Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Another Look at the Cube3

One of the Youth ChalleNGe sites that YouthQuest Foundation serves with our 3D ThinkLink Initiative is in South Carolina.  Even though we teach 3D design and printing through live video feeds, we like to include at least one site visit for each cadet class so that we have a personal connection with the cadets.

Last week on my way to visit the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy, I had the opportunity to stop by the headquarters for 3D Systems for a brief visit with the Cubify product manager to talk about the significant improvements in the next generation Cube printer.

So far, I have had two opportunities to see the Cube3 in action.  The first was in New York.  And, the second was during this short meeting.  As you can imagine, the design team is extremely busy.  So, I was very happy that the product manager carved out a few minutes so that I could better understand the import of the new design changes coming in the Cube3.

All of the printers that I've see so far have been design prototypes.  But, even in this stage of development my opinion that the Cube3 is going to be a true game changer is well-founded.  I had a better opportunity to examine and discuss the new cartridge/nozzle system for the Cube3.  Had there been no other improvements over the previous designs, this one, alone, would have merited the game-changer claim.

The thinking that went into the design to make it almost as easy as plugging in earphones into an iPhone is remarkable.  In the prototype, at least, the cartridges are transparent enough to be able to see how much filament remains.  I hope this is true of the release versions.  It's very helpful. 

I reported that the Cube3's that I saw in New York seemed more quiet than some of my 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes.  The goal of making them even more quiet was confirmed on this trip.  They are working hard on that aspect of the user experience.   This will make it easier to use in classrooms.  And, education is a key part of the strategy for 3D Systems.  They even have a new web site dedicated to educational 3D design and printing.

But, the most significant impression with which I came away from this meeting was the quality of the prints that I was not only able to see; but, hold in my hands and FEEL the new level of smoothness.  I didn't even need my trusty microscopes to know that we are in for some significantly finer results from the Cube3.

I don't know if one of the pieces was simply an experiment or if the capability will be realized in the production machines,  But, I was shown a 70 micron layer piece produced on a prototype Cube3 that was simply astonishingly smooth and detailed.  Obviously, it will take longer to print such a piece; but, I know for sure that there are objects that will be important enough for me to not mind the extra print times if I can get that kind of smoothness from a print.

 We are DEFINITELY going to enjoy the Cube 3!

By the way, I grew up in the south and find that, like so-called "Philly Cheesesteaks" that aren't, there is are a lot of things called "Southern Cooking" that isn't.  But, on the way to the SC Challenge Academy I was fortunate enough to find the REAL DEAL.  If you ever find yourself on I-20, treat yourself by getting off on Exit 82 (Elgin) to find Bert's Southern Cooking.

I KNOW fried chicken.  But, I have never had better than Bert's.  I kept going back to try different things while I had the chance and I was never once disappointed.  I'm just glad that my wife wasn't along to see my over-indulgence!!  I loved the place... as you can tell by my mentioning it here.  I want the best for my readers and family run Bert's Southern Cooking is the best.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Back from Inside 3D Printing - NY - Cube 3 is Dynamite!

I'm back from the "Inside 3D Printing" conference in NY, where I saw, for the first time, the Cube 3.

In teaching 3D design and printing to the cadets in my classes, one of the constant themes is iterative improvement.  Iterative improvement cannot usually be measured along a straight line.  Some steps along the improvement continuum will be small and others huge leaps.

Immediately, when I saw my first Cube version 1, I recognized that it was a huge leap forward over previous hobbyist, kit 3D printers   It was  a game changer in that it opened the door to 3D printing to a much wider group of consumers.

The Cube 2, offered immediate improvements over the Cube 1 in several key areas.  We could now use PLA as well as ABS.  It was more accurate.  And, most importantly to me, 3D Systems, through software and firmware updates, continually made incremental iterative improvements in the Cube 2 performance.

Now comes the Cube 3, which I saw for the first time last week.

It is a huge leap forward in key ways that make it, for me, a true game changer. 

Buzzwords always find their way into technological marketing.  "Democratization of 3D printing" could simply be an empty slogan or it could mean something on a big scale.  The Cube 3 is solid evidence that 3D Systems is serious about democratizing the 3D experience by addressing the impediments that would keep the 3D printing experience out of the hands of the non-tinkerer.

The design of the Cube 3 tells me that the designers have not only looked at what THEY would like to see incorporated into the design... such as multiple colors.  But, they have also carefully listened to users' issues and sat about to REMOVE those issues for Cube 3 owners.

There may be more REMOVALS of issues that I will find once I actually have a Cube 3 to test.  But, for now, I have identified three.


