Friday, March 16, 2018

Geeetech Rostock 301 Delta color mixing 3D printer - March MadMess Video

I should really up my production standards. Not that this is my worst video in terms of audio or video. Despite being recorded on the heels of my last review, you can tell, I didn't even try to hide it, the camera is well focused, where as in that last video it wasn't. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about editing. This video had practically none of it. 30 minutes, in the editing process, tops. Maybe I was a little short on time. Maybe I was a little burnt out after editing 4 other videos this week. Maybe this video didn't need much editing. Or maybe I was just short on content to edit in. Despite the hours and days spent on this thing, I didn't take many pictures or any video of the process.

Which is leaving me very little else to say about this printer.

See how I pronounced "Geeetech" with extra "e"mphasis at the beginning. Did you catch that double "MARCH MADMESS" at the end? Also turned down the volume on those "March MadMess" for people. Ah, good stuff.

I failed to mention that my friends at MeltInk supplied the filament that would have been used in this kit, because they were the only people I could find with Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. Check them out.

List of March MadMess 3D printers

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New safety videos for the St. George Maker Space

This is big week for me. If I get a video out on Friday, that will be, technically, 5 videos this week. Okay, one of those videos is a minor edit of a video I previously uploaded for the Maker Space, but it still needed to be opened up in the editing software.

The goal of these videos is to allow more people to certify, and free up my time at the maker space. It's intersting the amount of time it takes to film, edit, then document the process for a 1 hour training. Honestly, I think each of these were in the area of 12-18 hours of work. Which means until I have a dozen people going it won't pay for itself.

Oh, wait, I've already has more than a dozen people go through 3D printing. Dang, that was easy.

If you're ever in the area, stop by and say high. I'll see you at the Maker Space.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

JGAurora A5 Review - March MadMess Video

Notice the Tower of Pi in this video? On Pi day? Yeah, that's the best I can do. I wanted to have a pi vase, fill it with pecans, and look at the camera and go "Ehhhhh?"

This review hurts. It really, really hurts. No only may this be the end of my career as a 3D printer reviewer, but it's so close to where 3D printing needs to go, and this fumble may prevent it from ever getting there.

I wouldn't blame anyone with a 3D printer to sell, short of the ballsiest out there, from blacklisting me. With the Neva I was able to find enough to recommend it that I could at least be between on my review. But this is the first time I've dedicated a video to publicly announcing that you should avoid something that was sent to me in good faith.

There's a lot of crap that happens behind the scenes. I've basically been free QA for more companies than I care to count. You will never hear about most of these experiences publicly. Many of these issues were settled. And while there may be no such thing as bad publicity, I feel there is such a thing as being the one publishing the bad publicity. I feel it would be worse for me to come out and share every bad experience I've had. Quite frankly, it's cathartic being able to finally, publicly, say "No" to something.

If this means that no one ever sends me another 3D printer, and I have to dedicate my channel to doing cool making projects and discussions about 3D printing in general, and I never have to waste my time testing hardware I don't really need, I... hmm, it felt like I was building towards a "worst case scenario" here, and it kinda turned around to being the best possible scenario.

Thing is, I truly believe there's good in every intentions. Even the Neva, this A5, and the Geeetech E180, which by the way, will be a sad echo of this review. It feels like they took one step backwards, hoping to be a run-up to a 100 yard dash, only to fall on their face two steps in. These printers represent the next steps for 3D printing, the steps that 3D printing must take to become the appliance we want them to become. Pretty UIs, clean appearance, and reliable. But what they also need is an infrastructure that's not there yet. They need a local retailer to buy these in bulk, do some QA, fix them up, and offer service plans to people. Selling these directly to the public may be a huge mistake and may result in this critical step in 3D printing's development from faltering. I do not want to see that happen.

Man, I hope I remember to say all this in my E180 review.

Here's the links to all the printers in March MadMess and where you can buy them.

Monday, March 12, 2018

TronXY X5S Review - March MadMess

Technically, this is a Monday upload. I'm going for 3 this week.

