When I was first introduced to the 1st generation Cube, I have to be honest in saying that while I loved the printer, I was a bit skeptical that a company whose history had always been Business-to-Business would fully understand the consumer marketplace.
Over time, that skepticism has been whittled away as I not only saw improvement in the products, to make them more consumer friendly; but, also saw their commitment to building an infrastructure that truly served their buyers.
But, ALL skepticism is gone with the release of the Cube3.
From bottom to top this is a product designed to eliminate all obstacles for people who have little or no experience with a 3D printer. And, that not only describes the printer, itself; but, the manual that comes with the printer. If anyone ever had any doubts about 3D System understanding the consumer marketplace those doubts all go away simply by reading the Cube3 manual.
|User Guide, Cover Page|
It probably is one of the best written manuals for any product that I've seen. And, I go WAY back when it comes to reading manuals for technical products meant for consumers.
Putting 3D Systems' Accomplishment in Perspective
To put 3D System's astonishing speed with learning how to meet the operating and communication needs of consumers, it's helpful to compare it with the progress of another technical consumer industry, video recording.
My first new video camera was the Sony AV-3400 Portapak purchased in 1969 or 1970.
|Sony AV-3400 Portapak - circa 1970|
We used to joke that the the complete Sony Manual boiled down to a single sentence. "Wipe with a clean cloth." Users had to rely on each other for any real information. (A popular TV show at the time was "Have Gun - Will Travel". One of the early problems was that the cover would move and stop the take-up reel. A user wrote an article about how to fix it and titled it "Have Tape - Will Ravel")
It probably took a over decade for Sony to improve their manuals. And, even then, they were only adequate by 1985 when their Video8 systems were first offered.
It's been more than 44 years since I purchased my first new video camera and while the manuals are more comprehensive, most are still confusing and poorly organized. My most recent video camera purchase was the Panasonic HC-X920, which I now use for my blog videos. Love the camera. Tolerate the manual. One has to jump around all over the place to find what they need to get the most out of the camera.
That is NOT the case for the Cube3 manual. In just three short years 3D Systems has managed to include one of the best manuals for a potentially complex product that I have ever read. Even the most novice of novices should find the Cube3 manual easy to follow.
The Cube3 manual is a clear and concise Step-by-Step guide to setting up and using the Cube3 printer that just about anyone and everyone can understand and follow.
|The Annotated Illustrations are Excellent|
As I was, once again, browsing through it this morning, I was struck by the mix of thoroughness and simplicity as each step is explained in detail without confusing technical jargon. I was also struck by how well they have integrated images and illustrations to support their text and make it even more clear.
|Step-by-Step with Illustrations|
Please... take the time to walk through the manual even if you are an experienced 3D printer user.
Mastering Our Tools Moves us Farther Along
Just yesterday, I was teaching 3D design to a class of cadets and I noticed that they were in the application working hard as I was presenting the alignment tools found in the 3D design package. They were so anxious to design something cool that they didn't fully appreciate one fact.
Those who take the time to learn the tools of their craft will, in the end, go a lot farther and have more success than those who are too impatient to learn the fundamentals.All of us tend to be impatient and excited about jumping right into printing something. I understand that. But, while I have had my Cube3 for several weeks now, I haven't printing many elaborate two-color masterpieces. I have been focusing on learning how this tool works. And, that has meant going through the manual methodically and then either performing operations described in the manual or printing small objects that test what I learn in that process.
Doing so gives me a better understanding of my tool... the Cube3... and how it differs from my previous 3D printing experience. Two printjets is different than one printjet. Extruders in the cartridge is different than a single extruder in a print head. The manual is very helpful in clarifying how to work with these differences. And, it will help keep me from doing things that might stop me from being able to print successfully.
Did you know, for instance, that all filament deteriorates over time in a moist environment. So, it's best not to take your filament out of the package and set it aside for six months. It's in the manual along with a lot of other useful information about things like periodic maintenance of the print table.
To My Chagrin...
Having said all of the above, I have to admit that I am guilty of not having read the entire manual before giving advice about the Cube3 to a new owner regarding the new glue a few days ago. They had asked how long the glue should dry and, based on my previous experience with the cube 1 and 2, I said they should NOT let it dry. Imagine my surprise, when I subsequently read the Cube3 manual more closely and learned that, in fact, we ARE to let the glue dry before printing! I had looked at the image without completely reading the text! Bad Tom! Bad!!!
|Read the text! Don't just look at the pictures!|
By not reading the User Guide in detail to learn my tool completely before giving advice, I put myself and others in the position of possibly having a LESS successful printing experience!
Having made that mistake myself, I wanted to pass on to you the importance of taking advantage of ALL the user guide has to say. Even the shortest sentence in a sea of great images can make a huge difference.
3D Systems has given us a terrific personal 3D printer. But, they've also given us a terrific manual to help us learn our tool and get the most out of it. It's well worth reading.