Friday, April 28, 2017

M3D Micro/Pro Software ( ALPHA V1.7.0.71) - Library Page

With the introduction of the new M3D Pro 3D printer, M3D has also introduced a new ALPHA version of their client software. The great news is that it works with both the Micro and the Pro. However, because it is ALPHA software, existing Micro owners may want to wait until it matures a bit before upgrading. It did overwrite my previous M3D software instead of being installed as a separate item. 

While much of the interface will have a familiar feel for earlier M3D users, there are enough changes and improvements to make a significant difference in how easy it is to use our 3-D printers. Since I do not yet have the Pro, we’ll examine the software using a Micro. We’ll have to examine the features specific to the Pro in a later post. 

When using the any M3D software for the first time with a brand new printer, a dialog will pop up reminding users to remove the gantry clips that kept the printer safe during shipping. 

M3D Gantry Check Dialog
If printer has already been used with this software, the dialog will not come up when the application is started. 

This is the opening or "Library" screen if no models have been previously uploaded. 

M3D Alpha v1.7.0.71 Opening Screen
At this point, it is the same as the previous version of the software.  From here, beginning in the upper left corner, we can:
  • Launch the Add/Remove 3D Ink dialog
  • Launch the "Open a new 3D Model" dialog
  • Identify the currently selected printer 
  • Launch the printer selection dialog
  • Launch the Settings dialog 
  • Launch online help
  • Search for recent models
  • Load recent models into the Print Manger
  • Load recently printed model into the Print Manager
  • Remove recent models from the Library
  • Launch the Print Manager
Let's examine each of the above individually.

Launch the Add/Remove 3D Ink dialog

When the "3D Ink" is clicked, the "Manage Filament Page" dialog will pop up that allows us to load or unload filament ("3D Ink").  

M3D Manage Filament Page
One of the nice features about this page is that in case the software has not correctly assessed the current filament situation, there is a "CLICK HERE IF NOT CORRECT" option.  For those of us that travel with our 3D printers, this is a handy option.  Often, after a demonstration or class is over, we don't take the time to completely unload filament before putting the printer in its travel case.  We simply cut the filament about 4 inches above the print head.  This can fool the printer when we try to use it the next time.  

We'll cover filament loading and unloading in a future post. 

Launch the "Open a new 3D Model" dialog

When "Open Model" is clicked, a file finder dialog box is opened that shows supported file types.

M3D - Add Model Dialog
The supported file types are .STL, .OBJ and .ZIP.  Obviously, the selected zip file should contain either a .STL or a .OBJ file.  If our view settings for files are for small, medium, large or extra-large icons then the appropriate files will be shown with the M3D icon as in the above sample.  Selecting a file will load the file in the Print Manager and display it on the Library shelf for quick access in the future.

If there is already a model loaded into the Print Manager, the option to remove it or keep it and add the new model is presented.

From there we leave the Library and are taken to the Print Manager screen.

Identify the currently selected printer 

If an M3D printer is attached and selected, its serial number will be displayed along the top of the screen.  Otherwise, the message will say, "Not Connected".

For now, all M3D printers must be connected via a USB cable.  But, this is expected to change in the future.

Launch the printer selection dialog

The M3D Software allows us to select from multiple M3D printers.  If more than one printer is connected to the computer by USB cable, it will show up in the dialog.

M3D Choose Printer

In this case, we have 2 orange Micro printers and 1 clear Micro printer from which to choose.   Simply click on the printer's image to select it.  We rarely have more than one M3D Micro connected to any given computer.  But, we expect this to change with the high production performance and offline running capabilities of the new Pro.

Launch the Settings dialog 

Clicking on the little gear icon just to the right of the printer identification area launches the Settings dialog.
M3D Settings Dialog

The Setting dialog options are far too rich for us to delve into them now.  In fact, we will have to break down the options into several posts to cover them with any justice.

We can point out that there is a new tab on this page with the title "Pro/Micro+ Features" that is not accessible unless a Pro or Micro+ is attached.  So, the features will have to remain a mystery until we actually have one or the other.  

This is the first hint that M3D might be planning a Micro update!  This is very intriguing to us because the Micro has become an important part of our strategy for advancing the 3D design skills of our teachers and mentor cadets.

Launch online help

When the Question Mark at the top right of the screen, it takes us to the online M3D site.

M3D Online  Help Site

Search for recent models

Just above the "Recent Models" and "Recent Prints" tabs there is a "Search" text box that allows us to FILTER recent models or prints in the Library by name or partial name.  In this sample we see that we have at least 6 recent models visible.

M3D Unfiltered Recent Model List

However, by entering a "Z" in the search text box and hitting RETURN, the visible files are filtered so that only those files beginning in 'Z' are shown.

M3D Filtered Recent Model List
With this in mind, it can be a good thing to develop a naming convention that helps filter models easily as the Library grows.

Load recent models
Load recently printed model

When we click on a Recent Model or Recent Print image of a model in the Library, that model is loaded into the Print Manager.   We then leave the Library and move into the Print Manager.  

This is where new features begin to show themselves.

M3D Print Manager
Notice the new set of icons at the left side of the screen.  While we will discuss the Print Manager in a separate post, suffice it to say that I love this new layout.   More later! 

Remove recent models from the Library

There is a feature that is not obvious that allows us to remove a model from either of the "Recent" shelves.  When we click on a model and hold down the left mouse button AND DRAG THE MOUSE a trashcan will appear at the bottom right of the screen.  If we continue to drag the model to the trashcan it is removed from the library.

NOTE: If we fail to reach the trashcan, the model may be loaded into the Print Manager.

Launch the Print Manager

We can open the Print Manager at ant time by simply clicking on the printer image to the left of the library tabs.

The real changes to the M3D Printer Software in this new release become obvious when we leave the Library Screen.  But, this is the launching place for all the new features so it is important to understand all that is available on this screen.

We move next to the Print Manager.

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