Sunday, November 30, 2014

Suggestion Before First Print

I can only go on who my particular Cube 3 behaves.  But, Auto Gap, on my machine, seems to leave the print gap too small.  So, right after running print gap, I check the height with the included gapping tool.  If it's too low, I use the manual gapping option to ensure that my gap is not the cause of a clog.

So, whether you are starting with a new printer, or a newly released cartridge with the updated filament, it might be wise to check your gap before accepting that auto-gap was truly successful.

Remember, my machine was one of the early releases that uses a shim to align the print jet tips.  Later machines have a fixed print jet with no user adjustment.  It might be that while my print jets are even, they are evenly misplaced and that auto-gap assumes they protrude to a specification that I have altered too far in or out.

In any case, it doesn't hurt to check the gap when auto gap finishes just to be on the safe side.

I am trying to find whether the auto gap applies to the print housing or to a particular print jet tip.  Watching it work, it seems to me that it is setting the proper distance for the housing and assumes the tips are protruding a precise distance.  I suspect both print jet tips are even; but, may now protrude too low on my particular machine... requiring the manual refinement.

3DFAN: Confirmed New Filament Begins Shipping in Week!

This news was posted as a comment today:
3dFan has left a new comment on your post "Thanksgiving Treat: Cubify Clent 2.14 - Cleaner 2...":

I just received an email from Cubify in response to my question about cartridge delays. They confirmed that cartridges back ordered will ship in one week!

 This is great news!   Thank you 3DFan!

Concerning the older filament compounds:

I will try to obtain some of the new filament for testing as soon as possible.  It's interesting that the most reliable filament that I have had is the black PLA.  It has never failed.

All the others, at some point, stripped at the center driver gear, indicating to me that many colors of the older compound filament had a softer surface and that for what ever reason the black color may have a harder surface. 

Wish List:

I do wish that the printer or Cubify software would report the temperature at the print jet as it is printing.  I also wish that we had a "purge" function that allowed us to control both temperature and feed speed from the printer's control display.  Hopefully, we will see these in future updates.

I know this run counter to the goal of everything being totally automated.  But, in truth, it would provide those who choose to use these features a level of control that ultimately makes life easier, not harder.

Cube 3: A Stategy for Easier Printed Part Removal

Jim Ward, in a comment on an earlier blog post pointed out that using a raft might make it easier to remove printed items.  And, he is right.  The crisscross construction of rafts allows for water to penetrate under the piece which dissolves the water soluble CubeStick, making it easier to lift the piece off the print plate.

But, then we are faced with the challenge of removing the raft from the item.  And, I have had very little success cleaning the raft off an item completely.

In line with Jim's basic premise, that allowing water to dissolve some of the glue under a piece would facilitate removal, I've been using channels cut into the bottom of items to accomplish the same thing.

While he didn't mention it, the second benefit of Jim's observation is that having a raft makes it easier for us to get the palette knife under the item we are trying to remove.  To accomplish this without a raft, we can chamfer the bottom edges to give us leverage for a palette knife to pry the item off the plate.

Both systems work.  It's just a matter of preference as to which one you use in your own designs.  But, when printing downloaded designs, Jim's suggestion of using a raft is the best alternative.

In Moment of Inspiration, the process of creating channels is very easy.  Here is a short video that demonstrates an alternative to using a raft to facilitate easier removal. 

The ease with which these kinds of operations are done in Moment of Inspiration is just one of the reasons why we chose it for our cadets as they learn to design and print in 3D.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Treat: Cubify Clent 2.14 - Cleaner 2 Color Prints

Actually, it has been up for at least a week or so; but, I hadn't had time to download and install it.

Among the improvements that 3D Systems has made in the 3rd Generation Cubify Client software is the ability to simply apply the new updates without having to first uninstall the old versions.

The new Cubify software now supports both the Cube 3 and the Ekocycle.

When installing, be sure to make the right choice about saving your exhisting application data.  I expect most of us do not want to lose our shelf information, etc. and I assume that's what will happen if one says "No" to that question.  I didn't try that for obvious reasons.'

