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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Press release from the issuing company

Unified messaging, automated archiving and more provide increased productivity and an even better user experience

Wheaton Ill. – Aleyant, an innovative leader in providing robust software services to the graphic communications industry, today announced the availability of Version 10 of Aleyant tFLOW, its powerful digital workflow automation and customer service solution for commercial, large format, label, and specialty graphics businesses.

“We continue to focus our development efforts on providing the best possible user experience,” said Greg Salzman, Aleyant’s President. “With this release, I believe we have lived up to that promise. Aleyant tFLOW Version 10 incorporates a number of enhancements that makes individual users more productive and improves team communication. In today’s highly competitive environment, anything that can be done to reduce touches – and thus time and labor cost – will contribute to a better bottom line. We believe Aleyant tFLOW Version 10 does that.”

Version 10: The Details
A key enhancement in tFLOW Version 10 is that it can now run on the Linux operating system. This means that tFLOW can now be configured for larger virtual machines with scalable and dynamic flexibility, especially important in high-volume environments. In addition, tFLOW Version 10 includes:

  • Unified Messaging: tFLOW now offers a centralized messaging center where users can read and post comments on any job or order, all from the same window. Teams can now communicate more effectively without having to view each job or order individually to review and post messages.
  • Automated Archiving: Now, in the background, tFLOW will automatically move all unused files to archival drives. This means users will no longer have to worry about filling up working disk space in high-volume environments or using valuable time manually moving those files to the archive.
  • Personal Upload Link: Each user is given a personal upload link during account creation. This link can be used to upload artwork to tFLOW when file submission occurs prior to order and job creation in the MIS or ERP system.
  • Production Queue Information: This information is now shown in the user interface, allowing users to quickly see which queues production files have been sent. The information is accessible at the job level and in the completely redesigned Global History.
  • Email Log: Users can now view the email log for any event that has triggered an email notification. The email log is available in Activity/History, and in each user’s profile.

“These are just a few of the enhancements tFLOW users will notice,” Salzman added. “We will continue to enhance tFLOW and other Aleyant solutions to increase their value, as well as continue our work with third-party integrations that help organizations build a complete and very productive workflow ecosystem.”

For more information about Aleyant tFLOW Version 10, visit https://aleyantprintsoftware.com/2018/11/20/aleyant-tflow-version-10-adds-unified-messaging-automated-archiving-more/.

For additional information about Aleyant offerings, please visit www.Aleyant.com or call +1.630.929.0104.

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A collection of springs demonstrates a new FFF hack to 3D print extreme overhangs without using any supports.

The technique has been developed by Makefast Workshop, a prototype and design bureau based in Dealware, Ohio.

In addition, the Makefast team has created a G-code generator for the springs, making experimentation open to anyone.

3D printing in midair

As pointed out by the team at Makefast, midair 3D printing has been achieved before in a handful of experiments: either one offs, or in research labs. Most recently, for example, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed a hypnotizing technique for 3D printing sugar sculptures in midair. While such developments could have great potential in an experimental lab environment, Makefast Workshop sought a method that would give makers the opportunity to try this technique at home.

As the team write in a corresponding Hack blog post, “Have you ever noticed that at the end of a print there’s sometimes a small thread of plastic that seems to follow the exact path of the extruder after it finishes printing? This is often caused by a little extra filament continuing to flow/ooze as the print head pulls away. The plastic is thin enough to cool as it moves, tracing out the path in midair,”

“While those little threads aren’t likely to be very useful, we wondered if we could apply that same approach to purposely trace out a 3D contour.”

How to 3D print extreme overhangs

To 3D print sample springs without using supports, Makefast deciphered at least four essential observations.

First and foremost, extrusion flowrate must be kept close, roughly 1:1 for the distance traveled. This ensures that the right amount of plastic is extruded, no more less, so the spring doesn’t get too thin, or just ooze out in a uncontrollable mess.

Second of all, print speed has to be incredibly slow, allowing time for the plastic to solidify. Though miniature, each of the springs demonstrated by the team took between three and seven minutes to complete.

Proper filament care is essential success. Any moisture trapped in those filaments can lead to instant failure of springs.

And finally, compensations have to be made for the extruder’s pull. As a result “the G-code for a cylindrical coil spring actually flares out slightly near the top to produce a spring that is straight when completed.”

Demonstration of a midair 3D printed coil. Image via Makefast Workshop
Demonstration of a midair 3D printed coil. Image via Makefast Workshop

What does this mean for 3D printers?

The overall vision for this experiment is to develop some kind of method that makes 3D printing overhangs less dependent on angles and support structures.