Special thanks to my friends at MeltInk who supplemented this printer gift with a roll of cyan PLA. I hope you'll check them out.

In the book "Makers" by Chris Anderson, it's proposed that making is a uniquely human experience. No other animal on the Earth will make a tool, and then keep it and use it again and again. And it's an experience that we are increasingly being separated from as our devices become more complex and disposable. So in a way, the maker movement is about reconnecting with our humanity. Therefore there is nothing more true to the maker movement than building your own 3D printer from scratch, or if not from scratch, from a kit, and using it to make things.

I don't know how much I buy into this. But it sounds good. What do you think? Can you ever truly be a maker if you don't build your own 3D printer?

I've had people complain about the audio in my videos recently, but when I ask for clarification, I get nothing back. Well, this video will certainly give them something to complain about.

The battery on my phone decided it was done with this whole taking-a-charge thing. I've ordered a replacement, but it won't be here till the 20th. There are some who say that experiences, like going without their phone, is the best thing that could happen to them. I do not think that will be me. Already I'm behind on e-mail and twitter. To all my friends wondering why it takes me 24 hours or more to respond, I will return, this I swear.

My friends at GearBest want to make sure I get these links out to you. I've added Amazon links for the rest of you:

Friday, March 9, 2018

The real problem with the CR-10mini Video

Get a CR-10mini for $350 on GearBest when you use the coupon code cr10mini3d, or buy it on Amazon.

I did promise in my March MadMess introduction video that these reviews would be rapidly produced. I hope that doesn't result in an unwatchable video.

It doesn't help that there's not much to say about the CR-10mini. It's cheaper and smaller than it's big counterparts, but it works and it also shares all the same faults. And, yes, the CR-10 line has faults, but it's still a printer I feel good recommending.

Since I don't have much to say about this printer, maybe I'll tell you about my hardware review process. In the last video a comment suggested I have a standard method of testing my printers. And, yes, that would be a good idea. And while that's a good idea, there are a couple of reasons I haven't put much effort into developing something like this yet.

  1. No one set of tests will test all the functions of all printers. What standard print item could I have that would test the capabilities of a Monoprice Select Mini, Davinci Color, and CR-10S? Each of these printers serve vastly different purposes.
  2. Trying to be thorough is why these printers aren't getting reviewed. It's true, I haven't given the CR-10mini a complete run through. If it weren't for March MadMess it would still be waiting for a review video. For instance, I haven't done a long, big print on it yet. It's hard, sometimes, to fine the time with a upload schedule, a still-new MakerSpace I'm developing, and cool projects that I really want to be working on. Maybe this is on me. Maybe I just need better time management. I don't know.
  3. I don't need 20 Groots. While I've previously asserted that useless prints have their place, any standard set of test prints would mean I'd have a copy of the same thing for every 3D printer I reviewed. I can not imagine what I need that many copies of. Maybe something small, like part of a set of building toys, but even then it doesn't test endurance. So I have no idea what it would be.
  4. I need a better shed. In my current setup I can text one, maybe to printers at a time. If I had the space that I could line them up and run them one after another, then maybe I'd be able to test them better. I'm doing the best I can with what I have though, so for now...
Still, developing a standard wouldn't be a bad thing, so maybe I'll give some time to developing a standard. Despite my excuses above, I still think it would be a good idea. So I'll happily take suggestions. What do you think would be some good, standard, test prints?

My friends at GearBest want to make sure I get these links out to you:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Announcing March MadMess and what to expect when buying from overseas

You like that TRON clock? I sure do. Having a laser cutter has opened my world and rest assured there will be an episode this month about the laser cutter I'm using. (Full Spectrum Laser Muse, by the way)

I noticed some mistakes in the design of my clock that I'm going to have to fix before I upload it, if I upload it, but I doubt I'm going to get to make those changes myself, if only because $11 of raw material every time is a bit steeper than I'm used to.