The update can be found on the Cube 3 Activate Page.

You should see significantly cleaner two-color prints with 2.14.  I will verify this within a day or two.  But, first, I'm off to eat turkey and generally stuff myself into oblivion.  :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

1.3mm Hex Driver Source

1.3mm might be very prevalent in the metric world; but, can be hard to come by in the United States.

So, I have made an effort to make it as easy as possible for you to locate and buy a 1.3mm Hex Driver.

I wa able to find one at Hobby Hanger in Chantilly, VA.  While they do not sell online, you can call them to purchase the MIP9013 that I talk about here.

Perhaps the easiest way to order the 1.3mm driver is to go straight to the source.

Moore's Ideal Products (MIP), located in Covina, California, is a company serving the hobby market.  They make a high quality 1.3mm hex driver (Model #9013) that can be purchased in hobby stores or on their website.  The cost is $15.00.  Here is the product page MIP9013.

MIP tools have the extra benefit of being color coded. I have tested this driver on my own cube3 and it works very well. At first glance, it might seem a bit expensive for a single application.  But, it's a lot less hassle to fix the Cube in the field than other options.

Besides, getting to know the MIP site has other benefits.

It was not only great to find a good source for a very rare tool; but, it promises to be a great source for accessories that we can use to enhance our own 3D printing projects.  Most of the tools and accessories I have found most useful, have come from a hobby shop or a hobby site.  And, if the hex wrench I purchased is any barometer, they deliver first class product.  Now that I've seen all they have to offer, I'm thinking of using some of the gear, clutch or differential parts in one of our immersion classes.  Sounds like fun!  :)

UPDATE - Harbor Freight Driver Set

Eric Albert alerted me to a set of drivers from Harbor Freight that includes a 1.3 hex bit.  The price is $6.99.

This is equally good news as Harbor Freight has many local stores.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Waxing Nostalgic Looking for Parallels

One of the benefits of being old is that you can draw on decades of experiences when trying to come up with old circumstances that mirror new circumstances.  At the risk of totally boring  you, I want to go back many years to describe how I feel about the current filament situation.

My mind drifts to tires...

A a young child, in the 1950's,  I would visit my uncle's home.  In the garage was a marvel to see... a gorgeous Packard.  It was an imposing beast of a car

Every feature that you see in the image above, of a similar Packard, was pristine and beautiful... right down to the most riveting ornament ever attached to the hood of a car.

It looked SO-O-O-O fast. 

How I longed to go for a ride in that car! 

Looking back, underneath that beautiful exterior there must have also been some age related engine problems.  But, at the time, the big issue standing between me and a glorious ride in that magnificent beast was four flat tires.

No matter how beautiful that car was, it couldn't get me very far on four flat tires.

Fast forward to 1969.  My brother-in-law purchased a Ford Torino with the 428 cu in (7.0 L) "Cobra-Jet" engine with "Ram Induction".  While not nearly as beautiful as the Packard, it was an amazingly fast car.  It may be hard to imagine; but, there was a time when you might not see another car on I-495 or I-95 for miles.  It was the perfect place to see what that Torino could do. Being young and dumb, whenever he would loan it to me, I would wheel up the ramp and, opening up that 428 Cobra Jet engine, ROAR onto I-95, hitting 110mph in seconds.  Top speed was supposedly greater than that; but, even I wasn't dumb enough to push it beyond 110.

Now, there was a reason why that stretch of I-95 was a good place to open up that engine.  It was straight and long.  The Torino Cobra Jet had an archilles heel.  It didn't take corners all that well.  And, that was because the tires of the day were bias ply.  They were not as stiff as today's radial tires.  So, if you wanted to go fast, you had better be going straight,  The other issue was that while it could go VERY fast.  It didn't like to stop all that well.  That is because the old drum brakes in the back weren't sufficient to stop it well.  A car that could do well over 110mph on a straight road was reduced to a crawl on tight country roads with a lot of turns.

