Monday, July 7, 2014

Patience Will Be Your Own Reward

I received an email from someone that had placed an order for a Cube 3 and their invoice had projected the shipping date as July 7.  When he called support, he was notified that the shipping date had slipped to near the end of July.

They weren't complaining.  Just reporting.  Like me they are huge Cube fans and have multiple Cubes in a educational setting.  But, since they are hearing this, I know that others must be also.  Therefore, I feel the need to at least provide my perspective on the issue. 

No one is more anxious to have a Cube 3 in their hot little hands than me.  And, I am waiting just like everyone else.  But, I am urging patience to myself and everyone else that is on the waiting list to receive a Cube 3. 

The reason?  I've seen one in action... in person.  And, it's awesome!

A little review and comparison might help put this small delay in proportion.

My first 3D printer was a RepRap style RapMan 3.  The first Cube (version 1) was a radical departure from all previous 3D printers based on the RepRap concept.  It required a whole new approach to manufacturing for both the printer and the cartridge system.  Even the packaging required a radical new design.

The Cube 2 was a significant; but, incremental improvement over the Cube 1.  The manufacturing process was essentially the same and the only difference in the cartridge was the introduction of PLA as well as ABS.  The ABS cartridge was interchangeable in the Cube 1 and the Cube 2.  So, moving from the Cube 1 to the Cube 2 probably didn't involve many new manufacturing process changes.  In fact, I'm guessing that the biggest jolt to the assembly line was the deal with Staples which most likely significantly ramped up the numbers!

Having seen the Cube 3 at shows, I am ready to say that the Cube 3 is as radically different from the Cube 2 as the Cube 1 was to the RepRap.  Frankly, I find it hard to conceive of many Cube 2 parts that might be reused without modification in the Cube 3 design.  Virtually everything about the Cube 3 is revolutionary in such fundamental ways as to require whole new parts and manufacturing processes for both printer and cartridges. These differences have to affect suppliers as well.

Obviously, 3D Systems knows how to design smooth manufacturing processes for radically new products as proven by the success of the Cube 1's assembly line.  But, we shouldn't be surprised that initial delivery estimates might slip a bit with so many big changes to the manufacturing process.  And, then there is the issue of building up an adequate inventory of completely new cartridges while still manufacturing the older style cartridges.

Every single one of the new design changes for the Cube 3 are an improvement over the Cube 2.  Think of how many there are.  Here a just a few that come to mind:
  • Two print heads
  • Print Jets integrated into the cartridge assembly
  • A completely different mechanism for moving the filament into the print jet
  • Self leveling print table
  • Self gapping print table
  • Bigger print surface
  • Finer layer resolution 
  • Faster printing (2x)

I have seen the Cube 3; but, I've not used one.  But I, for one, am willing to wait a bit longer to take that next step if that is what it takes to guarantee that it's the best, most reliable Cube ever... which I am convinced that it will be... by multiple orders of magnitude!

When they finally start showing up on our doorsteps and we all get to actually see that smooth 70 micron print in action, then I'm sure all of us will agree that it was well worth the wait.

Microsoft has a habit of telling it's beta testers who feel a product is not ready for prime time that "Shipping is a feature".   That may be true.  But, it's also the philosophy that gave us the disastrous Windows ME, Vista and Windows 8!   Fortunately, 3D Systems thinks better of us than that and is willing to ship only when the product and processes are ready.  For that, I am thankful.

If you can be patient and let the Cube 3 arrive when the time is perfect, your patience will reward you with one terrific 3D Printer that you are going to love!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pre-order open for iSense for the iPad, iPad Air or iPad mini!

The cadets I teach REALLY enjoy using the Sense 3D scanner.  So, they are going to be doubly excited about the iSense for the iPad Air, iPad 4th generation or iPad mini Retina.

That is because it frees them from being tethered to a notebook via a long USB connector.  The upcoming iSense attaches directly to the iPad so the iPad screen and iSense become one.  I've not used one as yet.  But, I can imagine that this integrated approach makes the scanning process a lot simpler.