March MadMess was partially inspired because I really need to clean out my queue, and partially inspired because my friends a GearBest want me to step up the reviews. However, in stepping up the reviews I'm gonna have to be frank and in many cases disappointingly honest about some of these machines that have let me down. Not all of these printers are from GearBest. In fact most of the printer that have disappointed me have come directly from manufacturers. There are some real stinkers on this list, so brace yourself, March MadMess is coming.

As a preview of things to come, I'll have a list below of some of the 3D printers I'll be reviewing with (yes) affiliate links if you want to check them out. However, for now I promised you a clarification of what "the experience" of buying from overseas is going to be.

First of all, I want to say that my defense of GearBest wasn't anything to do with you, the viewers, but more about Tom and Angus calling out Gearbest directly for just doing what they do, while at the same time, posting their own GearBest affiliate links. Maybe it was the hypocrisy that I was reacting to more than GearBest themselves. But I still feel that maybe if people were a little better prepared for what to expect with companies like GearBest, that they can at least be braced for the experience. The stories of people who have been bitten by their interactions with overseas buying that I have heard since my video went up break my heart. My goal is to work with overseas distributors to make things better for the consumer, as well as helping the consumer have realistic expectations so that they're not caught off guard, or so they will be able to judge whether it's worth it.

So what is the experience you can expect when you buy from overseas?

1. Best Price. The first thing to keep in mind is it's not all bad. Buying directly from the manufacturer is the best way to insure you're getting the best price. You can not get this sort of price from big box retail, and the reason... well, the reason is that big box retail is shielding you from the rest of this list.

2. No takesy backsies. At a local retailer, if you get something broken or just decide you don't like it, they'll take it back and either put it back on the shelf if it's okay, or try to get their money back from the manufacturer. Most of the time, they actually end up just eating the cost of that broken item. And that's fine, because they've jacked up their prices to compensate for those losses. But when you're shipping from overseas, the prospect of paying for the shipping to and fro pro-bono is not the way to run business, especially when you're this close to margins. So if you get something defective or damaged in shipping, expect them to put up a fight. And don't even think about it if you've just changed your mind.

One way you can help this is if you agree to see them part way. If they ask you to pay for shipping, then recognize that they need that to stay in business and don't fight them. Again, you're not dealing with Amazon or a local retailer here. The rules are different.

3. The customer isn't always right. Business in the west, obviously, has the opposite opinion of the customer's word, and I've had to deal with people taking advantage of that in my Etsy store. People who were very deliberately making the experience as bad for me as they could so that when they complained after the transaction that it wasn't exactly what they wanted that I would cave and give them a full refund, essentially giving them my work and product for free without a fight. And, yes, I did it, because I live in the land of "the customer is always right" and I run my business at enough of a margin that I can afford to take that hit once in a while, and once in a while is all I have to deal with. But in China that is not the default position. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's because they're running closer to the margin. Maybe it's because the percentage of dishonest people are greater than the customers I deal with. But either way, if you come to them complaining, they may take the position that you're trying to rip them off.

4. Keep on top of your shipping notification. The retailer overseas isn't the only people who you have to worry about. Occasionally packages get lost. Occasionally shady people in customs or handling see a big package from China and decide they're going to get a little something for themselves. The best way to keep your package moving is to get the tracking number and check the status of your package as often as you can. Don't just sit back and wait, because if you take too long, the shipping company may tell you that you're beyond the period where you can complain. They'll insist that their policies tie their hands, and it'll be between you and who you bought it from to take the hit. And remember, they shipped it, so their not going to want to take the blame.

It's not always dishonesty that stops your package from getting through. Point #6 below also gets in the way sometimes. But we're getting into the ugly, so first I want to talk about...

5. Minimal Quality Assurance testing. Testing equipment that rolls off an assembly line takes time and money. Do you want it cheap, or do you want it tested? You can't have both. In the case of a kit, forget about it. No way anyone is going to build it, test it, and take it apart so you can put it back together.

