Sunday, February 7, 2016

Some great advice for Cube1 and Cube 2 users.

This arrived in my inbox and just in case you missed it, it is very good advice!

Tip for First and Second generation Cube owners

iSense 3D Scanner
To get the best performance and to ensure the longevity of your Cube filament when your printer is not in use or idle, move the Printjet over to the far right. See the diagram above.
For more help and support for your Cube, visit our support pages

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glow Forge: The one Non-Additive Manufacturing Product that Interests Me

When we set up the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab in our YouthQuest Foundation offices, we very specifically decided that, unlike the usual maker spaces, we would concentrate ALL of our energies in providing the ultimate in 3D scanning, design and printing experiences for our at-risk students and their teachers.

Personally, my interests are in line with that focused vision.

But, I have to admit, there is one non-additive product that has captured my imagine in a big way.

It's a desktop laser cutter called Glow Forge.

Glowforge picture
Glow Forge Laser Cutter

I don't know whether it's the convenient size, the fact that they include an air filter in all but the most basic model (meaning no need for outside venting) or the fact that it has a camera that let's you simply draw your design with a pen or pencil and it will follow it.  Perhaps it is all three.

Or, just maybe it's the fact they they call the Glow Forge "The 3D Laser Cutter"!

But, whatever the reason, it's got me salivating over all the fun and creative things it can do.

This is a 3D PRINTING blog.  So, I'm not going to write any more.  But, I promise you that your creative juices will flow as you read about the Glow Forge laser cutter.

Glow Forge Laser Cutter.

Here is a YouTube video from that helps explain why I am so stoked over the Glow Forge's potential.

Kind of self explanatory isn't it?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

As Doors Close, New Doors Open!

The site is expected to be closed on Jan 16, 2016.  From that point on, all of the updates and accessories will be obtained through the 3D Systems web site.  Once the changeover is complete I will post the pertinent links.

But, life is a series of passages and as old doors close, new doors open.

One such new door is in the area of 3D Scanning.  In particular it involves a whole new breed of ultrabook class computers that include Intel's new RealSense scanner technology.

While the hardware might suggest a single development path, the reality will be quite different.  The reason why I believe that the RealSense scanning hardware is simply a launching platform is that there are already mulltiple early teams taking different paths on making use of RealSense to capture 3D scans.

Sense for RealSense, from 3D Systems brings us a Win8/10 app that encapsulates the scanning experience suitable for both local and cloud printing.   (An updated link to come after the Cubify move)

ItSeez3D takes a cloud-based approach.  Originally developed for the iSense or Structure scanners, they have ported the app for Win8/10 for 4th generation Haswell Intel Core processor products (or newer) using Intel's RealSense technology.

XYZPrinting recently introduced a handheld USB 3.0 RealSense scanner that is available from B&H Photo for just $168.90!   It includes scanning software.

XYZprinting 3D Scanner

While it doesn't appear on the Creative web site as yet, Creative produced the RealSense cameras for Intel's RealSense pre-release SDK package!


But, the company that prompted me to claim that techniques for taking advantage of RealSense are going to blossom in new directions is CAppASITY.  While I have not been able to test the product, Easy 3D Scan, the samples they display are fascinating.  It appears they provide the capability of using a Canon SLR with RealSense to producing high fidelity textures!  The result look stunning.

I'm a Canon 5D Mark II user, so this REALLY appeals to me.  :)

They have other products for scanning rooms and articles.  Very interesting.

All of this is brand new so we are just beginning to be able pull back the covers.  But, the little we know at this point sure peaks our interest. 

I recently purchased the HP Spectre 12-a000 X2 (m3 chip) which is a 12 tablet having the R200 (Rear Facing) Real Sense camera and have already done some testing using Sense for RealSense at the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab at our YouthQuest headquarters.  We invited cadets from our Youth Challenge classes to take part in a focus-group giving feedback on their scanning experiences comparing the handheld Sense and tablet-based RealSense.  Their observations will be published on the YouthQuest site.  I'll let you know when it's available.  I can tell you we certainly had fun learning to optimize the experience.  RealSense is real.  :)

We're ready to charge through this new open door!  :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I Plan to Keep on Blogging for Cube Owners

I'm having too much fun to stop now.

Being realistic, at my age, health is always a consideration.  But, as long as I can do so, I plan to focus on ways of making our 3D designing and printing lives richer and more fulfilling.

This means experimenting with Intel's new Real Sense scanning capabilities and learning new software applications like TinkerCAD and 3D Coat. 