I hope to be able to test one using an iPad Mini Retina.  My iPad 3 is not supported; but, my granddaughter has the mini.  I will let you know as soon as I've had a chance to test the iSense.

In the meantime, check out the iSense Pages to check it out and pre-order it.

Sense Scanning Realities

I think it is very important that people understand the strengths and limits of Sense scanning.  The Sense is NOT a $30,000 3D scanner.  So, don't expect to be able to use it for precise industrial reverse engineering.  It's a low cost consumer scanner to be used for fun captures that can be printed on our consumer 3D printers,

We have created dozens of scans of our cadets and the Sense scans have been imported into Sculpt to create personalized gifts for the cadet's family.  This is a perfect use for the iSense as well.  In fact, I am expecting that the scanning process will be even easier and more fun since we will have more freedom of movement.

In a classroom situation, a single iSense or Sense will support multiple students and printers.  So, I expect it to be a popular 3D accessory for classroom 3D printing labs.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Uploads from KiBack Lee

Every now and then I get an invitation to share someone's Google+ page or Youtube Channel.  That was the case today and I was very pleased with what I found when I checked out the Google+ link!  I then checked out KiBack Lee's YouTube uploads.

If you want to have some 3D fun, visit the YouTube channel of KiBack Lee!

You will find some great information about all of the latest Cubify 3D printer products as well as Geomagic Freeform tutorials.

Here are some samples that I've really enjoyed.

Cube 3 Printer Introduction

CubePro Introduction

The ColorJest Printing Process

Until now, consumer 3D printers largely used extruded filament.  But, powder based printers will soon be available.  This is a great overview of that process as currently used in professional printers.


For more uploads by KiBack Lee, simply go to YouTube and search on his name.  I, for one, will be following his channel.  I might not be able to afford Geomagic Freeform; but, I definitely enjoy learning about it.  Thanks KiBack!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

EKOCYCLE Cube - What does it mean?

There is something very different about the blog posts that I've been reading that talk about the EKOCYCLE.  In general 90% of what passes for reporting on blogs consists of 100% cut & paste from company press releases.   Refreshingly, this has NOT been the case for many of the EKOCYCLE Cube reports.

I have seen some genuine reporting about the EKOCYCLE Cube as writers seem to grasp the real import of the idea that this product has some special importance.  That is because it does.  It is very important.

I have to admit that it took me awhile to become a fan of having to separate plastic, paper and garbage when it was first introduced in our area more than a decade ago.  But, years of seeing just how full the plastic recycle container gets each weeks finally convinced me that without recycling, it was true that we would not only be wasting finite resources; but, be buried under mounds of plastic containers and bottles.

Recycling has come to have political overtones; but, in reality recycling is not a political issue.  It is an economic, health and space issue.

Back in the 1960's to 1970's my grandfather and uncle owned a restricted landfill dump designed to fill a deep ravine in the "country" outside of Washington, DC.  The bulk of what came into the dump was building materials as old buildings were demolished to make room for new ones. But, consumers could also drop off things they no longer wanted.  It was amazing to find Lionel train sets and other really nice things being discarded as worthless trash.  Of course, we grandchildren instantly decided to "rescue" some of these treasures.  It was a valuable lesson in recycling as these toys were once again whipping around recycled tracks.

But there were some longer term lessons.  For decades, smoke could be seen seeping up from the depths of the dump as building materials under pressure combusted spontaneously.  Things might be out of sight.  But, they were not out of mind and smoldered for years.  It was assumed back in the 1960s that it posed no health hazards, since it was 'just building materials'.  But, certainly no one knew for sure.  Fortunately the fires burned themselves out and no dogs, cats and children were born with extra appendages as far as we know.  But, certainly, I appreciate the risks of dumping ANYTHING more now because of that experience.