Retail deals with these issues by buying in bulk, testing the product, throwing away the bad ones, and jacking up the price on the remaining to cover their expenses and give you the assurance that what you're buying will work. But buying one or two from a manufacturer, you're kind of rolling a dice. Most makers just consider this as a learning experience. Getting a kit with missing parts, or a printer that won't print until you do some mandatory upgrades? That's just something to overcome. And it creates quite the sense of ownership. However, if you're expecting to get what's in the listing, and printing on day one, this can be a harsh awakening.

6. Bending the rules to gain an advantage is commonplace. I mean no disrespect to my associates overseas. When I say this, I mean that business practices that we in the west would never let people know we were doing, because they're not honest, are openly considered in the east. And not only considered, but weighed, tallied, and if the chances of getting away with it are good enough, turned into a common practice. And, perhaps, the only difference between doing business there and here is that they don't necessarily try to hide what they're doing. Generally my run ins with this sort of thing are uncommon, but very specific.

This is the one aspect of associating with companies like GearBest that I am not proud of. If I could convince them to change anything, this would be it. And the truth is now that I know it's there, I know that just because I buy at a retail store, doesn't mean it's not going on. Retail's job is to give you the right to be oblivious. But I've had my innocence taken away.

I've seen (not from GearBest, mind you) control software for a piece of hardware that ships with the crack to overcome the copy protection. But when I went to see how much the software would cost to buy a non-pirated, I discovered that the software had moved to a subscription model and they couldn't ship it to you in this way, and I see the reason they did it.

I've had retail stores in Malaysia pull out the pirated version of the software they copied and cracked and were now selling. They treated it like it was just the generic alternative to the real thing. They didn't see it as a lost sale to the real thing if you were never going to buy the real thing at full price.

I've heard of companies regularly falsifying shipping information to get a lower shipping rate. When customs catches the "mistake" who do you think they're going to want to pay the difference? The answer depends on how much you want Now, honestly, I'm on the side of the consumer with this one. They were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. But they will deny, deny deny.

I've also had manufacturers with designs obviously building on open source technology, that people foolishly leave where anyone could do whatever they want with them, and when I innocently ask them how they iterated the design, they insist that they came up with the everything entirely on their own, from scratch. It's like they're standing on the shoulders of giants, but insisting that they're just really tall.

Maybe this is why they assume everyone is trying to cheat them. Because over there, someone probably is. It's eat or be eaten.

What are you going to do? Swear to never do business with any overseas companies? I wish I could buy only locally from companies I can verify are honest and aren't poising any moral quandaries in the back room, but that is a right of the rich only. And business who make that commitment, unless they make a big deal about it and win public support for their higher prices, will lose out to businesses who are less morally encumbered, or do a better job of hiding it. Honestly, I find the openness of their corruption refreshing. And maybe by staying close to them, finding out what they're doing, and exposing it to the light, it can get better.

And generally I believe that there's more honesty than corruption. Hopefully I'm not just being naive, but these people, when you get to know them as people, aren't evil. They're not trying to cheat people. They're just trying to do business, giving people what they want at the price they want it. They're not catering to the rich, they're trying to make things better for the rest of us. But sometimes, honest people have bad experiences because these factors combine against them. It sucks, and I want to do whatever I can to make it better.

As promised, here's a list of some of the printers I'll be checking out in this series (not necessarily in this order) with the best price links for them, if you want to check them out:
This will probably come in useful later. There will also be some Raspberry Pi projects.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Neva review video, AKA why heated build plates matter

Like I said in the video, it's funny the things I forget when I don't take notes and read from them. The Dagoma Neva is an okay 3D printer. It's definitely bold. It might even be a great printer but for one thing it's missing. One thing that makes me hesitant to give it a more positive review.

No heated build plate.

Full disclosure, this discussion about heated build plates may end up being the topic of a future video. Consider this me working out my notes on the subject.

Perhaps you wonder why a heated build plate is a big deal to me. Why do I care about it so much that it will take what might be an excellent printer give it a "meh" review? Would I have given this printer higher marks if it had a heated bed?

