Friday, February 16, 2018

Moment of Inspiration - Over 220 Licenses Purchased By YouthQuest Since 2013

As a not-for-profit, we have to account for all of our assets and purchases.  It's my job to purchase Moment of Inspiration licenses used by our 3D ThinkLink Lab, training sites, mentors and teachers.  As I purchased the first licenses for 2018, it dawned on me that since 2013 we have purchased over 220 licenses for our 3D ThinkLink Lab initiative.  

PURCHASED... not Free.

Two events, today,  prompted me to write this post.  The first, as I related was the purchase of 6 more MOI3D licenses.  The second was an email from a Cubify Design user asking me how to accomplish a task which had him stumped.  I had created some Cubify Invent/Design tutorials many years ago that had introduced him to the product and though he had become very proficient, he still ran in a wall on the task he was trying to accomplish.

I wasn't a lot of help to him, since I'd long ago switched to MOI3D.  But, I decided to see how long it would take me to accomplish his task in MOI3D.  It took just under 4 minutes from scratch.  The actual task took little more than 15 seconds.  The rest of the time was building the base models with which to test the task operation.

Why Not Switch to Free?

We all know the expression, "Put your money where your mouth is" and we have done just that.  We have evaluated every free 3D design application we come across.  And yet, we stick with Moment of Inspiration.  There are several reasons:
  • Intuitive Workflow
  • Very Quick and Easy to Learn
  • Very Powerful
  • Very Fast Design Times 

Intuitive Workflow

Sites using YouthQuests' 3D Thinklink Lab curriculum teach at-risk young people of a wide range of ages and very short attention spans.  We need an interface that very quickly gets out of the way so the students can get on with design and printing.  The faster they can go from vision to concrete reality the better.  In the hundreds of students we've served, we have not had a single one that could not quickly grasp the interfacc and be designing in no time.  The interface lends itself to our "Noun" and "Verb" approach to learning MOI3D.

Very Quick and Easy to Learn

"Easy" in the context in which we work would be useless if MOI3D weren't also "Quick" to learn.  We have very little time to teaach them.  Consider the following:
  • Only the students on the autistic-spectrum at Phillips schools have more than 5 months of instruction in MOI3D 
  •  Youth ChalleNGe sites have two new "Cadet Classes" a year.  So, they have a very limited time (Less than 5 months) to learn 3D design and printing in just 32 sessions. (One session per week with some multi-session Saturdays.)
  • A Boy and Girls Club offered 2 weeks of instruction for 3 hours a day to 8 -16 year multicultural students.
  • Horizons Hampton Roads teaches student in grade 6-7 in two weeks in their summer school program.
The bottom line is that NO students have more than 32 lessons of MOI3D instruction.  Yet, they are quickly able to accomplish some very complex designs.  This is a design by a female student, having just 2 weeks of lessons (3 hours per day), from Afghanistan that spoke very little English.  Her younger sister, who spoke excellent English, had to translate everything.

Castle created in Two Week Class
It's brilliant.

One of the things that makes this possible is that MOI3D provides instant interactive help via prompts specific to each noun or verb the student is trying to use.  This not only makes it easy to learn; but, allows students to forge ahead fearlessly.  Even though we might not have reached a formal lesson on that function, they can easily walk themselves through it using the prompts to help them.

Very Powerful

Many "free" applications are designed to be easy entry level solutions.  But, quickly become difficult when trying to accomplish complex designs.  MOI3D, on the other hand, is VERY powerful.  Now, I don't believe any of our students (or teachers, including me) have reached this level of sophistication; but, it is a really quick demonstration of how far one can go with using MOI3D.

While we may never reach the level of competence of the person that created the car, as demonstrated in the above video, MOI3D can go as far as we can achieve.  We have plenty of headroom to grow our skills.  And, THAT is well worth the cost.

Very Fast Design Times 

But, perhaps the most compelling reason for sticking with MOI3D is just how fast we can complete 3D printing projects.  Students rarely have more that 45 minutes to hear a lesson, envision a design and finish it for printing.  While the following design won't print all that well on an FDM printer, it does demonstrate  how a very complex looking design can be completed in a very short time.  This design, except for the wrapped text, took under 8 minutes.  The wrapped text was an afterthought to show how easily text can be wrapped in MOI3D.

