Is Voice Control Really Useful For 3D Printers?

By on January 27th, 2018 in Ideas


 Should we be yelling at our 3D printers?
Should we be yelling at our 3D printers?

I’ve now seen at least two 3D printers with voice systems, but is this something we need? 

One system, made by Sindoh, offers voice feedback to operational status. So instead of a chime, beep or as is most frequently heard, “nothing at all”, their new machine will offer a friendly voice indication that the current print has completed. 

That’s a voice-output system. Now there’s another approach by XYZprinting in which voice input is accepted. 

Apparently on their two color systems it is now possible to obtain a voice input system. The idea here is to provide a way to, using voice only, trigger common 3D printing operations, such as starting or stopping a print, or initiating typical maintenance operations like heating the nozzle or unloading filament. Normally these are commands one could initiate from the control panel or from a remote app using fingers rather than voice. 

There’s another interesting angle with the XYZprinting approach: searching. Their plan is to eventually link up their growing 3D model repository and permit operators to search there for a 3D model and prepare it for 3D printing. All by voice!

I’m not quite sure how this would work, but it seems that the machine would perhaps display search results on the color touchscreen, from which you could select one, if appropriate, for 3D printing. 

I’m a bit suspicious of these voice interfaces, as I am of the widely multiplying “smart speaker” systems you can ask questions and give commands. I don’t know about you, but I just feel a little uncomfortable asking a machine to do something out loud, particularly when there are other people around going about their business. Will they think I am talking to them? Will they feel interrupted? Perhaps. 

The same phenomenon might be suffered by voice-activated 3D printers. 

I am trying to imagine how this would work. At a workshop there may be plenty of ambient noise that might confuse a voice interface when attempting to listen. In an office there are no doubt other people nearby working, and a workgroup-style 3D printer is likely located in a common area where it may be inappropriate to be yelling commands at a machine. 

With the market shifting towards professional desktop 3D printers, the workgroup scenario is increasingly likely, so I am not sure how well a voice input feature will be received. 

The other aspect is that a 3D printer is not something to which you will be giving many commands. Print jobs run for hours, or even days, after all. And in a workgroup you may be nowhere near the machine for it to hear you in any case. 

But then, perhaps you could add the voice input to the remote control apps? Just an idea. 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!