#myprusastory

#myprusastory tldr; My first 3D printer was free because a friend couldn’t get it to work. I wanted to try a better printer but $750? Then the Prusa Mini was announced! 2 years later and now we have 7. We take them to events where we teach people how to model->slice->print.

Long story

I got a free 3D printer from a friend that just wanted to throw it away to avoid thinking about a $400 mistake. It was a Monoprice Maker Select Plus and I had it working over a weekend. Generally speaking it printed just fine to me. I didn’t know the difference! Eventually I got into the “3D YouTube Community”. I couldn’t help but think that a Prusa was better but $750?

On YouTube NO ONE WAS TALKING about the printer I had. When I searched for it the reviews were from many many years before. And most of the time it was either “meh” or that it’s got problems. Everything on Youtube was all about the Ender 3. Endless content about the Ender 3. And while I consider myself a tinkerer . . . the effort people were putting into an Ender 3 to “make it good” seemed crazy to me. Why not spend more and get a Prusa MK3?

In October of 2019, the Prusa Mini was announced! I was nervous to buy it because it looked so . . . fragile. But then the reviews came out and it was generally positive including the fact that the prints were really high quality. I finally ordered it in December of 2019 but the wait was 5 months!

In the meantime, I learned a ton about the Ender 3 and Creality just from watching YouTube. During the time from December of 2019 to May of 2020, Creality put the CR-6 SE on Kickstarter. It seemed to be everything the Prusa Mini was but with a way bigger print area (even bigger than a Prusa Mk3!) and it had all the features that people were adding to the Ender 3 (dual Z motors, auto bed leveling, better extruder and hot end, etc.). I got caught up in the Kickstarter hype (thanks alot Joel!) and ordered that too.

They both arrived within a few months of each other. While on paper the only big difference was that the CR-6 SE had a glass bed and the Prusa Mini had a spring sheet, everything else beside build volume was supposedly the same. But it SOOO WASN’T. The firmware for the CR-6 SE was never updated. Once again, thanks to YouTube, I found out that it was best to use the “Community Edition” of the firmware. One I installed that the printer was pretty reliable but I still hated switching the filament and the glass was just a horrible decision and I would avoid printing anything with too big a print surface because it would be impossible to remove. Sometimes it would cool and the part would pop right off and sometimes it was back to the old scraper.

I never had any of those issues with the Prusa Mini. Changing filament was so easy. And so was popping stuff off the bed. Eventually it was the only printer I would use unless I needed a bigger build volume. I ordered another one a few months later. The mini wasn’t PERFECT and if I switched out filament types, like PETG back to PLA, then I would end up clogging the printer and it took me several hours over several weeks to figure out how to clear out those clogs. The issue manifest itself as the extruder clicking and I spent a long time thinking that was broken. But that didn’t happen often and it wasn’t all that hard to fix once I figured it out.

During all this time, I was still tinkering with the old Monoprice. I even bought another one because they were on sale for less than $200 (and then were canceled shortly after . . .damn you Monoprice!). I put on these cheap removeable beds. I added Raspberry Pis. I changed out the extruder handle for a metal one. I tried all metal hot ends but they were forever clogging up so I put the old ones back in. I added a BL Touch after updating the firmware to the excellent firmware ADVi3++ which revealed it had a color touch screen the whole time! I was able to do “tuning” on the printer so much easier. They printed okay but always had what I call “shaky lines”. And nothing that had moving parts would print well either. I heard that was cooling so I printed a Cii cooling fan shroud (using PC Blend filament on the Prusa Mini) and got a new way powerful fan. After installing that now I can’t print at all because of heat issues after the first layer. What? Anyway, one more thing to fix. But I did make it way easier to use with just the removable beds. The BLTouch . . . I’m not sure that’s been worth it although I do like that I just need to adjust the z-offset sometimes and I don’t have to level the entire bed all the time.

Meanwhile, I just kept ordering a new Prusa Mini whenever I had a little more money. Two years later and now I have 7. Two of them we leave at my wifes’ school and she teaches the kids there about them.

