We’re going to try something a bit different over the next couple days. A ton has been going on recently, and I couldn’t fit all the information into a single post. We’re going to be posting one blog today, and another blog tomorrow to ensure the information is passed out in a more organized manner.
Today we’re going to cover two main topics – a behind the scenes look at Mosaic, as well as a dive into our software. Tomorrow, we’re going to cover the hardware, manufacturing, and fulfillment update for The Palette, and what you can expect over the next little bit.
Transparency is something that’s really important to us. We want to give you're helping create. So with that in mind…..
We’ve grown a lot as a company over the past year. We’ve gone from a few co-founders, to a team of ten. This growth has allowed us to focus people’s efforts in specific areas to build a strong foundation for Mosaic. In this section, we’ll break down who’s working on what to give you a better idea of how things operate here.
So in terms of people working on The Palette’s tech, we have: Mitch, Derek, Jon, Justin, Jared, Manmeet, and Firas.
Jon is fully focused on The Palette’s software suite. Jon’s taken our software from something that could only be used on Derek’s laptop, to a universal modifier for different flavours of .gcode. You’ll get a look at what’s been accomplished here later on in this post.
Justin is working on Mechatronics – specifically splice optimization, as well as mechanical system’s quantification. Justin joined our team pretty recently and has been digging deep into the Palette's systems over the past month. Recently, he’s been working to quantify the torque of the in-feed motors and understand if variations in components could lead to sub par performance in certain production units. Tests like these allow us to quantify acceptable variance of each system in the Palette. With an understanding of this acceptable variance we can better understand the sensitivity of certain manufacturing tolerances and better tune our QC processes to catch any part that is out of specification.
This is a printed wheel that is used in testing as a rotatory to linear motion converter. This allows us to use a simple precision scale to quantify torques.
Jared has been working since July on setting up our supply chain, sourcing parts, putting together our “assembly guide”, hiring our assembly team, creating our QC processes, and (generally) making sure we have everything we need to go from 2 Palettes to 2 thousand. Jared has sourced everything you see in the pictures throughout these updates – from stepper motors, to screens, to rotary encoders.
Fans on fans on fans. Blower Fans and standard PC fans waiting to be bolted into The Palette
Manmeet and Firas are the most recent additions to our team. They’re working to build the first Palettes. They both have engineering degrees, so they understand how everything in The Palette works, and how it needs to go together.
Wire pieces that have been processed to be installed into The Palette
One of the many rolls of Teflon around our facility, waiting to be machined
Mitch and Derek are the people who are responsible for The Palette coming to life. They created everything up to our Kickstarter launch – from the mechanical systems, to feedback systems, to firmware, software and electronics. Now, they’re focused on testing these systems, improving these systems, and helping manage the project to ensure things are progressing on schedule.
Mitch focused heavily on certification over the past few months – he’s the main reason we were able to get OK’d on everything from TUV safety and EMC certification, to passing our production factory inspection in such a short time.
Derek has been working on firmware optimization, testing, and systems reliability. Derek works pretty closely with Jon on the software side, as well as making sure all of our machine part and sheet metal drawings are up to spec when they leave for our suppliers.
This team is completely dedicated to bringing you guys an awesome product – and I know we’ve mentioned this before, but three of them are early Palette backers from our campaign.
We’re going to come back to The Palette’s software a bit later in this update, and we’ll be covering HW and manufacturing tomorrow….. but, we want to take a minute and step back to talk about what else has been going on at Mosaic.
A few months ago we ordered this vinyl, and placed it in our office’s entry hall. This vinyl has all of our Kickstarter Backer's names on it, and a 6 ft (~2meter) print of our logo. It’s our way to show the pride we have for our community.
We’re in an interesting position – we create technology for 3D printers, but we don’t create the printers themselves. We’ve never really wanted to make printers, there’s companies out there that already have fantastic machines. Our team is focused on what we believe will become the core technology inside these machines. We narrowed our focus, and work to build technology that will allow you to create a wider variety of objects on your printer.
We believe that expanding the range of objects users can create will bring 3D printing to a wider audience, as people will be able to create objects, products and prototypes that are out of reach of today’s machines.
Over a year ago we asked ourselves the question – “what is the best way to get our technology in the hands of as many people as possible?”
Do we build a printer? Do we open source? Do we become a technology supplier?
So in our typical style of grinding things out - we locked ourselves in a room for two weeks and debated. We had some really great people around that pushed us to challenge our assumptions, and force us to consider alternate paths that we had mentally crossed off already.
After this two-week period we came to a decision – a decision to become a technology supplier for the 3D printing industry. Since October, a small team has been put in place to develop the technology that will one day power the 3D printers of the future.
You’re going to hear a lot more about this project in the future.
BUT – here’s a quick teaser article from 3Ders if you missed it. The article was published about two weeks ago: Link.
We wanted to give you a peek into what you're helping build, a look into where we’re going, and some insight into what we believe is important as Mosaic plays our part in the future of the 3D printing industry. Now its time to dig into our software to give you a long awaited look at how you’ll create files for Palette prints.
We want to give you an idea how the calibration, and post processing application work flow functions. All of this information is specific to The Palette, so we thought it’d be cool to give you a sneak peek.
The uniqueness of individual printers is a very important aspect to understand. Two printers of the same make/model may have different characteristics that affect the calibration for The Palette. For this reason, it is very important to teach The Palette about your individual printer, so your Palette has the information it needs to operate effectively.
Calibration is going to do two things for you: First, teach The Palette the distance between The Scroll Wheel and your nozzle. Second, teach The Palette about your printer’s unique extrusion multiplier (constant).
Now, this may sound complicated – but we’ve done most of the work up front so that the process is easy for you. All we need you to do is run a single colour calibration print, using the scroll wheel to track the amount of filament used.
