantially better printer with noticeable improvements in print quality.

Although it's hard to imagine what they could do to improve the already beautiful print quality of the Cube 3, I expect the same overall improvements in the user's experience from the Cube team with the Cube 3 firmware updates.

The Best Way to Serve All Cube3 Users and 3D Systems

As a software producer for decades, I was always amazed when I would be sitting with a client when an error message popped up on the screen and they explained, "Oh. That's nothing.  It does it all the time and I just ignore it."

What???  Are you kidding me???  Why would you DO that!

Every time I would tell them that I WANTED to know IMMEDIATELY when an error message popped up.

As the developer, I knew what not to do.  So, my own testing could never fully replicate the experience of users that did not know exactly what not to do.

In fact, I had no idea that the user might go down this or that path in an order I had never attempted that generated the error.  So, it was important to me to hear about issues as soon as possible.

Their reporting of issues not only would help them.  It would help other users and me, the developer.

There is no way for any manufacturer to cover 100% of the potential circumstances that might reveal something that needs to be addressed to ensure 100% reliability.  The Rolls Royce is clearly at the top of the automotive food chain.  But, as you will hear from me often, there is a reason all Rolls Royce dealerships have repair shops.

Beyond even that example, we are well aware of the billions spent on making space vehicles perfect. But, as two recent events have shown us, sometimes even that doesn't help to keep ALL errors out of the initial systems.

The Cube3 3D printer is THE best 3D printer I've owned.  In fact, I think it is going to establish itself as THE printer to have for homes and schools in a very short period of time.  It is going to do for 3D printing in education what the Apple II did for computing in the classroom.

But, I've spotted some small things that can be refined to reach the goal of near perfection.  And, the first thing I do when spotting something is to report it to Cubify Support.  An example is that I see some stray bits of filament dropping onto the print plate when colors are changed.  This is definitely no show stopper.  But, it does look a bit messy and the beautiful quality of the prints deserves to look pristine on the print table at all times.

It is something that I am sure can be fixed in firmware.  But, that fix may only happen if the engineers are fully aware of what we are seeing out in the field, where we push the Cube3 in ways those who know what NOT to do may not.

I know for a fact that 3D Systems is committed to as near perfection in the Cube series of printers as possible.  And, I know for a fact that we users want the same thing.  And, to a large extent, that means getting good feedback from us.  And, I want to hear from you as well.  I really appreciate those that have written to me with help observations and questions about their experiences.

The reason I mentioned a Rolls Royce, above, is that as I use the Cube3, it reminds me of that extremely high level of elegant design and quality.  It seriously is that impressive to me.  As much as I loved the Cube2, the Cube3 is heads above anything that has gone before it in the consumer 3D printing marketplace.

But, to make sure it grows to its full potential we, as users, need to provide the field feedback for the designers, programmers and support personnel as quickly as we spot something.  I like to document what I find with either a video or an image so that they don't have to guess at what I'm seeing.  In this way, we early users become part of the process of helping the entire Cube family...whether it be producers or consumers.  Being constructively proactive helps everybody.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Went Where Wise Angels Fear to Tread - Inside the Cube 3 Cartridge

Many years ago, in the early 1970's, as video production suddenly blossomed, I bought a used Mercedes 280SEL just before the almost instantly huge price differences between American and German cars put the Mercedes out of my reach. (Back then the price gap was about two-to-one.)

Used to working on my own cars, I was astounded by the difference between American cars of the time with what I saw when I first took the oil cover off the Mercedes engine to fine tune the valve adjustment.

Back then, there was simply NO comparison in terms of precision and design excellence.

In my previous American cars, valves had only a single spring  The Mercedes valves had both an inner and outer spring.  What's more, the American valve springs sat right on the head and the Mercedes springs rested on bearings.

I bring this up because curiosity got the best of me last night and I took a Cube 3 cartridge apart and, miraculously, put it back together again.

I had inadvertently clogged the nozzle of the cartridge while experimenting with some left/right gap tests and decided since the fault was my own, I didn't want 3D Systems to bear the cost of my mistake.  So, with nothing to lose, I decided to see if I could find out what is inside.

And, like that with the Mercedes, this experience left me astounded by the design and the quality of every single component in the cartridge, from the extruder in the center of the hub to the parts inside the print jet tip.  Eric Albert was the pioneer in taking the dismantle-rebuild journey and he had mentioned his admiration for the quality of the parts.  And, since he runs a lab with CNC machine tools, I had a prior hint about the quality parts.  But, even so, I came away with the feeling that 3D Systems seriously cares to bring the best to Cube users.  The engineers and 3D Systems deserve an award for excellence based on the design of the cartridge alone.  The Cube 3 cartridge is a significantly elegant design achievement on multiple levels.

The formerly clogged cartridge is back in service and working well.  But, I will take it apart again once the filament is exhausted so that I can get images for you.  Wait until you see the pictures.  I know you will be impressed.

In the meantime, here is my take away for users.

Correct gap is CRITICAL
Remember, there are TWO Print Jets.  Fortunately, the print jet tip is spring loaded.  But, still, it's possible to manually gap one tip and have the other slightly rubbing against the print table.  For now, make sure the LOWEST print jet, if there is a slight difference, has the proper gap.

If you hear a "Clicking"  from the cartridge, STOP printing immediately.

