TL;DR summary: I’m avoiding this software for now. It’s borked my USB port and made my Replicator shake violently using MakerWare’s default settings for PLA printing.
I can still print from the SD card, so I’m not completely dead in the water.
Frustrating and kludgetastic, but I’m sure I’ll get to learn something about the inner workings of USB drivers by the time all this is done.
On the plus side, MakerWare has some nice usability improvements over existing software, even if it needs a little UI love. Miracle Grue is insanely speedy slicing software.
My goal is to evaluate this software as a 3D printing hobbyist who’s big on ease of use and good UI design. Also keep in mind that MakerWare’s still in beta, so I wasn’t expecting a flawless performance.
Ok, on to my experience. I’m using a MacBook Pro running 10.6.8.
Startup: Launches quickly and automatically recognizes that I have a Dual Extrusion Replicator connected. Nice.
Navigating around the virtual build platform is easy. Wacom tablet support would be nice: a middle-click and drag to zoom in and out would replace the scroll wheel functionality that I don’t have.
(After 12 years of exclusive Wacom tablet use I find it amazing that anyone can or would make art with a mouse.)
I’d prefer to see the MakerBot branding moved to the title bar rather than taking up screen real estate, but that’s a quibble.
I’ve decided to use one of my Seej models as a test. I chose the Rubble Bloxen because I know the mesh is pretty dense: I sculpted it out of banana bread and then scanned it with Autodesk’s 123DCatch. Lots of polygons for the software to chew on here.
I import the bloxen and click “Make It.” This creates the slicing dropdown.
I choose “High Quality” settings and then (mostly by instinct) click the Advanced tab. The default settings for PLA seem a bit hot to me, but that’s an easy change: Just drop the extruders to 190° and the HBP to 65°. Easy peasy mac and cheesy.
It’d be nice to be able to save my preferred options as a preset, but I don’t see that functionality yet.
I hit the “Make It” button and I get a Slicing progress bar that hangs at 0% with no apparent way to cancel. The rest of the app seems responsive, though: I can still move the bloxen around the virtual platform, rotate it, etc.
The rubble bloxen is a complicated model, though. Maybe it crashed Skeinforge? Let’s try this with something different.
I quit and reboot, and my slice windoid is still there. This feels buggy. (Keep reading, it isn’t.)
I load up an example STL: Mr. Jaws. Click “Make It” and the Slicing dropdown appears again, with default settings. It’s a little disappointing that the settings I added last time haven’t stuck.
Still, it’s a Beta, so let’s not get too worked up about it.
Now I have a second slicing windoid, that’s also stuck at zero percent. Let’s try this again, one more time.
While I’m poking around doing other things, I notice that one of the windoids has started updating its progress bar! This must be the rubble bloxen finally getting its slice on after five minutes.
The software’s not buggy, it’s actually continued a slice after a quit and restart. Very cool.
I’ve blundered into cancelling a slice. Got to click the Bot’s icon in the lower right corner. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The Bot isn’t doing the slicing, my laptop is! Putting a cancel button on the slicing progress bar would be more intuitive.
Ok, so I cancel everything out and start fresh with a single model, the Rubble Bloxen again.
Import the STL. No problems there. I’ll move it around a bit just for fun.
I disagree with the function names “Move” and “Turn.” It feels a little dumbed-down and non-technical. I’m imagining I’ve just bought a cutting-edge piece of 3d printing hardware, and I want to feel like I’m using some massively powerful software with it. “Move” and “Turn” feels too toylike for a prosumer device. Give me translate, rotate, and scale, please.
I rotate the bloxen just to explore the UI a little. Makes sense, easy to use, no surprises. Free rotation is easy, but it would be nice to constrain the model to 45° rotation increments by shift-dragging.
Same goes for duplicating the bloxen: I’d like to be able to option-drag the block to duplicate it, but that’s Photoshop reflexes talking. Not a major feature requirement, and Copy/Paste does the job.
Being able to reset the SRT values is a nice touch.
I hit “Make It” again, and this time I’m going to use Miracle Grue for slicing. Bre Pettis was pretty stoked about a rapid slicing algorithm in the launch webcast, so let’s see if this is it.
Wow! That progress bar that stalled at zero with Skeinforge goes from zero to printing in less than ten seconds with Miracle Grue.
My first print goes straight to la-la-land and fails. So I click “Make It” again.
I have to re-enter my settings.
I hit “Make” and the second print fails, too. I suspect that my extruder head travel settings are too fast, so I check and sure enough the defaults are set way, way higher than I’ve been used to.
My HBP doesn’t appear to be warming to 65° like I told it to, either. Strange. It’s stuck at 16°.
After six attempts I finally gave up trying to print something. I hop over to ReplicatorG to see if something’s up with my Makerbot. Can I print a rubble bloxen with ReplicatorG?
Uh oh. It looks like MakerWare is hogging the serial port even after a quit. Unplug? Replug? No. Reboot? Still no. Shut down and restart? Uh oh. No.
I can’t use ReplicatorG over USB anymore. This is a problem. I launch MakerWare just to see if it still works. Sure enough, it does. Connects to the Replicator no problem. I try a test print, using the default Medium settings on Mr. Jaws.
It prints. But the print is so violent that I end up canceling it after two minutes, just so I don’t have to recalibrate my HBP. It’s literally shaking the Replicator and tabletop.
This behavior might be OK with a heavily-reinforced Replicator 2, but my little plywood buddy looks like it’s having a seizure. Cancel, cancel, cancel.
I’m done. MakerBot support has been very responsive in the past, so I’ll post an update once they get back to me.