Let's start from the very beginning. The beginning of the home 3D printer market.

When 3D printing first came around, with RepRaps and Thing-o-matics, they all printed ABS. Not because we liked ABS. It was stinky and shrinky and difficult to print with. But it was all we had. PLA literally didn't exist back then. So we built enclosures to keep the breeze away and used heated build plates to give us some environmental control. We avoided thin walls where we could and there was even tales of people holding a hair drier to their parts as they printed to insure that they'd succeed. It was the only way.

With these heated build plates a couple of solutions were discovered for sticking prints to them. First, Kapton tape was the build surface of choice. But Kapton was thin and broke easily, it needed to be changed often. So we got thicker Kapton. Then we discovered that Kapton eventually stops sticking so well. Well, no problem, just smear it with some old ABS mixed liberally with acetone to make a messy slurry. Then someone started using glass plates covered in Kapton for their build plates, because they were flat. Then someone wondered why even use the Kapton if the print was actually just sticking to the slurry, so the Kapton was taken out of the equation. Then some enterprising genius discovered that the polymer in Aquanet Extra Hold hair spray not only stuck well, but when it cooled it actually released the part. Sure, it made your maker hole smell like a hair salon, but it worked great.

Then PLA was developed. It was the first polymer specifically designed for 3D printing. It wasn't shrinky like ABS and it actually kinda smelled nice when it printed. And best of all, you didn't need a heated build plate to use it. You heard me, no heated build plate. Just a little blue painters tape and it stuck like a champ. In fact, this stuff loved a constant breeze on it to keep it nice and cool as soon as it leaves the nozzle. It was like the anti-ABS. Makerbot was so sold on the viability of PLA as a build material that their second generation of Replicator printers came with no heated build plate.

And that, in my opinion, was a mistake.

The transition to PLA dominance was slow. Those of us who had the old ABS-designed printers didn't have the nozzle fan, so we had to jerry-rig solutions that were often times somewhere between questionable and an outright bad idea. So many of us just cracked a window and kept printing ABS. But some of the more adventurous among us discovered that they didn't need to turn off their build plates, just turn them down, and the print worked. Plus, they still got the benefit of the state change in their hairspray. But even those using blue tape discovered it worked well with just a little heat on the build plate. It took a while before we realized it, but with a little heat the whole printing process was better, even with PLA. Prints adhered to the build plate well, layers didn't curl and get knocked off as much, and you didn't come home to a spaghetti print as often. Even with PLA a heated print bed makes the whole experience more successful.

However, Makerbot, the biggest name in home 3D printers at the time, had set the precedent. They established that you don't need a heated bed anymore. So every manufacturer looking to save a buck, but not knowing the realities of using 3D printing, dropped their heated build plate.

Eventually BuildTak comes out, a great build surface that holds prints and releases them well, provided there's a state change. Just like hair spray, it changes to hold the print while it's a little warm, and releases when it cools down. But unlike hairspray it's more durable and you don't need to keep reapplying it. So manufacturers start putting BuildTak on their printers. It becomes so ubiquitous that even manufacturers who cut corners by not heating their build plate are using it. Even though it doesn't really work.

What's the most common problem people have with their Neva? The problem that they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the solution to? Just take a look at the facebook forum. Every other post is either asking for help with the build plate, mentioning how to fix the adhesion problem with the build plate, or how they destroyed their build plate trying to overcome it. Not me. As soon as I saw that this build plate wasn't heated, and I saw the suggestions on how to fix it, I ignored all that and slapped blue tape on this thing. And it was all good because re-leveling this thing is so stupid easy, just hold down the button while you plug it in.

See, again, they make this corner-cutting decision, but it's okay because the fix for it is also super easy. I really don't know how to feel about this printer. I definable can't give it a whole-hearted endorsement, but nether would I be able to say that anyone who bought it had made a particularly bad decision. It's just... meh.