A Design Completed in Under 8 Minutes on the Fly
I had no idea where I was going when I started the above design, so much of the time was conceptualization.

This is why we stick with Moment of Inspiration, preferring it to any of the "Free" applications we could use.

A 30 trial for MOI3D can be downloaded from:

UPDATED: 2/17/2018

After writing this I ran across a wonderful tutorial on MOI and Nurbs that compares the surfaces created by creating in Nurbs (MOI3D) and Polygons (3DS Max).  Both are great for different types of outcomes.  But, in this case (precision 3D printing) Arrimus 3D demonstrates how precise Nurbs can be.  It's quite interesting.  Most of the time, Arrimus 3D, because he creates game assets, etc. works in 3DS Max or Z-Brush and is terrific.  Visits his YouTube Channel to see some beautiful work.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

M3D Micro+... What a great Surprise!

I just completed an order for 4 M3D Micro+ 3D printers on the Sharper Image web site.

An hour ago I had no idea they were available.  And, a few weeks ago, I had no idea they existed!!!

But, what a wonderful surprise.

All my focus had been on the upcoming release of the the bigger and faster MicroPro.

The MicroPro is in Alpha testing right now and it's worthy of attention.  But, it will be a little while before it's what M3D calls "Market Ready".  I am fortunate enough to have one and I can tell you it's going to be an awesome 3D printer.  

But, my focus in THIS post is to alert you to an equally awesome printer in its price range of $299.

While concentrating on testing the MicroPro, M3D was quietly upgrading the Micro, that has played such an important part in our work with at-risk young people.  

Here is the Features Page for the new Micro+.

While the original Micro is easy to use, the new Micro+ is even easier.  It now sports a self-leveling bed and there is even an optional heated bed to reduce warping.  Moreover, it can be ramped up to about 2.5 times the speed of the original Micro.  And, all this is just $299.

And, I hear that the Micro+ can run UNTETHERED!!!   That is huge!

M3D sold more than 50,000 Micro 3D printers.  I'm convinced this new Micro+ will find many more homes than that.

We should be receiving the new Micro+ printers by this time next week.  As soon as I have one I will compare the old and the new side-by-side to let you see for yourself whether now is the time to bring home a remarkably quiet, capable and affordable 3D printer.

It's enough to make an old guy feel young again!

Monday, May 8, 2017

M3D Pro - Observations from the Backer Forums

This post is not meant to be critical of anyone.  It's simply meant to be helpful when you take delivery of your own M3D Pro printer.

Some of you may be old enough to remember that all new cars came with instructions for the new owner about a "break in period".  The break in period lasted for a specified number of miles and owners were expected to treat the new car rather gently for that period of time.  Primarily, it was meant to keep a little issue from becoming a big one if the automobile was run too hard.  Plus, it allowed all the bearings and valves to properly seat and ensured oil was evenly distributed before any heavy pressure was put on the motor.

In a sense, a newly released 3D printer also deserves to be treated a bit more gently than you might 10 months down the road.  Based on what I've read that's not a universally understood principle.


The first way to treat your new printer with respect is to get used to it's personality without undue stress by using brand new filament... preferably purchased from the vendor selling the printer.  Believe it or not, some have mentioned using old filament that they've had around for a while.

Bad idea.

PLA easily absorbs moisture from the air and degrades fairly quickly.  Using old filament might mislead you into thinking their is a problem with the printer when the true cause of failures is water in the filament itself.


Another thing I've observed is that those new to 3D printing will often download an STL from one of the 3D object sharing sights, not realizing that filament-based 3D Printers (FDM) do not handle unsupported features without adding some support.  I made that mistake when I took delivery of my first Cube 3D printer.  The object I downloaded was actually impossible for any FDM printer to print... even with supports because the piece was entirely too convoluted.  It was meant to be printed with a powder-based printer, with the surrounding powder providing the need supports.