Wind forward to the last few years... with hundreds of printed prototypes behind me.  It didn't take me long after starting to use a 3D printer to realize that recycling is an important and crucial consideration.  So, I was eager to participate in 3D Systems cartridge return program knowing their commitment to recycling.

So, now that I have fully grasped the important implications of the EKOCYCLE Cube, I am certain that this is the printer we should and will be using in our YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink Lab.  Our students, like all of the rest of us are consumers and consumers generate waste.  As generators of waste it is good for all of us to become conscious of the fact that we can recycle at least part of that waste and that recycling has enormously positive benefits to all of us.

I hate token, feel-good initiatives that are of little real consequence.  There is no way the EKOCYCLE Cube even remotely fits that description.

Like so many other blog writers that sense something special with the EKOCYCLE Cube, I have an appreciation of what a big step this concept is to a 3D printing future.  True, the materials are not 100% recycled.  But, the evolution to that goal has begun and I want our students to be a part of that evolving conscious effort to use the old to create the new.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

EKOCYCLE Cube - Using Old to Make New!

It is no secret that I am a fan not only of the Cube 3D printers; but, of the entire vision of 3D Systems behind those innovative printers.  Good things keep popping up so unexpectedly from the Cubify Design Team that I always feel a little behind.  Today, I REALLY had to pedal hard to keep up with the latest events just announced on the Cubify site.

Not only did I have to quickly try to analyze a new product; but, the entire concept behind it.

3D Systems added a new version of the not-yet-released Cube 3.  It's called the EKOCYCLE Cube!


While 3D Systems previously announced that Cube users could return empty cartridges for recycling, this printer takes the recycling concept one step farther by actually using filament manufactured, at least in part, from recycled plastic from things like Coca-Cola bottles!

Here is a video that succinctly explains the EKOCYCLE Cube philosophy.

I can't imagine that schools can pass this printer up.  Its very presence in the classroom is a narrative with a powerful and compelling message.  

Look.  I'm 70.  So, I hope you can understand when I say that I remember being puzzled when it was announced that was announced to be Chief Creative Officer.  Frankly. I had NO idea who was.  Frankie Valli I'd know.   The Big Bopper I'd know.  Roy Orbison, I'd definitely know.  When it comes to pop culture I'm locked into a "Happy Days" time warp!

But, I've come to appreciate the reality that is not only a true renaissance man; but, a forward thinking activist that not only sees future problems; but, solutions as well.

The EKOCYCLE Cube is a bold response to the fact that plastics technology inevitably produces  some waste; but, that waste can be reused.  What better way for us to recycle plastic than to use it to create new useful items of our own creation!  Coca-Cola is a partner in the 2D Systems EKOCYCLE project.  Each EKOCYCLE cartridge will contain filament comprised of a 25% mixture of recycled PET bottles.  So, each cartridge recycles an average of three PET bottles.

Now that I understand the value that brings to the Cubify table, it might be time to update my record collection, too.  WAIT!!!  Did I REALLY just say that????  Does this mean I'm going to have to buy an iPod??? Or, is that yesterday's history, too?

I'll close with this.  Yes.  I have an old Edison wind-up 78rpm record player.  And, I still have an old 45rpm record player.  But, I no longer have an 8-track in my car.  So, it's not entirely hopeless for me to try to up my game when it comes to pop culture.  Thank you 3D Systems for bringing on board and if the EKOCYCLE Cube is any barometer, it was an excellent move!

Everything old really CAN be new again.

And, Hey!  I may be old.  But, I know VERY COOL when I see it.  And, I see it here... and in classrooms and conscientious homes all over the world.   It's another winner!  :)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Short Survey Could Win You A Sense!

An email arrived today that announced a contest to win a Sense and the only entry requirement is to fill out a short survey.

This looks like a great opportunity to put you name in the hat to win a free Sense scanner.

The best part, aside from possibly winning the scanner, is that the survey is painless!  Answering a few questions is all it takes to throw your hat in the ring.

