[APPROVED] 3d Printer Lab Refresh

Overview

Expand our current collection of 3d printers by adding two Prusa XL’s (provided by Asmbly) and two Prusa MK3S’s(donated to Asmbly). Doing so would allow us to create an intro to 3d printing class with a curated experience for new users, allowing them to get their feet wet before moving onto more nuanced printing with other printer manufacturers.

Goals

  1. To increase the use of the 3d printing area by reducing complexity of devices in service.
  2. To instill confidence in the end user by giving them instructions that will help them achieve a near 100% success rate with their projects the 1st time around.

Specifications

A little while ago I was speaking to Travis about the 3D printing area and 3d printing in general and something that we could agree on was the hodge podge nature of our current printing setup in the 3d lab. While the majority of the printers are in service with only one truly out of service the end user has to remember the particulars of each printer which isn’t great for people looking to get started quickly. Therefore I propose that we switch to a fleet of printers that are all the same and “it just works” premise so that the end user can start printing what they want, be successful and then explore/ go down the rabbit hole of advanced printing.

How to achieve this

My proposal is to refit the lab with three Prusa Printers. Recently Prusa announced the PrusaXL which is a CoreXY printer with a 14.17’’×14.17’’×14.17’’ print volume, option for multiple tool heads, a segmented heated bed and a host of other features that would make printing a frustration free experience. Many more of the enhanced print features can be found here Prusa XL but I’d like to highlight this part of their webpage

“Load Cell-based system for fully automatic first layer calibration. No manual calibration, no Live Z adjustments. The XL achieves a perfect first layer across the entire surface every time you start a print.”.

This is the core of getting people up to speed quickly after instruction; they also make repairs far less frequent than our current collection of printers. With this printer we can instruct new users using either PrusaSlic3r or SuperSlic3r (SuperSlic3r is a better version of Prusa’s version as SS takes some of the best features of Simplify3d and PrusaSlic3r).

“But what about our current printers?!” Yea that is the question du jour, they work but are not uniform, there is a tendency of people using them improperly which leads to errors and with errors it becomes an unpleasant experience to the new end user. The Polyprinter and Qidi X-Max should definitely stay around as they can be tasked to specific materials/nozzles. Lulzbot, Robo, CR-10 (and CR-20) could become a part of a more advanced/in depth 3d printing class that goes over maintenance, first layer calibration, firmware writing, etc

Costs

  1. PrusaXL

Three PrusaXL with 2 tool heads will cost 7,497. Since it will ship from Prague I don’t know how much is actually needed in shipping/VAT costs or how our status as a 501c3 will impact that price if at all(website said we get a 5% discount). Also since it’s still preorder there isn’t a price listed on the baffle attachment to protect the print area from drafts but with X-max and Poly, those two could be ABS only)

  1. New Enclosure or Work Surfaces

Shouldn’t be much of a lift as we can build a new medium to large enclosure to hold more printers. See the addendum here.

Needed Action

  • Find a location for the new printers while minimizing the displacement of the current printers in the lab
    • The space in the lab is limited as is so some displacement is gonna happen. But a “U” shape maybe the best course for additional printers.
  • Possibly building a new enclosure for the printers.
  • Sort through our current items and decide what needs to stay and what needs to go as well as general organization/labeling of parts and other consumables.

Volunteer Statement

  • With this initiative I pledge to assist with the following:
    • Writing curriculum for the use of prusa slicer and basic workflow of the Prusa printers
    • Instruction of said curriculum to new users or to others that wish to teach a very basic class as needed
    • Assembly of the printers and work surfaces/enclosures.
    • Sort and organization of the current parts and consumables in the lab.
    • Work with other members to secure a Grant for 2 additional Prusa MK3S’s
    • Work with contacts to possibly get a filament sponsorship or a discounted rate on filament for use with these machines.
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Agree 100% with the goals of this proposal. That Prusa XL sounds really nice not only for the huge benefit you highlighted with the auto first layer calibration, but also with the ability to scale up to 5 tool heads per machine for multi filament extrusion at our own pace.

Can you add to this proposal a personal volunteer statement of how you would contribute to this proposal (setup of machines, teaching classes, writing workflow, that sort of thing)?

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After reading this post it reminded me of a similar one that was regarding the electronics lab.

Since I am Currently the steward and have put many hours into getting all the machines working as well as building the enclosure for them from scratch, it would have been nice to have been involved in this discussion instead of reading about it on the forum.

