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.
THE CUBE 3 REMOVES THE HEAD CLOG ISSUE
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.
THE CUBE 3 REMOVES THE NEED TO MANUALLY SET THE GAP
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.
THE CUBE 3 REMOVES THE NEED TO MANUALLY LEVEL THE PRINT TABLE
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.