As the team state, “Imagine a long overhang being accomplished by momentarily slowing down a print and snaking a strand of filament away from a part and then back. Making a set of these loops could then be used as a shelf to build up subsequent layers without requiring support underneath.”

Improvements to desktop FFF systems have been made before by experimenting with slicing and g-code. One example includes the variable layer height setting introduced by Prusa Research to its version of Slic3r. By adding this feature, it made it possible to achieve smoother prints, without completely sacrificing on print time.

While midair settings aren’t currently offered by slicing software, the Makefast Workshop custom g-code generator is certainly a good place to start for anyone looking to give this technique a try.

For all of the latest 3D printer news and hacks subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Visit 3D Printing Jobs to take your career to the next level.

Featured image shows different shaped springs 3D printed without supports. Photo via Makefast Workshop

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Shanghai’s Raise3D has launched beta access to a cloud-based printing management software, RaiseCloud, designed to create a “smarter way to 3D print.”

Dubbed “RaiseCloud,” the application allows users of Raise3D printers to remotely control monitor time-lapse recordings, as well as third-party modeling tools and model libraries. This technology also includes personal file management, team file management, cloud-based slicing functions and printing tasks statistics and reports.

As a result, the company has introduced the RaiseCloud Open Beta program to test its capabilities.   

The time-lapse video playback enabling users to evaluate the print process. Image via Raise3D.
The time-lapse video playback enabling users to evaluate the print process. Image via Raise3D.

The RaiseCloud software

RaiseCloud aims to build collaboration and pool resources among a network of 3D printing systems. The platform integrates Ideamaker software within its browser and uses a flexible work order flow customization for maximum additive manufacturing productivity. In addition, the MyMiniFactory and Thingiverse libraries are accessible through RaiseCloud.

Raisecloud and My Mini Factory.
RaiseCloud and MyMiniFactory.

The RaiseCloud Beta Testing Program strives to improve the platforms through its users. This is done through testing of new product features and discovery of unsuspected bugs. This centralized software contributes to an improved user experience involving fleets of 3D printers.

The time-lapse video playback enabling users to evaluate the print process. Image via Raise3D.
The time-lapse video playback enabling users to evaluate the print process. Image via Raise3D.

An additive manufacturing network

Recently, Diogo Quental, Raise3D’s General Manager for Europe, sat down with 3D Printing Industry to discuss the company’s strategy for accelerating within the mid-tier professional 3D printer market.

“We understand there is an acceleration in the transition into digital additive manufacturing,” said Quental. “We expect the gap between “traditional” 3D printing companies and desktop 3D printing manufacturers to narrow steadily, thus benefiting customers and fuelling further market growth.”

“Digital additive manufacturing, depending on the industry and application, will require different types of solutions. We expect desktop based solutions to represent a substantial share of it as they have some relevant advantages [such as] ease of use.”

Centralized management of Raise3D Printers. Image via Raise3D.
Centralized management of Raise3D Printers. Image via Raise3D.

Cloud-based 3D printing 

Cloud-based 3D printing has been integrated more frequently into 3D printing systems. Both desktop and industrial additive manufacturing systems are equipped with touchscreen control panels and WiFi or LAN networks which has eliminated the need for first physical monitoring of one’s printing processes as well as additional operational costs.

Flexible workorder flow customization within RaiseCloud. Image via Raise3D.
Flexible workorder flow customization within RaiseCloud. Image via Raise3D.

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Featured image shows the RaiseCloud Platform. Image via Raise3D.

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3D printing, CNC carving and laser engraving – the ZMorph VX makes some bold claims about its capabilities. This multiple function desktop system was launched by its Polish namesake manufacturer, ZMorph, at TCT 2017. Now 3D Printing Industry engineers have been given the chance to put it to the test.

According to its core claims, the ZMorph VX is of robust construction and designed for prolonged use. Its multiple toolheads, including a paste extruder and dual extruder, should be easily transferable, and the free ZMorph Academy course should enable users to learn how to operate each one effectively. Though a multitool machine, with CNC PRO and Laser PRO toolheads, the VX promises uncompromising FFF 3D printing quality. Each of these claims have been taken into account throughout testing the machine, and serve as the basis for our review.

ZMorph VX multitool 3D printer unboxed with spool holder attached.
ZMorph VX multitool 3D printer unboxed with spool holder attached.

The ZMorph VX out of the box

After the five minutes taken to unpack the ZMorph VX, and a further three to attach the spool holder, the machine can be considered as “ready to go.” A concise, quick setup guide is provided in the box detailing each of its five modes of operation, and the customer is also referred to the ZMorph Knowledge Base and ZMorph Academy for extra help and how-tos.

