Tiertime Up Box 3D Printer – Short Review

Opening excuse

One of my new year resolutions was to post more here, but with a new child, sick kids, computer continually eating my homework, dying phones eating my home work, it hasn’t really worked out.  Well that’s my excuses out of the way…

Background

I’ve been a happy Up Plus! 3D printer user for several years, convincing probably around 20+ people I know to get one.  However with the concern of particle emissions from 3D printers and a new-born child in 2013, I decided to err on the paranoid side and off-loaded my printer to someone else.

The relapse

Though an engineer always has an itch to scratch wanting to make gadgets and stuff so… unashamedly (or slightly ashamed) I got myself another 3D printer (and a Thermomix… but that’s another story).

Up Box in Packaging
Up Box in Packaging

The Tiertime Up Box 3D Printer arrived just over the new year break for me to get my grubby little hands on it.  The size of the ‘box’ it came in could have easily accommodated 4 small children and I hit my first hurdle as soon as I tried opening the box, it needs two adults to unpack…

Argh it needs 2 people
Argh it needs 2 people

What’s inside the box…

Inside the box is a very professional set of packaging, protecting the contents.  Like the previous Up! printers, there is almost no assembly involved and everything is almost good to go out of the box.

Well that's nicely packed
Well that’s nicely packed

Behind all the styrofoam are contents similar to the original Up Plus and Up Mini.  The photo below shows all the contents laid out on top of the printer.  From a tools perspective, the very handy side cutters are still there with the very sharp spatula/scrapper thing.  For safety, protective eye-wear is provided being a nice touch to protect your eyes from flying plastic when you’re removing support.  The heavy gloves are no longer provided, but honestly I’ve never really  used them.

The Up Box, Box Contents
The Up Box, Box Contents

An USB cable is provided to connect to the computer as well as power cords and the power supply.  Whereas the previous Up Plus and Up Mini printers used heavy duty Hewlett Packard laptop power suppliers, the Up Box appears to come with a branded power supply.  Looking at the output (24V × 9.16A = 220W!!!), it probably is a case of out-growing the available off-the-shelf supplies.

Up Box Power Supply
Up Box Power Supply

The Up Box comes with a roll of filament so you can rock and start printing ASAP.  I’m not sure who in their marketing department thought ‘Fila’ was a good idea, it sounds too much like the shoe brand and just confuses people I think.  The Up ‘Fila’ment I’ve always found to be superior to most others you can buy, and the Up printers are tuned to work particularly well with it so I’ve gone ahead and bought 10 rolls…

The filament size has been downgraded from 700g to 500g, an odd choice considering the larger print area/volume of the Up Box.  What were they thinking?

The 'Fila'... errr
The ‘Fila’… errr

What’s in the Box within the box…

Everything inside is almost ready to go with nothing to assemble.  There are however a whole bunch of cable ties, used to prevent the platform from rattling during transport, that needs to be snipped off.  Luckily these are professionally labelled ‘Remove Me – Please remove me.  I am shipping clip’.  OK the last bit reads a bit funny, but you have to admit its kind of nice.

Secured for transport
Secured for transport

The internal build of the printer is nice a clean, with a two tone scheme (black and orange) consistent throughout.  In the photo above, you can see the HEPA filter on the left.  Below you will notice even the cable assemblies are professional labelled and branded giving the printer just a little bit more of the up-market feel (er…excuse the pun, definitely not intended).

Branded cables...Oooo pretty...
Branded cables…Oooo pretty…

The printer also comes with 4 print plates, 3 perforated much like those PCB type ones provided on the Up Plus and Mini as well as 1 smooth bed one presumably for PLA usage.  The additional plates are handy and allows you to swap them out and continue printing without downtime.  The plates I received unfortunately weren’t very consistent and a couple of them was very warped, putting them through a couple of print/heat cycles relieved the issue but clipping them on the first time proved tricky.

The underside of the lid conveniently has a quick start guide with instructions on use which I thought was a nice touch.

Handy instruction sheet
Handy instruction sheet

The side of the printer contains a fancy spool holder with magnetic clip, it does look pretty I have to admit.

Filament goes here...
Filament goes here…

Unfortunately, the only thing going for it is ‘pretty’ as the filament spool size is truly underwhelming at 500g.  I am not looking forward to swapping filaments in-between large prints, but for those who do multiple small prints this shouldn’t be an issue.