If a print jet is blocked, there will be a clicking sound coming from the cartridge hub.  Stop IMMEDIATELY if you hear that noise before the extruder chews up the filament in its teeth.  The sound does not mean the cartridge has clogged.  It just means the filament flow is blocked.  But, if you let it go too long the cartridge may become permanently clogged.  None of us want that and we, as alert users, can go a long way in preventing it.
Apply ALL early firmware Updates Immediately

Experience with the 2nd Generation Cube, taught me that few companies have paid more attention to making life easier and better for consumer owners than 3D Systems through ever better firmware updates.  We can expect a firmware update relatively soon if past history is any indicator.   Apply it as soon as you can.
It is obviously a goal for 3D Systems to take much of the responsibility for correct leveling and gap out of the user's hands.  And, they came very close, right out of the starting gate.  But, for now, we need to be pro-active in assuring that we do not block either print jet tip by making sure that we have manually checked the gap for both print jets.  I'm sure this is not a permanent situation.  But, for now, it's the wisest course of action.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cube 3 and ABS - Video

I created a video to demonstrate that it is possible to print ABS with the Cube 3 with the proper CubeStick application.  One of the things I fail to point out in the video is the special nature of the new print table that seems to act like a heat sink.  After printing the piece in the video I was surprised that the print table was as warm as it was.  It didn't get as hot as that of the 1st generation Cube; but, definitely was warmer that I'd experienced with the Cube 2 print table.

I could be wrong; but, I do not think the table is heated by any other means than simply absorbing heat from the printed object.

There was ever-so-slight warping at either end of the piece once it was removed from the print table.  But, NOTHING like that I had seen previously with my other 3D printers... including the heated 1st generation Cube.  I now believe it is possible to be completely successful when printing properly designed* ABS parts.

This is very important to me.  In fact, it's way more important than being able to print in two colors.  ABS has a very resilient quality to it that is quite different from PLA.  So, I am very happy to know that I can at east start experimenting with ABS again at an ever finer print resolution.

* By properly designed, I mean the strategic placement of holes and other structural relief elements that reduce stress from uneven shrinkage due to temperature changes.  Think of the ways iron bridges are constructed with triangular elements, etc. to use less iron while keeping the same structural integrity.  A bee-hive is another great source of inspiration for strength without too much bulk.

Monday, November 3, 2014

CubeStick for the 3rd Generation Cube 2D Printer - Let it Dry

I am still learning the differences between previous Cube printers and the new Cube 3.

Among those things is the way I apply and use the new CubeStick glue used with both the Cube 3 and the CubePro.  As I write this, I am printing an ABS object on a print table having glue that was purposely allowed to dry for more than an hour or more.  That would have been unthinkable to me with previous Cube printers.  Yet, it is holding perfectly.

Now, I'm told that 3D Systems actually suggested that the Cube 2 glue should have also been left to dry before printing.  But, that certainly wasn't my methodology and as soon as I get my Cube 2 printers back, I want to chase that oversight down and test it.

But, I HAVE tested the Cube 3 with both immediately applied wet glue and with completely dry glue.  And, these test were used with ABS, not PLA.  With wet glue, ABS has a tendency to warp and I've even seen pieces being moved around.  With dry glue I've seen far less warping and a rock solid build.

The real test, of course, is to designed an object that I know would have a serious tendency to warp in ABS and then to systematically apply glue and wait specific intervals with a known ambient humidity.  But, that probably won't happen for a while.

I'm simply going to suggest that Cube 3 owners apply glue sparingly in two directions and wait until the surface of the glue appears to be dry before printing.  This takes some discipline and patience.  But, it sure seems that it will provide us with much better adhesion which, in the end will save time because we will not have to restart print jobs due to glue failure.

When I see an ABS object whose length is just millimeters short of the width of the print table and there is no visible lifting at the edges, I have to be excited.  ABS is such a nice material to use once the warping issues are resolved.  And, so far, it looks like being patient with the glue seems that it does the trick.

I'll be taking pictures of the object being printed in a future article about calibration and auto-gapping.  We'll see how straight it stays for the entire 1.5 hr print job.  :)

I love the Cube 3 printer and I'm starting to get more comfortable with the Cubify software and learning a bit more about what it takes to design a two-color friendly STL.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cube3 Manual is EXCELLENT!

A Biz-to-Biz Company Masters Consumer Marketing

When I was first introduced to the 1st generation Cube, I have to be honest in saying that while I loved the printer, I was a bit skeptical that a company whose history had always been Business-to-Business would fully understand the consumer marketplace.

Over time, that skepticism has been whittled away as I not only saw improvement in the products, to make them more consumer friendly; but, also saw their commitment to building an infrastructure that truly served their buyers.

But, ALL skepticism is gone with the release of the Cube3.  

From bottom to top this is a product designed to eliminate all obstacles for people who have little or no experience with a 3D printer.  And, that not only describes the printer, itself; but, the manual that comes with the printer.  If anyone ever had any doubts about 3D System understanding the consumer marketplace those doubts all go away simply by reading the Cube3 manual.

User Guide, Cover Page

It probably is one of the best written manuals for any product that I've seen.  And, I go WAY back when it comes to reading manuals for technical products meant for consumers.

Putting 3D Systems' Accomplishment in Perspective

To put 3D System's astonishing speed with learning how to meet the operating and communication needs of consumers, it's helpful to compare it with the progress of another technical consumer industry, video recording.

My first new video camera was the Sony AV-3400 Portapak purchased in 1969 or 1970.

