There’s going to be another option for 3D print streaming: The MakerX box.
This item is not out yet, but if the specifications come true, it could be one of the best options for 3D print streaming accessories.
Such devices work by driving the “dumb” 3D printer through its USB port, while providing a great deal of “smarts” by adding processing power both locally in the box itself and through an associated cloud service. There are several such options out on the market now, with varying features.
Let’s look at what MakerX is working on.
They have an attractive case, but there’s a lot more than just that. The MakerX system provides not only 3D print streaming, but also a dashboard that shows current print status. MakerX provides notifications during print operations, particularly when something has completed. You’ll also be able to control the print remotely, which is quite handy if the print has failed early on.
Oh, but how do you know a print is failing? The MakerX system also provides live streaming video of the print operations, should you choose to attach a webcam. The webcam also captures time-lapse videos of the print sequence, which although they don’t contribute to print quality, are fun to watch after the fact. You can even automatically create YouTube videos or animated GIFs for sharing.
The box has a “red alert” feature that can “cut power” in case of emergency. I’m not certain how this could work, but it would require the MakerX box to switch the power on the 3D printer somehow.
The cloud service is powerful, in that it can accept 3D models and prepare them for slicing without requiring local processing. And it’s not just slicing, either. You can resize, reposition and manipulate your 3D model before slicing.
3D print jobs can be queued! A series of 3D models could be sliced in advance and slowly released to available 3D printers. Oh, did I mention that MakerX can manage multiple 3D printers, too?
One very interesting feature is the “Journal”. This records all print operations - including images - so that you can perform analysis afterwards to determine optimum settings, for example. For those running prints for clients, this could also be useful for generating data for invoices.
MakerX has the concept of accessories. The box itself will have four USB ports, only one of which will used to control the 3D printer. The remainder of the ports will be available for accessories, such as external USB storage. One very interesting notion is the idea of USB-based sensors, such as temperature, humidity, vibration or even smoke! I’ve not seen these factors be measured and used in 3D printing, but it’s possible they could be quite important, as many 3D printers that don’t have controlled build chambers would have their printing operations affected by them.
One thing I don’t know is the price and availability of MakerX’s offering, as the only thing you can do at this time is sign up for notification of their launch.