Undersized filament spool
Undersized filament spool

The top right of the box holds 3 multi-function buttons depending on how long you press them.  Functions available include pre-heat, re-print last job, withdraw and extrude filament, pause/resume/stop, and my favorite lights on.  The Up Mini 2 appears to contain a LCD screen, but to me that’s feature bloat, three buttons seems to do everything I think I’ll need.

Control buttons
Control buttons

The Up Box has a limit switch on its front door to pause printing whenever it is opened.  I think it is intended as a safety feature, but the feature is not included on the top lid presumably assuming kids aren’t that tall.  The picture below shows the Box with the front door open and the ABS build plate installed, I really appreciate the professional appearance of the whole set-up.

The Box...
The Box…

Printing

The Up Box prints slightly quieter than the Up Plus, probably due to its construction.  There is no noticeable improvement on the quality of the prints to its predecessor, but they were pretty damn good already.  Probably the one true reason to upgrade to the Up Box if you’ve already have an Up Plus would be for the significantly larger print volume and the ability to print bigger parts without warping.

One nice improvement over the Up Mini is that the front window is now much more transparent and with the LED lighting within lets you see the print rather well.  The photo below was taken through the front window, it is still rather reflective but you can see everything going on inside well and removes that ‘has my print screwed up’ angst that I had when I was trying to use the Up Mini.

Printing in action
Printing in action

A word of warning though, the bed auto-leveling and height adjustment should be verified!  Do not rely on it!  Or pre-heat your bed before doing the adjustments.  I had a series of bad prints initially but sorted it out after manual adjustments, the variation to the initial auto adjustment values and my own manual adjustment values were very far off.  It has been smooth printing every since.

Some random prints I’ve done

With reference to my opening excuse, I haven’t had much time to do much 3D printing (in fact I wrote that excuse a week ago, I’ve been sick since!), so I’ve only got a couple of examples of what I’ve printed with the Box.  The support pulls off nicely and all is good 🙂

Random DIN Rail Mount Print :)
Random DIN Rail Mount Print 🙂
Huey House
Huey House

Should you buy it? (Short Answer)

Short answer – Yes, but you should use this link – Up Box 3D Printer.

Should you buy it? (Longer Answers)

Yes – Professionals, hobbyists and business use

Yes if you need to print functional items and don’t want the hassle of tuning/tweaking/fault finding or any of the myriad of problems associated with cheap 3D printers and 3D printer kits.  The higher price is well worth the time and frustration saved if you’re planning on using it for personal projects, and definitely worth the investment if you’re buying it from a company perspective (plus its an expense, its a deduction!).

Maybe – Schools, parents

If you’re a school or educational institution, you may get more bang for your buck with the Up Mini or the upcoming Up Mini 2.  Having more printers per student outweighs the large print volume the Up Box brings in my opinion.

If you’re a parent thinking the HEPA filter will let you print in piece, then chalk it down as a maybe.  There are so many holes and crevices I’m not sure the HEPA filter does much.  You should consider getting a carbon activated filter unit to remove the smell and definitely print in a separate well ventilated room away from your children.  I am not an expert but I consider 3D printer emissions in the same category as smoke, i.e. increases SIDS risks.  Can’t be certain but caution is good.

No – People learning on building or on a tight budget

If you’re a hobbyist/student and building the printer is part of the learning experience.  Personally, I think many of the kits out there will set you for disappointment.  Do some research and don’t simply go for the cheapest.

The almost $3000 price tag may place it out of reach for many people.  Instead of buying a cheap 3D printer kit, I suggest to you to look into services such as Shapeways.  They offer an excellent service and for several prints a year, they’re cheaper than owning a 3D printer.

The people who sell the Tiertime Up printers in Australia also have a 3D printing service locally, I think it is http://3dprint-au.com/ but I’ve not tried it out yet…

 

Carambola 2 Images

 

carambola2

 

Yippee, I finally received a batch of Carambola2s in the mail today.  I had a couple that were ready for me to pick up a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get it until Saturday…

So similar to the TL-WR703N I’ve prepared a standard image with most of the hacker stuff baked in for people to try out with a limited repository (not as comprehensive as the TL-WR703N one and definitely not compared to the 8devices/OpenWrt ones) compiled and available online.

I’ve also build the Image Builder again for people to remix and make their own images without doing the full OpenWrt build.

