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.



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