Thursday, November 3, 2011

Promising new 3D printing software

I’ve attacked every other possible source of my problem, so today I decided to try a new piece of software to generate gcode from STL files. This software is called “slic3r” and replaces Skeinforge in the tool chain. It’s written in PERL rather than Python, and claims to have a much cleaner, more maintainable code base.
(more in main post)
I do know that I really like what I see. It’s probably about 5x faster than skeinforge, and the gcode that it outputs is very fast on the printer, it doesn’t do some of the stupid stuff I always see Skeinforge doing, and though I have another test to go, it looks like it may have solved or at least radically reduced my problem with stringing.
The only major issue I see right now is that it does not lay down solid layers on “bridge” layers. This really needs to be added if only for strength of some parts, but I’m confident it’ll get there.
As a bonus, this thing is incredibly easy to configure compared to Skeinforge. It has a single config page containing the values that people actually change in SF and none of the ones that you never really have to touch anyway.
I also moved the quad core machine from my desk down to the lab and retired the old machine that was down there, since I’m using my laptop (with external keyboard and 2nd monitor) as my main machine now. It’s nice having a fast machine in the lab, it saves me a ton of time by allowing me to skein upcoming parts while printing the current one. Before I had delays of up to half an hour between parts, now I can clear the bed and immediately start another print.
I don’t know if this video shows much to anyone else but to me it has obvious good things compared to how SF gcode prints.
Here’s a pair of pulleys printed with slic3r generated gcode. I’m super pleased with these, they’re far smoother than similar parts that I’ve printed on the same machine before.  However, there’s some work to be done with void bridging as you can see from the porous surfaces here.

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