Automating 3D Printing with AI Vision: PrintPal’s PrintWatch System

By on April 3rd, 2023 in news, Service

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PrintWatch detecting spaghetti on a 3D printer [Source: PrintPal]

There’s another AI vision option for desktop 3D printers: PrintPal’s PrintWatch.

PrintPal is a startup company launched in 2021 that has been developing a machine learning-based vision system for 3D printer monitoring.

The idea is to replace the human that occasionally watches the print job to ensure it is proceeding correctly. That’s a huge waste of operator time, but given the general unreliability of today’s desktop 3D printers, a necessary thing to do.

The PrintWatch concept is that a camera feed of the print surface is relayed to an AI analysis system that can classify artifacts at 93% accuracy within each image in only 5ms. Defects are automatically detected and allow the operator to stop failing jobs before they waste additional material or worse, damage the equipment.

PrintWatch runs 24/7, removing any need for a human operator to monitor print progress, and can do so better than humans who often stray elsewhere to work on other things.

PrintPal lists the following benefits for PrintWatch:

  • Defect Detection: Industry tested and trusted Machine Learning models catch defects in real-time.
  • Health Check: Anomaly Detection models monitor the health of your 3D Printer fleet so you can schedule maintenance and reduce downtime.
  • Automation: Streamline your operation with Machine Learning models that optimize the print queue, reset your print bed, and much more.
  • Management: Securely manage your fleet of printers from anywhere in the world.

PrintPal also said the system can be set up in “less than 10 minutes”, assuming you have the camera hardware and software previously organized.

PrintWatch apparently works on virtually any desktop 3D printer, as it really just requires a live camera feed. They explain:

“Our machine learning model will detect defects on any printer, any color, any material, low lighting, high lighting, upside-down, right-side-up, and any combination of conditions you throw at it.”

PrintWatch on a laptop monitoring a 3D print job [Source: PrintPal]

The PrintWatch system can be deployed as an Octoprint plugin, and PrintPal also provides API access for more sophisticated setups. That capability could lead to some interesting 3D print software applications.

PrintPal also recently was accepted to join NVIDIA’s “NVIDIA Inception” program. NVIDIA explains the program:

“NVIDIA Inception is a free program designed to help startups evolve faster through access to cutting-edge technology and NVIDIA experts, opportunities to connect with venture capitalists, and co-marketing support to heighten your company’s visibility.”

That should provide PrintPal with more resources to continue improving PrintWatch for future releases of the software. Most notably, it provides discounts for hardware acquisitions that would obviously be necessary for PrintPal as use of PrintWatch increases.

Meanwhile, you can obtain PrintWatch yourself for use on your own 3D printer fleet. It’s priced at US$9 per month for up to ten devices, with additional devices priced at US$4 per month each after that. There is also a custom pricing model that can permit an unlimited quantity of 3D printers, but you’ll have to negotiate that with PrintPal.

Via PrintPal

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!

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