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Thoughts about the new Cura

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Ulti Event Utrecht, november 15 2015. We got an in-depth presentation on the new Cura. A new architecture with basically the same functionality, but presented in a different way and with way more settings for the advanced users. These settings are somehow hidden, so new and less experienced users are not scared off.

The four simple settings are now replaced by a slider with actually one hundred simple settings. Which is nice if time is an issue in your printing, as time is the parameter in this slider.

Then there are the plugins. Cura is now fully built around the concept of plugins. So also basic functionality like importing .STL files is now done by plugins. This means that programmers can really add or change things to the core functionality of Cura, while plugins in the current version are only for post processing the gCode. Off course building these plugins is not for dummies. You have to know your way in Python and in the structures of Cura.

Nice

The nice thing about the new plugin architecture is that for instance suppliers like Colorfabb can make plugins especially for their own filament. So if you want to print with copper filament, the plugin manages all the settings, even the obscure ones that you normally would not tweak  by yourself.

Off course the new Cura is an ongoing process, so things it cannot do today, might be possible tomorrow. The new architecture makes that possible. Chapeau for that.

Better

However two aspects can better be done today then tomorrow, because they are too much built with "nerds" in mind than with end users. Let us not forget that the people who buy Ultimaker (instead of Velleman or other diy-brands) buy Ultimaker (especially UM2) because it is plug and play.

Think of users like inventors and artists who use the UM2 as a mean to reach a goal, and who do not have 3D-printing itself as a goal or hobby. Those users are still left in the shade of obscure and hard-to-understand settings of the current Advanced tab.

Time, Solidity and Precision

The first thing is the time slider. It only influences time aspects of the print, but does not show the influence it has on the printed results. There are two more aspects of printing that could easily be integrated in this new approach:

  • solidity of the printed object
  • the finish of the object, or precision

One could think of a  set of three sliders in stead of one, with accessible names like Speed, Precision and Solidity.

These sliders influence different settings, like infill (solidity and time), layer height (time, precision), shell thickness (time, solidity), print speed( time, precision) and more. By tinkering with the sliders new as well as advanced users can influence the end results and see what it does with time. They can also simply shift the time slider like it is now.

Plugins and Post Processing Scripts

The second thing is the phenomenon of Plugins. The makers entangled two totally different actions into one name: plugins.

On the one hand, the new way of working with plugins is the domain of developers and suppliers and die-hard hobbyists in 3D-printing. This new approach is really a giant step forwards with Cura. It all has to do with the functionality of Cura.

On the other hand, it's the old way of working with plugins, which has nothing to do with the functionality of Cura but is all about post processing the gCode. This is about the printing itself.

This post processing should be given another name and another place in the new Cura. Programming these Post Processing Scripts (PPS) should also be made as simple as possible. These PPS's start their jobs when the user pushes the Print button. They have no influence on the functionality of Cura. By mixing these things together, Cura gets more "nerdy" than it should be.

Changing markets

3D printing is becoming more and more the domain of end-users, of people who will use the 3D printer like they use their laser or ink-jet. In less then five years many house holds will have a 3D printer for hobbies other than 3D printing it self. A major USP for UM2 is careless printing. Cura should also fit with that USP, by focussing more on the end results of the printed object.

Edited by Guest
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Thanks for the extensive description! I think that pretty much covers yesterday's presentation and concept of the new Cura.

The ideas for improvements you mentioned are very valuable to us. As explained, the new Cura is just the start of a new software platform, which we can easily add features to based on what the user wants.

The time vs quality slider in the Simple mode is basically added to let people get familiar with the software/slicing. But as you mentioned it could be interesting to see if it's valuable to add different settings on such a slider, so that you have a little more control over the process.

I also see your point of focusing on the end result rather than on all the settings and terms independently. As discussed yesterday it could especially be beneficial to new users to see what happens with their print when they change certain settings. This is something that could be interesting to look into, but will require quite some time to develop.

If anyone has ideas on how things like this could look/work or has completely different ideas on what you would like to see in this new Cura we would be happy to get this information. This way we can look into the possibilities of adding such functionalities as we will further develop Cura in the upcoming months :)

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Oh, and we have a contest for new plugins. You can find it at: https://cura-ultimaker.com/

With regards to your post process scripts; The current plan is to make a plugin that can handle post processing scripts.

You are right about the changing of the markets. However, you can still clearly see (at least, that is what I hope, as that has been a big part of our design rationale) that Cura still gives power to change things to users (despite being easier to use).

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Maybe Cura can get a Results-plugin.

