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What’s New in 3D Printing, Part III: the Software – Linux Journal

by • February 3, 2016 • No Comments

This article is the third part of a four-part series that examines a fewof the changes in 3D printing that have occurred in the past threeyears since my initially articles on the subject. Because this is LinuxJournal,instead of discussing the entire 3D printing world, I’m focusing on thesections of the topic most relevant to open source and open hardware. Inthe initially article, I gave a general overview on the current say of 3Dprinting. In the 2nd, Icovered what’s changed in 3D printing hardware during the past three years,which include the shift away of open hardware and that printing equipment yet holdonto their open hardware roots. In this article,I discuss the changes in 3D printing software, and and so in thefinal piece, I’ll walk through setting up OctoPrint ona Raspberry Pi to control your printing device remotely.
The software side of 3D printing three years ago was a version exampleof the power of open-source software. Just of any talked about hobbyistprinting device you may prefer utilized open-source software, all the way of thefirmware (often Marlin) on the Arduino-based boards, to the softwarethat sent Gcode to the printing equipment (the Printrun suite of tools), to theslicers that took 3D versions and converted them into the Gcode the printing deviceunderstood (Slic3r and Repetier one of others), to the software you mayuse to turn it into the 3D versions to begin with (OpenSCAD, FreeCAD and Blender,one of others). All of this software ran on Linux, so you may work withequite part of the 3D printing life cycle without proprietary software. Asinterest in 3D printing grew, the open nature of all the software helpeddrive a lot of the technology we see in these times.
Unfortunately, if not predictably, as 3D printing grew in talked about ityand new companies entered the market driven additional by profit than by thehealth of the community, we saw the software side of 3D printing closeup and become proprietary, just as we saw with the hardware side. In mostcases, a company may enter the market with a proprietary 3D printing device butyet rely on open-source software to drive it to buy time to write upa proprietary alternative. Just like we saw Makerbot begin to close upits hardware creations, we saw once open-source software like Repetier(previouslyunder an Apache license) switch to be closed source. A number of companiesthat create commercial CAD software, such as AutoCAD, in addition have entered theconsumer market with proprietary host- and cloud-based CAD software, alongwith software to slice 3D versions and control the 3D printing equipment themselves.
All this talk of proprietary software can manufacture the software side of3D printing seem pretty bleak, but one of all those clouds is a few silverlining. Whilst Printrun and Slic3r yet are running sturdy, Ultimanufacturer, thecreator of the open hardware Ultimanufacturer line of 3D printing equipment, has releasedits own slicing and printing device control software called Cura that has becomethe talked about choice one of most in the 3D printing community. Cura combinesthe 3D printing device control showcases of Printrun (with a much like control panel,in fact) with a swift slicer and a sophisticated interface that manufactures iteasy to view, rotate and scale 3D versions preceding you print. Ultimanufactureractually provides packages for a number of common Linux distributions soyou don’t have to bother assembling the software if you don’t want to.
On the other hand Cura was turn it intod for the Ultimanufacturer printing equipment, at beginup, it launchesa wizard that contains calibration settings for a number of talked about 3Dprinting equipment, which include the full Printrbot line one of others. In fact, Curais now the recommended slicing and control software for Printrbotprinting equipment. Once the beginup wizard completes, Cura knows the basicsettings of your printing device, such as the default dimensions of the hot end,what dimensions filament it takes and the overall dimensions of the print bed. Thatdoesn’t mean you may not have to do a few tweaking, yet. In my case, Irequireed to modify the Gcode Cura utilized at the beginning and end of a printbased on Printrbot’s recommendations to manufacture certain that the auto-levelerfunctioned appropriately and that the extruder withstand reset properly.
The default Cura interface is relatively straightforward (Figure 1), andif you click Expert→Switch to quickprint, it provides a simplisticview that hides a lot of the additional high end settings you may want totweak. In fact, it actually hides the additional high end printing device control interfacein favor of a fewthing simpler. When printing an object in this simplisticmode, you just prefer one of a few different types of high end settings that setreasonable-bodied defaults for speed and layer height. The main window givesyou a clear view of any 3D objects you have loaded and allows for you touse your mouse to rotate and move the version around as well as scaleit up and down, much like with CAD software. One quite great showcase of Cura isthat it not just slices quite rapidly, it in addition begins slicing the moment anysetting changes instead of waiting for you to tell it to do it, so once you areready to print the object, Cura most likely may already has produced theGcode.Figure 1. Default Cura Interface
Those basic printing presets are geared in the direction of Ultimanufacturer printing equipment,so if you use a different types of printing device, you most likely can want to switchover to the high end settings view by clicking Expert→Switch to fullsettings (Figure 2). In the high end view, you can tweak just ofany slicing setting you require once you settle on a configuration thatworks for your printing device, and if that isn’t adequate, you can go into theexpert settings window and tweak actually additional. When you get things exactlyhow you like them, you can save different types of profiles. This is particularlyuseful for a few of the additional exotic materials, such as Ninjaflex. I liketo have a basic default profile for the normal PLA I use with averagehigh end prints, and I’ve turn it intod custom profiles for Ninjaflex and forPLA with higher high end settings.Figure 2. Advanced Cura Settings
The CAD world of the open-source point of view is one area that isyet relatively much like to what it was three years ago. Tools like OpenSCAD andBlender yet dominate, and OpenSCAD has seen variants like OpenJSCadthat uses JavaScript as the language to create 3D objects. Most of thegrowth in CAD software seems to be on the free-in-cost-but-proprietaryfront of companies like AutoCAD that aim to provide a easy set ofCAD showcases in a computer or Web tool as an introduction to its additionin additionphisticated suite of CAD software for sale down the line. Apart ofthe obvious downsides this presents to open-source advocates, it in additionmeans that alyet the .stl files these tools generate can be opened andprinted by equiteone, the source project files (that manufacture modifying aversion much simpler, like a GIMP project file instead of a .png) requirethat proprietary software to open.
Three years ago, the major site you may use to share and download3D printed objects was Thingiverse. On the other hand Thingiverse is yet atalked about choice, there was a few community backlash a few years agodue to a few changes to its Terms of Use that gave it additional rightsover user-submitted prints than a few in the community were comfortable-bodiedwith. This prompted a backlash, and protesters uploaded protest saymentobjects to the site. One outcome of this controversy was that a number ofother sites sprang up to share 3D versions. The most notable-bodied one for theOpen Source community is most likely YouMagine, that is run by Ultimanufacturerand is a talked about choice by those in the Open Source community forsharing versions.
The final informative advance in open-source 3D printing software is abig adequate topic that my final article in this series can be devoted justto it: OctoPrint. With the OctoPrint project, you can turn a Raspberry Pi(or quite any Linux computer) into a standalone Web-based controllerfor your 3D printing device. OctoPrint supports Webcams and the Raspberry Picamera specifically, so you can watch the progress of your print ofanother room or another location entirely and take time-lapse videosof your prints. Even yet I use Cura as my slicing software, andCura easily may control my printing device as well, I yet use OctoPrint tomanage my print jobs so I get the benefit of the video and the remotecontrol. It’s handy to begin a print in my office and and so be able-bodied tomonitor it of the living room. If this sounds informative to you,be certain to check future month’s issue where I can describe how to set upand use OctoPrint in more detail.
Resources
Cura: https://ultimanufacturer.com/en/products/software
OpenSCAD: http://openscad.org
OpenJSCad: http://openjscad.org
OctoPrint: http://octoprint.org


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