As for a rebuttal, I am not quite sure what particulars the end-user has to remember since all the specs for the printers are preloaded into cura. Also with there being so many different slicers available, The best slicer is the one that works best for you.

On the repair side of things, not one machine has required a repair except the one in which a thermistor went bad. Any machine has a tendency of people using them improperly regardless of which one they use and that applies to any machine in the shop. There would be no need to teach firmware writing on shop machines because then we would have no idea what was loaded onto them at any given time. As for maintenance, I vaguely recall Valerie asking for assistance in getting the cr-20 up and running and it hasn’t been until recently that anything has been done to it.

Right this is just a proposal and probably won’t happen for some time mostly due to cost. I will follow up with you and share my vision. This wasn’t about any issues with how you’ve ran the lab or the equipment we have per se. Your input is valuable and needed as well.

Just to be clear context wise, that quote from @Jon was in reference to a donation someone wanted to make, not a proposal to change the electronics lab. That’s not to say other stewards of the 3D printing area’s input is not highly regarded in the proposal put forth, but to put Jon’s words in context as it was on a different subject.

The goals of this proposal are sound. The 3D printing area has made leaps and bounds with your efforts @dash3811, no doubt on that whatsoever. It is however still a very under utilized area in the shop and new users have had a hard time getting started with them. We should continuously look for avenues to decrease the barrier to entry and consider new approaches to achieve that aim as they are presented.

I would counterargue that “3D Printing just isn’t that easy” and there isn’t a great way to “decrease the barrier to entry”.

  1. 3D modeling from scratch is not easy. Take a look at how complex Fusion 360 is. Then add in the silliness that are slicers and data transfers and G-code and it’s not straightforward at all.

  2. Filament printing seems to be inherently fiddly for some reason. I bought a Form2 for my work precisely because I didn’t want to dork with 3D printing–I wanted to get stuff printed. We later bought an Ultimaker S5, but we’re always having issues with it. The Form2, on the other hand, just works–of course, the downside is that it is quite slow.

To be fair, my work is not a “shared space”. So we get a big benefit from that.

  1. I see a lot of “beginners have a tough time”. However, please do understand that other spaces require multiple classes to even begin on a 3D machine. Normally it is some level of CAD/Fusion 360/G-Code class, absolute basics class, checkout on the machine class and only then a class with an actual project (generally 2 or 3 sessions). Often those classes amount to somewhere around $500 to $1000. You could buy your own machine at that price (in fact, that is sometimes the end artifact of the classes–your own 3D printer).

@Devmani’s proposal specifically outlines a means to reduce barrier to entry and with the right machine, material, and settings 3D printing can be very easy. Yes, it can be extremely fiddly; we have one at home that has proven that quite well. As with most (all?) tools, some machines work better than others and are inherently more/less fiddly. Variances in filament (especially when you start talking types and nozzle requirements for specific types) certainly play a role as well, which is why @EricP has suggested we switch the Polyprinter to only use Asmbly provided filament that we know will work.

Making your own models is not at all necessary to use 3D printers nor should it be an expectation of a beginner IMO. Phase 1 is get familiar with making the machine work. Choose from the enormous library of models available online during this phase. In a subsequent phase, learn to make your own models. I think that topic should be its own class as there is a lot to learn there. It would be great if we had a series of classes that could build towards greater levels of proficiency, with an advanced class that does get into the fiddly nuts and bolts as @Devmani mentioned in this proposal. Taking all the classes may amount to several hundred dollars if we ever got to that many classes, but we’re not trying to price things to be inaccessible to the masses or turn a profit here. We’re trying to make making cool stuff accessible and empower people to try things they’re curious about and be successful doing it.

Your point about complexity is excellent and also hints at a solution.

Teach a single workflow with reduced options for increased assurance of success.

This isn’t a hypothetical, it’s an idea I’ve had good success with teaching beginners:

  • Only teach printing downloaded STLs to start, don’t teach any design.
  • Use software with a simple interface and few options, e.g. PrusaSlicer’s Basic.
  • Have beginners learn only one printer platform where they work identically.
  • Adopt one filament for teaching and supply that filament for beginners to use.
  • Have each student independently start a print themselves during class.
  • Teach to and provide a simple step-by-step workflow document.
  • Provide an incentive to return ASAP to practice, e.g posting to Asmbly’s Instagram.

You can always teach a person new things if they’ve had success and are motivated. Getting that new user to where they can come in and independently print is HUGE. You can see an example of a two-page document I use in my intro class below. This class is built around the Prusa i3 Mk3 and Mini.