After a print with certain settings, you use the plugin to evaluate the printing results and used material and objectives you had with making this print. Off course the evaluation Q&A have to be quantifiable. The plugin sends these results back to UM for processing into presets.

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The Cura designers should add the ability to recognize when the 2nd extruder is not needed anymore for the print and turn it off so it stops building the Ooze Shield. Currently Cura continues to build the Ooze Shield with the 2nd extruder when it's not needed anymore for the part... just wastes time and material and adds unnecessary strings to the part.

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I would not expect any dual extrusion support in new cura this year.

From what i hear there will probably be quarterly releases, 1st one being functional but still missing stuff like, print one at a time, machine settings, separation of profiles & machine settings. I think there's plenty basic stuff open for the 2th release.

I've asked for a more public "road map" hopefully we'll get to see something like that soon. So it will be a bit of a wait if you want all features, but it looks to me that it will be worth it ;)

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To show a development roadmap would be great to get an idea when which functionalities are planned to be supported.

For me, second extruder support is crucial so I will stay on Cura 15.04 with the given possibillities until the new one get´s in it - so, please post a roadmap!!

B.t.w.: when will the "old" Cura be discontinued officially? Will there be some kind of bugfixing/releases on the "old" version until both are at leaset comparable in functionality ???

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3D printing is becoming more and more the domain of end-users, of people who will use the 3D printer like they use their laser or ink-jet. In less then five years many house holds will have a 3D printer for hobbies other than 3D printing it self. A major USP for UM2 is careless printing. Cura should also fit with that USP, by focussing more on the end results of the printed object.

This is a bit of a bee-in-a-bonnet for me, but worth airing out methinks. At least I will get it off my chest and get free therapy in the process.

3D printing is an end-user product for people who have a geeky streak, or worse yet are seriously geeky. That's because designing anything beyond the simplest of objects for 3D printing is really, really hard. Much harder than learning Photoshop, for instance. 99.99% of the planet have real lives and have no interest in learning CAD or modelling packages. That will simply not change, and until one can find more than 20,000 parametric products available free or at low cost no sane person will buy a 3D printer. It's too much money up front for what it offers, and the filament is bonkers expensive.

Within five years I fail to see how all the current problems we have with even Ultimakers will be solved. The variables involved in 3D printing are far and beyond those of laser printers. What's worse, each of those variables affect almost every other variable, compounding the problems massively. There is a vast gulf between the reliability, ease of use and practicality between inkjets and 3D printers, and that gulf requires a lot of research to cross. 5 years is not optimistic, it's head-in-the-art-draw-sniffing-magic-markers thinking. Just look at dual head printing, which is a prerequisite for making 3D printing practical in the home. It's a disaster, and no-one has cracked it at the prosumer level. Oh, I know there are dual head printers all over the show, and they all rubbish at doing dual-head printing.

I doubt Ultimaker is selling their printers with the USP of "careless printing" since they would be breaking the law in the UK, for starters, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. The UM2 is easily the finest printer within its price bracket, and from what I see of other printers the easiest to use as well. It is still anything but careless. If you don't believe me, dive into the forums. If my washing machine would work like this, I would sue the shop I bought it from.

My point is this: yes, 3D printing is awesome. The UM2 is awesome. Just don't forget to check into reality every now and then. CURA needs more geeky options because the majority of the people who use Ultimakers are geeky, very intelligent and realise that there are times when you have to crack open the hood. Don't believe me? Just look in the forums. If you want the "careless printing" version of CURA, you need to buy a different printer, one that has not yet been manufactured.

Me, I want all the whistles and bells I can lay my hands on, and heck, I might even write some myself once Pink Unicorn is released. Judging by the forums, most users do as well.

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Me, I want all the whistles and bells I can lay my hands on, and heck, I might even write some myself once Pink Unicorn is released. Judging by the forums, most users do as well.

 

Don't worry. Anyone would have to pry those whistles and bells from our cold dead hands ;) We try to make software that we want to use and the people who make Cura are the 'seriously geeky' people.

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Also note there is a big difference between the engine and the interface. The interface does nothing with decisions like when to turn off nozzles. Thats the engine (and maybe the firmware)

 

I am wanting the slicer to automatically recognize when the 2nd extruder is no longer needed for the print and turn that extruder off completely for the rest of the print and stop building the Ooze Shield w/ the retired extruder because all that does is create unwanted strings on the print.  There s/ be no user interface intervention required, the gcode should automatically be generated at the slicer level.

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I would not expect any dual extrusion support in new cura this year.  