Before you get started: Grab a light coloured filament (for example, clear or white), and feed it through your extruder. Then use a dark coloured filament for the process described below.
The Palette has a few settings on its home screen – SEEM Print (Multi-Input), Single Colour, and Calibration.
You’ll go ahead and select “Calibration” and a series of instructions will come on the screen (I won’t transcribe them here, but they’ll detail how exactly to execute the next steps).
After you select “Calibration,” and read the instructions on The Palette's screen, what you’re going to do is begin to feed filament through The Scroll Wheel.
Here you see a picture of the red filament, about to enter The Scroll Wheel.
Here the filament has been fed through The Scroll Wheel. For anyone curious, the red sharpie spells, “Charmander,” this test unit’s name.
Here is it filament fed all the way through The Scroll Wheel’s outgoing Teflon tube, about to be fed into our printer.
Reminder – before you feed this filament into your extruder, be sure it has a light (clear/white) filament inside the extruder already.
Now, feed this filament into your printer, and stop extruding as soon as you see the colour change.
Notice the clear filament, then the red filament starts to come in. When this happens, STOP EXTRUDING! And hit enter on your Palette.
Here is another picture of what the beginning of the extrusion transition looks like
This is the point where it becomes important to have light filament in your extruder, and be feeding dark filament in behind it. A light to dark arrangement will allow you to see the contrast much clearer.
Context: This is a one time process, where you taught The Palette the distance between The Palette’s Scroll Wheel, and the end of your nozzle. This distance will allow The Palette’s loading bar to tell you exactly when to stop feeding in your first section of filament. Calibrating at the beginning of a print is important – if you were to accidentally extrude a large amount of extra filament (say…. 10+ cms) your print would be thrown off calibration at the beginning. We are also able to determine if you've overloaded and make adjustments to later filament piece lengths, bringing your print back to where it should be.
Next up, run a calibration print. We’ll be releasing a suggested print file to run for calibration when we ship, but you can use any simple print you have on hand.
When this print is running, The Palette will track the actual amount (length) of filament being printed via The Palette’s Scroll Wheel. Our software will then compare this amount (actual), to the theoretical (.gcode determined) amount.
Don’t worry – most of this is done automatically. All you have to do is run a print, and type two numbers into our software.
After you run the print, hit enter, and it will bring you to a screen that will tell you the Offset number (1st sequence - Scroll Wheel to Nozzle), as well as the amount extruded for your sample print (2nd sequence – Printer Value).
Take these two numbers and plug them into our stand-alone application. At this point, you also need to plug-in your bed dimensions, as seen below (note – the bottom three boxes are covered/explained in the next few paragraphs):
In this screen, you’ll name your printer, input the printer value (second number, the larger number after the print), the loading offset (first number/smaller number, the distance from Scroll Wheel to nozzle tip) and load the .gcode file from your calibration print.
Next, you will input your bed dimensions into the “Bed Size” boxes, and “80” into Transition Tower Volume. Finally, put in your printer’s extrusion rates (high and low - we will provide further instruction on what values to choose for your printer), and you’re all set.
Name your profile and hit “Save Settings.” This will create a profile custom to your machine. The whole process (depending on the size of your print) should take around half an hour (most of which you’re waiting for your printer to print).
Now it's time to learn about the post-processing sequence. First, load your desired multi-extruder .gcode file, using the “Load” button in the top left.
Note: Please see our blog post on creating multi-extruder .gcode files here here (Blog), and note that we will be providing full documentation on this process for Simplify3D and Cura in our Palette Operating Manual.
Once you load your file, you will see a drop down menu, on the left side of the software. Select your printer’s profile from this menu (the profile you just made in the last step):
Hit “Process” and save the file in a location that is accessible. This will save the edited .gcode and the MSF (Mosaic SEEM File).
Gcode goes to your printer, .MSF goes into your Palette.
We suggest choosing a name that includes “Processed” or similar to differentiate it from other files.
Whenever you want to do a Palette print, this processing is the only extra step you need to do. Upload model, select printer, and hit "Process."
On a (slightly) technical level:
This software does a few things – first, it tricks the printer into thinking it has up to three extra “ghost” extruders, at the same location as its single extruder. Basically, this is how we trick printers into printing what used to be a four extruder .gcode file, from a single extruder.
Our software also pulls out the tool change information in the four extruder .gcode. Tool changes are the commands that normally tell a multi-extruder printer to go from extruder 1 to extruder 2 to extruder 3, etc. This information, along with the extrusion amounts, is processed, and translated into filament lengths and tool numbers.
Each tool corresponds to an input on The Palette, and each filament length is the amount of filament The Palette drives forward for each section.
Finally, our software adds in transition towers to allow your printer to achieve clean colour transitions on your part.
The towers also have adaptive volumes, depending on whether or not they are needed to transition on a certain layer. If no transition is needed, the raft will have an infill of 10%, instead of the full transition amount. This helps speed up the print, and minimize unneeded material usage.
Right now, we’re working to build GPX into our application in order to convert from .gcode to .x3g, inside the stand-alone itself. We’re aiming to have this feature in by the time the first units go out at the end of March, worst case, we will release an update with this functionality within a week or two of the Palettes leaving our facility.
We’ll be releasing the stand-alone application when The Palettes go out – we’re working to clean up the visualizer and testing .gcode for a wide variety of printers over the next couple weeks.
Months ago, we were working with a plug-in for Cura. We decided to focus our development time on the stand-alone application, as it would be able to process .gcode from all slicers, not just Cura. The stand-alone allows us to create a more feature rich product, and work with a wider variety of software programs. Because of this, we will be launching with the stand-alone application, not the plug-in.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update that will dive into our hardware, manufacturing operations, shipping, and a few other items.