4 of the Prusa Mini’s hard at work

We took them all to Southwest Maker Fair and that was so fun. The model->slice->print idea was a huge success. And we also teach at my wife’s school at an after school program. Everyone gets so much joy out of seeing something they made come to life (even if it’s something simple like a 2 color name plate!). And of course, I print out stuff for around the house or for school projects or just stuff we think is interesting. It would be cool to find a way to make money with them so we can at least pay for filament . . . but they total bring me $400 * 7 amount of joy, that’s for sure.

I always wanted to get an Original Prusa MK3 but they had been out for SOOO LOOONG . . are they really that good still? The only have 8 bit boards and speak and spell like screens. Seems like such a downgrade. Once again Joel changed my mind on them when he bought like 30 of them to open a shop. That said I never was able to pull the trigger. But I kept seeing them on Aliexpress and the like . . . could the parts really be that good? The MK3S+ printer is completely open source and has been out for over 5 years so by now they must have it figured out, right? For $350 I decided to give a shot! Once I got it working it seemed FLAWLESS (especially after I ordered a real original Prusa spring sheet . . . the knockoff one is horrible). Will it last as long as a Prusa? Probably not. But how could I know for sure unless I got a real Prusa MK3S+ right? Maybe I’ll win one with the #myprusastory contest!

What 3D printer should I get?

I get some variation of this question all the time. Sometimes it comes with some set of parameters like “to use in a classroom” or “we can spend about $300” or “I need to print figures in high detail”. The trouble is my opinion is limited to my own experience . . . it’s not like I do 3D printer reviews (though I would if someone wants to send me one!). I have personally worked with less than 10 different models of printers across only 4 bands.

Just the other day I saw these “Kingroon” printers on a little known youtube channel. He had at least 16 of them and must have really believed in them. I looked it up and they were only $180! What the? I almost ordered it from Amazon as an impulse buy but then I remembered I have enough printers to fix right now.

After a bit more research, I’m glad I didn’t get one. It doesn’t have all the essentials features I list below.

Goals

3D printing, as a hobby or even a full time job, is a spectrum of “I want a tool” to “I like to tinker with my tools”. One extreme is that you want a tool to make prints on demand with little fuss. The other end is you like the mechanics of this tool and want to challenge yourself to make that tool more powerful and the printing itself is beside the point.

Much like the RC cars, if you don’t enjoy fixing things then having a 3D printer as a tool only is going to get expensive fast. So in generally you have to be a bit handy or you may as well just outsource your printing.

While I’m not afraid to fix a problem here or there and take apart a printer to fix a problem, I value 3D printers as a tool. And to me, the tool has to be reliable and there for you when you want to do something. The cheaper $200 printers are missing a few key features that I couldn’t live without. Some of them, like the Kingroon, have ONE or TWO of these but to me the price isn’t worth the extra hassle of a DIY solution and for some things, no amount of DIY is going to make up for the missing feature.