I have a Sense Scanner and have had a lot of fun with it.

I've designed and printed a bracket to hold a 2.5" HDMI monitor that works beautifully.  The monitor is battery powered and tied to the Sense and computer via an umbilical cord along with a USB cable extension.  It really enhances the ease of use for those not owning a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet.

This link to YouthQuest Foundation news takes you to a page having an image and video of  Youth ChallaNGe Cadets using the Sense with the monitor mounted at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, on April 25-27.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cube Pre-Order Announcement

Let me apologize in advance, because I am WAY behind on this one because the first Cube3 pre-order announcement arrived May 20 in my mailbox.  But, could have been up even earler on the Cubify web site.

Let me also apologize for not being more comprehensive. While I'm improving each day, I'm stll down to a single hand when it comes to typing!

I already knew that they had projected the price of the new Cube3 to be under $1,000.  But, what was new to me were the impressive bundles just announced!  So, let's examine the options.

Cube3 $999

The new Cube3 is selling for consderably less than the 1st and 2nd generation Cubes.  That would be good news on that basis alone.  And, when the larger build area and new 2 color capabilities are factored into the equation, it becomes very good news.  But, when a whole new approach to filament delivery is considered, that promises to do away with some of the earlier feed issues, then the whole price/performance formula makes it extremely good news.

The software gets a performance upgrade as well along with the new ability to print directly from phone apps!

While I have not, as yet, been able to work with the 3rd Generation Cube, I have seen it in action enough to know this printer is faster and the printed output is impressively improved.  Rest assured that I will break out my microscopes to closely examine the quality and accuracy of the prints.  But, I didn't need a microscope to be impressed at what my eyes have seen.  The benefits of 70 micron layers in combination with stellar accuracy is hard to miss, with or without a microscope!

Each 3rd Generation Cube is shipped with TWO cartridges (Neon green & White) and 25 free design files.
Power Pack for Cube Bundle $1,549.

The Power Pack Bundle includes...
  • 3rd Generation Cube with 2 cartridges and 25 free design files 
  • An additional 3 cartridges of your choice of colors
  • Cubify Invent
  • Cubify Sculpt
  • Cubify Mobile App
  • Sense 3D Scanner  

This bundle gives you not one; but, two different types of 3D Design software and the Sense 3D Scanner!  I am a fan of the Sense 3D scanner because I understand and accept the primary applications for which it is designed... which is to quickly be able to scan family and friends for printing on the Cube printer,  To be sure, it is not a professional scanner suitable for reverse engineering alien space craft parts.  But, it also doesn't cost $35,000!

It's designed for fun. And, I and the cadets in my 3D class have had a blast using it.  To me, this bundle is a winner in the price/performance category.

Design Print Pack for Cube Bundle $1,349.

The Design Print Pack Bundle includes...
  • 3rd Generation Cube with 2 cartridges and 25 free design files 
  • An additional 3 cartridges of your choice of colors
  • Cubify Invent
  • Cubify Sculpt
  • Cubify Design
  • Cubify Mobile App

The Sense 3D Scanner is not included with this bundle,  Instead, Cubify Design is added to the mix.

I wish I could be more helpful when it comes to evaluating Cubify Design; but, my lack of experience with it precludes me from offering an opinion.  I hope that readers with Cubify Design experience will post comments filling in that gap.

New Sense Value Pack Bundles

The 3rd Generation Cube is not the only hardware to have the benefit of bundled pricing.  There are two bundles for the Sense 3D scanner,  The Sculpt Sense Pack Bundle is $499.   But, what tells me that I am probably missing something by not having explored Cubify Design is the fact that it, too, is bundled with the Sense in the Design Sense Pack.  This, means, of course that Cubify Design is able to work with the output of the Sense scanner!  That's intriguing.

I can hardly wait to get my hands on the 3rd Generation Cube,  Not only does it continue to demonstrate 3D System's commitment to improve our printing experience; but, actually takes a huge leap forward in the price/performance category.