Sony AV-3400 Portapak - circa 1970

We used to joke that the the complete Sony Manual boiled down to a single sentence. "Wipe with a clean cloth."  Users had to rely on each other for any real information.  (A popular TV show at the time was "Have Gun - Will Travel".   One of the early problems was that the cover would move and stop the take-up reel.  A user wrote an article about how to fix it and titled it "Have Tape - Will Ravel")

It probably took a over decade for Sony to improve their manuals.  And, even then, they were only adequate by 1985 when their Video8 systems were first offered.

It's been more than 44 years since I purchased my first new video camera and while the manuals are more comprehensive, most are still confusing and poorly organized.  My most recent video camera purchase was the Panasonic HC-X920, which I now use for my blog videos.  Love the camera.  Tolerate the manual.  One has to jump around all over the place to find what they need to get the most out of the camera.

That is NOT the case for the Cube3 manual.  In just three short years 3D Systems has managed to include one of the best manuals for a potentially complex product that I have ever read.  Even the most novice of novices should find the Cube3 manual easy to follow.

The Cube3 manual is a clear and concise Step-by-Step guide to setting up and using the Cube3 printer that just about anyone and everyone can understand and follow.

The Annotated Illustrations are Excellent
As I was, once again, browsing through it this morning, I was struck by the mix of thoroughness and simplicity as each step is explained in detail without confusing technical jargon.  I was also struck by how well they have integrated images and illustrations to support their text and make it even more clear.

Step-by-Step with Illustrations

Please... take the time to walk through the manual even if you are an experienced 3D printer user.

Mastering Our Tools Moves us Farther Along

Just yesterday, I was teaching 3D design to a class of cadets and I noticed that they were in the application working hard as I was presenting the alignment tools found in the 3D design package.  They were so anxious to design something cool that they didn't fully appreciate one fact.  
Those who take the time to learn the tools of their craft will, in the end, go a lot farther and have more success than those who are too impatient to learn the fundamentals.
All of us tend to be impatient and excited about jumping right into printing something.  I understand that.  But, while I have had my Cube3 for several weeks now, I haven't printing many elaborate two-color masterpieces.  I have been focusing on learning how this tool works.  And, that has meant going through the manual methodically and then either performing operations described in the manual or printing small objects that test what I learn in that process.

Doing so gives me a better understanding of my tool... the Cube3... and how it differs from my previous 3D printing experience.  Two printjets is different than one printjet.  Extruders in the cartridge is different than a single extruder in a print head.  The manual is very helpful in clarifying how to work with these differences.  And, it will help keep me from doing things that might stop me from being able to print successfully.

Did you know, for instance, that all filament deteriorates over time in a moist environment.  So, it's best not to take your filament out of the package and set it aside for six months.  It's in the manual along with a lot of other useful information about things like periodic maintenance of the print table.

To My Chagrin... 

Having said all of the above, I have to admit that I am guilty of not having read the entire manual before giving advice about the Cube3 to a new owner regarding the new glue a few days ago.  They had asked how long the glue should dry and, based on my previous experience with the cube 1 and 2, I said they should NOT let it dry.  Imagine my surprise, when I subsequently read the Cube3 manual more closely and learned that, in fact, we ARE to let the glue dry before printing!  I had looked at the image without completely reading the text!  Bad Tom!  Bad!!!

Read the text!  Don't just look at the pictures!

By not reading the User Guide in detail to learn my tool completely before giving advice, I put myself and others in the position of possibly having a LESS successful printing experience!

Having made that mistake myself, I wanted to pass on to you the importance of taking advantage of ALL the user guide has to say.  Even the shortest sentence in a sea of great images can make a huge difference.

3D Systems has given us a terrific personal 3D printer.  But, they've also given us a terrific manual to help us learn our tool and get the most out of it.  It's well worth reading.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cube 3 Review - Installment 1: General Impressions

My initial thoughts on opening up the box, setting up the printer and running the first print was that the Cube 3 is not an evolution as much as it is a revolution for consumer and educational 3D printing.

Coming from first using a RepRap style of 3D printer to the 1st Generation Cube was a huge step.  The 1st Gen Cube was definitely a revolutionary product that lifted 3D printing from simply being a techies hobby into being a true consumers product.

The 2nd Gen Cube was an evolutionary step in making 3D printing more acceptable for use around young children by replacing the heated print table. Over the life of the 2nd Gen Cube it continued to evolve as a product through both hardware and firmware updates.   The Cube design and software teams did an extraordinary job of upgrading various hardware modules and continually offering meaningful firmware updates.  Considering the number of machines that must have been sold, I received very few emails with complaints from users.  And, most of those ended up being related to their not fully understanding the cartridge unload process, gapping or how to apply the glue correctly.  A few related to print table leveling issues.

Both personally and through the 3D printing classes I teach, I have printed hundreds and hundreds of objects on the 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes and considered them very reliable printers in the hands of experienced users.  But, much of the care and feeding of the 1st and 2nd gen Cubes was manual, included in setting the printjet gap and leveling the print table.

The 3rd Generation Cube team set about to make the Cube even more user friendly by automating both the print table leveling and printjet gapping processes.  But, they also provided the tools and techniques for us to perform both of these tasks manually in a much easier way than was available in earlier Cube versions.

As many of you know, I had  stroke earlier this year.  While I am fine, it did require us to completely alter course in the way I was delivering content to my 3D printing classes.  Due to the pressures of my having to create an all new curriculum and countless videos for the 3D printing classes I have not had the time to completely test and evaluate my new Cube 3.  So, I will have to deliver my thoughts in installments.

