Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Super Excited About the New M3D Micro+ at $299!!!

I've been telling you about the upcoming M3D Pro printer.  While they are still in ALPHA testing, I have one and it promises to be everything I had hoped it would be.

BUT!!!!~

While my attention was on the Pro, M3D made MAJOR upgrades to the Micro and quietly released it today through Sharper Image.  And, it still just $299!

M3D sold more than 50,000 Micro 3D printers.  And, this upgrade is destined to sell even more.

Here is a link to the MICRO+ FEATURES PAGE.

The major changes include self-leveling bed and an optional heated bed.  The other major change is the ability to speed up prints to about 2.5 times of the original Micro.  The temperature control is also more accurate!  The printer also includes a special "Micro Motion Chip" which provides "intelligent positioning feedback for precision."  Frankly, I have no clue as yet what this does.  But, it certainly sounds impressive.  :)

I'll nail that one down after I finish this article.  Whatever it is has GOT to be a good thing.

It still requires connection to the printer during the entire print job. But, I have not found that to be a show-stopper.  

 STRIKE THAT!!!  I just learned that it no longer has to be tethered to the computer during the entire print job!!  THAT'S HUGE!

I use my Micro all the time, preferring it over the Cubes due to the issues with filament quality and the Micro's ability to print flexible materials, nylon and carbon fiber.

The software can take any .STL, .OBJ or .ZIP (with an object in it).

The great thing about the cost of running a Micro is that you can use any filament you like.  And, the filaments directly from M3D ar anywhere from $13-$18.  The filament page is being updated as I write this so hey may be adding the new larger Pro reels which, of course, would be a bit more.

When I heard the Micro+ was now available through Sharper Image, I ordered 4 of them.  So, by this time next week, I should be able to give you a rundown about what I find, including a comparison with the first generation Micro.

In the meantime, I can tell you that I am super excited about the potential of the new Micro+ and the MicroPro in our work with at-risk young people.  They are destined to have a role in turning young lives around in a very positive way!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Refreshing 3D Printer Roll-Out Difference

If you never plan to purchase a new 3D printer to replace your Cube printer(s) then you can skip this blog post.

But, if you want to at least learn from my experiences as I look around for a future 3D printer, then you should find this helpful.

M3D in just now releasing the M3D Pro.

M3D Pro 3D Printer

I don't have one as yet.  But, it promises to be an excellent 7x7 printer with a lot of cool features.  But, that is not the focus of this post.  This post is about how one company is handling the introduction of a new 3D printer.

The M3D PRO Roll-Out Experience

M3D announced the Pro 3D printer on KickStarter in August of 2016 with expected delivery in January of this year.  While it is only just now being released, I have not heard any complaints about the delay as most supporters seem to be M3D Micro users and trust the company.  That is my own experience as well.

All companies are pressured by announcements.  We certainly experienced this with 3D Systems.  But, M3D had a greater commitment to reliability and quality.  They are also the most candid company I've seen when it comes to being realistic about the state of development.

As usual, promised delivery was based on different supporter tiers.  But, M3D has clearly stated what features will or will not be ready be various delivery dates.  And, they gave buyers the choice to accept early delivery, with the potential for possible issues or postponing delivery if they didn't want the potential hassle that an ALPHA release can entail.

Frankly, having seen the chaos of the premature delivery of the 3rd Gen Cube under the pressure of prior announcements, I REALLY appreciate M3D's approach.

As with any new product, the first delivered have had some not-unexpected minor issues.  Right now the machines being shipped are in the ALPHA stage of development and they are moving into machines that could be designated as BETA printers.  But, every one that is taking delivery now knows exactly what to expect and has chosen to take early delivery to help perfect the product.


Even though I do not have one as yet, as a Kickstarter Backer, I have access to the special forums that have been set up for backers.  So, I have been able to keep up with the roll-out as it progresses.

M3D's Top Management Involvement

When was the last time you saw top management of a company be actively involved in product support during the critical introductory phase?

As I've watched the support and interaction between M3D and users of ALPHA an BETA M3D Pro 3D printers, the first thing that strikes me is that it is the TOP management of M3D that is actively involved in direct support!

What a refreshing change that is!

I'm not talking about management asking or answering a few questions here or there.  I'm taking about the TOP management chasing down any and all issues that new Pro owners find and report.  And, they follow up with the user until they have a firm grasp of the issue so that they have they have the information that engineering will need to chase it down and correct it.  It's amazing to watch.

This has a profound affect of the progress of development.  It's one thing for a web support person to report an issue to engineering and quite another when the person reporting is a top official!  I expect things happen a bit faster in that situation.  But, it does something else.  And, this is why it makes so much sense you have to wonder why other CEOs and officials don't follow suit.

First, I can think of no better strategy for really having a handle on the REAL status of just about every aspect of your company from engineering to suppliers to production line quality control.  You're not "micro-managing"  You are gathering information and delegating fixes in the most pro-active way possible.

Secondly, it recognizes that at this particular period of time there is nothing more important than perfecting both the product and the production line as quickly and efficiently as possible.  The feedback is coming back to management completely unfiltered.

A, perhaps most importantly, it is an opportunity to gain the trust and respect your customers at a very critical time in the life of every company... the introduction of their latest and greatest product.

Believe me, while I do yet have a Pro printer, and I do not know the status of it's progress at the time I do take delivery, I do know one thing.  The people at the top at M3D not only care; but, will ACTIVELY support me should I face issues.

And, even if you are not among the KickStarter backers, once Pro is released into full production, the support you will get from their regular support staff is backed by management that has proven they care.  The attitude at the top at M3D trickles down in a very positive way.