The following have been tried and seem to work :

  • Python
  • Python-libusb1
  • Pyserial
  • Python HTTP Server
  • USB Serial (ACM)
  • WiFi, Eth0, Eth1, Buttons
  • USBIP

Don’t expect anything not to work, but it was worth noting 🙂

Someone really should donate me a 3G modem to test with…

May Day Uploads – TL-WR703N, TL-WR720N & TL-MR3020 images + Secret Sauce

Uploaded a bunch of images for the TL-WR703N, TL-WR720N & TL-MR3020 on May 1st.

Based on OpenWRT r36503, it has the new 3.8.10 kernel as well as the new LuCi theme.  Due to the slowly expanding size of the kernel and the packages, I had to drop 3G out from the ‘standard’ image and made a separate ‘3G’ image.  All images are very barely tested though so that’s why I’m not updating into the main project page.

The benefit of these images is that this time I’ve included the image builder as well as helper scripts that should give people an idea on how to quickly roll their own images and still have access to a set of online packages.

Lots of comments asking me how I compile USBIP and make it work with the outdated Windows client, so I’ve included all the extra files I use on-top of the OpenWRT source in a package.  Yup I was too lazy to set up a github or similar for it 😛  It basically is 3 packages and a couple of modified source files…

All files located here :-
http://code.google.com/p/madox/downloads/list

TP-Link TL-WR720N Test Images (OpenWRT)

I’ve uploaded two test images based on OpenWRT r35905 (Linux 3.8.2) for the TL-WR720N here :-

http://code.google.com/p/madox/downloads/detail?name=openwrt_tl-wr720n_standard_2013-03-09.7z

http://code.google.com/p/madox/downloads/detail?name=openwrt_tl-wr720n_base_2013-03-09.7z

Both Ethernet and WiFi appear to work as well as the mode switch.  Both images are similar to the WR703N images but with less things (mjpg-streamer ser2net dropped).  I had to cut down as it appears the newer kernel is significantly larger [either that or I did something wrong].

I will upload the repository and packages tomorrow if I don’t find a better way to squeeze more goodies in.

How to install OpenWRT on a TL-WR703N that came with DD-WRT

USE THESE INSTRUCTIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK

I have only done this procedure once and sharing because of the lack of information on the web on how to do this.

Some of the sellers of the TL-WR703N are shipping the routers with DD-WRT pre-installed – some with a Chinese interface, some with an English interface.

Regardless, you need telnet or SSH access to the router as upgrading via the web interface will not work.

Step 1 :

Get the OpenWRT image onto the router.
e.g.

root@DD-WRT:/tmp# wget http://192.168.1.142/openwrt/ar71xx/openwrt-ar71xx-generic-tl-wr703n-v1-squashfs-factory.bin
Connecting to 192.168.1.142 (192.168.1.142:80)
openwrt-ar71xx-gener 100% |*******************************| 3840k 0:00:00 ETA

Other methods can be found here :- http://wiki.openwrt.org/doc/howto/generic.sysupgrade

Step 2 :

The TRICK is that the partition names are different between OpenWRT and DD-WRT.  Whereas all OpenWRT instructions will tell you to write to the ‘firmware‘ partition, this does not exist on DD-WRT and you have to use the ‘linux‘ partition instead.  Use the ‘mtd’ command as per the example below to write the OpenWRT image onto the router.  Note the ‘-r’ argument will reboot the router as soon as the flash is complete.  (As usual, do not power off or disconnect during the flashing!).

root@DD-WRT:/tmp# mtd -r write openwrt-ar71xx-generic-tl-wr703n-v1-squashfs-factory.bin linux
Unlocking linux ...
Writing from openwrt-ar71xx-generic-tl-wr703n-v1-squashfs-factory.bin to linux ... [e]
Connection closed by foreign host.

TL-WR703N Example Project 4 : Webcam Streaming

Connecting a webcam and using the router to stream video around the place should be one of the easiest things to do. A bit too easy in that I neglected to provide simple instructions on how to set it up.

mjpg-streamer and the necessary drivers are included in the standard images I provide on the TP-Link TL-WR703N project page.

Preliminary steps :-

  1. Get a router, load it with the standard image.
  2. Set-up wireless or any other networking changes.  See an example here.
  3. Plug in the camera

Now there are two ways to get mjpg-streamer to auto-start, there is an easy way and an elegant way.

  • Easy way : Just add the command to the auto start script using LuCi…
  • Elegant way : Edit the configuration files /etc/init.d/mjpg-streamer and /etc/config/mjpg-streamer

I prefer the easy way you are less likely to screw it up.  First we should check that the camera works well with mjpg-streamer…

  1. Telnet/SSH into the router
  2. Run the following command :

    mjpg_streamer -i “./input_uvc.so -n -r VGA -f 6 -d /dev/video0” -o “./output_http.so -p 8080 -n”

    This command uses VGA (640×480) resolution “-r VGA” at 6 frames per second “-f 6”.