In this installment, I want to convey my absolute amazement at the huge leap in technology and usability that is the 3rd Gen Cube.  It's quieter, faster and is capable of turning out beautiful prints.  Combined with the new software, we are given the opportunity to control multiple aspects of the printing process, from fast "Draft" 200mm layer printing to super smooth "Premium" with 70mm layers.  While ABS still has some propensity to warp, the warping I've experienced is less than with the 2nd Gen Cube.  A LOT less. I had abandoned ABS with the 2nd Gen Cube, using the 1st Gen Cube when I needed ABS.  But, as I write this, I am printing my "Cube 3 Torture Test" consisting of 3 test objects in ABS and only one of the three shows signs of warping.  And, the warping that I do see is minimal and has not interfered with printing the bulk of the object.  That's a big improvement.

The overall experience of using the Cube 3 is like that one might dream about (If one could afford it) in owning a fine ultra-luxury motor car.  It's sleek, solid and comfortable.

Like Eric, I, too, have experienced a clog. But, in terms of bringing my printing to a halt it is a very different experience than that of any other consumer 3D printer, including earlier generation Cubes.  It's more like having a nail in a tire than a broken valve in an engine.  Clogs may be annoying; but, they no longer have to be "show-stoppers".   Simply replace the cartridge and get back to work!

Interestingly, both Eric and I had clogs with a PLA Neon Green cartridge.  Having now used four other colors in both ABS and PLA, I'm wondering, since the units were shipped with Neon Green, if we had very early cartridge builds. 

There is one other small issue, that both Eric and I have observed, that we are certain that will be addressed in a firmware update.  Small bits of filament sometimes fall onto the print table.  They come from the wipers on either side of the printer.  I was able to capture the process in slow motion video and have sent that video to 3D Systems.  It's not a big deal; but, I will be happy when a future firmware update makes it a thing of the past.  It's annoying like white lint on a black suit.  But, again, it does not materially affect the precision and accuracy of the print.

And, speaking of accuracy, the first thing I printed was a "thin wall" test.  Walls defined under 1mm in my software package are printed under .84mm.  But, walls defined as 1mm walls print EXACTLY at 1mm in both circles, rectangles and triangles.  Point of triangles are super sharp.  I'm blown away by the astonishing accuracy of the 3rd Gen Cube. 

I can't imagine a better printer for the classroom.  It's rugged and compact.  Like earlier Cubes it is built to travel well... which means it can be locked away in a secure place, brought out when needed and begin printing immediately.

The bottom line is, that aside from a single clog and a few random pieces of filament falling onto the print table, the experience with the 3rd Gen Cube has been absolutely wonderful.  It is a significantly more impressive experience than with my previous printers and you KNOW I love my 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes!

I can't afford a Bentley.  But, I CAN enjoy the solid feel and luxury of a 3rd Gen Cube.

P.S.  OK...  So, it's not EXACTLY the same experience.  But, it sure makes me feel as if I'm living large to have such a wonderful 3D printer on my desk.  :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Check out Eric Albert's "First Impressions" Review of the Cube 3.

This blog is not about being the "First" to review, it's about making sure that Cube owners and potential Cube owners have all the information they need to keep on printing!  So, here is the first substantive test review of the Cube 3 printer by Eric Albert.

Here is Eric Albert's "Early Impressions" review of the Cube 3.

I finally have a Cube 3 here.    But, due to intense deadlines for my YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink Lab training lesson preparation I have not had much time with it so far.

All I will say for now is that those who have one on order did the right thing.

You will not believe the feature set that this printer brings to the table.  I am in awe of the engineering and design.  And, even more in awe of the print quality.

This blog only focuses on Cube family products.  I could do a quick review raving about how good it is.  But, you'd just blow me off as a "fan boy"... for which I cheerfully plead guilty  But, more importantly, it wouldn't help you truly understand what a marvelous accomplishment this printer represents for the future of personal, consumer, educational 3D printing.

This is a different animal folks.

It's the kind of machine that makes you want to simply sit back and appreciate the brilliance of the engineers, designers and builders.  (Precision designs require equally precise builders.)  

Building the Cube 3 is no small task.  It's a marvel of engineering both inside and out.

I was at the factory yesterday with 20+ Youth Challenge cadets and saw, first hand, how much those charged with building your printer are committed to delivering your machine without compromising on quality one little bit.  I have always appreciated both the Cube engineering and manufacturing teams.  But, I now appreciate them a whole lot more.  Their combined efforts are going to put a truly remarkable machine into your hands.

This is SO new, that I would not be surprised if some tweaking here or there did not have to be done to reach the level of perfection that all parties want.  After all, so many systems are completely new.  But. I promise to tell you if I find or learn about a potential issue and/or ways to avoid them when possible.  But, for now, I am completely excited by the amazing quality of my prints I'm seeing through my trusty microscope at the .200mm setting... and, I have yet to try .07mm!

Friday, October 3, 2014

1st Cube 3 Report - Awesome Right Out of the Box

Just received my first report from Eric Albert...

First Report from Eric

Tom: got it set up and running.

This thing is AWESOME!!! The product folks at 3D Systems should all get bonuses - it is filled with genius. It appears to level and measure build height optically! I just ran the short test print and now am running the classic rook that 3D Systems included on the Cube 1 and 2.