While these memories, for you,  might not have any connection to the situation we find ourselves in with the Cube 3, in my mind they do.  Even if that Packar's engine were perfect, the tires would hve still meant frustration for me.  And, had the Torino had the benefits of radial tires and full disc brakes it would have been an even more awesome driving experience.  Granted, that experience would have probably been short-lived since I probably would have died in a blaze of 429 glory.  Remember, I did say young and dumb.  :)

I don't know how soon it will be.  But, in the near future, the clogging issues will be a memory of the past.  But, like the flat tires on a beautifully crafted Packard, we will be frustrated as we see such a fine machine not being able to reach its full potential for just a little while longer.  We have a tire issue, not a car issue.  Find the right tires and we're off to the races.

Tip on Cube 3 WiFi Connection

Whenever I gat an email from a reader that provides solutions based on their own experience and ability to troubleshoot, I am reminded why I love blogging.  It is not only a way to share my own ideas; but, provides a communal connection for all users.

I'd heard from some users about intermittent WiFi issues with the Cube3.  But, since I'd not run into the issue, had no explanations.  Fortunately, one of our community not only had the Wifi issue; but, found the solution. 

Jesus MG had a problem where his PC would not always recognize his Cube 3 printer.  He solved the problem by giving administrator permissions to Cubify.exe. 

Jesus MG writes...

  • Go to: “C:\ Program Files( x86)\3D Systems\Cubify\ Cubify.exe “ 
  • Click right button> Properties > Compatibility> Run program as administrator
  • Now it seems that there are no problems.
The internet is wonderful.

It doesn't matter where we are in the world, we can provide solutions to fellow users anywhere else around the world.

But, being helpful isn't limited to providing solutions.  Sharing challenges is equally helpful.  People writing to me about the issues they find, helps me assess how widespread a problem might be throughout the user base.  By pooling our experiences and observations with filament issues we might be able to better narrow down the causes... heating, stripping, STL design, etc.. 

Every communication (except the dreaded SPAM) helps! :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

3D Systems Video - Gap Difference Correction

NOTE:  3D Systems removed the original video and replaced it with an updated version.   The video below is the updated version.

3D Systems engineers have produced a video for those of us that have the problem where one print jet is higher than the other.  All it takes is a simple mechanical adjustment requiring only a 1.3mm square end hex wrench in those machines exhibiting the issue.  (Mine did.)

We can fix it in the field!  Who knew?  :)

The only catch?

You may not have a 1.3mm hex key in your toolbox.

But, they are widely available on the internet and Grainger carries them as well.  Here is the Grainger page for the 1.3mm Hex Key..

When I buy such tools, I prefer the to purchase the driver type of hex wrench.  You might find a precision set at your local hobby store or one can be ordered online..

Here is the updated version.

I want to make a short observation about these videos from engineering.

I spent from 1969 to 1981 as a video producer for clients like the National Park Service, Postal Service and major national and international news networks.  I know and appreciate slickly produced videos.  But, when it come to getting serious about getting real, helpful information about the equipment on which I rely, THIS is the guy I want to see telling me how to fix things.  I don't need slick.  I need solid, factual step-by-step information delivered without hype by the guy that knows how it is done. 

You can't get better than this for giving Cube users straight-up help.  I really appreciate straightforward video help like this.  Keep them coming 3D Systems.

Two thumbs up! 

Hmmm... I GOTTA find out who this is!  Maybe we can nominate him for the 1st International Cube Users Hero Award or something.  :)

Cube 3: Rundown of Outstanding Issues to be Resolved

Prior to the 1.08 firmware update, there were some gap issues with early machines due to a difference in height between the right and left printjets.  Any negative effects of this seem to have been resolved by the new ability to calibrate affected machines. 

It was further corrected in subsequent machines by a new die for creating the printjet housing.  It is my understanding that ALL machines now being released should have perfectly level printjets.  I have no idea what serial number reflects the change; but, since the firmware and calibration seems to have successfully addressed the issue with earlier machines, I consider no longer an outstadning issue.

