Friday, October 24, 2014

Cube 3 Review - Installment 1: General Impressions

My initial thoughts on opening up the box, setting up the printer and running the first print was that the Cube 3 is not an evolution as much as it is a revolution for consumer and educational 3D printing.

Coming from first using a RepRap style of 3D printer to the 1st Generation Cube was a huge step.  The 1st Gen Cube was definitely a revolutionary product that lifted 3D printing from simply being a techies hobby into being a true consumers product.

The 2nd Gen Cube was an evolutionary step in making 3D printing more acceptable for use around young children by replacing the heated print table. Over the life of the 2nd Gen Cube it continued to evolve as a product through both hardware and firmware updates.   The Cube design and software teams did an extraordinary job of upgrading various hardware modules and continually offering meaningful firmware updates.  Considering the number of machines that must have been sold, I received very few emails with complaints from users.  And, most of those ended up being related to their not fully understanding the cartridge unload process, gapping or how to apply the glue correctly.  A few related to print table leveling issues.

Both personally and through the 3D printing classes I teach, I have printed hundreds and hundreds of objects on the 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes and considered them very reliable printers in the hands of experienced users.  But, much of the care and feeding of the 1st and 2nd gen Cubes was manual, included in setting the printjet gap and leveling the print table.

The 3rd Generation Cube team set about to make the Cube even more user friendly by automating both the print table leveling and printjet gapping processes.  But, they also provided the tools and techniques for us to perform both of these tasks manually in a much easier way than was available in earlier Cube versions.

As many of you know, I had  stroke earlier this year.  While I am fine, it did require us to completely alter course in the way I was delivering content to my 3D printing classes.  Due to the pressures of my having to create an all new curriculum and countless videos for the 3D printing classes I have not had the time to completely test and evaluate my new Cube 3.  So, I will have to deliver my thoughts in installments.

In this installment, I want to convey my absolute amazement at the huge leap in technology and usability that is the 3rd Gen Cube.  It's quieter, faster and is capable of turning out beautiful prints.  Combined with the new software, we are given the opportunity to control multiple aspects of the printing process, from fast "Draft" 200mm layer printing to super smooth "Premium" with 70mm layers.  While ABS still has some propensity to warp, the warping I've experienced is less than with the 2nd Gen Cube.  A LOT less. I had abandoned ABS with the 2nd Gen Cube, using the 1st Gen Cube when I needed ABS.  But, as I write this, I am printing my "Cube 3 Torture Test" consisting of 3 test objects in ABS and only one of the three shows signs of warping.  And, the warping that I do see is minimal and has not interfered with printing the bulk of the object.  That's a big improvement.

The overall experience of using the Cube 3 is like that one might dream about (If one could afford it) in owning a fine ultra-luxury motor car.  It's sleek, solid and comfortable.

Like Eric, I, too, have experienced a clog. But, in terms of bringing my printing to a halt it is a very different experience than that of any other consumer 3D printer, including earlier generation Cubes.  It's more like having a nail in a tire than a broken valve in an engine.  Clogs may be annoying; but, they no longer have to be "show-stoppers".   Simply replace the cartridge and get back to work!

Interestingly, both Eric and I had clogs with a PLA Neon Green cartridge.  Having now used four other colors in both ABS and PLA, I'm wondering, since the units were shipped with Neon Green, if we had very early cartridge builds. 

There is one other small issue, that both Eric and I have observed, that we are certain that will be addressed in a firmware update.  Small bits of filament sometimes fall onto the print table.  They come from the wipers on either side of the printer.  I was able to capture the process in slow motion video and have sent that video to 3D Systems.  It's not a big deal; but, I will be happy when a future firmware update makes it a thing of the past.  It's annoying like white lint on a black suit.  But, again, it does not materially affect the precision and accuracy of the print.

And, speaking of accuracy, the first thing I printed was a "thin wall" test.  Walls defined under 1mm in my software package are printed under .84mm.  But, walls defined as 1mm walls print EXACTLY at 1mm in both circles, rectangles and triangles.  Point of triangles are super sharp.  I'm blown away by the astonishing accuracy of the 3rd Gen Cube. 

I can't imagine a better printer for the classroom.  It's rugged and compact.  Like earlier Cubes it is built to travel well... which means it can be locked away in a secure place, brought out when needed and begin printing immediately.

The bottom line is, that aside from a single clog and a few random pieces of filament falling onto the print table, the experience with the 3rd Gen Cube has been absolutely wonderful.  It is a significantly more impressive experience than with my previous printers and you KNOW I love my 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes!

I can't afford a Bentley.  But, I CAN enjoy the solid feel and luxury of a 3rd Gen Cube.

P.S.  OK...  So, it's not EXACTLY the same experience.  But, it sure makes me feel as if I'm living large to have such a wonderful 3D printer on my desk.  :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Check out Eric Albert's "First Impressions" Review of the Cube 3.

This blog is not about being the "First" to review, it's about making sure that Cube owners and potential Cube owners have all the information they need to keep on printing!  So, here is the first substantive test review of the Cube 3 printer by Eric Albert.

