Monday, November 10, 2014

Everybody is a Newbie at Some Point

On of the reasons why I invite comments to this blog is that I realize that not everyone has the same experience with the Cubify products that I have and not everyone has the same realistic expectations for 3D scanners and printers that experienced users have.

Even though our paths are similar, we can be in very different places along that path.

Based on the emails and comments that I get, it's safe to say that experience and realistic expectations go hand in hand.

I was reading the blog of one person that is new to 3D printing and they mentioned my blog, by name, and questioned my independence.  That was because it is rare see me call any 3D printer garbage or point out early issues with new printers until the manufacturer has had time to sort out start-up gremlins. 

There is a reason for that.

Gremlins might disappear minutes after I write about them.  But, my posts will last as long as Google maintains their servers.  So, a person might read about this or that issue that was quickly addressed in a firmware upgrade and think that the issue still exists.  In the long term, that is not fair to the product.

The other reason why a reader might think that I'm not bringing up problems is that often what a newbie thinks is a problem is simply their unrealistic expectations due to their own inexperience.  A clog, to me, is simply a nuisance that comes with the consumer 3D printing territory.  I do not know a single extrusion 3D printer sold to consumers that will not, at some point, have a clog.  The key is to communicate how to fix clogs.

In my blog, I go through a bit of a triage routine when I spot an issue that might affect the user's experience.  If it obviously something that can easily be fixed in firmware, I quickly report it to support so the engineers can address it quickly.  If it is something the user can address by knowing more about  their equipment, then I try to communicate preventive measures that can avoid having the issue become a problem.  Most clogs, for instance, can be avoided by (1) proper gap, (2) proper leveling and (3) not using old filament affected by moisture.

True hardware design or build flaws are very rare.  But, there is no way that I would NOT mention them because I feel my first obligation is to users.  After all. we only bought the product.  We didn't design or build it.

An Example of Experience & Expectations

The blogger that questioned my independence had previously commented on the pages.  As I often do, I asked them to contact me directly so that I could address the issues they were having with the Sense scanner.  I never heard from them.  Going on their blog I learned that they primarily used Linux and their only Windows machine was slow.  That alone would be reason enough for poor Sense performance.  But, it also turned out that they were trying to scan small objects using a turntable. Now, this one is my fault.  I should have been more clear about how 3D Scanners use the changing background to help determine the shape of the target object.

Walking around an object is more effective than simply spinning an object.  I've experimented with both techniques extensively.  When I came to my conclusion it wasn't that the Sense was useless.  It was that we had to get to know our tools and use them in ways that play to their strengths.  In fact, having had years of 2D to 3D software experience using 123D, etc., I was amazed that I actually could use a turntable at all.   So, ANY result was a plus for me.  Experience had provided me with a basis for realistic expectations for a low-cost, scanner.

Experiments & Solutions

But, there was something else at work.  And, that was an attitude built around the notion that challenges are for finding solutions.  Like the blogger, I, too, ran into the issue of losing the focus as I scanned.  But, I realized that it was because I had to keep looking at my computer monitor as I scanned, throwing off my concentration on the scanning.  So, I looked for a solution.  Since I had a 3D printer, it was easy to create an object with which to mount a 2.5" monitor on the sense itself.  This increased the success rate enormously.  Again, this was rooted in experience.

Sure, I would have loved the Sense to have already incorporated a monitor.  But, that would have raised the cost considerably.  The iSense was a better solution from a consumer cost perspective.

Patience is Key to Experience

There is no doubt that learning 3D design and printing can sometimes be confusing and trying.  But, methodical patience actually does reap rewards.  I had to build my first 3D printer.  And, I knew absolutely nothing.  I was very critical of the first prints I was able to produce.  But, I look back now and realize that for the type of printer I built, those prints were better than average.  I just didn't know what to expect.

I have not forgotten that experience.  So, newbies, I DO know what you are going through.  I've been there.  But, I urge you to replace criticism and wrath with experimentation, questioning and listening.  Learn your tools.  And, above all, when an experienced user offers you help, jump at that opportunity.  It will hasten your success and make things a lot more fun for you.

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