Must have features

  1. A removable and flexible bed is key. Glass beds are okay and usually when the bed cools the parts are easier to remove but not always. Whenever you have to get out the scraper you are just asking for trouble. Damage to your knuckles or to the printer bed itself are going to happen. If the bed is not removable and flexible then the printer is not usable.
  2. An auto bed leveling (ABL) system. Messing around with trying to get the bed level is super frustrating and with time constraints (like at a school) it’s just not worth it. You can generally add on ABL to most printers, especially the Ender 3, but often you have clunky solutions (like this daughterboard you add to the Ender 3 before they released a more modern board) and on the Kingroon, you had to write the z-index to the firmware and can’t control it via the UI which to me seems unforgivable. Plus, when you add on ABL to a printer that means you have a manual process and Abl to deal with. Printers where ABL is a first class citizen have no way to manually level the bed.
  3. Easy filament changes. I have used many different printers with 6 systems and the only one that’s even CLOSE to easy is the one you get with a Prusa Mini. It’s difficult to explain how much better it is. It’s automated and you don’t have to make guesses about what you need to do . . . the printer walks you through it step by step. In other printers you have to manually heat up the filament head and try to feed the filament through a strange path and just keep pressing till you see stuff oozing out. Don’t get me started on how bad it is on a Creality CR-6 SE or other Creality printers. And this can be made better by using a community firmware and some mods to the printer but that’s not always an option.
  4. It must be easy to work on . . . . something is going to break on just about any 3D printer you get (maybe unless you go in the $4k+ price range?) and being able to work on it and get parts matters. It’s not always easy to get parts on account of shortages all around but being a printer that uses parts other printers use helps. Very popular printers like the Ender 3 have availailby at 10/10 where you can get just about anything fro Amaon vs a Prusa where you get parts from them and maybe one or two other places and certainly not amazon. Beside parts, the design of the printer should make it so you can get to everything and make common repairs without having to tear the entire printer apart.
  5. It must be popular in the community and well regarded. Like I said before, something is always going to go wrong. A strong community means you have help online when you are trying to fix something. Company support is nice too though not many companies have any kind of real support. I’ve only interacted with Prusa a few times and they have RESPONDED which is about as good as it gets when you are trying to explain a technical problem and you don’t quite have the words. Seeing presence on youtube outside the manufacturer helps too. A sold community firmware is a good indicator of a strong platform too though you don’t see that with Prusa since Prusa support their printers and provide sold updates.
  6. Printer profiles in popular slicing programs. We have those old Lulzbot printers and one of the biggest issues I have with them is that they only work with some janky and old version of Lulzbot Cura and don’t have profiles setup in the latest Cura. Even new Lulzbot printers are not in the regular Cura and that’s a bad sign. Yeah, yeah, I know, you can get it to work by copying over the values and tweaking it but spending all day printing and tweaking profiles sounds like work for a youtuber, not me.

Truth is, there are lots of 3D printers that have all that and are in the $400 price range. I don’t have the money to buy and try them all! But I really like the Prusa Mini. Part of that is just love for the Prusa brand thanks to their marketing no doubt. But $350 for a 5 hour kit or $400 for a 30 minute build isn’t bad. They cost more than an Ender 3 and other cheap printers but they have all of the features that HAVE TO BE THERE. They are not perfect and I do have to unclog a print head from time to time. And I have had to replace a thermistor. I printed PETG directly on a PEI build plate and I ripped the PEI right off and ruined the $30 build plate. And cheap filament always causes issues. Outside that they are fantastic printers. We had zero issues with them the day of SWMF. That seems crazy to me looking back on it.

If you need a bigger build volume than a Prusa Mini, again, there are many options and a few are cheaper than the Prusa MK3S which is the sorta “standard size” 3D printer. You can get even bigger printers but everything I have seen leads me to belive they are fun but not a reliable workhorse and just scaling up a printer design just doesn’t work.

In many ways the Prusa MK3S is a downgrade from the mini on account of the 8-bit board and Speak and Spell screen. I don’t even have one right now but do want to get one this year just to compare it to some clones I have already. The nice thing about Prusa is that they support their printers long after they are sold in the form of updates to the firmware, updates to PrusaSlicer, and updates to the hardware itself that you can buy. That’s not true for Creality and other brands I have seen.


For resin printers, I haven’t used any but I like the Anycubic mono. The Elegoo lineup is doing shady stuff with locking people into a slicer and that just feels very much against the spirit of 3D printing. 

Thanks it for now!

Sheldon

SWMF 2022 Review . . . Hands on 3D Printing: Design -> slice-> print!

Here is a recap of how it went at Southwest Maker Fest (SWMF) for the 3D print “program” (that’s what SWMF calls the workshop exhibits).

At first it was just going to be Sarah and Embrie and I running a “maker” booth where we had laptops and printers and let people go though the 3D printing process. But then another person contacted Eric about a 3D printing booth and we all thought it might be a good idea to combine forces! That person was in the early stages of what he wanted to do but at the very least he wanted to inspire people by having a variety of prints on hand as well as have some printers going. Sarah and Embrie and I wanted to make it hands on and have people print something they made which we knew was a bit ambitious.

Unfortunately there was a family emergency and our extra help that wanted to do a booth had to bail out. That means we didn’t have any sample prints, extra printers, extra canopy for our extra space, or that 4rd person that could help people thought the process.

Original Idea

Here is the proposal I submitted.

Attendees in this booth will design and print something and see the 3D printing process from design to physical product (as long as they wait a bit for the print to finish!). In this space we will have four laptops and at least six 3D printers. We are targeting prints that take from 10-20 minutes and if all goes well the people waiting for prints can help those doing the designs.

