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Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question


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Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

Hi all. We are a VERY small community library who're trying to increase our youth and young adult traffic by purchasing a 3D printer for end user projects. We have a local company who already does a lot of printing and who has volunteered to advise us on getting started and hold our hands as we mature. Based upon their recommendations we've purchased a Creality Ender 5 Pro 3D Printer, which should arrive at the library next week. Our expectation is that we'll also purchase a laptop onto which we can install the suite of software our casual designers will find most useful.

 

My questions to the community are:

 

  • What design software (or suite of software) should we plan on installing for an audience which might range from 10ish year-olds to young adults?
  • Cost is a consideration for us and we have to assume we'll need a Windows based laptop the end user can take home for their design sessions. I'm SURE this has been asked and answered dozens of times, but could someone help us spec out the requirements for such a system please?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

John

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    I recommend tinkercad.  It's free, powerful and super easy to use.  There's thousands of youtube videos to help learn it.  It's designed for young people.  It runs on any platform with a browser including ipads.

     

     

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    Posted (edited) · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    And you'll need a slicer of course.  Cura is full featured with a lot of options, which means there will be a learning curve.  That will be true for Tinkercad as well.  There are a lot of downloadable models on Thingiverse.  They come as STL model files and would need to be sliced.

     

    As far as a laptop goes, you can get a mid-level HP or something from a big box store.  Something in the range of $800 to $1000 should work quite well.  You can get by for less but Cura (and probably the CAD software) are demanding of the video system.  In particular the graphics system needs to support OpenGL 4.1.  You can check that before you purchase.

     

    TinkerCad and Cura are both free.  If your prospective makers want, they can load the software into their home computer and practice there.  They only need to bring in an SD card with the Gcode file on it in order to print.  They are going to want to stare at it working though.  You might need some sort of time limit so you can all go home.  I have a feeling that you're going to be spending some time scheduling the printer.  FDM is not a fast process.

     

    I have to ask though...since you are a VERY small library, do you have to close when someone borrows the book?

     

    Good luck with your project. 

     

    Edited by GregValiant
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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    For CAD, also consider DesignSpark Mechanical: this is freeware too, and only requires registration. It is easy to learn, and there are lots of tutorials on Youtube. This is for technical models and geometric shapes, but not suitable for organic shapes. For export to STL, set it to "fine": I never had any problems with that.

     

    Do *not* use SketchUp: this is going to be a nightmare, as it produces defective STL-files which are very hard to repair.

     

    Probably a slicer will be provided with your printer, or they will direct you to one on the internet. You could also consider multiple slicers: a simple one or old one for beginners, with just the basic features. And a more advanced one for more experienced users.

     

    Multiple software packages will give the users multiple viewpoints on the same subject. So they will get a better understanding of the concept, and are less likely to get mentally stuck in a specific application or user-interface.

     

    But users will need to invest a few weeks to get the basics anyway, and a few months to get to a more comfortable level. They have to be willing to invest that time and effort. It's not like baking cupcakes which you can learn in an afternoon. You may need to select your students on that too.

     

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question
    1 hour ago, geert_2 said:

    Do *not* use SketchUp: this is going to be a nightmare, as it produces defective STL-files which are very hard to repair.

     

    Probably a slicer will be provided with your printer, 

     

    Amen to the comment about SketchUp.

     

    Since you have decided on a Creality machine (I have an Ender 3 Pro) it will come with the Creality Slicer.  It's Cura under the hood but it has a different interface and is a simplified version (not as many options).  It's not a bad place to start.

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    I would definitely stick with the default creality slicer for the first 100 prints.  Yes, avoid sketchup.  Here's a great guide to picking CAD software.  Click to zoom in.

    1757369501_bestcadsoftware.thumb.png.d03e270c4d713d5b6fe7be278bcb1a9a.png

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    I've been looking for a new laptop for myself and I see that this Dell Inspiron is $569.  It appears that it's onboard GPU can handle OpenGL 4.6.  It looks like it would be fine.  More memory is always better though.  At 8gb it's a bit shy of what I want.  Since probably 99% of what people will want to print in the library are things they downloaded from Thingiverse or some other Maker site, then the slicer of choice would drive the performance requirements.

     

    I think I would want to lock out (somehow) the ability of some random person to putz with the firmware in the printer.  You might have to look into copying a specific file from the student/maker's memory card to the printers memory card so that can't happen.

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    Thank you all for taking the time to respond! I'm passing on the laptop specs to our central library IT group to help them focus on an appropriate laptop.

     

    We will not allow direct connects to the printer, instead requiring a flash card type method for loading the designs.

     

    We at our library will be installing the design/slicer SW, so the above recommendations will be of great help!

     

    Once we have the portable unit put together I'll post what we chose and how it's working out.

     

    Thanks again!

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    "...instead requiring a flash card type method for loading the designs."

    That is exactly how the firmware gets updated.

     

    When the printer is working it writes back to the SD Card and constantly updates a file named BIN.  The information in the BIN file is used by the printer if it suffers a power outage.  It will know where to restart a print.

    When you update or re-write the firmware the new version goes into a file named BIN and gets read by the printer which then over-writes the existing firmware.  Same file name, two different functions, and the printer isn't smart enough to figure it out which it is.  I would let the members bring their memory card in and I would copy their print file to one of your own SD cards and print with that.  It's really the only way to insure what's going into the printer.

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    Or they can get in the habit of checking the firmware version on the printer (simple menu operation) each day or each week or each time the printer is acting weird.  And they can have the current version on an SD card in a safe place to restore it if necessary.

     

    There's a good chance this is a non-issue for them.

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    Posted · Small Library 3D Printer Community "Enticer" Startup Question

    "There's a good chance this is a non-issue for them."

    I would hope so.  But it only takes one person to wreck something for everyone else.  It could be well-intentioned too.

    Having a backup copy of the firmware handy is a good plan.

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