An example of an inappropriate object might look like this:

Unsupported Box
It looks easy enough to print; but the unsupported top rails will sag and destroy the print.  As a new user, it's easy to think that something is wrong with the printer.  But, in fact it is the design of the object that makes it difficult to print in an FDM 3D printer.


New users quickly learn that 3D printing takes time.  And bigger prints take a lot more time than smaller prints.  When you are getting to know a new 3D printer it is much better to print small or moderately small objects so that you can observe the printer in action with several different objects over the same time period a single laeg object might print.  These short prints make it easier to observe the result, make adjustments and reprint if needed.  In the end, your printer will be in better adjustment than it might be had you printed a single large object in the very same time span.


Your new printer has been bouncing around in a box in a truck on its way to you.  While they are pack extremely well and were tested at the factory, there is a good chance that the Gap and Level needs to be set before you will get great prints from your new printer.  If you need help, you can Google "M3D SETTING GAP" or "M3D SETTING LEVEL" to find the help you need.  Over time, we expect to produce tutorial videos and articles specifically for the M3D Micro and the M3D Pro.

In the meantime you can post a question as a comment on this blog and I'll do my best to try to find the answer to your specific issue.

I want nothing more than for you to enjoy your Micro or Pro with as little hassle and stress as possible.  The less you stress your printer, the less it will stress you.  It's just common sense.

If you need some suggestions for objects to print that will help you better understand how to get the most out of your printer, again, feel free to ask me in a comment.  I want this to be a community that shares tips and ideas so that we all grow in expertise while having a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

EVERYONE is a Novice at Some Level With a New 3D Printer

I often hear people apologize as they ask a question with something like "I'm new to 3D printing and this is my first 3D printer."

Little do they know that no matter how many 3D printers one might have used in the past, they are still novices at some level when faced with a new 3D printer.  While past experience helps, it is no guarantee that we can instantly get the best prints out of our latest purchase.

I was recently reminded of this when one of the teachers to whom we had provided a Micro 3D printer, called to report that it was "broken" and wouldn't work.  Picking up the printer to find out what was wrong and possibly return it for repair, I found that the printer was working perfectly.

Yet, this was a person who had used the Cube 3D printers for several years!

The Cube 3D printers, with which they were familiar used a magnet to hold the print table in place.  And, it also required the application of a liquid glue on the glass print table.

The Micro, on the other hand, secures the table by sliding the back of the table into a full-length slot and then moving it forward to lock two tabs in the front of the plate into place.  And, the plate is covered with a sheet of BuildTak.  No glue is required.

I didn't have time to check the printer over when I picked it up and dropped off a replacement.  Now that I have had the time to check the "broken" printer out, I'm surprised I haven't gotten a call to report that the replacement is broken!

The first thing I noticed was that the plate was backwards.  It wasn't fully inserted and locked.  The second thing I found was that the build plate was covered in glue!  Apparently, having experience with the Cube needing glue, when an object didn't stick due to a too large gap, they thought the problem could be fixed by a liberal application of glue!

I have no idea whether they actually tried to print on a backwards plate; but, that isn't what is important in this situation.  They did what they knew to do based on their past experience. 

It was not all their fault that past experience that led they astray. A larger share of the fault was mine, as the training director, in not being better at communicating the differences between the two 3D printers.

Fortunately, our guiding principle in our 3D design and printing program is "Your Failures Are Not Final".  This turns out to be a great learning opportunity for both me and our teachers.  We were so excited by our new program for our teachers that we focused on providing them with a printer without focusing enough on every facet of its operation.  That won't happen in the future.

Even though I am considered an "expert" when it comes to the Cube series of printers, there was much to learn with my first Micro printer.  But, every stumble, came new understanding about how to make the most of everything the Micro offered.

And, it won't be any different for me when I finally get take delivery of the M3D Pro.  I will be a Pro novice... just like everybody else  That's just the nature of 3D printers.  Just as I had to learn how to use all of my other 3D printers and work within their realm, so too, I expect to have to go through a learning curve to get the most out of the Pro.

So, what does this mean for you?