But - it isn't a "cube!" Pictures can be deceiving - but it is not as deep as it is wide, and not as big as I thought it would be. But the build plate is bigger than the 1/2 versions.

Out of the box and working in 10 minutes with NO issues! I'll be getting some pics and a write up out this weekend, but this is definitely the machine to get! Love the part preview on the screen. And the color touchscreen is really neat.- Eric
Sent from my iPad

OK.  NOW, I'm jealous!!!!

Look for more from Eric soon!  Now, remember, he owns or uses 3D printers from several different manufacturers so he's highly qualified to judge AWESOME when he sees it!

I like the part about the product folks should all get bonuses.  I know a fair number of them and I agree that from the little time I had with it at shows, etc. it is DEFINITELY filled with genius.  I had every confidence that this was going to be a gamechanger!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CONFIRMED!!! Cube3 Started Shipping on September 29!

After my "May be Shipping" post I received this from a 3D Systems employee.
"I do follow you.

The unit began shipping yesterday. 

We are using a FIFO system.

Orders placed today will incur a 6 week back log."
That is great news for everyone that has been waiting for the wonderful Cube3 to land on their doorstep!

I'm all too familiar with the "Shipping is a feature" mentality plaguing Microsoft... and the fiasco that was the first introduction of Windows 8.  They are STILL suffering from that one!

For me, the "Right Time to Ship" is a much more important feature.  That is the day when all systems are "Go" with confidence.  I know the Cube engineers and the Cube builders.  To a person, they strive for perfection.  While perfection is difficult to achieve in 100% of the cases, just knowing that it is their goal gives me a great deal of confidence they made the right choice.

I knew that the RIGHT TIME TO SHIP would eventually be here.  I have absolutely NO idea why that day could not have been sooner. Nor, do I have any idea when I might have one here.   But, I do know that the Cube3 is an important milestone in consumer 3D printing and it deserved the best possible entry into our homes, offices and schools.  So, I am glad they waited until they were confident that we would not be disappointed when it did arrive.

I look forward to hearing from those of you that are among the first to see just how wonderful it is.  And, look forward to the the arrival of my own.

Thanks for the confirmation!  :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

3Doodler: Be Your Own 3D Printer

No, I have definitely NOT abandoned my Cube 3D Printers.

But, I have ordered a 3Doodler 3D pen.  And, I had good reasons to do so.

The 3Doodler as Welder

First, it can act as a plastic glue gun, welding PLA or ABS pieces together.  For example, I have already written about creating a face relief of a child in one color and creating a frame to hold it in another.  With the Cube 2, limited to single color printing, this had to printed as two separate jobs and then I used glue to put the pieces together.

Using the 3Doodler to weld the pieces together should be a LOT more effective.

The 3Doodler as Accessorizer

Hmmm... not at all sure that is the right spelling.  But, you get what I mean.  There are designs that are just too difficult for the cadets I teach to pull off in a CAD program.  One of them, for instance, wanted to create a candle holder with angel's wings.  Yes, it could be done.  But, not at his skill level and certainly not in the time he could allot to it.

But, he COULD freehand the wings onto the printed candle holder.

Even closer to home, that frame and relief that I printed could be enhanced by 3Doodling (Is that a word?) a hanger onto the flat back of the combined piece so that it could be hung.

The 3Doodler as 3D Demonstrator

Because of the configuration of 3D printers, with the head being extremely close to the print table, it can be a bit difficult to show the extrusion process.  The actual 3D printing process is easily demonstrated with the 3Doodler since the head can be pulled up so that the extrusion process is clearly seen.

While the 3Doodler is NOT a toy and the minimum recommended age is 14, that does not stop us from using it to demonstrate the 3D printing process to younger children.  We'll be working with the girl scouts at YouthQuest and I expect to be able to put the 3Doodler to work in helping explain how the Cube 3D printer works.

The 3Doodler as Randomizer

So far, while I've seen a lot of fun objects that people have created with the 3Doodler, none could be called high art.  Part of the reason for that is the randomness of the flow when hand held as apposed to the precision of the Cube 3D printer's X-Y-Z engine.

But, there is a certain charm in randomness that has a place in design.  And, I expect that my artist daughter will be quite pleased with some of the things that she can do with this little hand held 3D print tool.

While it might seem that using the 3Doodleradding add accessories and to add randomness to an object is the same thing, it is not.  There are nuanced differences.  I expect to notice an accessory.  I do not expect to notice a subtle added randomness that mimics hand created works.

The 3Doodler as Fun

Let's face it.  Given everything I say above, everyone knows the real reason I ordered a 3Doodler.  I expect it to be a LOT of fun for me and my grandchildren, who are old enough to use it safely.  I sure hope they let me use it!

Bottom Line....

It should arrive soon.  As soon as I have a chance to try it out with all of the above applications I will be sure to post an update. 

Interestingly, YouthQuest, 3D Systems and 3Doodler will all be at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in DC in late April and our booths are adjacent.  (Actually according to the floor plan our YouthQuest booth and the 3Doodler booth are back-to-back on either side of the 3D Systems booth.   The cadets we teach will be helping explain 3D printing to visiting students and parents and I am certain that they are going to want to drop by the 3Doodler booth when they have a chance.  If they end up creating something we'll post images.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Avoiding the Tug-o-War When Unloading the Filament

If you have changed a cartridge in the 2nd Generation Cube, you've probably noticed that it can be pretty difficult to pull the filament back out of the head.  Chances are, if you have experienced this, the cartridge you are trying to change was PLA.

