AutoPrint3D is a new 3D printing automation from 3DQue for all Merlin firmware-based 3D printers, including unmodified systems and those with part removal tools and routines. With an annual subscription of $10 per printer per month, potential users can test the software with a seven-day free trial
The Canadian company 3DQue has been working for several years on the automation of print farms. Its main product is Quinly, a subscription-based automation suite for desktop 3D printers. In its simplest version, the tool performs remote monitoring with video streaming from the printer, as well as remote start and stop, spaghetti detection.
AutoPrint3D takes it a step further by adding automatic print bed calibration and leveling, automated part removal, and reporting. With systems equipped with component removal tools, the software allows various part removal systems to run overnight without any operator intervention.
AutoFarm3D incorporates other features including maintenance scheduling, a shared print queue, and more analytics. At $30 per month per printer, this version seems a bit steep in my opinion. However, these tools are intended to save time for universities and manufacturers who rely on desktop 3D printers. By allowing users to initiate, schedule and monitor batch jobs, it could make an operation more efficient.
3DQue has also developed the VAAPR self-cleaning print bed, which prints at an angle and saves setup and run time. Additionally, the company’s SmartTags act as an easy-to-handle and potentially time-saving drag-and-drop queuing system. For example, if a user’s printer has a “PA 11” label assigned to it, print jobs to be made from that material will be assigned to that printer.
“Most print management solutions aim to bring tasks closer to the operator by moving them from the printer to the computer. AutoPrint3D completely eliminates tasks and then streamlines automated tasks, giving operators more time for innovation, creation and growth,” said Steph Sharp, CEO of 3DQue.
“Our original automation kits had to be modified for each printer model. We couldn’t develop custom solutions fast enough to keep up with demand, so we decided to open up the software, giving users an easy and affordable way to get automated printing without buying a whole new printer,” contributed 3DQue COI, Mateo Pekic.
Although the 3DQue team can sometimes explain the capabilities of their tools in an unnecessarily confusing way, they do extremely useful work in 3D printing. Desktop 3D printers are becoming more competent and reliable. There are now a growing number of print farms with dozens or hundreds of low cost systems like print services or direct manufacturing.
With Replique now relying on metal filaments and Ultimaker systems to 3D print spare parts for rail companies, increased innovation is within reach. Simple sintered metal parts greatly expand the capabilities of desktop machines. Another step will come as these systems will be able to print more materials more reliably.
I really believe in a model where desktop 3D printers linked through specialized software produce millions of parts for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), as well as manufacturing, mass customization, etc. If a print fails, a new one can be made on another system. If the printer fails, tear it up and replace it. 3D printing is growing along with servers, where redundant and cheaper rack-mounted machines have replaced the super machines of yesteryear.
Now, of course, a more sophisticated industrial system is more reliable. They also offer greater traceability and tighter integration with software. However, not everyone tries to manufacture components for Airbus. For some, inexpensive parts from desktop 3D printers may be sufficient. These will need to be finished and won’t look terribly pretty, but will improve over time.
All in all, I think there is a giant potential class of components that could be reliably 3D printed at scale with desktop machines. Millions of items that will cost significantly less than those of industrial 3D machines would be a real break for our industry. And, yes, desktop printers won’t produce anything as thin as powder bed fusion parts. They will not be as reliable as industrial systems. In some cases, they won’t be as cheap as some processes either. However, it would only take a small piece of components to be effective to achieve significant volume.
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