We also have plenty of examples to show to get people excited about the possibilities. And we might just have a few goodies to give away to participants!

A more detailed description is that we will have a project idea that you can design yourself in TinkerCAD. Once you are happy with your design, you will export that as an STL file. Then, you open the STL in a slicer (PrusaSlicer or Cura depending on which printer you are targeting) and turn a design into a set of commands for the printer to execute (this is called a GCODE file). You then sneakernet the GCODE file to the printer and start the printing process.

Idea vs Reality

In the “examples/museum” area the idea was to have examples of different infills and patterns and layer heights as well as just some cool prints. Without the extra help we just couldn’t deliver on that. And I think that would have been a good addition for people curious and looking around but didn’t really want to commit to trying something out or waiting since there was usually a line.

Outside of that I think we delivered everything we said we would and a ton more!

3D Pens

I thought it might be cool to bring some 3D pens that might be fun for a younger crowd or people that didn’t want to dedicate time to making a design or waiting on a print. We already had a couple 3D pens and my 9 year old daughter was really into them. I asked her if she wanted to run that part of the booth and she said yes! She spend a few hours in the days before finding some designs and paper printing “stencils” so that people would have ideas and have something to trace. As we were setting up the 3D Printing area she had extra time and made a pair of glasses for inspiration. People LOVED the pens and that tiny table with 2 working pens was busy the entire time. It was so overwhelming there was no room for Embrie! She said people were frustrated we didn’t have more pens!

3D Pen glasses! And a bit of the booth before it got busy.

Give Aways

We had a few hundred of the “Brick Rings” to give out and probably gave away about 150 of them (they were at the super crowed 3D pen station so people didn’t see them). We also had about 50 “whistle rings“. We waited till the end and just put them on a table that was cleared off and let people take as many as they wanted as long as they took a sanitizing wipe too! It was probably a good idea to wait on those since whenever someone got them they tried them and it could be a bit annoying to have a bunch of kids trying a whistle.

What we did

I WISH I would have taken pictures of the booth setup without a bunch of people in it but there really was no time. Even before we opened people stopped by and we started them on their journey.

The only idea that we could come up with was to make a “5mm tall design that had your name in it that we could print in about 20 minutes”. One person wanted to print a “monopoly hotel” and I showed him how I could search for that and just print it . . . but I took it a step further and imported the design into Tinkercad and added a “B” to the side of the tiny hotel to make it B hotel. We printed it and I think he liked it . . I think . . . right about then a big crowd showed up.

In PrusaSlicer we showed them how to put in a “filament switch” so most of them made 2 color designs (sometimes 3) and they were generally thrilled! Here are a few examples.

3 colors! And a heart! Nicely done Desiree.
Harper was THRILLED even though she wanted different colors it turned out great!

The printers

We brought along our 4 Prusa Minis (one that we donated to the school but borrowed) along with 2 Lulzbot Minis that were donated to the school recently plus the Creality CR6. The idea was that I would just have random stuff printing on the Lulzbot machines. That worked out fine on one of them for a few hours but the downside to those old machines was that it was nearly impossible to remove the prints without hurting yourself. And I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t control one of them to load the filament in the 10 minutes I had time to try. At some point the UPS started beeping and turning off the Lulzbot fixed that. (Hopefully by adding removable beds and a machine running Octoprint those problem will be eliminated and I can turn those those into more friendly and modern machines . . . the quality and reliability seem good!) We didn’t have a slicer setup that would work with the CR6 and it was just taking up table room we needed so pretty quickly we set it aside. It was so much easier to use printers that were all the same and if we ever do this again that will be how we run it.

Tinkercad

We setup a new account in Tinkercad and every computer was already logged into that account. Generally we would give a 1 minute tutorial where I would make a moon shape or a washer shape by combining shapes and “holes”. We told them it was easy and generally people just picked it up and ran with it. Thanks Tinkercad! I was honestly kinda worried I would have to sit with everyone the entire time but generally people figured it out. I would go and clean up the design a bit and make the heights so it would print faster but that generally worked out okay. People were really creative! Moons and hearts and all kinds of designs beyond the “rectangle” I envisioned.