I understand what it feels like to be a novice with a new 3D printer.  I've shared the bewilderment that every new 3D printer owner feels.  And, I don't want to ever lose that perspective as I gain more and more experience with both the Micro and the Pro.

By helping out our teacher I gained valuable insight about my own responsibilities to ALL of our teachers.  Over the past 4-5 years of my Cube focused blog, I've received hundreds of help requests.  And, while I've been able to help the majority of them, I learned from every one of them as I sought for answers that I didn't immediately know.

The novice experience is immensely valuable to the growth of those who desire to be experts.  Sometime we know what NOT to do to the point that we miss out on some very cool potential. 

When I say that I am committed to helping new users of both Micro and Pro it is based on the fact that I need to learn and grow and I have found that so-called newbies have a lot to contribute to that growth.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

M3D Software - Automatic ALPHA Update to

Sometime the features you like most in a software product have nothing to do with the primary application for which the software is intended.

As i opened the M3D Printer client, I was surprised and pleased that it automatically installed the latest version.  We are now up to v1.7.0.72.

Again, this version is at the ALPHA stage of development.  So, think carefully before installing it.  However, so far, I have had no problems using it with the Micro so far.

I'll have to check on the loction of the release notes.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Dr. Armani - 3D Printing’s expanding role in medicine and food by Michael Armani

I have mentioned before, in these pages, that I consider M3D to be MORE than a consumer 3D printer company.  I consider it to be an INNOVATION company.

Over the next few years I expect to hear a lot more from M3D than some might expect.

Here is a link to an article by Dr. Michael Armani that might shed some light on why I feel as I do.  It was published in

Here is a link to the article.

The first point that he makes is that:
 "The key distinction between industries (early computers vs. today's computers) is that, in the case of 3D printing, Moore’s law would be based on the number of material types, the capacity for printing in specific types of materials, and the application in varying industries—particularly in medicine and food."
We already have evidence that M3D has a commitment to new materials with the availability of Tough 3D Ink, ABS-R, Chameleon 3D Ink and Carbon Fiber.  And, they have announced a new material to be introduced soon.  ABS-R is an important evolutionary (or revolutionary) step for those that like the properties of ABS; but, are worried about the possible dangers of the fumes from normal ABS.

He follows up on the medical comments with this observation:
"For example, surgeons are finding that they can print their own tools and parts instead of outsourcing to expensive vendors. Medical students and experienced surgeons alike are printing models to simulate real operations. Parents can hold a 3D-printed model of their unborn child that was created from just an ultrasound scan. The dental industry has also embraced consumer 3D printers with many practices having a printer in-office for implants."
Interestingly, one of the first people to contact me when I first started blogging about the 1st Gen Cube was an oral surgeon from South America that wanted me to try printing a 3D scan of a jaw to see if a low-cost 3D printer might help him prepared for surgery.  I was amazed at how well the print came out on a consumer level machine.  Yes, there were some issues with supports; but, that was more than 5 years ago this month! 

3D printers have dramatically improved since then and that includes the ability to print rinse-away supports in a two-head printer.  And, in our 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab, we have a small micro-SLA 3D printer specifically designed for dentistry applications!  So, that reality is NOW.

Dr. Armani's background gives him particularly great insight into the future of bio-printed organs:
"There are millions of people around the world awaiting transplants, but it can be very difficult to find a donor that’s a tissue match and can be high-risk when one is found. This problem could completely eliminate the risk of tissue rejection with bio-printed organs, and can also be a much cheaper alternative."
Before I knew about Dr. Armani, I was already familiar with the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Laboratory in the Kim building at the University of Maryland.

The Univeristy of Maryland engineering department is huge; but, I'm making the assumption that Dr. Armani worked in that lab at some point in his years at the University of Maryland.  When I first made contact with M3D I was super-pleased to hear that he had obtained his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from UMD.  You see, we take our Youth Challenge cadets to visit the lab twice a year and the cadets are blown away by the application of 3D printing and tissue re-generation happening in that lab.