PLA melts at a different temperature than ABS plastic.  And, that means that it also solidifies at a lower temperature than ABS.  And, THAT means that if the material is not thoroughly heated before having the mechanism back it out, it could cool too soon and break... causing a real clogging issue.

So, the unload strategy for the Cube when using PLA is to first drive the filament DOWN into the heating tip, bring the temperature up and only then reverse the gears to start backing the PLA UP and out.

But, the current LCD message we get does not accurately reflect that timing reality.

It tells us to pull NOW... putting us into a tug of war with the Cube.

My fight with the filament gear has been almost comical as I've dutifully followed the message to pull up on the filament while the filament gear is obviously trying to eat the filament!  Not one to avoid a fight, I've even tried using some pliers to exert my will over the seemingly recalcitrant Cube... to no avail!

Now I know what is really happening and why.

It's simply a messaging and timing issue.  Instead of immediately pulling, we can relax for a few minutes and let the Cube do its thing.  We need to be "one with the Cube".  And, that means that we should wait a bit before trying to pull the filament out of the print head.

But, how long?  Since the message on the LCD tell us to pull up right away, we need some clues as to when we should actually begin pulling up on the filament.

Sharpie to the Rescue!

What I now do is to make a little mark with a Sharpie on the filament just above the line where the filament enters the head.  I then follow the direction of the mark to give me the clue as to when the filament is finally being reversed back out of the head.  At first, it will be lowered into the filament channel for that extra heating we mentioned.  But, once the heating step is completed, you'll see the mark rising up and back out of the filament channel.

That is the time to start pulling.

3D Systems has been great about changing the user messages on the LCD to make the operation of the Cube ever easier for users.  Hopefully, we will see changes to the message concerning unloading so that we can simply wait for the appropriate message to tell us exactly when it's the right time to pull without fighting what is happening internally.  That is the beauty of the Firmware update process.

In the meantime, the Sharpie is my friend.  :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thaw Iced Cubes Carefully

This comes under the heading of "What NOT to do with a Cube".

I managed to short out the control board or power supply on my Cube due to condensation that formed when I left my Cube in the trunk of my car overnight in sub-freezing temperatures, brought it into a warm room and immediately tried to start it.

Bad idea.

I should have known better.  Back in my years of video production with reel-to-reel video recorders I learned that condensation instantly can form on cold equipment when it's brought inside.  The tape would actually stick to the head drum from moisture forming on the drum.  We ALWAYS waited a few minutes before turning on our video tape machines that had gone from very cold conditions to a warm room.

Now, I know that leaving a Cube in the truck of my car in sub-freezing temperatures requires that same patience in starting up that Cube in a warm room.  Even a few minutes would have made a difference.

It's not that the Cube cannot survive the cold.  The outdoor studio in which mine usually sets regularly goes down below freezing.  But, I always warm of the building before firing up the Cube and so no moisture is formed due to the differences between the ambient temperature of the air and the Cube.  Both air and Cube warm simultaneously.

In this particular case the air was warm and the Cube was cold.  As we all learned in Science this can cause the water in the warm air to condense on the cold surface.  Water on electrical surfaces is NOT a good thing.

It's now in the hands of the good Cube doctors who will be performing open Cube surgery.  I'm told the prognosis is good and it should be back home shortly.  That is very good news.  I'm suffering a severe case of Cube withdrawal.  I've still got my RepRap; but, it's just not the same.


It's OK to let your Cube go below freezing.  But, when bringing a freezing Cube into a warm room, give the Cube some time to warm up before turning it on. Better safe than sorry.


Keep watching the comments to this post as Mike continues to troubleshoot and make additional discoveries.  Thank you Mike for taking the time to chase this down!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Welcome Improvements in the Cubify Site

It will have been one year ago, the first week of February, that I trekked from Kensington, Maryland to Rock Hill, South Carolina to see the Cube for myself.  By that time, I'd had a chance to try out the Cubify web site and had a lot of questions regarding the direction in which they appeared to be going.

In particular, I know that most, if not all, of 3D Systems core expertise was in business-to-business marketing.  My fear was that they, like many companies with that limited core expertise, were going to find it tough going in the consumer marketplace.  And, from what I initially saw on the Cubify site at that time, that fear seemed to be well founded.  Frankly, while I came away from those meetings with a real excitement about the Cube, I can't say I had the same enthusiasm for the Cubify web site.

Months went by before I began to see that they WERE "getting it".  And, now, just one year after they revealed, I am fully convinced that 3D Systems IS one of those rare business-to-business companies that CAN and HAS successfully learned how to market to home users.

The change, I believe, when I listen to members of the Cubify team talk, and see their new product offerings, is that they have grown from equating 'consumer' marketing with 'mass' marketing, to evolving to see that the consumer is not some big people aggregate; but, is made up of unique individuals that respond to products and services with individual aspirations, skills and needs.

I was thrilled when 3D Systems purchased MyRobotNation as part of the Cubify family.  To me, that was a stroke of genious.  My grandchildren and I had already enjoyed the My Robot Nation experience well before the news that they had been acquired.  If there was ever a company that "got it" when it comes to offering the consumer a unique and pleasant buying experience, it was My Robot Nation.  For 3D Systems to see that potential as part of their own transformation into the consumer marketplace was brilliant.   And, connected or not, the transformation of the Cubify web site and the Cubify experience has seemed to blossom from that point forward.