However, there is one issue that remains and that appears to be totally related to the cartridge.  The end result is clogging, which usually could always be traced back to a poor gap.  However, in this case, it seems the issue is that the extruder can work so rapidly and forcefully that the current filament can strip leaving the extruder to be unable to feed properly.

OK.  So, here's the good news ans the bad news. 

First, the bad news.

I'm getting enough reports that, along with personal experience, tells me it's a common problem right now.  However, it's not 100%.  I was able to use one cartridge right down to the end without a clog. 

Now, the good news

Those users with which I've spoken, seem to be of the same opinion that the issue is exclusively within the cartridge itself and has no cause in the basic machine design.  That really is good news for me, because correcting the problem can be addressed either with a new filament compound and/or a redesign of the extrusion system in the cartridge.  I know for a fact that 3D Systems has brought new filament producing capabilities into the 3D Systems family.  This should mean greater quality control over the filament production and finishing process.   If filament weakness is the culprit, we should be seeing some new filament in the pipeline to address that weakness.

When?  I have NO idea.  But, I'm betting that it will be soon.  And, as soon as I know, you will know.

The other good news is that the Cube community includes some brilliant, analytical minds.  I'm trying to team with as many of these individuals as possible to get their feedback on their own field results to see if we, as users, can add some eyes, ears and gadgets to provide feedback to 3D Systems as to which designs might cause the most trouble or which colors seem the most reliable.

Call, Write, Call...

The best way you can help yourself and the entire Cube 3 community is to let Cubify Support know about any issues you are having.  They WANT to hear from you. 

The bottom line is that I do not expect this to be an issue for very long.  I will post when I know for sure that it is completely behind us.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Find by 3dFan - Calibration Video

A community of users is invaluable.  This was illustrated by the fact that 3dFan, in a comment, pointed to a video produced by 3D Systems that demonstrates how to use a new Calibration Procedure made available in the 1,08b firmware update.

The link to the video is:

It is my understanding that not all Cube3 owners will need to calibrate their printers.  Recently produced printers do not have the issue of having a difference in printjet height.  So, it would be wise to contact support if you are having gap issues to see if the calibration procedure described in the video applies to your situation.

It tuned out that mine did benefit by following the directions in the video. 

But, the thing I am waiting for that should be the biggest boost for Cube3 owners is the release of upgraded filament from the Village Plastics factory that 3D Systems purchased last year that is supposed to be optimized for use in Cube3 cartridges.

3D Systems - Village Plastics

But, it also may be that we could see new types of materials in the future.  In this press release 3D Systems talks about adding nylon to the CubePro capabilities. 

They also have a filament called HIPS, which easily dissolves in an orange peel extract cleaner.

Could it migrate to the Cube3?  Who knows.  But, it's an intriquing thought.

Expanded Filament Facility

3D Systems continues to expand their capabilities to support the consumer user by bringing quality control of expendables in-house. 

As soon as I know that the new filament is in the pipeline, I will do my best to test it immediately.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Perfect Example of Dangerous SPAM Comments

No sooner had I written my article about my deleting comments that I deemed to contain SPAM, than an apparent spammer added a comment to that very article that is a perfect example of why it is dangerous to trust links in comments unless I endorse that link in my reply to the comment.

Here is the comment.  Notice how carefully they must have read the original content?  LOL!

Velocity Labels has left a new comment on your post "SPAM and Comment Policy Explanation":

Thanks also for sharing your knowledge by making this blog. It's really a great help for me. I hope you make more blogs like this.

Adhesive visitor pass labels (Link Disabled)

Velocity Labels appears to be a legitimate company.  I was able to reach them by phone.  But, the link that I've disabled was flagged by Webroot as containing probable malicious code.

The person posting this has a Google ID and claims to work there.  But, hackers are clever and even that may be a hoax to add a level of trust.

In any event, this is exactly why I delete 99% of comments having any kind of link.  If I miss one, do yourself a favor and so NOT click on the link!