Cadets at the Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials Lab
Not the 3D Printer in the Background

For a 3D printer designer and materials designer, a background in bioengineering is a lot different than most bring to the table.  A background like that broadens horizons and, by necessity, brings an openness to new vistas that I don't see in leaders of other consumer 3D printer companies.

And the perfect example of that kind of thinking is evident in this observation:
In five years’ time, the food industry will begin using 3D printers to produce meat with comparable taste and texture to the real thing, which will help eliminate the world hunger crisis and be a real competitor to traditional meat producers. Imagine, a pink steak with the marble in all the right places without killing livestock, wasting mass amounts of water or emitting carbon into the environment. It’s the kind of advancement that can save lives, help clean up the environment, and truly disrupt an industry – and we might see it in just a few years.
Many 3D Printer CEOs might have paid tribute to 3D printing of food by talking solely about 3D printed pancakes or chocolate.  But, Dr. Armani's background allows him to go well beyond that to the merging of 3D printing techniques with other scientific disciplines to open our eyes to much greater opportunities.

It's a great read.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

M3D Micro/Pro Software - Print Manager Page

Version V1.7.0.71 - ALPHA

At the time of this writing, v1.7.0.71 is in the Alpha stage of development.  Current Micro users may want to wait until the software is either in Beta or Full Release.
There is no label that officially identifies the page we are going to discuss in this post.  But, Print Manager Page seems appropriate. 

M3D Print Manager Page
Notice a major upgrade to this page in this new version. We see 9 convenient tools parked at the left side of the screen.  In the previous version of the M3D printer software, there were only 3 such tools.  

But before we get to those, let's examine the most used buttons at the bottom of the screen and to the lower right of the screen. 


Primary Print Manger Buttons

The most used button in this group is the Print button in the center of the group.  It simply starts the printing process.  To the left of the Print button is the Reset View button that returns our viewpoint to the front view.  To the right of the Print button is the Center Model button that allows us to quickly center the currently selected modelIt does not center the entire model group if there are more than a single model on the print table.

The Back to Library button is found to the right and toward the bottom of the screen.  It look like this:
Clicking on this button takes us back to the Library Page.  Because we can Open a Model from the Print Manager page, the only reason for needing to go back to the library is if we want to load an item already in the library onto the print plate.


Now we can turn our attention to the new toolbar docked to the left side of the screen.
The object to be printed in the above sample really doesn't lend itself to demonstrating the full power of these tools.  So, we will bring in another that starts out by being too big to print.  To do so we will click on the "Back to Library" button at the bottom right sode of the screen and select a different model from the Library.  Then we will click on the Printer image to return to the Print Manager Page.  The result is this:

M3D Print Manager Page - Model Too Big
Notice that this time two walls are bright orange in color.  This means that the object extends past the edge of the print plate and needs to be resized or reoriented before it can be printed.  Let's examine each tool to see how they might or might not be able to help get this model ready for printing.

The MOVE Tool

To move or relocate a model on the print table we click on the following tool icon.

Move Button
Clicking on this icon brings up a second dialog having "X" and "Y" values.

X & Y Value Set Dialog

By changing the values in this dialog, we are able to move the object left to right ("X") or back to front ("Y").  In the case of this object there is no problem current issue with the "Y" location and because the object overhangs both left and right edges, we cannot solve our issues by changing the "Y" values.  So, we can click on the Move Button again to remove the dialog.  We may come back to this later.


To resize an object we click on the following tool icon.

Resize Tool
When we click on this icon, a second dialog box is displayed enabling us to resize in three dimensions... "X", "Y" and "Z".

XYZ Resize Dialog
There is a checkbox in the center of the dialog box.  When this is checked all the values change with a single value is changed.  When it is not checked, the values can be set independently.

Clearly, using this tool could seem to solve our problem.  In fact, if we lower the values to 93% (0.93) we see that the object is within our print limits.  There are no highlighted areas!

Size reduced Until Part Fits

However, since this part is designed to interface with other parts even a small 7% reduction might be too much.  Since our issues are with the X dimension, we could unlock the values and only set the "X" to 0.93.  But, for now we'll take all the values back up to 1.00.  We'll try one more thing before resrting to resizing.  Click on the Resize Tool to remove the dialog.