It also means keeping in touch with 3D System's engineers so that if and when new firmware or software is released we will be on top of it.  Because I work with other printers as well as the Cubes, I understand that the goal is to come up with a single front end that will work with all of their 3D printing platforms.  I don't know if this includes the Cube line; but. if it does I will do my best to evaluate the pros and cons of switching to a different platform for slicing.

In short, I will be here for you as long as I am able.

Monday, December 28, 2015

While We Will be Supported, the Cube, Itself, is Discontinued.

I woke to a sad message this morning. 

While CubePro production will continue, the Cube series will no longer be produced by 3D Systems.  

Here is the press release making the announcement.

Supplies and support will still be available through 3D Systems, so we are not left high and dry. 

What I don't yet know is if they will continue to develop new types of filament for the 3rd Gen Cube.  As soon as I know more, I will pass it on to you.

Friday, December 18, 2015

3D System's New Direction...

You probably have already seen this announcement.

Dear Cubify Customer,
We’re excited to announce that we will be focusing on serving our customers in the education and engineer’s desktop markets in the new year.What does this mean to you? Just a few changes on where to shop!
  • will be moving to, effective Jan. 31, 2016.
    Don't worry, you can continue to find printers, software, scanners, cartridges, and accessories for your 3D Systems devices, as well as support, at
  • Paid retail products like phone cases and jewelry will be discontinued.
    Free downloads will still be available for you to print at home.
  • The “Design Feed” and “My Shelf” cloud storage will be discontinued on Jan. 31, 2016.
    Until that time, your Cubify App will sync all models from “My Shelf" automatically to your local computer when you open your app, login, and go to the “My Shelf” tab. Alternatively, files may be directly downloaded from until Jan. 31, 2016.
We thank you for your continued support and patronage.
Team 3D Systems

I'm also sure that you have questions as to how this is going to affect consumers who purchased Cube 3D printers.  While I am NOT a 3D Systems employee, I have asked that very question of some 3D Systems employees and think it will have little real impact on us.

Based on my understanding, this decision does not affect the future of either the Cube 3 or the CubePro.  It basically is just a shift from consumer focused marketing to a greater emphasis on targeting education and business (desktop engineering).  I suspect that this will mean that retailers will not be selling the Cube3 and sales will be handled more directly or through 3D Systems reps.

Support should not be affected at all.

It is also interesting that the free downloads will still be made available.

One thing, I think, that will change is the way products are announced and released. The Cube 3, right now, is a solid 3D printer.  But, we all remember the issues that resulted from releasing it before it was ready.  We remember it and so does 3D Systems..  And, they are committed to never seeing that happen again.

For the first time, since I first saw the 1st Gen Cube, I have participated and, hopefully, will be participating in several new product Beta programs.  Products will no longer be released simply due to pressure of product announcements.  New products are in the pipeline that will benefit all of us.  But, don't expect to hear about them until 3D Systems is confident that we can use these products reliably.

The Nylon filament for the CubePro and Infinity supports for the Cube3 and CubePro are examples of products that have undergone that kind of testing before being put into our hands and they have both been solid additions to our 3D printing experience.

I think the new organizational direction is a good one for 3D Systems without materially affecting any of its current owners.  I will not only keep this blog alive for consumers; but, will be expanding the coverage of 3D products that enhance our Cube3 and CubePro experiences.

You may also see more articles about 3D in education... particularly as it relates to at-risk students.  I'll be involved in a pilot with autistic students soon.  I will want to share what we find with parents.

Lastly, I'm sure all of us will be looking at CES to see if there is any mention of previously announced products like the CubeJet, CeraJet, ChefJet and CocoJet 3D printers.   I don't need a delivery date; but, I would like to know which ones are still on the table.  There is something seductive about the concept of eating what you 3D print!  :)

First Sense for Intel Real Sense Scans

Update:  When I notified 3D Systems about the issues I point out in this article, they indicated that they are being addressed.  As far as I know, only 1 Real Sense Win10 tablet has been released at this point.(The HP Spcete X2 that I am using) and one is to be released in January (The Lenovo MIIX 700).    The scan, therefore, mentioned in this article used a VERY early version of Sense for Intel's RealSense.  I will let you know when I get the updated version.  Even so, I am VERY impressed and happy to be using it.
 In my previous post, I talked about the new tablets being released with the Intel Real Sense R200 3D scanners.

I have made my first scans and I have to say they are impressive.  Just as before, with the Sense scanner, we have to be reminded that these are not $30,000 scanners.  So, anyone having notions that they can buy a tablet with a 3D scanner that will perform like a $30,000 is going to be sadly mistaken.

But, for those of us that look at price/performance ratios realistically, the scans from the R200 are impressive.