I have contacted the company to alert them that they may have been hacked.  More often than not, a company will not know it.  I worked for a highly secure government contractor with amazing levels of security and a little over a tear ago they were informed by the FBI that our computers had been compromised by a foreign government.  How?  A single individual had clicked on a link in an email that had supposedly been sent by a friend.  But, of course it was not the friend.  It was a spoof.

Fortunately, no serious secrets were compromised; but, it definitely was a wake up call.


I had a great conversation with the owner of Velocity Labels and they will be contacting me when they have made sure that all the pages on their site have been purged of any malicious code.  While it's a shame that we learned about them through the work of a person trying to take advantage of their good reputation, I am happy to have become acquainted with them.  I look forward to being able to safely point you in their direction once everything has been checked out and given a clean bill of health.  I'm thinking about trying out their services by purchasing some custom labels for the YouthQuest Foundation.  I have the Dymo Lablemaker Twin Turbo and love it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

SPAM and Comment Policy Explanation

I have been blogging long enough to spot a comment pretending to praise the writing; but, is actually nothing more than a ploy designed to cover the real goal of dropping a SPAM link having nothing to do with 3D printing.  I have deleted hundreds of them, if not thousands.  I've lost count.

Spammers, I moderate theses forums as closely and as timely as I can and delete those comments that contain links.  While there may be a few exceptions where I check a link and it seems helpful enough to the readers of this blog that I leave it; but, they have been few and far between.

Obviously, 3D printing is hot right now.  And, spammers like to follow hot topics hoping to skim off some readers.  But, I do my best to protect my readers from most links because that is the best way to minimize the potential for malicious links.

The reason for writing this is because as the popularity of 3D printing and this blog grows, so too has the number of spammers being drawn here.  I don't actually believe they read any of the articles, so I'm probably wasting my time telling them that they will be wasting their time by trying to use this blog for their own selfish purposes.  But, I thought it was worth a shot.  :)

I wonder how many spammers will add their bogus words of priase to THIS post!  :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cosmetic Issue - Bits & Pieces of Filament on the Print Table

I noticed that when I printed two objects of different colors, little bits and pieces of filament would end up on the print table.  This puzzled me because I knew that the Cube 3 had two wipers that should have taken care of that problem.  So, I decided to investigate and send the Cubify engineers my observations.

As some of you know, I often use the tools I learned as a science teacher in my analytical efforts.  But, I also have a video production background that also comes in handy from time-to-time.  And, that is what I turned to in this case.

I first shot a sequence of video that captured what was happening.  My camera is not capable of true 200 frames per second high speed capture,   But, it is capable of shooting at high shutter speeds resulting in sharp images of moving objects.  So, I used video editor to slow the action down as much as it could.  This resulted in this video sequence.

As you can see, the action happens very quickly in real time.  So, even slowing it down a little bit was helpful in determining the sequence of events.  Even so, it still wasn't completely clear how those bits and pieces where forming.  So, using Camtasia to capture my screen as I operated the shuttle in my video editing application I was able to analyze the video, and document what was taking place, on a frame-by-frame basis in this next video.

The Cubify Team is aware of the issue and working on correcting it.

I expect it will be addressed in a future firmware update.

Observation Conclusion:
  • The issue is cosmetic only.
  • It involves the resting placement of the print jet and possibly the extruder control (Prevent dripping)
  • It affects both left and right print jets
  • Most commonly seen in SOME two color prints (same layer color changes)
  • It should be able to be addresses entirely in firmware
  • Should hardware changes be required, it will only be to user replaceable parts such as wipers or wiper try assembly
I consider this a very minor issue that will not be permanent to the Cube3 user experience as it appears to be something that can and will be addressed through firmware updates.  While it's ugly, it is definitely NOT a "show-stopper" in terms of making a purchase decision.  While it does affect the first layer of all pieces, it's not a big issue unless the design of the object requires same layer color changes. 