ALL 3D extrusion printers have the issue of the occasional head clog for a variety of reasons.  That is true for the simplest 3Doodler to the largest and most robust industrial grade 3D printers.  But, what has been removed by the Cube 3 is the frustration of bringing down the entire printer because the print head is clogged.

As far as I know, the Cube 3 is the first and only 3D printer with the heating tip built into the cartridge.  I have no idea if the heating tip can get clogged.  But, if it does, all we have to do is replace the cartridge and the printer is back up and running!  That is an enormous improvement in the 3D printer user experience.


In my experience, both personal and in helping others, the gap between the print table and the print head is the single biggest contributor to clogging issues.  It's also a big contributor to print failures that present themselves as glue failures, etc.  A proper gap is critical.

It is my understanding that the Cube 3 is able to set the proper gap.automatically.  This should reduce the possibility of print failures and clogs to a significant extent.


I spent a long time developing a tool to help ensure that the print tables my Cube 1 and Cube 2 printers were properly level.  The tolerances are tight.  And, frankly, the placement of the screws used to set the print table leveling is a bit awkward.  But, I finally came up with a tool that has helped me perform the process with as little effort as possible.

But, as nicely as my new tool works, I am overjoyed to learn that I will probably not have to use it, or anything like it, in the future.  The Cube 3 is self-leveling within certain tolerances.  This means that you MAY have to manually reset the baseline leveling if you drop the printer.  But, short of that, it should be able to automatically level the print table.

What These REMOVALS Mean

In concert, these three "Removals" smooth out the 3D printing experience.  A smoother experience means fewer surprises and/or frustrations.  And, that translates into the ability to focus more on results than the process.  It brings us closer to the "appliance" goal for technology where we make toast without thinking all that much about the toaster.

Ultimately, I don't want to have to be focused on my 3D printer.  I want to focus on my designs and count on my 3D printers to produce them with as little fuss possible.  As already asserted, the Cube 3 appears to be a true game changer in this regard.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Excellent Cart for the Cube on the Road

Because I have mentioned how well the Cube 3D printers travel, people have asked what carts I use.  I had purchased mine from Staples and they no longer carried them.  And, unfortunately, I could not remember the brand name.

I've finally found it!

It's the Smart Cart series from dBest

Staples had carried two sizes.. the Smart Cart and the Bigger Smart Cart.  I prefer the Bigger Smart Cart; but, both work.  The large version allows you to carry extra cartridges.  Both are relatively inexpensive and priceless if you need to carry your Cube with you.

I also found an Amazon source for what I believe is the smaller of the two models.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Heading to Inside 3D Printing - New York

As I write this, I am jostling my way to New York, on the Amtrak Vermonter, for the Inside 3D Printing conference where I will be taking part in a panel discussion about 3D printing and education.

But, today I hope to have my first real look at the new Cube 3 printer and all of the new printers announced a few months ago at CES.  As mentioned previously, this blog will be expanded to include all of 3D System's 3D printers in the under $10K category.

If all goes well, I should be able to post some informative videos by the end of the week.

In the meantime, if you happen to be in New York and visiting the show, please look me up.  While I do not work for 3D Systems, I should be around their booth for extended periods of time since I want to learn all I can about the new products.

More later....

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Even a Cubify Fan Has to Eat & Coastal Flats Fills That Role!

 Or, should that be ROLL.. as in "Ozzie Roll"!

OK.  This post is seriously off topic.  But, life IS more than 3D printing even for the most avid 3D printing fans.

All of us have to eat to live.  And, I have to warn you that this post is about eating, and eating extraordinarily well having nothing to do with 3D printing.

But, if you are in the DC area... or ever visit this area, you will be grateful for this little excursion.

Today, my wife and I traveled from Maryland to Tyson's Corner, Virgina to visit one of our favorite restaurants.  It's Coastal Flats in the Tyson's Corner Mall.

Now, I live along the Bethesda - Rockville corridor in Maryland.   And, we literally have hundreds of good restaurants from which to choose.  There are at least five in walking distance of my home.  So, it takes a remarkably good restaurant to coax me across the river into Virginia just for a meal.

One is the incomparable Bistro L'hermitage, an absolutely superb French restaurant near Historic Occoquan, Virginia.  But, that is more than an hour away in good traffic.  So, it is reserved for very special dining celebrations and events. 

The other is Coastal Flats.  And it lures us across the Potomac River on a regular basis no matter what the traffic.

As the name and decor suggest, sea food has a prominent place on the menu.  But, you will be hard pressed to find a better steak filet at even the most famous of steakhouses.  Quite frankly, I would actually rather have a Coastal Flats filet than anything I have tasted at Ruth's Chris or The Palm, both of which are famous in their own right for very good reasons.  The secret, I'm told, is their wood fired oven expertly held at just the right temperature.