The Numbers

We setup a new account in Tinkercad and every design was saved there. At the end of the day there were 34 designs! My guess is that we printed 30 of them. We only printed on the 4 Prusa Minis (which was REALLY NICE since we could use defaults from the setup of PrusaSlicer to the exporting of the gcode). We had about 20 rolls of different colors of PLA filament.

Those number line up with the reality of how busy it was. The event was 6 hours, prints took 20-30 minutes, we had 4 printers and 4 computers. Design time varied from 5 minutes to maybe an hour for the one person that wanted to make an ornament that had “Southwest Maker Fest 2022” on it and I showed her how to take the SWMF logo, cut out the text, import that image to a “jpg to stl” online tool, and then import that into TinkerCAD to clean it up. I do think we could have used ONE more Prusa Mini and there would have been less lines. 4 computers to every 5 printers seems about right for next time.

SWMF logo to STL in Tinkercad.

If prints took about 30 minutes on average, that means we had the capacity for about 48 prints (6 hours, 4 printers, 2 prints per hour) if everything went well and demand was even. In the beginning, people were designing and a few of the printers were not in use. By about 1pm, there was a line for the printers.

Problems to fix for next year

It was TOO BRIGHT to see the computer screens.

Our table arrangement made it TOO CROWDED and we need to spread out more.

People wanted more blue! We had about 20 rolls of different colors but people wanted blue more than anything and we only had this cool teal color. Also, it would have been nice to have duplicates of some of the basic colors like white and black.

We should scale up a bit for next time. 6 computers and 8 printers?

More 3D Pens! People loved them.

Examples! We didn’t have physical examples of the idea on account of JUST MAKING IT UP the day before.

We need better WRITTEN instructions about what to do and the size limits and stuff like that.

We need sponsors! While we didn’t go though a huge number of consumables, we did go though SOME not to mention the wear and tear on our own printers. Plus we did print the giveaways and that was probably a roll of filament all said. If we want to scale up we need a few more printers for sure. I honestly can’t believe they all worked without issue the entire time. I brought all my tools just in case but I wouldn’t have had time to fix anything anyway. I recently had to clean out one of of the print heads because of constant jamming and I had to replace the thermistor on my FIRST Prusa mini (it has more 3D printed parts than the new version) in the days before the event so I thought for sure something would happen but the only issue was that one of the filaments didn’t stick well even when changing the z-offset. We switched it out with different filament and an important lesson was learned. PLUS, we bought our own tables and a few other things too in support of the event.

We need MORE HELP. Sarah and I were going non-stop the entire day and could never sit down for more than about 30 seconds. We even had extra help from someone at Heatsync and even that wasn’t enough. Also the written instructions would have helped our help!

More thumb drives! We had 6 of them but one of them died and generally the line for a printer would be more fair if people could save to the thumb drive. I would say it would be cool if people had their own or we could give them away but cheap thumb drives don’t do well in the printer. I would say that one thumb drive for every computer and printer combined would be good. 8 in this case.

More pictures! Better contacts! Several people with nice professional cameras came by to take pictures (at least 3 different people asked if they could) but I don’t know who any of them were or where they might publish the pictures.

The rest of SWMF

I never left the booth. Not even to go to the bathroom. At the end of the day my back hurt so bad I wasn’t even sure I had to go. (Side note: I need to take a few pounds off!) I have no idea how the rest of the event went. But I know it as a success just in the sheer number of people that wandered back to our little corner. Seriously, there were at least HUNDREDS of people that were by our booth throughout the day. It might have only been 30 prints but it was crowded the entire day.

Conclusion

You might think when you read about all the problems above I think our program was a mess. Quite the contrary! Overall I think the event and our program in particular was a huge success! But I always want to make it better if we can. We were nervous no one would show up especially since we were in the back corner (which was by design because it’s where the power was). We were nervous that the printers might fail. After printing hundreds of the brick and whistle rings we started to worry no one would even want them. I was nervous no one would use the 3D pens and my daughter would be disappointed. But in the end it really worked out well. If you attended and you are reading this feel free to reach out on twitter @tooshel if you have feedback . . and it would be really cool if you had a picture of your print! We didn’t take enough pictures! That’s another problem to add to the list! 🙂

Hurt Feelings Cup Winter 2022

2v2 “no teams” AoE 4 Tournament

Why

Unlike the pros, who play and lose all the time, when real friends play an RTS it’s difficult to get over a ram push that destroys your town in the first 10 minutes (believe me I know!). It can ruin friendships! The 2v2 format means you can always blame the other player! And since there are no real teams you can transfer that blame to the next guy at the next game! No accountability! 