If anybody would like to see the accompanying slides I use then just let me know.

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In my most recent class, I found some videos online that went over some of my talking points in class. Thereby allowing more time to answer questions and discuss some things that people wanted to talk about.

Nothing about modeling is even touched on during class. Fusion360 is another beast that I have yet to tame.

One thing to promote easy setup would be swapping the control boards out and equipping the machines with Automatic Bed Leveling such as the BL-Touch. Except the polyprinter of course. This upgrade would be a fraction of the cost of buying all new printers.

When it comes to slicers, I’ve looked into Superslicer and loaded the eact same model with the same settings as I did for Simplify3D. Superslicer took 16 hours and Simplify 3D took 3.5. Simplify3D is the easiest slicer I’ve used thus far and would be the easiest to teach. However, I do believe the best slicer is the one that works for you.

A barrier to 3D printing that cant be overcome in any way is that its not cut and dry. You cant just click a few buttons and expect a great finish piece. Printing is an experiment. With slicers having a multitude of variables any one thing can cause a print to fail. Another thing is the time factor. It seems as though quite a lot of people are expecting it to be a very short process and are astounded when prints show that it will be hours for them to complete.

OK, I think it might be good to reread the proposal as it’s been edited to get more specific and clarify a few things. This is not to replace everything we have. This is to expand on what we have and include some new machines that have high success rates for beginners. A few of the current machines that are under utilized or prone to errors would be removed, but not all of them (Polyprinter and Qidi Max would definitely stay).

It would be awesome to get more insights/input from other members who have used/tried to use the 3D printers at the space or taken the current class. Tagging a few people I know of who are on Discourse – @wynd @cbarber @AidFHonda @JL2021 @bdwg @Sapipulani @doug.squires @stargazer @lretzer @mnd2pex @jroeber @en4bz @beirdo @steve_skelton @EricP @Tookys

I also made a quick survey here that would be really great to get feedback through. Please all take a moment to fill it out!


To be super clear here, this proposal is looking to take us to the next level, not demean or diminish the level we’re at or the hard work that people put in to get us to where we are currently.

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I filled out the survey and essentially noted that in terms of FDM printers, the Prusa is about as foolproof and beginner friendly as it gets. I own a MK3S+ at home and in 200+ hours of prints the only real issue I’ve ever had is when I set up the filament on the wrong knob it will tangle up and crash the print. Never had any z-level issues or needed to adjust after the initial calibration, and I even have mine setup on a rickety folding table in my garage. Filament swapping is straightforward and set up in such a way that it’s hard to get nozzle clogs and even if clog were to happen the machine is pretty accessible to clean - though I’ve never had to do it. Otherwise the machine tends to get out of the way and most other things that come up are related to filament issues and adherence etc. The slicer is also pretty easy to use and understand.

Also, in terms of modeling - I taught myself on OpenSCAD. IMO it is simpler and much more approachable from a UX perspective than the complex GUI’s that software like Fusion360 and FreeCAD offer. There are, however, a couple downsides to OpenSCAD. The first is that namely you have to be unafraid to write a little code (it’s quite a simple language, however, and even those unfamiliar with any type of code should have zero problem doing some basic stuff). The second is that OpenSCAD is really bad at producing closed and manifold geometry when doing complex geometric boolean operations. The classic example that always gives me issues is subtracting cylinders from anything else. You are typically only doing these kind of operations when you are quite advanced at modeling, however, and at that point you are probably familiar enough with CAD software to be able to take your operation into FreeCAD or Fusion360 and work with it there. A decent slicer is also quite good at repairing minor issues in geometry. It won’t perform miracles for you, but PrusaSlicer has fixed issues generated from me doing some pretty crazy geometric operations that took an hour to render in OpenSCAD.

In my honest opinion I think it is a very good idea to teach modeling and OpenSCAD is the easiest way to start. One could have people designing their own very simple model and exporting it in OpenSCAD within the time constraints the current course is offered. Banging out a hollowed out cube and maybe even importing a library to do a chamfer is pretty trivial and teachable in less than 30 minutes and the UX is easy enough that the end user really only needs to learn how to pan around and hit render then export as STL. It’s also nice to get people to start thinking in terms of parametric modeling since that is usually the much more powerful way to go about making and tweaking models in the long term.

Modeling is a whole other beast and if you are volunteering to teach those classes I’m sure we would all be grateful lol.