This is the kind of thing I expect to see in an entirely new product.  And, is typical of the issues discovered so far with the 3rd Generation Cube 3D printer in that they do not demonstrate any flaws, serious or otherwise, in the hardware design of the basic printer itself. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Firmware Updates for Cube3's NOT on WiFi.

I never connected my 1st or 2nd generation Cubes via WiFi.  And, while I now have my personal 3rd Generation Cube connected via WiFi, I do NOT expect to be able to connect via WiFi in our Youth Challenge classrooms

At the time of this writing, those operating their Cube3 printers without being connected via WiFi, must contact Cubify Support to have the firmware files and documentation sent to you via email. 

My most recent update was over WiFi.  But, my first firmware update was applied using a USB drive.  The printer is capable of being updated either way.

I suspect that they are interested in determining how many people do want or cannot use the WiFi option.  Perhaps, keeping track of requests for updates makes this easier.

I am told that Cubify Support usually replies within 12 hours during weekday hours anywhere in the world.  In rare cases this could extend to 24 hours.  I have no idea what the response time is on the weekends; but, I do know some support personnel check in from home even when they are technically off.

If you experience delays greater than 24 hours from weekday queries, please let me know, because it could indicate problems in the system with which they are not aware.

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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cube3 Firmware Update is Already Available

IMPORTANT NOTE:  When the firmware update is complete you will be asked something like "Press the Button to Restart".  In my experience, a single button press does not automatically restart the printer.  It turns the printer off.  I then seem to have to press and HOLD the button again to accomplish the restart.  I will check this with Cube Support on Monday.

No sooner than I had uploaded my last post, than I saw that a new firmware update was available for the Cube3.   The latest firmware version, at this time, is 1.08B

Just as I have been writing, the Cube team is being very proactive at listening to us and quickly addressing those issues they have spotted or that users have reported from the field.

I urge everyone to upgrade their firmware to this latest version.

If you have the Cube3 connected to WiFi, the update is very easy.  Just go to "Setup", select the symbol that looks like a memory chip and press to check to see if you have the latest firmware update,  If not, it will download and install the update for you.

I have no idea, as yet, all the areas this firmware targets; but, it is my understanding that one of its functions is to refine the auto-gap process for even greater precision.

It takes a while to download and install; but, it should be well worth it.

I can say this with confidence because of my experience with firmware updates for the Cube 2.  With each firmware update from the date it was released, the Cube 2 became an incrementally and substantially better printer with noticeable improvements in print quality.

Although it's hard to imagine what they could do to improve the already beautiful print quality of the Cube 3, I expect the same overall improvements in the user's experience from the Cube team with the Cube 3 firmware updates.

The Best Way to Serve All Cube3 Users and 3D Systems

As a software producer for decades, I was always amazed when I would be sitting with a client when an error message popped up on the screen and they explained, "Oh. That's nothing.  It does it all the time and I just ignore it."

What???  Are you kidding me???  Why would you DO that!

Every time I would tell them that I WANTED to know IMMEDIATELY when an error message popped up.

As the developer, I knew what not to do.  So, my own testing could never fully replicate the experience of users that did not know exactly what not to do.

In fact, I had no idea that the user might go down this or that path in an order I had never attempted that generated the error.  So, it was important to me to hear about issues as soon as possible.

Their reporting of issues not only would help them.  It would help other users and me, the developer.

There is no way for any manufacturer to cover 100% of the potential circumstances that might reveal something that needs to be addressed to ensure 100% reliability.  The Rolls Royce is clearly at the top of the automotive food chain.  But, as you will hear from me often, there is a reason all Rolls Royce dealerships have repair shops.

Beyond even that example, we are well aware of the billions spent on making space vehicles perfect. But, as two recent events have shown us, sometimes even that doesn't help to keep ALL errors out of the initial systems.

The Cube3 3D printer is THE best 3D printer I've owned.  In fact, I think it is going to establish itself as THE printer to have for homes and schools in a very short period of time.  It is going to do for 3D printing in education what the Apple II did for computing in the classroom.

