UPDATE: Managing 3d printer workflow (how do you keep all the eager users happy?)

UPDATE: I originally published this in October of 2012 and it’s due for a refresh.  Here’s what’s changed:

1. I’m still using this Google form to accept tinkercad.com designs.  I have removed the color option for two reasons:

a. changing filament and organizing print jobs by color was increasing the time required for me to manage the print queue.   I’m now working in white ABS for consistency and efficiency.

b. want a specific color?  I find that spray paint yields a much better finish than the striations visible in a plain print.  The paint reduces the layering and, when combined with acetone treatment, results in better aesthetics for the final piece.

2. due to maintenance, wear and tear and onoging leveling issues our Makerbot has been retired.  We now have three UP PLUS 2 printers and they require that each print job is initiated from a computer.  Solution?  Three aging netbooks now feed the print jobs to each printer.  Note that once the the print job is underway you can disconnect the computer from the UP printer.   The idea of giving trusted students access to run print jobs still holds true – they can also serve as gatekeepers.

3. group print jobs: I work to group designs together in the same print run.  This reduces the time lost configuring, pre-heating and removing individual finished parts.  The same point below still holds true: if you trust your 3d printer to run unattended then start those 6 hour+ print jobs so that they run overnight.

ORIGINAL POST: Our classroom Makerbot arrived last May and it’s a rare day that it isn’t printing non-stop. The challenge that I continue to face: how to manage a shared 3d printer? My last class just generated 12 new designs!

In my last post I dreamt about adding a print queue as a feature to address this management issue. Until then, here’s how I manage a heavy volume of print jobs for our Makerbot. Continue reading