What brought all this to my mind is that yesterday 3D Systems and announced that they were teaming up with to allow users to "join the Star Trek crew" with a customized figurine having their own face on it.  Very cool!  Here is the link to the blog entry.

What struck me, when I saw this, was that in just one year 3D Systems and the Cubify team have covered a LOT of ground and made tremendous strides in delivering appealing content as well as hardware to each of us as individuals.  They are marketing to our uniqueness and that is a winning formula.

Star Trek was not one of my favorite television programs when it came on in 1966.  In fact, personally, I never had much interest in it.  But, from the first, I have been fascinated by the loyalty and passion of those that embraced it.  I was teaching in 1969 and I vividly recall one 3rd grader that would run around the school yard with a TV controller pretending it was a phaser!  He tried his best to make his pesky science teacher disappear into molecular mist.  LOL!

Fortunately, TV controllers make for very poor phasers.  I didn't disappear and we still keep in touch.  :)

The point is that there was something about the Star Trek consumer experience that touched individuals in a such a powerful way that close to 50 years later the brand is still young and fresh!   That is nothing less than magic!  And, something tells me that is showing signs that they have found some of that same wonderful magic.

And... I expect a whole lot more to come! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial 16: The Power of Reference Objects

Planning is an important part of design.  This is especially true if you plan on printing that design on a 3D printer, like the Cube.  It's also imperative if that design must interface with a real world object.

In this tutorial we cover making just that.   We plan to print at least 100 pieces of the design and that design must fit firmly onto the end of a PVC pipe.

The object that we will be demonstrating will be used in an outdoor Christmas display.  It's a cap that holds a Christmas light and that cap fits onto a piece of white PVC pipe that, hopefully, will end up simulating a candle.  The candles will be used to line a driveway and, ultimately, they will be joined by links of white plastic chain.

We won't get as far in the design as adding the loops for the chain in this tutorial.  That is saved for the next tutorial.  But, in around 11 minutes we will be able to finish the basic design of the cap.  And, the reason we can do that so quickly and so precisely is that we already know our design's measurement constraints and we can guide our design using these constraint with reference objects.

Specifically, we will use several REFERENCE RECTANGLES and a single REFERENCE LINE.

Reference objects are only guides and aides for your s ketch.  They do not actually control the shape of the 3D part.  But, they are extremely useful, as this demonstration should attest.  But, what makes them even MORE useful is our ability to easily change dimensions after the reference object has been drawn.

Here is Tutorial #16 that, hopefully, effectively demonstrates the power of reference objects when combined with MAKE DIMENSION when real precision is required.

In our next tutorial we will add the loops that are used to connect the candles using plastic chain.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #12: Sweep Boss & Cut

We do a little bit differently in this tutorial.  We include a brief demonstration of how Moment of Inspiration (MOI) handles the SWEEP command before looking at Cubify Invent's SWEEP.   The difference is that MOI allows us to use TWO paths or RAILS along which to SWEEP our primary shape.  As of right now, Cubify Invent only permits us to use a single path or rail. 

But, as we shall see, while that presents some challenges, Invent's SWEEP still allows us to do amazing things.


I like the term that Moment of Inspiration's developers use when describing the path on which the primary sketch rides.  They call it a RAIL.  And, that is a great analogy.  SWEEP is just like a train traveling on a RAIL, following every curve and nuance of the rail as it moves from one point to another.

SWEEP starts with a sketch.  That sketch can be simple or complex.  But, in Cubify Invent, it must be a CLOSED drawing.  We demonstrate with a circle and a curved wall as out primary objects.  Think of SWEEP as an EXTRUSION that follows a path determined by an OPEN rail.

The Rail is a second SKETCH that is NOT an enclosed path.  This RAIL or PATH is used to guide an extrusion of the closed, primary sketch.  The SWEEP follows the basic rules or behavior of the EXTRUSION tool... except that it is rarely straight.  A sketch of two Circles, therefore, can become a curved pipe and that of a single circle becomes a curved, solid rod.

We don't have time to get into all the specifics of relating the RAIL to the CLOSED SKETCH in this tutorial.  We just cover the basics.  But, some very, very complex curves can be created under the SWEEP umbrella.  So, expect more explorations to follow.


Here is the video.  At just over 16 minutes, It's much longer than I usually prefer.  But, the subject matter is so rich that I hope it justifies the extra time spent viewing it.

The raw power of SWEEP to create more organic features makes it well worthwhile to explore in greater depth.  Plus, it's always surprising and fun to see a finished sweep for the first time.  So, rest assured that there is more to come regarding this wonderful tool!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #10: Bolt with Helix Cut

Before attempting to learn how to create a bolt using the Helix Cut tool, I scoured the Internet to see what it takes in other bigger name CAD packages.  I also scoured the Internet for information about bolts and thread specifications.  So,  others unwittingly helped me as I tacked learning Cubify Invent's techniques for creating a bolt using actual specifications.

What I learned is that designing a bolt in Cubify Invent is actually EASIER than in many well-know CAD packages.  That's probably because they have a legacy interface.  I was surprised how easy it was to not only cut threads; but, to do so with precision.

Of course, the drawing is going to be a lot more precise than any extrusion printer can currently deliver.  But, that's OK.  3D technology that is expensive today will, one day, be affordable to home users.  So, all that precision will NOT go to waste.

Creating the bolt took place in steps.