Format

4 people compete and play a total of 4 games. Each game is 2v2. The first three games have mixed teams where each player teams up with every other player. The last game is a “tie breaker” that determines the real winner. The players with the most wins play on opposite teams. If there are ties for who has the most wins an argument over it will ensue and the rules will be written down for next time. 

Players

ponga (1), elGrandSerot (2), nobodyman (3), tooshel (4)

Matches

Created via RNGGame 1Game 2Game 3Game 4
Team Aponga
nobodyman
nobodyman
tooshel
tooshel
ponga
TBD
Team BelGrandSerot
tooshel
ponga
elGrandSerot
elGrandSerot
nobodyman
TBD

Maps

Always the same map . . . French Pass, Large Size. 

Civs

No repeat for the first 3 matches, last one is a free for all again

Results

Created via RNGGame 1Game 2Game 3Game 4Total
Team Aponga
nobodyman
nobodyman
tooshel
tooshel
ponga
TBD
Team BelGrandSerot
tooshel
ponga
elGrandSerot
elGrandSerot
nobodyman
TBD
WinnerTeam BTeam ATeam A
ponga0011
nobodyman0101
elGrandSerot1001
tooshel1113
Published
Categorized as DIY

How did you break in?

Tonight I was talking to a friend and he asked me “How did you break in?” . . . meaning to the software industry, not a bank. Anyway, it ended up in a wall of text messages one at a time. Which he hates! Since he probably won’t read it I’ll post it here so even more people won’t read it.

I went to college and got into $60k in debt is the short answer.

At a shitty AZ school! (Side note, we talked about AZ schools earlier in the day and it was about how AZ is 48 out of 50 for education!)

While I was at ASU, I got a job at a web dev at the engineering school. They were teaching a new class that was going to “change engineering education” and I was hired to make and keep up the class website. It was the 90’s and that wasn’t really a thing then. Anyway, they had Cold Fusion so I made a site and kids could enter their SSN and get their grades! It was really cool if not a security nightmare. And I had my own cube on the 3rd floor of the computing commons. I had access others only dreamed of!

One day, a friend of mine from college who worked at this real estate company said “Our computers are always broken! Can you come and fix them?”

So I went to go fix computers but the owner of the company asked me about web development.

He sat me in a room asking me questions about being a web dev and eventually we made our way into the “server room” which was just a closet with tiny desk and the copier.

He wanted to see if I could change something on this web server.

It was VBScript and I knew Cold Fusion.

I don’t even know how I figured out where the files were stored.

I guess they both were on IIS or whatever came before IIS so I was able to look in some config or something.

Anyway, I changed something . . . I don’t know what it was but I got hired.

I got paid $15 per hour and I worked part time for a year and then full time for a year after that while I finished school.

Then a new company was formed . . . it was a startup! And I got a real salary of $50k or something close to it. It was crazy money!

But it wasn’t really much more than I made because before they didn’t take out any taxes.

2 years later I get a letter from the IRS.

I owed like $10k? or $20k with all the late fees. I don’t remember the amount but it was some amount that scared me.

It didn’t happen EXACTLY like that . . . . because now that I’m remembering, I also had an internship in there somewhere at Honeywell and I worked there a year on a “Fly by Light” system. And I remember how old I was . . . 21 . . . when I got my licence and a car! A Chevy Corsica. But the office was SO FAR and I quit after a year to take an internship at Motorola. But they didn’t hire me full time after the internship so I was out of a job. And I think that’s when I worked at ASU? And then the real estate company. I need to look at some old emails to piece this all together!

But the bigger picture is that it all happened for me because I was going to ASU and getting a degree in Electrical Engineering. That probably gave me some credibility back then.

Sheldon