Here is Eric Albert's "Early Impressions" review of the Cube 3.

I finally have a Cube 3 here.    But, due to intense deadlines for my YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink Lab training lesson preparation I have not had much time with it so far.

All I will say for now is that those who have one on order did the right thing.

You will not believe the feature set that this printer brings to the table.  I am in awe of the engineering and design.  And, even more in awe of the print quality.

This blog only focuses on Cube family products.  I could do a quick review raving about how good it is.  But, you'd just blow me off as a "fan boy"... for which I cheerfully plead guilty  But, more importantly, it wouldn't help you truly understand what a marvelous accomplishment this printer represents for the future of personal, consumer, educational 3D printing.

This is a different animal folks.

It's the kind of machine that makes you want to simply sit back and appreciate the brilliance of the engineers, designers and builders.  (Precision designs require equally precise builders.)  

Building the Cube 3 is no small task.  It's a marvel of engineering both inside and out.

I was at the factory yesterday with 20+ Youth Challenge cadets and saw, first hand, how much those charged with building your printer are committed to delivering your machine without compromising on quality one little bit.  I have always appreciated both the Cube engineering and manufacturing teams.  But, I now appreciate them a whole lot more.  Their combined efforts are going to put a truly remarkable machine into your hands.

This is SO new, that I would not be surprised if some tweaking here or there did not have to be done to reach the level of perfection that all parties want.  After all, so many systems are completely new.  But. I promise to tell you if I find or learn about a potential issue and/or ways to avoid them when possible.  But, for now, I am completely excited by the amazing quality of my prints I'm seeing through my trusty microscope at the .200mm setting... and, I have yet to try .07mm!

Friday, October 3, 2014

1st Cube 3 Report - Awesome Right Out of the Box

Just received my first report from Eric Albert...

First Report from Eric

Tom: got it set up and running.

This thing is AWESOME!!! The product folks at 3D Systems should all get bonuses - it is filled with genius. It appears to level and measure build height optically! I just ran the short test print and now am running the classic rook that 3D Systems included on the Cube 1 and 2.

But - it isn't a "cube!" Pictures can be deceiving - but it is not as deep as it is wide, and not as big as I thought it would be. But the build plate is bigger than the 1/2 versions.

Out of the box and working in 10 minutes with NO issues! I'll be getting some pics and a write up out this weekend, but this is definitely the machine to get! Love the part preview on the screen. And the color touchscreen is really neat.- Eric
Sent from my iPad

OK.  NOW, I'm jealous!!!!

Look for more from Eric soon!  Now, remember, he owns or uses 3D printers from several different manufacturers so he's highly qualified to judge AWESOME when he sees it!

I like the part about the product folks should all get bonuses.  I know a fair number of them and I agree that from the little time I had with it at shows, etc. it is DEFINITELY filled with genius.  I had every confidence that this was going to be a gamechanger!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CONFIRMED!!! Cube3 Started Shipping on September 29!

After my "May be Shipping" post I received this from a 3D Systems employee.
"I do follow you.

The unit began shipping yesterday. 

We are using a FIFO system.

Orders placed today will incur a 6 week back log."
That is great news for everyone that has been waiting for the wonderful Cube3 to land on their doorstep!

I'm all too familiar with the "Shipping is a feature" mentality plaguing Microsoft... and the fiasco that was the first introduction of Windows 8.  They are STILL suffering from that one!

For me, the "Right Time to Ship" is a much more important feature.  That is the day when all systems are "Go" with confidence.  I know the Cube engineers and the Cube builders.  To a person, they strive for perfection.  While perfection is difficult to achieve in 100% of the cases, just knowing that it is their goal gives me a great deal of confidence they made the right choice.

I knew that the RIGHT TIME TO SHIP would eventually be here.  I have absolutely NO idea why that day could not have been sooner. Nor, do I have any idea when I might have one here.   But, I do know that the Cube3 is an important milestone in consumer 3D printing and it deserved the best possible entry into our homes, offices and schools.  So, I am glad they waited until they were confident that we would not be disappointed when it did arrive. 

I look forward to hearing from those of you that are among the first to see just how wonderful it is.  And, look forward to the the arrival of my own.

Thanks for the confirmation!  :)

It Appears that the Cube3 May be Shipping!!!

I have no confirmation as yet from the factory.   

But, I was notified by an early purchaser that they received notification that their Cube3 has shipped.

I will try to confirm this in the morning.  But, given the reliability of the person who notified me, I thought it was safe enough to report this evening.

I have no idea where I fit on the list; so, fill us in as yours arrives!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"We must be Getting Close"

I am amazed by many of our Cube owners and among the most amazing is Eric Albert of Renaissance Engineer.  Eric has the the tenacity of a bloodhound and the eyes of an eagle when it comes to discovering new developments on the Cubify site.

As far as I know he is ALWAYS the first to discover new uploads and is marvelous at analyzing issues related to the many 3D printers that he uses in his university lab. 