Currently, I know of two Win8/10 apps for 3D scanning with the Intel Real Sense cameras.  They are the ItSeez3D app and 3D System's Sense for Intel's RealSense app.


The ItSeez3D app is strictly for scanning people and it's tied to their cloud service.  While the test scan was quite impressive, I didn't have an account with ItSeez3D so I have nothing to show right now.  It is a bit slower than the Sense app; but, not so much that it was a show stopper.  More on ItSeez3D will have to come later.

Sense for Intel's RealSense

Having had some experience using the Sense scanner from 3D Systems, I had some definite things in mind to check with the new Real Sense technology... notably ears and hair.

First Scan from Intel's Real Sense 3D Scanner - Right Ear

I was VERY pleased with the outcome.  Ears and hair are a especially difficult to scan and, as you can see from the above image, the right ear came out perfectly!  But, most of us have TWO ears, so it's only rational that we should check out how well the left ear came out before crowing too loudly.

First Scan from Intel's Real Sense 3D Scanner -  Left Ear

Lo and behold!  Te left ear is perfect, too!

Now, for the hair test....

First Scan from Intel's Real Sense 3D Scanner -  Hair

While not absolutely perfect, the hair scan is still pretty amazing.  It's certainly better than my first Sense scans of a few tears ago.  So, I'm very pleased.  The shape is right and the color can be easily corrected.

Sense for the Intel RealSense - Export File Types

To be useful, the scans have to be able to be read or printed by other applications.  My focus here is on local editing and printing.  I'm interested in post-processing in Sculpt and printing with the Z-450 full color printer.  So, I exported as .OBJ, .PLY and .WRL.

Exported Files with Sculpt 

Sculpt can only import the .OBJ and .PLY files.  It crashed while trying to load the .OBJ and the .PLY came in without color.  This was surprising to me since I had worked with the original Sense scanner and Sculpt, in color, for some time.  So, I had to add MeshLab to the workflow as an intermediary to Sculpt.

MeshLab to Sculpt

Meshlab is a wonderful open-source program for dealing with 3D meshes.  I have long used it and, most recently, to allow me to prepared full color .PLY and .WRL files from .STL files for printing on the Z-450.

MeshLab was unable to open the exported  .WRL file. and, like Sculpt, it brought in the .PLY file without color.  It was, however successful at bringing in the exported .OBJ file in full color.  Unfortunately, the Z-450 is expecting to see either a .full color PLY or .WRL file.  MeshLab can perform the conversion provided the color system is correct.

After some experimentation, I realized that I needed to convert the 'Material' or "Texture" color, that is exported by the Sense app, to 'Vert' color.  I also had to resize the scanned image because it is, as one should expect, life sized.  While the printer's software can scale it, it is just easier to get the exact size we want right in the MeshLab package.  It's a two step process.  We first measure the original...

Measuring with MeshLab

And, then we scale to an optimal size using Filters > Normals, Curvatures and Orientation > Transform Scale.  

Scaling in MeshLab

The final step was converting the "Texture" color system of the .OBJ file to a "Vert" color system appropriate for the Z-450 and Sculpt .PLY file.  For this we use Filters > Color Creation and Processing > Transfer Color - Texture to Vertex.  

Texture to Vertex.

The transfer process does affect the character of the color.  And, there are tools available in both Meshlab and Sculpt to post-process the colors before printing.  We simply exported the filtered image as a PLY and brought it into Sculpt.

It worked!

RealSense/MeshLab 3D PLY (Vert Color) in Sculpt
Wishlist of Improvements in the Workflow

When Sculpt was introduced it was meant to mate, locally, with an FDM printer having limited color.  So, a SOLID model was perfectly OK.  But, at some point, hopefully, full-color powder printers like the previously announced CubeJet should become available.  So, being able to hollow out or "Shell" a model would be a very nice addition to the tool box.  I hear that it can be done in MeshLabs and I'll be looking into that to save material costs for Z-450 printing with our cadets.

First Scan Conclusions

While it would be nice if the Sense for Intel's Real Sense would port directly into Sculpt or a Vert Color .PLY or .WRL for full color printing.  However, the new level of accuracy and the benefits of being able to scan without dragging an attachment cord are such vast improvements over our previous scanning experience that we're not about to gripe about the few extra steps it takes to go from scan to print.

It turns out the that the M3 processor can handle the scanning and that is good news.  But, I would also like to test Real Sense on a smaller tablet.  The HP Spectra X2 is a 12" tablet and, while light, lighter would be even better for 3D scanning.  An 8" Win10 Real Sense tablet should be ideal.