I experimented a bit with Meshmixer to optimize the orientation and supports for a model before slicing and printing with Dremel’s software. Pro: it was easy to remove the tree-style supports it generated. Con: the surface quality was no better for all the extra work involved, and actually required a bit more sanding to be usable.
So I tried the current version of Cura (which has a bewildering array of tree-support options) with the machine definition copied from Dremel’s older version and the built-in generic filament and quality definitions. The print took just as long as with the Dremel software, but practically crumbled in my hand. All the small parts could be snapped off with very light pressure, and the main body’s 20% infill wasn’t enough to survive squeezing between thumb and forefinger. Definitely need to import the Dremel-specific filament and quality settings before I try that again.
Then I tried to decipher the UI for Autodesk Fusion 360, which honestly looks like it was designed to sell training classes. Also, it has a fairly short list of available machine, material, and quality profiles, so I’d have to enter everything by hand for my printer. Yeah, no. If I can manage to figure out how to use it before the mouse bindings drive me to throw a laptop out a window, I’ll try designing a part and exporting to Dremel’s software. It also really, really wants to keep everything in their cloud, which you have to manage from a real browser; it took me a good five minutes to figure out how to completely delete one accidental upload.
Then I took a brief look at FreeCAD, where instead of having their own UI paradigm, they simply emulate everyone else’s and allow you to pick one. Or more. Initial impression: the 2D tools make Illustrator look like the easiest-to-learn drawing software in the world; I didn’t get to the 3D tools. I did like the Bézier curve visualization, though.
CorelCAD is a full-featured 2D/3D package, and for $700 it ought to be. In prehistoric times I found CorelDRAW a lot easier to learn than Illustrator and used it a lot, but then they had a very, very buggy major release that drove me away, and I never looked back. They have free trials of all their software, and a subscription model for some of them, but the very first question on their FAQ page is:
The Dremel’s camera went offline during one of my prints, and since nothing was listening on the port, obviously the software had crashed on the printer. There’s nothing checking for this and restarting it, so the only way to get the feed back is to power-cycle, which had to wait until I was done sending test prints for the day. The printer still printed, and the status API kept reporting correctly, so it was no big deal. Their app doesn’t really know what to do when there’s no video feed, but it still functions.
By the way, extracting the Busybox image from the latest firmware
update and running
strings on the binaries revealed a few additional
commands in the API: GETJOBSTATUS, CANCEL, PAUSE, RESUME, NOZZLEHEAT,
PLATEHEAT, STOPNOZZLEHEAT, STOPPLATEHEAT; I have no need to try most
of those out. A quick
tcpdump while I was driving it from the GUI
showed the two-part command to print across the network: you upload
the file by POSTing to
/print_file_uploads with name, filename, and
data fields, then POST
/command (and then spam
it with GETPRINTERSTATUS every few seconds, at least if you’re
So, if I ever get another slicer that generates good code for this device, I won’t have to walk the gcode over to the printer on a thumb drive, through the snow, uphill both ways. That will matter more once I move it upstairs into my office, because while it’s not loud, it is audible, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off the built-in lighting. Closing the office door will make lengthy overnight prints less intrusive.
…unless I ever have a houseguest again, because the guest bedroom is right next to the office.
…unless the guest is my sister, who stubbornly insists that my couch provides a much better sleeping experience. Honestly, if I ever win the lottery and build my dream house, her room will just have a sectional sofa, large-screen TV, and a bookshelf. And excellent wifi coverage. Maybe its own kitchen. Oh, what the hell, just make it a studio apartment without a bed.
If it ever becomes possible to play tabletop games in person again, mz4250’s extremely large set of free miniatures will be useful. The detailing on some of them is nice enough to scale up for decoration, and it’s not just the complete set of D&D monsters and an ever-increasing set of module-specific characters. There are other genres, as well as disturbing nightmare creations.
I think I’ve gone down enough software rat-holes for now. Back to just coding up shapes in OpenSCAD and printing them with the supplied software and its “old-fashioned” support structures.
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