This is something I’ve not seen before: a usage management system that’s integrated into a 3D printer.
YSoft has announced the difficult-to-pronounce YSoft be3D eDee for education. It’s a 3D printer, and it’s software, too.
But what is it doing?
The hardware-software combo was developed to address specific scenarios encountered in education settings. Typically there’s one or more desktop 3D printers on which students develop projects.
The first implementations of such classroom 3D printers were – and are – quite successful. Students blast out all manner of objects and become makers in the process, hopefully leading them to brighter futures as they graduate into the business world.
However for schools these benefits were also accompanied by some problems:
- How much usage are 3D printers really incurring?
- What quantities of 3D print material are being used? At what rate?
- Who is printing what?
- Did student A just pick up student B’s work?
- What is the failure rate of the 3D printer?
- Who is allowed to use this printer?
- Which department gets charged for this print?
These questions and more simply could not be answered without having someone constantly ride shotgun on the 3D printer, which is not possible nor efficient. Manual logs are not the solution either, particularly with sloppy students.
Enter YSoft, a company that produces management software for 2D printers and copiers, a domain that just happens to have almost the same issues. What a coincidence!
Evidently YSoft worked with be3D, a notable manufacturer of desktop 3D printers, to develop the “eDee”, a machine specialized for educators.
The YSoft SafeQ Print Management Suite comes with each eDee and appears on a handy 18cm color touch screen, where you will be able to control the device.
The management software treats the 3D printer as a node on a network of devices, and thus can perform job queuing, which is particularly important if there are a larger number of devices in a school.
It also is used to identify and track users of the system – and can even engage payment services for students to credit cards, if that is required by the institution.
While the end-user activity takes place, the integrated system tracks all activities behind the scenes and can provide statistics on usage and material consumption.
On the hardware side, the eDee also includes a remotely lockable door to ensure that only the print requestor is permitted to remove the print. This is quite similar to features I’ve seen on 2D paper printers, which could hold a sensitive print until the requester is at the machine to release the job with a special code.
It seems to me that if such services are considered essential for proper management of 2D photocopiers and printers, they should also be essential for 3D printers. The only reason they’re not popular now is that many institutions have only recently installed 3D devices and may not yet realize the functions they need for management.
That and the fact that there have been very few, if any, options for 3D printer management, until YSoft and eDee appeared.