But, what is even more remarkable is that the company that brought us Coastal Flats has created not one; but, NINE different restaurant themes, each quite different in food offerings and ambiance.  And even though they are distinctly unique in some way, they are held together by what can only be described as a phenomenal system for hiring great staff and providing wonderful service.

The great news is that Great American Resaurants' locations are spread around a wide area of northern Virgina.  While I have not been to all, I can vouch for some.  So, if your trip takes you to DC or through northern Virgina, you find yourself near one.  Here are those that I've tried.

If you are traveling on I-95 and need a break, just take the Springfield, Virginia exit.   It's on a few blocks off the exit ramp.  I think this was the original site from which they grew. 
  • Carlyle - Arlington/ Shirlington (Includes Best Buns bakery)
The Carlyle location is a little far for us; but, still a favorite for special occasions because the unique Art Deco motif has a special air of romantic loveliness.  Be sure to ask to be seated upstairs to fully appreciate the ambiance as well as the food.
It's located off of I-395 just south of Washington, DC.  I urge you not to miss it if staying near National Airport or in Arlington.
  • Sweetwater - Merrifield, Sterling, Centerville  (Western Theme Microbrewery)
I've only been in the Merrifield location.  But, I expect that while each of these locations shares the same western theme, wonderful service and food, the decor is unique.   As one might expect of a microbrewery, a bar is prominently located in the center of the action.  It's a fun place, even it beer is not your thing and they won't hold that against you.
 If you are traveling around I-495, it's just a short hop off the road to the corner of Route 50 and Gallows Road.  Love the burgers and iced tea!
  •  Artie's - Fairfax (Boathouse Theme)
I've only been to Artie's a couple of times.  And, that is not because I didn't like it.  It's farther away than Coastal Flats and when I'm hungry, I'm hungry.  But, if you find yourself in Fairfax, Virginia then I urge you to stop and enjoy the fare and service.  You will not be disappointed.
And, while in Fairfax, if you happen to drive by the old courthouse, raise a salute to my ancestor, Richard Ratcliffe,  who leased the land for the courthouse for $3 for as long as they hold court.  The lease is still in effect.   If you have a bit of time, you may be able to visit his home on Main Street near the Historical Society.
 As I said, this post was WILDLY off topic.  But, I know that many of you will, sooner or later, find yourselves in the Washington, DC area and northern Virginia in particular.  And, I'm not just interested in your shared interest in 3D printing; but, that your whole life be filled with great things... including great food.  So, if you have a chance, give one of these restaurants a try... and don't forget to leave room for the Flourless Chocolate Waffle!

Great American's Warm Flourless Chocolate Waffle

Now, THAT is what I'm talking about!  LOL!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Want to Explain 3D Printing to Anybody??? A Great Place to Start.

If you have even a moderately successful blog or video channel, you hear from a lot of people.  Many are spammers.  But, sometimes these contacts present rare gems of information that are highly creative and well worth sharing.

The email I received this morning from Naomi Paton of aleerted me to a definite keeper!

Naomi has created a wonderful infographic called 3D Printing: One Step Closer to a Star Trek Future?” that I found very, very well done.

It covers a LOT of ground in a short, well organized presentation.

The infographic can be found HERE.

The web site, itself, is also intriguing and informative.  It covers everything from the Top 10 Web Design schools to the average salaries of computer related careers.  After reading the 3D printing article, be sure to wander around a bit and pick up some great information.

Thanks Naomi!  Nicely done.

P.S.  Aside from the 3D printing article, my favorite article was...
"Selfie Syndrome - How Social Media is Making Us Narcissistic"

I KNEW I was going to like that site!  LOL!

P.S. P.S.  One thing leads to another...

I noticed that the "Selfie" infographic was created by and taking a side trip to that site is also worth the effort.  In particular check out the page.  A few of the images of employees are animated.  Very clever.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Special Promotional deals on Cube2 and CubeX

The Cubify site has announced promotional offers on both the Cube2 and the CubeX.

Special Cube2 & CubeX Promotional Offers

Each offer includes 2 free bonus cartridges with each printer. 

The offer is good while printer supplies last.  I wish I could tell you how long that might be.  But, I have no clue.

To take advantage of the offers enter the code CubeBonus or CubeXBonus when you check out.  

Be sure that you select your two bonus cartridges before checking out.

 While I've never had a CubeX, I own several Cube2 3D printers and work with five more on a regular basis with the cadets that I teach.  The Cube2 has been a real proven work horse in every sense of the word.  And, since it was introduced each and every software or firmware update has introduced increasing accuracy.  

So, if you want a proven machine that is highly accurate, now is the time to pick up a new Cube2 and have some fun. :)