Quite a nice feeling.  :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

10 'New' Cube3 Cartridges - 7 Defective... so far

As most of you know, I know, and like, many of the engineers and support people at 3D Systems.  So, I'm generally slow to be critical.

But, unfortunately, what I feared most about the withdrawal of the Cube3 from the marketplace, out-dated cartridges, seems to have come true.

We just purchased 10 'new' cartridges for our Cube3 printers.  I've opened and tried to use seven (7) so far.  And, all seven have had the very same issue.  The filament has broken at the entrance to the extrusion housing.

Seven out of ten... so far!

Now, I have been dealing with these cartridges for a number of years now.  So, I know HOW to fix a cartridge if I have to.  But, having to fix more than a half dozen if no fun at all.

Calling support to alert them to the problem, the response I got wasn't encouraging.  The last four digits of the batch numbers were 2916.  This meant that the cartridge was built in the 29th week of 2016.  That would be the week of July 10-17, 2016.   Apparently, 3D Systems assumes that filament, in the protective bag and sealed box, has a shelf life of at least one year.  Yet, our filament was opened in March of 2017... less than 9 months later!

My guess is that filament packaged in the winter month might actually be OK for 12 months.  But, filament packaged in the humid months of summer may not last quite as long.

This is a serious issue for owners of cube3 printers.  Even if one knows how to try to rehabilitate a cartridge, it takes a lot of time and aggravation.  Plus, it's difficult to do just using the purge function of the Cube3.  The heat cycle does not last long enough and we have no way to control the duration of optimal heat at the tip of the print jet.

While I have resisted publishing 'hacks', I am coming to the conclusion that we have no alternative in order to be able to use our Cube3 printers on demand.  While I have some sympathy for 3D System's situation... having to stock multiple colors of filament for a diminishing number of users... if we cannot count on them for good filament when we need it, we are forced to try to come up with alternatives if we can.

Even with the tools that I have purchased and designed to help me restore a broken cartridge, it takes at least an hour to fix one.  And, some, will take even more effort.  Fortunately, I have some empty cartridges from which I can steal the guide should I not be able to use the original quide in the broken cartridge.  I think those old cartridges might come in handy!

If I'm ever able to complete the project for which the filament was purchased, I start searching for 'hacks' that might help us out in the future.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Final Hours of M3D Pro KickStarter

At the time of this writing, there were only 18 hours to go before the M3D Pro KickStarter campaign ends.  And, I just got another update that shows great things are happening with the M3D Pro development.

As part of the email, they sent two images, which I have combined in a short video.


This is just a small sample of the major advancements in FDM 3D printing that are delivered in the M3D Pro.  Here is an updated video demonstrating the new "auto-correction" capabilities. 

Now, you have to admit.  THAT is very cool.

There is so much more to say; but, I will simply send you over to the "Final Week Update" to see the rest of the story.  :)

I can hardly wait to get my hands on one,  And, you can bet I will be breaking out the microscopes to test, for myself, the ultimate print quality.
NOTE: there is one thing that I hope to be able to improve on and that is the nature of the first layer which uses rather wide lines for adhesion.  (See the above link.)   I am hoping to be able to achieve a super-smooth bottom layer and that might mean using a 3rd party slicing application.  We'll see.

What is most refrshing for me is the candor of the Michael Armani and the M3D team as they develop the product and part of that is allowing KickStarter contributers to make requests.  Being able to define the first layer will be among my requests.  
I am hoping that many of my fellow Cube users will take a serious look at the M3D Pro as their next 3D printer so that we can grow together with that platform as we did on our Cube journey.  And, speaking of that, I have created a Cube Software Dropbox folder that should contain all of the various version of firmware and client software just in case you might need it in the future.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The M3D Pro's Error Recovery Demonstrated!

I know this is a Cube oriented blog.  But, our Cubes won't last forever.  So, it's important to see some viable options.

I just finished watching the M3D Live Stream which offered a Q & A session for their Pro KickStarter backers and potential backers.

During the session, they provided a link to a YouTube video that only lasts for a very few minutes; but, speaks volumes!  It's an early proof of concept test;  but, they clearly can achieve a self-aware 3D printer as promised.

Here is a link to the Error Recovery Test

We work with at-risk students and the ability of a 3D printer to recover from something like being deliberately stopped has some very real appeal! 

M3D Kickstarter Live Stream

Today, September 8, 2016 at 8:00PM, M3D will be testing Kickstarter's new Live Stream capabilities to communicate directly with people interested in hearing about their new Pro 3D printer.

I don't exactly know how the streaming, which is in beta, works; but, there is a sign-up for participating on M3D's KickStarter Page.

It's an excellent opportunity to ask questions of the M3D team.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Glue that works with PLA

For years I have sought a glue that would work better than fingernail polish for attaching PLA.  In the quest to find a clear coat to protect 3D printed objects painted with alcohol marker ink, I think I have found it.

It's called Loctite GO2 All-Purpose ink and it does, in fact, bind PLA pieces together. 

Loctite GO2 Glue

When dry, it is flexible, much like silicone glue.  The drying time to set is about 30 minutes and the full cure time is 24 hours.

The great news is that it can do double duty.  Not only does it glue; but, it makes for an excellent clear coat that does not appear to smear alcohol marker ink.

Here's a more complete story on the IdeaRoom3D blog.

By the way, while most of the projects in the IdeaRoom3D blog are printed on an M3D Micro, the mini-blackboard project in which I create a personalized 3D printed chalkboard was printed on a Cube3.  The chalkboard paint from Rust-Oleum covered the PLA very well.  I tried it with a primer and without.  I prefer not to use a primer in the future.