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Sept 9th 2016 - Wet ABS, Feedback on the App, Surveys!!! [ARHCIVE]


Hey everyone!

I know, I know...two updates in one week? Hell's frozen over, and pigs are flying in to watch the leafs win the Stanley Cup! We've already gotten quite a bit of feedback on our application (thank you for all the kind words :) ), so we thought we'd address some of that while we give a quick reminder on surveys (and on what it means if you don't get yours filled out in time), and last but not least a fun little story about trying to extrude wet ABS (spoiler alert, it didn't work).

Desktop Application

We've had some amazing feedback and suggestions so far, but a few of them seem to be pretty common, so we'll try and open them up here to avoid duplicate inquiries. We've also added these to the FAQ.

1) Is the application Windows only, or will it be available for Mac and Linux tooYes, the application will be available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's being developed on and will be downloadable immediately - potentially even before shipment - for Windows systems, but has been written in Java for portability. So all we should need to do for Mac, Linux compatibility is modify the driver and installer slightly (we will update everyone when this occurs, but for hopefully obvious reasons this won't be until the rest of the application is finished!). Otherwise, as long as you have a USB port and a computer, you should be good to go!

2) What about mobile? Sadly, we don't currently have plans for a mobile version, though if the demand is there we're open to the idea (at least on android, which we've got some experience in - sorry iPhone folks). The main reason for this is that there's no wireless connectivity available to ProtoCycler, so you'd have to plug in anyways...meaning there's no "mobility" regardless of whether you use your mobile phone. But there's also issues in tiny screen sizes being much harder to view and manipulate the data on, making it a less attractive option, and the fact that we'd have to put in some considerable time and effort to port it from Desktop to Mobile. So for those reasons, we didn't think it was worth attacking...but we have been getting lots of questions. So if you really want a mobile app...let us know! If we get enough demand, we'll try and put one out shortly after launch :)

3) Are there any other features we haven't mentioned? This one's a little tougher - if we say that it has "Full control of ProtoCycler", are we leaving out the feature that there's "quick adjust sliders for the main settings", as well as a "full suite of individual commands" you can issue (like sending a single line of gcode to your printer, but no, we don't use gcode), and that those commands can be compiled into complex scripts to automate almost anything with ease? In other words, I worry that we've covered everything, but at a rather high level so that some of the specifics might get lost. That being said, if you break out each and every individual feature at the lowest level....there's a lot of them, and we'd probably forget one or two. So for now, we'll just say that it can control, automate, observe, record, and generally complete every possible interaction with ProtoCycler with ease. It is possible, for instance, to plug it in, load it with an unknown plastic, and run a script you've designed that automatically finds a suitable melting range, then temperature range, etc etc etc, calibrates the machine to that plastic, stores those settings in memory, and submits them to our site so that other users can benefit from them. We'll likely try and release a script like that ourselves at one point, once it's at the level of polish we feel comfortable with...but in general, if you're worrying that there will be a certain feature that isn't supported, you're likely worrying needlessly! And of course, we're always just an e-mail away if you want to triple check :)

4) What about remote / server like operation? Shhhh, it's supposed to be a secret! ;)
Survey update

We're *still* missing some survey's from Indiegogo - these are the Backerkit surveys you would have been sent after the campaign, and then a few times again after that. We're over 80% completion but if you still haven't filled it out...we cannot send you your unit until you complete the survey!!! The survey is where we confirm which specific model (power, colour, etc) you want, what your current address is, and if there's any extra shipping charges above the amount included in the campaign - all critical information we have to have before we can produce and ship your unit. I'll be sending out reminders to everyone that still hasn't completed it later today...please fill it out ASAP!

That being said...we can't wait forever. So, tough as it is, we have a bit of a mandate. If, by the time UL is complete, you have not finished your survey...you will lose your spot in line until you have. This allows us to move forward with fulfillment without delaying other peoples' shipments, and is the fairest way we could think of to account for this. To be clear, you don't get moved "to the very back"...just temporarily delayed, until we get your survey. That being said, the word "delay" is probably the last thing anyone wants to hear right now... so PLEASE get your surveys in!!! And, if you ordered on our website or already finished your survey, don't worry - you're in the clear.

Water + ABS = not good!

So earlier this week, it rained...an incredible amount. Enough that our building - an 1880's relic bursting with character that we wouldn't trade for the world - flooded a little bit.

While this likely seems like another huge setback / terrible story waiting to happen, we're lucky that the same thing actually happened in our old office last fall right after we moved in...so we knew to be prepared. None of our tools, product, prototype, etc were damaged.

We do, however, have a number of bags of bulk plastic for testing various compositions, grades, etc...the more we can optimize our algorithms, the better the product will be, so we go through quite a bit of pellets! These bulk goods are kept in our back room on the floor...and they got wet. Never mind the humidity throughout the week has approached 100%, and we haven't been storing our pellets with desiccants or in sealed bags.

So, we went to extrude some CLEARLY moisture contaminated ABS...and it did not work *at all*. The solution (of course) was drying it, and then everything was good to go again as you can see in the pictures below:

 

Diameter consistency is...not the best when half your filament is steam bubbles!

 

That surface texture on the left... oh boy :S . The right, on the other hand, is looking lovely!

Now, moisture in ABS as an issue isn't anything new, but we've never really seen any clear examples of what it looks like and how to avoid things. Other than a very, very old article where FIlabot attempted to print with bubbly / poor filament, there doesn't seem to be as much information as there could be on this topic. So, to start the conversation a little further with a definitive statement - whether you own a ProtoCycler, Filabot, Filastruder, or just a spool of filament that isn't printing great...if your filament looks like the stuff on the left, it's not ruined or contaminated or the wrong plastic - It just needs a good thorough drying! :)

Anyways, that's it for this week. Enjoy your weekends and check back soon for production videos - and please, please please please, if you haven't already...FILL OUT YOUR SURVEY! :)

-The ReDeTec team