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Some links about me. Many of my 3D designs are free. I also post on Google+ and in another blog, oz4.us

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Replacing LinuxCNC with a Smoothieboard for CNC milling. Not as easy as for 3D printing!

I was running LinuxCNC for the last years and I wanted a smaller setup, with room for improvement. Since I had a Smoothieboard around, which is a very capable 32 bit ARM controller for 3D printers, I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try.
A bulky, obsolete but usual milling setup with a PC running LinuxCNC (a parallel-port is required),
versus a Pipo X8 which is interfaced to a Smoothieboard (hidden in the CNC driving box itself).
But the move is not a piece of cake when you expect a drop-in replacement. In fact I must admit this board is somehow hostile as a firmware for milling in its current status (Smoothieware), even though the hardware is fully capable (Smoothieboard). In this post I wanted to share my experience so far. Sure I could have asked for help (and yes, I did RTFM eventually). But it takes time, it will not solve the issues below and I think most people would have done like me: just try, then investigate.

With time, I think it may be sorted out, probably with help from others if they are welcomed (and hopefully without breaking more mill bits). But my expectation here was to benefit from Smoothie as much as one can benefit from it for 3D printers. Even though my current overall hardware setup is much convenient and lighter, the milling process ends up requiring more manual and careful operations than before. More annoyingly, I would end up having to tweak and modify an existing CAM tool just to handle the specific "milling behaviors" of this board. I would think that the reciprocal would benefit to everybody though.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Low friction filament spool holder made in 3 minutes

Here is a short post on yet another low-tech but functional tool (the last one was a dry box).

Give a maker a 3D printer and every problem is solved by 3D printing... A few years ago I started to re-realize that many problems are solved much better without 3D printing. At some time it was funny to see everything being 3D printable, including pipes, but how slow and inefficient it can be.


So here is a recent counter-example: I had to use a small, cheap but functional 3D printer recently (a sub $350 Me Creator Mini, a pretty good choice as an entry-level printer in my opinion). But it runs on 1.75mm filament and it lacked a compact, reliable low friction spool holder (the default is attached to the back of the printer, far from the side due to the electronics, and which is made of PVC pipe: the filament often jumps off the spool, which quickly fails).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ultimaker to file patents... with dubious reasons

Yes, this is no April fools' day: Ultimaker is filing its first patents. Wow. We have cheap 3D printers at home specifically because old patents eventually ended up in the public domain. So: no lessons learnt?

"The industrial additive manufacturing market has some strong players,
some of whom are very proactive with patents. As such, we need to take
extra measures to protect our intellectual property (IP)"  Makerbot?  Ultimaker!


I really have mixed feelings (update D+2: given the feedback on this article, I now have no more mixed feelings: makers will probably flee away from the brand).

A lot of people say "it is how things are". But growing bigger is no excuse for playing the game: complying with the system is probably not a way to help fixing it. The bigger the company the more responsible it is of this stupid status quo.

Do you remember BQ trying to patent stuff also? They reacted quickly and withdrew after the community outrage (see Tom's disclaimer).

I hardly imagine the heated debates at Ultimaker headquarters on the matter. Sure, there are no real solution in the real world of intellectual property, and I understand that some thought they had to file patents at this point in the growth of the company.

But what annoys me much is how they justify the move to the community. They invoke reasons to file patents that are dubious in my opinion. The call to a defensive patent portfolio, for example, neither has legal ground nor it works well (more on that after the break). But in any case, applying for a patent does not help or defend the community in any way. Heh, even the founder of Ultimaker himself told so and years ago.:

“If it weren’t for patents, 3D printers would have made it to consumers long before.
It’s only now, with important 3D printing patents expiring, that the technology flourishes.”
Erik De Bruijn (founder of Ultimaker)

"In a Bid to Protect IP and Create More Freedom to Innovate,
Ultimaker Announced their Decision to Invest in Defensive Patents"

I hardly beleive they did write this! Hey, They Even Capitalized Every Word :D

Actually, patents may even stop your innovation as you have to stay within their protective bounds.

I used to like the brand, but I recently started to be skeptical of the claims. So is Ultimaker heading the same ugly way as Makerbot, as I detailed in length in 2014? Do not read me wrong: I really do not think so at this point.

But ... nobody can tell that it will never end the same way: there is simply no warranty. Trying to justify the move the way they do is wrong in my opinion and a step closer to a less friendly business. I thought a lot about it, both as a maker and as a businessman, and I do not like it.


About Me

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If you know me and you cannot tell exactly what my real job is, then you probably found the right Jeremie. Check zax.fr for some pointers.

I am self-employed and I help start-ups, research centers, small companies with their needs related to computers, sensors, data processing and mechatronics. If you have a project and know what "R&D" is, then you already sparked my interest ;)