To rotate an object we click on the following tool icon.

Rotate Tool
When we click on this icon, a second dialog box is displayed enabling us to rotate in our model around three axes... "X", "Y" and "Z".

Rotate Around X, Y or Z axis dialog

In almost all cases, it is the "Z" axis that we want to rotate around.  Altering "X" and "Y" can often result in the part needing supports where no supports were required in the original orientation.  However, it is sometimes necessary if the model was designed so that it is brought in having an orientation that would not print well without supports. 

In the case of this model, it turns out that rotating the model -85 degrees orients it in a position where all the object fits in the print area without having to resize it.

Rotating -85 degrees fits the object on the print table
This is a far better solution than resizing the object would have been.  Click on the Rotate Tool to remove the Rotate Dialog.

This is the first of our additional tools in this new version.  We can load multiple models into the Print Manager.  This tool helps us select which model we want to manipulate with the tools we've already discussed. To access a list of the available objects we click on the following tool icon.

Model List Tool
Before clicking on the Model List Tool button, we'll bring in multiple models as in this sample.

m#D Multiple Models in the Print Manager
To help us see the three individual models a bit better, we'll hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse to rotate to a top view of the print plate.

Multiple Models - Top View
Note that several objects are highlighted with a colored edge.  A single model can have multiple parts.  In this case, the shark model includes a shark ring, a swimming figure and a sign.  Clicking on the Model List Tool brings up a list if the models in the Print Manager.
Model List
Interestingly, even though the shark was the active model when I first clicked on the Model List Tool button, it was not originally highlighted as expected.  This is most likely due to the "ALPHA" status of the software.  The above image was grabbed AFTER I manually selected the shark using the list.

Only one model can be selected at a time.  So, to fix the fact that the shark model is outside the prinar tab;e boundaries, we have to select each of the objects and move them individually.  The next three images demonstrate this.  You can click on the image to make it larger.

Selecting Models from the List and Moving them indiidually
You can also select models by cliking on them.  But, the selection, for now, is not reflected in the Model List Dialog.


Sometimes it is convenient to load multiple copies of the same model into the Print Manager.  While repeatedly go though the Import process, it's much easier to simply select the object and click on the Duplicate Selected Object Tool which adds another copy instantly.

Duplicate Tool

Remember, this software is currently in "ALPHA" status.  But, when the duplicate object is brought in for now, it will most likely have to be moved as you can see from this image.

M3D Duplicated Model
I expect that eventually the original model will be automatically moved to make room and the new model will be placed so that no additional relocation is required.  But, for now it's easy enough to manually move things around.  I'm just thankful we now have a quick way to duplicate objects easily.

There is one thing that should be mentioned in a discussion of choosing to print just one object many times vs. duplicating the object and printing once.  Every object you add to the print plate increases the chance of failure.  If one part fails for any reason the whole print job is ruined.  Therefore, one must know one's printer very, very well before starting a long print job with duplicated parts.  Sometime I make that choice; but, most of the time I deem it wiser to print a single item at a time.  In generally, either method ends up taking about the same overal amount of time.


To delete the currently selected model click on the Delete Model Tool Button. 

Clicking on this button deletes the currently select model.  To delete multiple models each has to be selected and deleted individually.


The UNDO and REDO tools behave in a typical Windows or Mac style.   The UNDO Tool Button looks like this.
And the REDO Tool Button looks like this.

UNDO takes one step BACKWARD in the action queue each time it is clicked.  The REDO tool just just the opposite.  It moves FORWARD and restores actions removed by UNDO for each click.  So, you never have to worry that you are going to make a serious mistake or loose a model by accident.  That's nice to know for peace of mind.


The Save Successful Print button looks like this.

OK.  I'm going to have to get back to you one this one.  Because, I don't know if you have to get through a print before using this one or not.  When I try it, it seems to save a fike with the .ZIP suffix.  But, I can't seem to find the file.  Again, this IS an ALPHA release.

So, there you have it.... the Print Manager page in the new version ALPHA.  I don't know about you; but, I like the added convenience of the new left side toolbar options.