But, I've spotted some small things that can be refined to reach the goal of near perfection.  And, the first thing I do when spotting something is to report it to Cubify Support.  An example is that I see some stray bits of filament dropping onto the print plate when colors are changed.  This is definitely no show stopper.  But, it does look a bit messy and the beautiful quality of the prints deserves to look pristine on the print table at all times.

It is something that I am sure can be fixed in firmware.  But, that fix may only happen if the engineers are fully aware of what we are seeing out in the field, where we push the Cube3 in ways those who know what NOT to do may not.

I know for a fact that 3D Systems is committed to as near perfection in the Cube series of printers as possible.  And, I know for a fact that we users want the same thing.  And, to a large extent, that means getting good feedback from us.  And, I want to hear from you as well.  I really appreciate those that have written to me with help observations and questions about their experiences.

The reason I mentioned a Rolls Royce, above, is that as I use the Cube3, it reminds me of that extremely high level of elegant design and quality.  It seriously is that impressive to me.  As much as I loved the Cube2, the Cube3 is heads above anything that has gone before it in the consumer 3D printing marketplace.

But, to make sure it grows to its full potential we, as users, need to provide the field feedback for the designers, programmers and support personnel as quickly as we spot something.  I like to document what I find with either a video or an image so that they don't have to guess at what I'm seeing.  In this way, we early users become part of the process of helping the entire Cube family...whether it be producers or consumers.  Being constructively proactive helps everybody.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Went Where Wise Angels Fear to Tread - Inside the Cube 3 Cartridge

Many years ago, in the early 1970's, as video production suddenly blossomed, I bought a used Mercedes 280SEL just before the almost instantly huge price differences between American and German cars put the Mercedes out of my reach. (Back then the price gap was about two-to-one.)

Used to working on my own cars, I was astounded by the difference between American cars of the time with what I saw when I first took the oil cover off the Mercedes engine to fine tune the valve adjustment.

Back then, there was simply NO comparison in terms of precision and design excellence.

In my previous American cars, valves had only a single spring  The Mercedes valves had both an inner and outer spring.  What's more, the American valve springs sat right on the head and the Mercedes springs rested on bearings.

I bring this up because curiosity got the best of me last night and I took a Cube 3 cartridge apart and, miraculously, put it back together again.

I had inadvertently clogged the nozzle of the cartridge while experimenting with some left/right gap tests and decided since the fault was my own, I didn't want 3D Systems to bear the cost of my mistake.  So, with nothing to lose, I decided to see if I could find out what is inside.

And, like that with the Mercedes, this experience left me astounded by the design and the quality of every single component in the cartridge, from the extruder in the center of the hub to the parts inside the print jet tip.  Eric Albert was the pioneer in taking the dismantle-rebuild journey and he had mentioned his admiration for the quality of the parts.  And, since he runs a lab with CNC machine tools, I had a prior hint about the quality parts.  But, even so, I came away with the feeling that 3D Systems seriously cares to bring the best to Cube users.  The engineers and 3D Systems deserve an award for excellence based on the design of the cartridge alone.  The Cube 3 cartridge is a significantly elegant design achievement on multiple levels.

The formerly clogged cartridge is back in service and working well.  But, I will take it apart again once the filament is exhausted so that I can get images for you.  Wait until you see the pictures.  I know you will be impressed.

In the meantime, here is my take away for users.

Correct gap is CRITICAL
Remember, there are TWO Print Jets.  Fortunately, the print jet tip is spring loaded.  But, still, it's possible to manually gap one tip and have the other slightly rubbing against the print table.  For now, make sure the LOWEST print jet, if there is a slight difference, has the proper gap.

If you hear a "Clicking"  from the cartridge, STOP printing immediately.