Since both of us have or use multiple Cube 3D printers, and expect to be early Cube 3 owners, we've had a lot in common as we wait for the first shipments of the Cube 3 printers to leave the factory.  One of those things is looking for clues that might portend that shipping is getting closer.

Of course, he is ALWAYS the first on the scene when new developments unfold.  I NEVER get there first.  RATS!!!!

Putting that grudge aside...

On September 11, he alerted me to the fact that the Cube 3 Client software was on the "Activate" page for the Cube 3 printer on  This morning he scooped me again by alerting me that the Cubify iPhone/iPad App was now available on the iTunes store.

Because both the Windows Cube client and the iPad/iPhone Cubify App require a Cube 3D Printer to fully do them justice, I'll refrain from actually reviewing them at this time.  But, I agree with Eric's assessment.  The fact that the software is now online, probably means that shipping is getting very close.

You'll hear more about Eric Albert and the work he does with teachers and young students in the near future.  In the meantime, thanks to him, I can report that the software is up and the Cube 3 printers are probably not too far behind.

Thanks Eric!

P.S.  While both Eric and I are longing to get our hands on the new Cube 3, we both agree that shipping before the machine is absolutely ready for prime time would be the worst scenario for Cube 3 owners.  We appreciate the patience and discipline that 3D Systems has shown in this regard.  Eric is especially familiar with the downside of premature shipping.  It would be well worth your time to visit Renaissance Engineer to check his experiences with the Cell-Robox and MakerBot Mini.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

YouthQuest Foundation Prepares for a New Cycle of Teaching 3D Design and Printing

I absolutely LOVE working for the YouthQuest Foundation!

It combines two of my favorite things... encouraging young people to expand their creative thinking skills and 3D printing.

We teach 3D Design & printing to cadets in Youth ChalleNGe settings in two cycles each year.  Two weeks ago, we hosted the top cadets from last cycle's classes from three states for a week of immersion training in our 3D ThinkLink Lab in Chantilly, VA.  It was a wonderful experience.

During this intense week of non-stop problem-solving, designing and printing the cadets showed me exactly why I do this.  Remember, these a young people that for one reason or another dropped out of high school before graduating.  These are NOT the typical students one thinks about when considering 3D design and printing at the high school level.  Yet, when given a chance they prove just how creative and clever they really are.

It's all about turning ON brains!  And, there are few tools better than 3D printers a doing that.

Here's a quick video that describes to prospective cadets what our 3D ThinkLink Initiative is all about.

Our new training materials will reflect our observations, over the past several years, that not only is a "Noun/Verb" approach THE best way to introduce 3D design software; but, the perfect vehicle for allowing more time for actually designing and printing in class.  This, in turn, allows the students more time to explore the concepts of problem-solving and iterative design.

We're moving to a combination of cartooning and captured demonstration to cut down the time it takes to cover a noun/verb combination.  Rather than relying on live streaming, as in the past, we are moving to small prerecorded video modules that can be repeated easily, onsite, for those cadets having a harder time than others in the class.

We believe this will allow each learner to progress at their own pace without being left behind. Here is an example of our cartoon approach to introducing the Moment of Inspiration interface.

As you can see, we expect to be using the new Cube 3 printers in our classes in the very near future. The faster print speed will allow for faster turnover of designs, meaning quicker refinement in iterative design updates.  And, of course, this means quicker success.

The two colors will also allow our students to easily create things like clocks with numbers and letters that stand out.  We've found that the cadets LOVE being able to create special things for their care-givers.  Two colors will enable them to accentuate the personalization features of their designs.

Finally, while I do not have a Cube 3 as yet, I DO have print samples.  Being able to print final designs at 70 microns is going to prove to be a real hit with our cadets.  The resolution is amazing.

With each new version of the Cube printer series, we have come closer and closer to bringing our highest expectations to life.  But, the new Cube 3 is in a class of it's own.


Since the sample I have is NOT from a release machine, I have not photographed it.  However, based on 3dfan's request I did put a remarkable feature of the printed house under my trusty microscope at 10x for a sneak peek at how the Cube 3 handles UNSUPPORTED 20mm GAPS.   While the microscope was focused on a 9mm wide window opening, there are multiple 20mm windows demonstrating the same smoothness at crossing unsupported gaps!  I'm guessing that the image covers an area approximately 6mm wide!

I do not see ANY evidence that supports were used at all!

Above the window opening you see the "slate" roof tiles.

Early Cube 3 Sample Print

I don't know how long it took to print the 100mm tall, 120mm wide and 60mm deep multi-story house complete with interior furniture.  Nor do I know how long ago it was printed.  But, I am blown away by the extraordinarily clean, fine detail and smoothness of this piece.  I expect the release version of the printer to be every bit this good or better!

Now, I hope you understand why I'm being patient about shipping.  This printer is too good to rush.  One only has to read about the plight of another well known manufacturer's users to know how damaging releasing a printer before it's ready for prime time can be!  At the appropriate time, I'll release full and detailed photos of the house.

I hope this at least partially satisfies your request 3dfan.  :)