  3. If that doesn’t work and an error appears, it most likely means your camera doesn’t support JPEG images.  If so, try the following command instead :

    mjpg_streamer -i “./input_uvc.so -n -q 60 -r QVGA -f 6 -d /dev/video0” -o “./output_http.so -p 8080 -n”

    This command forces mjpg-streamer to convert into raw into JPEG at (-q) quality 60, at resolution (-r) QVGA, this can be “160×120” for example.  The frame rate is specified by the -f (6).  This method is MUUUUUUUUCH more CPU intensive and you might have to tweak the resolution and frame rate down.

  4. Using a device connected to the router, use a web browser (e.g. Chrome) to connect to the following to get a live view:

    http://192.168.1.1:8080/?action=stream

    You can also get a single snapshot at:

     http://192.168.1.1:8080/?action=snapshot

  5. If you need to play around with the commands, use CTRL-C to kill mjpg-streamer and try again.  Avoid high resolutions (e.g. 1920×1080) as that will just crash the router.  I used 640×480 at 25 frames per second relatively happily on a JPEG enabled camera (e.g. Logitech/Microsoft ones, not the cheap no brand ones).
  6. Once you have a workable set-up, copy the command you have and put it into the local start-up.  Append the command line with an ampersand “&” so it runs in the background.  e.g.

    mjpg_streamer -i “./input_uvc.so -n -r VGA -f 6 -d /dev/video0” -o “./output_http.so -p 8080 -n” &

    Hint – In Luci, select the Systems tab, then select Startup, scroll down to the Local Startup section and add your command to the box and press save and apply.

Enjoy? 🙂

Project sneak peek and procrastination

This is a project sneak peek at the LED lamp I am making.  This post is really an excuse to post some random pics and videos, and a way for me to procrastinate and not actually finish the darn thing.

My eyes! My eyes...do not look at LED array with remaining eye...
My eyes! My eyes…do not look at LED array with remaining eye…

The project is a LED lamp that will be mounted on the wall.  It comprises of 24 LED Strips of 30 LEDs each of which has an integrated WS2811 controller chip that enables individual addressing and 24bit RGB colour.  The strips are driven by a Teensy 3.0, which then subsequently interfaces with a controller board that will do most of the processing.  I hope to have it run games (e.g. Tetris) as well as turn on automatically at night, display the time and temperature and do some other random stuff.

Below is a video testing the display with Tetris…I haven’t drawn the border etc…and the pixels look fugly because it isn’t finished 🙂

The test setup is so crude, I just used scrap washi paper and dumped it directly on-top of the LED array.

Test set-up with scrap washi paper and power supply
Test set-up with scrap washi paper and power supply

I’m still debating on what I should use as a controller for the games.  Waiting on a “DDR mat” from eBay to arrive so I could test that, but I would appreciate any novel ideas people can suggest!

Some more pics after the break 🙂

Continue reading “Project sneak peek and procrastination”

TL-WR703N Example Project 3 : Wireless 3D printing (or 2D printing or just simply wireless USB)

So it has taken me over three months of procrastination of building a USBIP image that will let me connect to my 3D printer wirelessly to actually writing up a tutorial to share it with the world.  This tutorial provides the basics of setting up a fresh TP-Link TL-WR703N image to wirelessly connect a Windows machine to a USB device attached to the router.  I am using primarily using this to connect to my pp3dp Up! printer (only reason this is for Windows…), but I have also tested this method on a USB Logitech webcam and a USB flash disk.

Again, a disclosure is that I am an affiliate to 3D printing systems and that if you’re interested in buying an Up! Plus or Up! Mini and you’re in Australia/New Zealand you should do it via this link 😛

Continue reading “TL-WR703N Example Project 3 : Wireless 3D printing (or 2D printing or just simply wireless USB)”

Squeeze! Reducing toothpaste waste…

Self explanatory photo post… or just an example of over-exposed phone photography…

Colgate – All used up…
I’ve really used up the toothpaste now!

I’m printing a bunch of these to hand out as trinkets at the local hackerspace.  Demonstrates how a 3D printer can be used to make stuff, and handy enough for everyone to be able to find a use for it!

RoboDino Trinket Production 🙂
RoboDino Trinkets

Will be uploading this to Thingiverse in a tick…