If a print jet is blocked, there will be a clicking sound coming from the cartridge hub.  Stop IMMEDIATELY if you hear that noise before the extruder chews up the filament in its teeth.  The sound does not mean the cartridge has clogged.  It just means the filament flow is blocked.  But, if you let it go too long the cartridge may become permanently clogged.  None of us want that and we, as alert users, can go a long way in preventing it.
Apply ALL early firmware Updates Immediately

Experience with the 2nd Generation Cube, taught me that few companies have paid more attention to making life easier and better for consumer owners than 3D Systems through ever better firmware updates.  We can expect a firmware update relatively soon if past history is any indicator.   Apply it as soon as you can.
It is obviously a goal for 3D Systems to take much of the responsibility for correct leveling and gap out of the user's hands.  And, they came very close, right out of the starting gate.  But, for now, we need to be pro-active in assuring that we do not block either print jet tip by making sure that we have manually checked the gap for both print jets.  I'm sure this is not a permanent situation.  But, for now, it's the wisest course of action.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cube 3 and ABS - Video

I created a video to demonstrate that it is possible to print ABS with the Cube 3 with the proper CubeStick application.  One of the things I fail to point out in the video is the special nature of the new print table that seems to act like a heat sink.  After printing the piece in the video I was surprised that the print table was as warm as it was.  It didn't get as hot as that of the 1st generation Cube; but, definitely was warmer that I'd experienced with the Cube 2 print table.

I could be wrong; but, I do not think the table is heated by any other means than simply absorbing heat from the printed object.

There was ever-so-slight warping at either end of the piece once it was removed from the print table.  But, NOTHING like that I had seen previously with my other 3D printers... including the heated 1st generation Cube.  I now believe it is possible to be completely successful when printing properly designed* ABS parts.

This is very important to me.  In fact, it's way more important than being able to print in two colors.  ABS has a very resilient quality to it that is quite different from PLA.  So, I am very happy to know that I can at east start experimenting with ABS again at an ever finer print resolution.

* By properly designed, I mean the strategic placement of holes and other structural relief elements that reduce stress from uneven shrinkage due to temperature changes.  Think of the ways iron bridges are constructed with triangular elements, etc. to use less iron while keeping the same structural integrity.  A bee-hive is another great source of inspiration for strength without too much bulk.

Monday, November 3, 2014

CubeStick for the 3rd Generation Cube 2D Printer - Let it Dry

I am still learning the differences between previous Cube printers and the new Cube 3.

Among those things is the way I apply and use the new CubeStick glue used with both the Cube 3 and the CubePro.  As I write this, I am printing an ABS object on a print table having glue that was purposely allowed to dry for more than an hour or more.  That would have been unthinkable to me with previous Cube printers.  Yet, it is holding perfectly.

Now, I'm told that 3D Systems actually suggested that the Cube 2 glue should have also been left to dry before printing.  But, that certainly wasn't my methodology and as soon as I get my Cube 2 printers back, I want to chase that oversight down and test it.

But, I HAVE tested the Cube 3 with both immediately applied wet glue and with completely dry glue.  And, these test were used with ABS, not PLA.  With wet glue, ABS has a tendency to warp and I've even seen pieces being moved around.  With dry glue I've seen far less warping and a rock solid build.

The real test, of course, is to designed an object that I know would have a serious tendency to warp in ABS and then to systematically apply glue and wait specific intervals with a known ambient humidity.  But, that probably won't happen for a while.

I'm simply going to suggest that Cube 3 owners apply glue sparingly in two directions and wait until the surface of the glue appears to be dry before printing.  This takes some discipline and patience.  But, it sure seems that it will provide us with much better adhesion which, in the end will save time because we will not have to restart print jobs due to glue failure.

When I see an ABS object whose length is just millimeters short of the width of the print table and there is no visible lifting at the edges, I have to be excited.  ABS is such a nice material to use once the warping issues are resolved.  And, so far, it looks like being patient with the glue seems that it does the trick.

I'll be taking pictures of the object being printed in a future article about calibration and auto-gapping.  We'll see how straight it stays for the entire 1.5 hr print job.  :)

I love the Cube 3 printer and I'm starting to get more comfortable with the Cubify software and learning a bit more about what it takes to design a two-color friendly STL.