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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reevaluating MakerWare

After giving Makerware a public lashing I found myself in contact with Joe Sadusk who is a developer for MakerWare at Makerbot (this blog attracts the Joes doesn't it?) We spent the weekend talking about MakerWare, the shortcomings it had and Sadusk defended MakerWare extremely well.

So I decided to give MakerWare another shot and since I needed to test out the 3DHacker test object I decided this would be a great test. I also decided test out the new raft just for fun. I made a previous iteration of the 3DHacker test object on ReplicatorG/Skienforge but what came off MakerWare/MiracleGrue just blew me away. Unfortunately pictures of the RepG one I printed aren't really useful since I changed many elements between the two versions but MacGyver printed a version that is good for reference.
Let's brake it down zone-by-zone.
  • The Raft came off the build platform well, but didn't come off the build very easily and bottom of the print where it attached to the raft was... weird. Kind of the texture of oatmeal. Not sure how to describe it. Now normally the raft is an assist to the supports, it's not meant for this sort of thing so I do want to see if it handles supports better.
  • Overall the MW version had much better surface finish. I couldn't spot any gaps where layers started or ended, the layers were smooth and blended together. It just had an over-all better "look".
  • The overhangs amazed me. 45 looks great, 60 looked great, 70 looked good. A 70 degree overhang looked good. That's not supposed to happen.
  • The bridge on the H worked better than I've ever been able to get it to in RepG.
  • MW pushed the detail on the fragility test behind the H much further than RepG did, to the point where they were so fragile they broke off when I was handling it, but it did try it and they held to the end of the print.
  • The two pieces joined perfectly, but that's just luck. If my filament had swollen or had been from a different supplier this wouldn't have gone well.
  • The increasingly narrowing wall Makeware took to a single wall and connected it. (You can see on MacGyver's print, second to last picture, how RepG gives up and turns it into a gap.)
  • The vertical holes look great on this one. RepG for some reason trimmed the tops on most of them.
  • And it does a 45 degree solid fill by default which I prefer.
Honestly, I'm impressed. However, this model was done with only the perimeter shell to make for a good picture and to avoid the "spurs" or little gaps that are left when an area gets too narrow for an inner shell to fill in all the way. So I did another one with 3 shells and discovered a few things:
  • This time the 70 degree overhang failed entirely. Apparently extra shells cause overhangs to curl more. (Probably true for RepG because I'd seen it many times before and almost never printed with less than 3 shells.)
  • MakeWare generated less spurs than RepG. For instance around letters removed from a flat surface like the "acker" on the test object there are many places that generate spurs. But Makerware generated less.
Sadusk also informed me about an option option in makerware called "doInternalSpurs" which attempt to fill what narrow gaps are left with a single line and sometimes identifies them right, and sometimes messes up perfectly fine areas. So I decided to try in out and the result was not noticeable. What few spurs were left were still there after. Personally I think the spur problem could be solved by doing zero extra shells on fill layers but Sadusk doesn't thing that's a good option and he's clearly proven his authority on the subject of slicers so far.

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm going to start using MakerWare more often. True you can't edit the settings very much but when it just works like this who needs to? Frees me up to design cool stuff. But there are a few things I will complain about:
  • I don't like the blobby anchor. I worked hard to kill it last time, at least this time it isn't making a blob on the side of my print but I hate having to break something away on every print when there are better alternatives.
  • I don't like having to create a custom profile for every filament diameter. Filament swells or shrinks with humidity and what works for Makerbot in NY by the sea does not work for Joe's Makerbot in the middle of the great American desert. I don't care if we get a gui to change all the options I want this one exposed on the GUI same as shells, temp, or speed.
But really, these are minor things to put up with for the benefit. Well done Joe Sadusk. It's hiring people like you that makes Makerbot awesome.

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