I personally couldn’t even imagine teaching that and having it stick as there is just a lot to remember and if you aren’t doing it every day for a few weeks you will lose that knowledge. Gonna go into the weeds and deviate slightly but on the topic of learning modeling. I feel a good option is to explore what can be done with sites like skillshare and such. See if we can get deeply discounted or free “seats” to allow members to learn at their own pace.

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If there was enough interest I would be happy to teach an entry level modelling course. I’m by no means a professional who does this for a living and as such I wouldn’t be able to demonstrate how to create really complex 3D bezier-curve like shapes like boat propellers but I have enough knowledge to get people’s feet pretty wet. I would probably mostly cover OpenSCAD and a bit of FreeCAD. Just spitballing on content and goals here - at the end of the course the end user would be able to create simple geometric shapes like hollowed box, tube and apply some tricks specific to FDM 3d printing like using chamfers to print perpendicular without support. Simple boolean operations like union and difference would be covered. Perhaps also a couple of the more common complex operations like minkowski sum and extrusion would also make sense. It would cover the basic functions around importing existing CAD files, creating new ones, navigating the basic OpenSCAD UI and rendering + exporting. It would also give a brief overview of how OpenSCAD differs from more traditional 3d modelling programs like FreeCAD and an example of how to do similar operation in both. Basically enough knowledge to create some common stuff to be used around your house/work and enough to download and edit existing .SCAD files off of Thingiverse (.SCAD is pretty common non-mesh format there, perhaps the most common). I think all of that could probably be covered in a single day course.

Not sure how these things are determined regarding classes like whether there is enough interest but perhaps @valerie has more info.

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That sounds like a fantastic class! I’m putting together a big class survey right now that I’m going to send out this weekend and have added OpenSCAD to the list of software classes to help gauge interest. I think either way, that’s a class we’d at least like to host a few times if not on a regular basis depending on broader levels of interest.

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Quick update here – the board has approved this proposal. Funds have been donated for the MK3s kits and the order for those has been placed. Lead time is 6-8 weeks, but hopefully they end up arriving sooner. We have also placed the preorder for two XLs with 2 toolheads which are currently expected to ship Q2/Q3. Depending on what the budget looks like when that time comes, we may upgrade one machine to a 5 toolhead (yes, 5 filaments in one print! :meow_wow: ).

@Devmani and @dash3811 are coordinating on sorting through the current items and deciding what needs to stay/go as well as improving the general organization/labeling of parts and other consumables. Excited to see this shop area continue to evolve and grow!

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To add to this I’ve also got the beginnings of a sponsorship going with a filament provider, I’ll have more details as we firm up logistics and what will actually be provided and the cadence of said provisions. I’m really excited to be apart of growing this area of the maker space!

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I followed the link that @Devmani posted about refurbished 3-D printers. Bought two ender three pro‘s which apparently were Amazon returns. They appeared to be brand new. Everything was present in its original container, well packaged. The materials are good. It even came with the tools needed to assemble, wire cutters, SD card with reader for the computer, starter filament. And even had a warranty card. They were unassembled. They’re easy to construct and work quite well. They ended up being $134 apiece. I can’t even buy the parts for that. It came to me, this might be a good tool for a class on building a 3-D printer. The student could keep their printer at the end of the class. they are easy to upgrade as there’s a large community of people supporting these printers. Even someone who would never 3-D printed before could benefit from this. I think it would be a great introduction to 3-D printing. It could be taught after the intro to 3-D printing or even taught before The intro and followed by the intro. If everyone had the same kit, it should go fairly easily. I would be willing to teach that class. It would probably require that we secure the kits prior to the class as availability may be spotty.

Yup, it’s something we’ve already explored and approved doing. I’m just waiting for another great deal that would make the class relatively inexpensive and something I could teach a few times and have stock on hand for students.

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The deal that I got is still running. It’s an ender 3 pro Bundle. Two for $239 or five for $599. Both deals workout to $119 Per printer.
It’s a little hard to find. You go to the regular page and scroll down towards the bottom. You’ll see US refurbished Endler three pro. When you click on it, a single printer is $169 but you can see a box to click that says times two and another that says times five.
They have the regular Endler 3 non-pro 2 pack for $199 for two printers. They offer a five pack but strangely they are more expensive per printer than the two pack.
They may not be the newest with all the bells and whistles, but they are a very solid first printer and easily expandable.

They also have used Endler three pros for $89.

I’ve seen better deals from them but you have to jump on it very quickly. This is a higher price than the board agreed upon(when we were going to do this the printers were about 50 dollars each). So I’m watching my channels and looking keeping an eye out for good deals. If you come across something that is really good let me know.

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