Repetier-Server on a Raspberry Pi controlling my 3D printer

A few weeks ago, I mentioned using Cura from my Raspberry Pi to 3D print.

Yesterday, I had some time on my hands so I thought I’d try a different 3D printer controller for the Raspberry Pi – Repetier-Server. It either comes with OS build for your Pi’s SD or you can build it yourself on an existing Raspian installation.

I also loaded some WebCam software for my Raspberry Pi, so that I could see the printer while it is printing in the garage. There are a number of open source projects to stream a USB camera from your Raspberry Pi

The setup has been working great. I connect to the Repetier-Server on the Pi from the Repetier-Host software running on my PC. The PC does all the slicing… and sends the models to the Server and also shows the real-time status of the job in progress. I get the added benefit that I can also stop jobs and monitor progress from my phone (as long as I am connected to the same LAN). I have not done the port forwarding so I could monitor jobs in progress from the Internet, but that’s possible.

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Introduction to 3D printing class

After my recent move to South Carolina, I’ve been refreshing my skills in woodworking. To get started, I’ve been creating some fairly simple cutting boards (see below) with my wife:

cutting boards

As a way to give back to the group, I pulled together an Introduction to 3D printing class that I’ve also loaded out on slideshare. The material includes a number of examples on how 3D printing and the related design tools can be used in a woodworking shop.

Hopefully, this will enable a greater understanding for the group of the possibilities of additive manufacturing — since woodworking consists mainly of subtractive manufacturing. 🙂

Just thought I’d share the presentation here, as well.

Is automation forcing divergent paths of quality vs. cost?

robots-too-humanI saw an interesting post: When Robot Writers Take Over, Will Freelancers Be Obsolete? The article was focused on freelance writing, but it did make me wonder about the whole concept of freelancing, in general.

The relatively fixed and easy to automate positions in many fields are ripe for automation. Those that require creativity or unique insight should be safe for a long time to come. In fact, automation could make the freelancers life less mundane and more interesting. It reminded me of a situation earlier in my career…

Back in the early 90s, I worked in the AI space for Electronic Data Systems (EDS). We focused primarily on solving problems for GM and the US government. Somewhere around here I have a coffee cup with the moto of the group: “Make it Work, Make it Real”. Unfortunately, the folks working in the group had felt it really meant that if we could make it work, it wasn’t really AI — since someone would always say that it was just regular old programming, no matter what innovative technique or esoteric language we used.

One of the projects I led was called Knowledge-based Tool Design. We were trying to automate tooling design for clamping and welding car parts using CAD techniques, a project far ahead of its time. Programmatically determining the right type of clamp and the correct way to swing it into place was too difficult spatially, for the time. We just didn’t have the compute power and the algorithms determine orientation and approach. A good human tool designer could see the solution intuitively.

We did figure out that people are not good at pulling together the bill-of-materials to ensure that the clamp and all the hydraulic and mounting components… were defined. We shifted our attention to defining that type of detail using computers — reducing the errors and rework later in the process.

Similarly, in other industries, there are so many annoying and resource intensive, low hanging fruit to be picked that the return on investment for tackling truly intuitive problems just isn’t there. That can all change though as better algorithms and computing capabilities develop.

There are a couple of ways this could go:

  • The intuitive functions will likely become more of a freelance function, since companies will not need (or be willing to pay) for those expert roles all the time and the work will be interesting.
  • The focus shifts to less high-quality designs that can be automated.

In any case, employment as we know it will be changing.