STEP #1:  Create the Bolt Shaft

The first step in creating a bolt is to precisely create a blank shaft at the OUTSIDE specification for the bolt size you want.  In this case, the OUTSIDE of the threads would be .427".  Since we wanted a bolt having 1" length for the threads, we created a cylinder that was 1.276", allowing for the head depth.

Step #1: Bolt Shaft Extrusion

STEP #2:  Create the Bolt Head

The bolt that I measured as the model for the tutorial had a head that was .609" across and was .276" deep.  The MAKE DIMENSION option makes getting the sizing precise very easy.

Step #2: Bolt head Extrusion

STEP #3:  Chamfer the tip

Chamfering is the process of cutting an angle along an edge,  By, putting an angled edge on a bolt, it makes it easier to start.  In this case, we picked a random measurement of .075".

Step #3: Chamfering the Bolt Tip

STEP #4: Use REVOLVE CUT to shape the head.

This was actually the toughest process to design and implement.  The process involves designing a cutting tool that trims the top and bottom of the head as it is REVOLVED around the head.  The depth of this cutting tool had to be great enough to clear the pointed edges.  The great thing about Invent is that you can EDIT the cutter after you try it, so that corrections can be made with automatic updates to the result.  Nice!

Step #4: Forming the Head with Revolve Cut

STEP # 5:  Create the Thread Cutting Tool  Shape and Reference Line

Thread specifications include DEPTH and PITCH.  The depth is controlled by the size and shape of the tool used to cut the threads.  In this case we used a triangle that was .040" deep.  This number came from one of the many specification sheets that can be found on the Internet.

At the same time, we created the reference line around which the Helix will revolve. Creating a Helix, either BOSS or CUT, always involves a shape and a reference line.  The distance between the reference line and the cutting object determines the circumference of the Helix sweep.

Step #5: Create Thread Cutting Triangle & Reference line

STEP #6:  Cut the Threads using HELIX CUT.

Cutting the threads turns out to be extremely easy.  When Helix Cut is selected, a dialog asked for a number of parameters.  In this tutorial, all we needed to enter was the length of the Helix (1") and the PITCH of the cut.  The bolt modeled had a pitch of .060".

Step #6: Use Helix Cut to create the Threads

 STEP #7:  Finished Bolt.

Here is a picture of the finished result.

Finished Bolt


I hope this tutorial video shows that using HELIX CUT is relatively easy if we remember we need and object AND a reference line.  It was actually quite interesting to see how much easier this process was in Cubify Invent as compared to some other, more famous, CAD programs.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #9: Revolve & Circular Pattern

If there is one command, beyond EXTRUDE, that is probably among the most used, it would be RESOLVE BOSS.  There is a good reason for the popularity of this command for both novices and experts.

For novices, it allows us to create very nice, useful designs with just a simple sketch and one command.  But, the power of RESOLVE goes WAY beyond being able to create cups, wine glasses and vases.

It is especially useful for those designing for 3D printers.  In one pass we can create extremely complex multi-part designs with outside and inside features that can only be produced with a 3D printer.  And, in this tutorial, we explore one such design.

We also explore the CIRCULAR PATTERN command.  This allows us to copy a part or parts in a circular pattern around a center point.  The number of items and the degrees of spacing can be user selected.  It is one of my most used operations in Moment of Inspiration and it will be equally used in my Cubify Invent designs!  You'll love it!

As you may or may not be able to see, from the video splash screen, we used it to simulate an aircraft radial engine in just a few minutes time.  (I see one splash screen in design mode and another on the blog page????)  :)

The more I use Cubify Invent, the more comfortable I become with most of the commands.  RESOLVE, both BOSS and CUT, along with CIRCULAR PATTERN are among the commands with which I have gained some confidence.

There are still some commands that I'm sorting out.  They work similarly to what I'm used to doing in Moment of Inspiration.  But, there are enough differences that more practice and exploration is needed.  SWEEP is one of those commands.  Simple SWEEPS are easy enough.  But, SWEEP is far more capable than where I am now.  Hopefully, we can have some useful information in the next day or two.  In the meantime, there is plenty we can do with what we have discovered so far.

I'm a very happy camper.  :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #4: Planar Surfaces and Tangent Planes

One of the problems that we face when creating tutorials as we learn a product is that we can miss some things resulting in misleading information.  I'm guilty of doing just that.

I had previous thought that we were limited to creating our 2D sketches on planes.  Happily, that turns out not to be the case.  We can also create 2D sketches on any flat surface of a 3D object.  These flat surfaces are called PLANAR SURFACES.

In this tutorial we continue exploring the surfaces on which we can sketch by looking at planar surfaces and TANGENT PLANES.  A tangent plane is one that is created tangent to the surface of a curved surface.  Typically, this would be the wall of a cylinder.

As you may have seen in the video, once we select a plane, planar surface or tangent plane on which to sketch, we can begin sketching beyond the visible boundaries that we see,  For instance, we might chose a very tiny planar surface.  Yet, we can draw well outside the boundaries of that selected planar surface.  And, the same is true of a tangent plane.  We are not limited to simply drawing within the limits of the curved surface with which that surface was created.

The more I work with Cubify Invent, the more I see its potential.  I'm beginning to see that once the learning curve has been put behind us, this is not only going to be a powerful tool; but, an easy and quick tool.  That is a good feeling to have to anyone interested in 3D printing moving into the mainstream.  Nice.