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.

USE NEW FILAMENT

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.

PRINT REASONABLE OBJECTS

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.

PRINT SMALLER OBJECTS AT FIRST

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.

ADJUST FIRST, THEN PRINT

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 1.7.0.72

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 https://3dprintingindustry.com.

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.