Lessons for IT services

handoffLast night, I went to a meeting of our local ham radio group and had a side discussion with another individual who also worked in the IT services space for decades. I was with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) for the majority of my career. He was with Perot Systems. We were comparing notes about what caused the demise of these organizations and came up with two main issues:

  • People are the service company – When HP purchased EDS or when Dell purchased Perot Systems, they both tried to use their deep product understanding in the services segment. For a product company, people are overhead, and the efficient generation of SKUs is king! For a service company, access to people is what you’re actually selling. In both cases, the HR organizations wanted to lower costs, so they initiated an early retirement offer that caused the flight of many of their senior, knowledgeable service personnel. Suddenly, they had customers screaming with no access to the depth of expertise they had relied upon. With nothing to sell, customer retention begins to spiral down, and costs go up. The exact opposite of what the leadership thought they were trying to do.
  • Value the difference – EDS in the late 90s was still organized by industry, leveraging support organizations for technologies. This was different than most IT service organizations, which were organized around services (like data centers or telecom) or individual customers. Customers were actually buying a relationship based on industry expertise — but it was difficult to compare between vendors.
    In 1998-9, EDS turned itself inside out, organizing around application development and maintenance, infrastructure, consulting…, with a leveraged industry-oriented, sales organization. Customers were initially happy, since they could see how much a network connection or support for a computer and OS cost.
    EDS also began to sell off many of the industry specific IP elements (e.g., financial systems, bank machines…). Though this action harvested cash, it began a spiral into ever more competitive commodity services, fueled by early cloud computing techniques that EDS instigated. Profitability and customer retention began a steady decline.

In both cases, the organizations were brought down by differentiators taken for granted. Once gone they were difficult to reproduce.

Service organizations need to really understand what makes their relationships sticky and view that difference as a strength, not as something too complex for the finance or HR organizations to understand. Unfortunately, hindsight is usually 20/20 and may be obvious. Let’s hope that DXC and NTT Data (who now own the remnants of EDS and Perot Systems) keep their eye on the ball.

Can’t say enough positive about Printrbot customer support

simple metal silverUnfortunately, the hot end of my 3D printer went out. I thought about replacing it with a different one but went back to the hot end sold by Printrbot for a replacement. Hopefully, it will last at least as long as the previous ceramic hot end.

During the process of purchasing, somehow I managed to select a different shipping method than the one I intended (costing about 3-4 times as much). I dropped their support mailing address a note saying I’d just ordered a hot end but when I saw the order, a different shipping method than I intended was used. I actually didn’t have much hope that it would be fixed, since in just a few hours I had a noticed that the device was already on its way to me.

Yesterday afternoon, I received a note that they had address the shipping issue and a partial refund was on the way — I was elated.

This is the fourth time I’ve order something from Printrbot, every time they have exceeded my expectations in one way or another.

I just thought they deserved a post about my experience.

45th Anniversary of the First Cell Phone call

Motorola dynaTACThe first mobile phone call was made 45 years ago on April 3, 1973. Motorola employee Martin Cooper stood in midtown Manhattan and placed a call to the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey, using a prototype of what would become the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, the world’s first commercial cell phone. He stood near a 900 MHz base station on Sixth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets in New York City and placed a call to the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey.

If we only knew then what impact this device would have on our personal lives as well as the world economy, what other decisions would we have made??

Ready Player One

Last night, I had the opportunity to see Ready Player One and found it to be an enjoyable movie. Some folks have reacted negatively to the amount of nostalgia placement throughout the movie, but that’s nothing compared to what the book had in it – and I thoroughly enjoyed the book as have many others. In fact, it is the only book I can recall where I had multiple people actually stop me after I’d recommended reading it and claim that reading it had upset their lives, since they literally couldn’t put the book down.

It was clear that those attending the movie, who had not read the book, enjoyed the experience more than those who had not. That’s probably because the movie was only loosely based on the book (in my opinion) — no spoilers here to Joust about… They both had the same characters and the concept of ‘Easter eggs’. I must compliment Warner Brothers on the release date selection. The movie is definitely a safe one for teens and up.

We did not see the movie in 3D and frankly can’t image how difficult some of the gyrations in the action scenes would be to watch in 3D.

My son did state that he would be definitely reading the book now that he’s seen the movie. If you like the book, you’ll also like Ernest Cline’s other book Armada which also has a nostalgic feel to it, especially if you liked The Last Star Fighter.