From what i hear there will probably be  quarterly releases, 1st one being functional but still missing stuff like, print one at a time,  machine settings,  separation of profiles & machine settings. I think there's plenty basic stuff open for the 2th release.

I've asked for a more public "road map" hopefully we'll get to see something like that soon. So it will be a bit of a wait if you want all features, but it looks to me that it will be worth it ;)

 

No dual extrusion support for the new Cura is ashame. I modded my printer with the new E3D Chimera dual extruder hot end and it is extraordinarily easy to level the two heads and set the x, y offsets so parts come out clean and nothing gets knocked over on the bed. I was kinda hoping (new Cura) = (old Cura) squared both in terms of power and capability.

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I would not expect any dual extrusion support in new cura this year.  

From what i hear there will probably be  quarterly releases, 1st one being functional but still missing stuff like, print one at a time,  machine settings,  separation of profiles & machine settings. I think there's plenty basic stuff open for the 2th release.

I've asked for a more public "road map" hopefully we'll get to see something like that soon. So it will be a bit of a wait if you want all features, but it looks to me that it will be worth it ;)

 

No dual extrusion support for the new Cura is ashame.  I modded my printer with the new E3D Chimera dual extruder hot end and it is extraordinarily easy to level the two heads and set the x, y offsets so parts come out clean and nothing gets knocked over on the bed.  I was kinda hoping (new Cura) = (old Cura) squared both in terms of power and capability.

 

You really should share that mod :)

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No dual extrusion support for the new Cura is ashame.

 

That's not true. There will be dual extrusion support. Just not from the very beginning. For the time being you have to use dual extrusion support by the legacy Cura. Dual extrusion is not perfect there but can be improved by plugins.

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There will be dual extrusion support. Don't worry. But sometimes you have to start over again in order you can build something even grander, even though it will take more time to get to the original level of functionality.

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You really should share that mod :)

 

So here it is on my TAZ 4.  I added the two black side fans you see on left and right sides. Note the two sets of allen head screws in vertical alignment w/ the nozzles.  Both nozzles are pretty much the same height to begin with, but to fine tune them against each other, level the lowest of the two with the bed, then loosen the two allen head screws of the higher nozzle and lower it till it's the same height as the first one.  It's very easy to do.

Note the nip of the heater cartridge barely sticking out horizontally to the left from the right nozzle.  There's another one on the back side of the other nozzle.  When you insert the two nozzles into the heat sink (the big rectangular silver thing) they align themselves against each other with the heater cartridges being the "door stops".  You do have to find your x and y offsets one time w/ a calibration print, but after that, even if you pull the nozzles out for some reason, (at least from my experience) you can put them back in the same way so your x and y offsets pretty much stay the same.

Of course with the Cyclops you just level the one nozzle w/ the bed, but it's considered experimental even by e3d standards and I kinda wanted to be up and running w/ out going through too many experiments; hence I went w/ the Chimera.

5a330ef2104fb_ChimeraMountedToTAZ4.thumb.jpg.7499a053db2a5c11f3880f55ac944791.jpg

5a330ef23c76f_ChimeraCloseUp.thumb.jpg.e19e7f9db16f916974756b0ed825b61b.jpg

5a330ef2104fb_ChimeraMountedToTAZ4.thumb.jpg.7499a053db2a5c11f3880f55ac944791.jpg

5a330ef23c76f_ChimeraCloseUp.thumb.jpg.e19e7f9db16f916974756b0ed825b61b.jpg

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Maybe Cura can get a Results-plugin.

After a print with certain settings, you use the plugin to evaluate the printing results and used material and objectives you had with making this print. Off course the evaluation Q&A have to be quantifiable. The plugin sends these results back to UM for processing into presets.

 

I don't see a link to the presentation; so, I'm shooting blind here: But, I'd like to see the ability to automatically save all the settings needed to make the print, once it has been deemed acceptable by the user. This file could be placed in the same directory with the print, with a different extension. This should be optional, so it can be turned off. By doing this automatically, based on the user's response, this would ensure that should the object need be printed in the future, it will automatically load this preset, to ensure they get the same quality as before. It could be enhanced, so say if the filament plugin has been updated by the manufacturer, or they choose a different type filament, it can accept these changes too. Whether these would show as potentially different profiles for the print upon startup for 'that' print should also be considered.

Personally, I've started saving profiles along with the print object's .stl file location, or type of print object to ensure I don't have to retweak profiles too much. For example: a setting for making fine resolution jewelry only a few layers thick; or when building support materials, which don't need the fine tweaking, and can have different infills and/or skirting if any.

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