We are a few weeks into our busiest semester by far so I want to share a quick summary of things we have learned and issues going forward. If you have any printing intentions please read. I will try (and likely fail) to be short.
Overall MakerSpace Issues
- We have done a great job keeping the MakerSpace clean and organized. Thanks to all users for helping on this. Also I want to point out to everyone the great job that Marc has done keeping the lab up to date. Please thank Marc for the many hours he spends keeping the lab running.
- Overall the MakerSpace is running fine from what I can see. If you have or know of issues, please let us know.
- There are no planned changes to the overall MakerSpace in the near future. The next major changes will occur during the next Rickover Lab Deck change (1-2 years away).
- IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that users make a strong effort to remove their prints from the build plate once complete. Printers cannot be used by others until this is done.
- All printers have some process to "tell" the printer that the build plate is clear. For most printers this is a simple push of a button on the printer BUT THIS MUST BE DONE ON THE PRINTER. Very few people are doing this (me and Marc do it very frequently).
- I think most users have learned that SEADEVIL is the cornerstone of the MakserSpace, but as we anticipated it is now becoming a weakness as the number of users has grown. There a key things to understand about SEADEVIL, we are about to make significant changes to how SEADEVIL works, and we have expansion plans for SEADEVIL for AY21.
- We have seen that once SEADEVIL hits about 20 users, everything starts to slow down. in the past we have managed this by forcefully disconnecting users. The original intent of the MakerSpace was for all print jobs to come through SEADEVIL (including remote operation) but using the PCs in the MakerSpace also works perfectly fine and is often the best solution.
- We will be changing the policy of SEADEVIL soon to not allow users to suspend a remote session (most users will not even notice this change). This means that unlike currently, user sessions will completely close when a remote session is stopped. For practicality this means you will have to make sure a print job is FULLY TRANSFERRED before closing a remote session (this was always the recommendation).
- The OS hard drive on SEADEVIL is precariously full. We have always discouraged users from saving data to the C: drive and data on this drive is NEVER safe. The are several TBs of storage on the MakerSpace shared drive so there is ample room for storage. This problem is far more complex so it is not as simple as swapping out a hard drive.
- Before AY21 we expect to upgrade to a significantly more robust system that will carry us forward for years.
- We have completely solved issues with MakerBot printers require authentication every session. If you are experiencing cases where you have to authenticate every time, let me now by email (I need your login account name), and I can permanently fix your issue.
- However, some users still experience long file transfer times. There is no definitive reason for this but there are 2 most common cases: (1) many users are trying to print at the same time or (2) users are creating SolidWorks file that are unnecessarily complex (such as a very small scale part with high resolution that is then scaled to a much larger part). If you are having long transfer time, check with MakerSpace staff or wait until other users transfer their print jobs.
- One the good side, most MakerBot printers are printing well. Jams can and do still occur but most prints are going well. USE GLUE and then clean the build plate.
- We recently installed a new Ultimaker (Ride) with 2 additional features, Air Manager and Material Station, and we have another full unit that will arrive this semester. The Air Manager has no real user requirement or interface but does have a specific automatic function. The Material Station is far more complex and we have just begun using and learning about it. Make sure you are trained by me or Marc before trying to reconfigure the Materials Station.
- BY FAR the most common and frustrating user error of the Ultimakers is not correctly selecting materials in Cura. As an example, if you create a job with "white PLA" and there is no printer configured with "white PLA" then your job goes nowhere.
- Related to the above and even worse, if you select a specific printer (which you should not do - all jobs should be sent to Armstrong) and that printer does not match the material you have selected EXACTLY, you have now locked that printer out. THIS IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE and prevents all users from using that printer (because the printer is expecting and waiting for you to change out the filament).
- Ultimaker printers need to be cleaned after almost every use. This should include cleaning of the build plate and removing any excess filament in the chamber (in particular PVA tends to make a mess). In general I do not want users removing the glass build plate. The plate can be cleaned while installed. We also keep a small portable hand vacuum in Ri226 to vacuum out the build area.
- If you do not understand the above items (in particular the importance of material selection), then you are not ready to print on the Ultimakers.
- In general the Formlabs SLA printers are working well. I know of no issues with the newer Form3 printers but be aware they are currently not compatible with all resins we have.
- The Form2 printers do have some common issues. The resin cartridges (and somewhat less frequently the resin trays) often do not get sensed correctly. This can be fixed on the cartrides usually be lifting them up and then placing them back down. The resin trays can be more difficult and are VERY SENSITIVE, so ask for help if you are having problems with trays.
- What the above really means is you need to check on your print jobs early when they get started (most problems happen in the first few minutes) and at least once or twice during the print.
- Our MakerSpace policy has been that we (i.e. me, Marc, or other users) will remove and start post-processing SLA parts (wash and cure) to keep printers available, but many users are starting to get advanced with SLA printing so we are reluctant to continue this in order to avoid causing problems for users. Bottom line, take care of your own prints as best you can. At most, we might remove and wash your parts but we will in general not cure them or remove them from the build plate.
- The LulzBot printers are still the most underutilized printers in the MakerSpace, but I expect that might start to change. In general, use of the LulzBot's is very advanced and we nominally expect users to "figure it out on your own." We will help you get started and the printers are currently fully operational, but you will need to be able to do the basics like load filament and transfer jobs (not a trivial process on the LulzBots) on your own.
Wow, that was admittedly more than I wanted to write, but this is how we all learn. We are trying to teach and educate close to 100 users so we need and expect users to learn some on their own. Believe it or not, there is a lot that we learn simply by learning from all of these issues.
As always, Happy Printing!