The spool holder has an efficient design and is capable of holding up to four rolls of filament at the same time, only two of these spools, it should be noted, can be extruded simultaneously when the appropriate toolhead is attached.

Each of the toolheads is mounted by a single screw. When exchanging toolheads, this simple construction enables each head to be changed within one minute, as stated by the company in its advertising. It is also easy to switch between functions via the in-built touchscreen panel, which is powered by ZMorph Voxelizer software.

Calibration can be completed both automatically and manually on the VX. In tests we found that auto calibration was more than suitable for every task.

Straight into 3D printing

The first test our engineers performed was, of course, an assessment of the ZMorph VX’s 3D print quality. For this purpose, first with a single extruder, we tried five different models:

– A ZMorph pyramid sample print (PLA silver)
– A 3D Benchy in two different sizes (PLA silver and white)Complex flower vase (PLA silver)
Large detailed house model (PLA silver)
– 3D Torture test (PLA white)

Put briefly, across all test prints, the ZMorph VX worked very well. The sample triangle was 3D printed with fine features, despite the fact that it is a challenging printout for some 3D printers due to its extensive details.

Pyramid 3D print test on the VX.

Similarly, both 3D Benchy’s were 3D printed without fault. Though of varying sizes, and using a different filament to the ZMorph triangle, the test Benchys were produced at a high quality without any stringing across difficult areas like the windows.

In the vase, a slightly more complex model, the walls were of a good quality, but some stringing could be noticed on the inside. It should be noted however, that the stringing was nothing unusual, and was most likely due to the small size of the object. A test of stamina, the large house model, which took 20 hours to complete, also printed well.

And, in the final torture test, the ZMorph VX proved that it can handle overhangs, bridges, hinges and floating strings with ease.

Dual extrusion on the ZMorph VX

A similar design to the single extruder, the dual extruder on the ZMorph X has two feeders and two inlets, which lead to a single nozzle. The feeders on this nozzle are open, a welcome feature of the head as it is handy for spotting any clogging. The heating element with the nozzle assembly is modular too, which also helps to just heat up the needed area during a clog.

In a test of dual extrusion capabilities, the team used ZMorph’s Voxelizer to add a basic text 3D Printing Industry (3DPI) logo to the side of a miniature rocket part.

ZMorph VX dual extrusion test.
ZMorph VX dual extrusion test.

The combination process in Voxelizer was quick and straightforward. Preprogrammed blending options for the two filaments where also clear and easy to understand, i.e. separate, 5050, gradient and texture.

Both sample parts 3D printed using the dual extruder were of a decent quality though the surface finish was not of the same quality when compared to single extrusion 3D prints. Adding text/images to the face of dual 3D printed objects is in fact better served by larger objects, allowing the pictures and characters to become more defined.

Example of color blending on the ZMorph VX. Photo via ZMorph
Example of color blending on the ZMorph VX. Photo via ZMorph

Laser engraving, CNC carving, paste extrusion

Now, onto the extra features of the Zmorph VX multiool 3D printer. For laser engraving CNC carving and paste extrusion, first the print bed had to be replaced with the CNC worktable.

Due to the simple, magnetic design of both platforms, the exchange was easy to do. With this construction, planar aligning was also very easy, and  calibration process was acceptable.

For the engraving test, we effectively reproduced the ZMorph logo from the sample files provided by the company. In a further test, the team also succeeded in converting a .jpeg image into our own engraving .gcode using a tutorial from ZMorph Academy.

Overall we were impressed by the quality of the engraving, especially considering features were very close together in the tests.

ZMorph logo laser engraving.
ZMorph logo laser engraving.
Further example of laser engraving on the ZMorph VX. Photo via ZMorph
Further example of laser engraving on the ZMorph VX. Photo via ZMorph

For CNC carving, five types of cutter tip were provided, each easily mountable within the toolhead.

For carving, we used a 6mm thick piece of plywood provided by the company, and tested the sample “Rocket Holder” file downloaded from ZMorph Academy. At 75% and 125% speed, were were decently impressed by the results.

CNC carving test.
CNC carving test. of rocket holder parts.
Sample nylon cog carved on the VX. Photo via ZMorph
Sample nylon cog carved on the VX. Photo via ZMorph

And finally, attaching the partially 3D printed paste extruder, we achieved the successful guided extrusion of a thick chocolate icing. A handy addition for consistently decorating cakes, or experimentation with gels.

A multilayered “M” initial was achieved at layer height 3 mm, path width 3 mm, travel speed 120 mm/s and print speed 5 mm/s.

M initial paste extrusion on the VX.
M initial paste extrusion on the VX.

The all in one tool for workshops, schools and FabLabs

Based on our internal testing, the ZMorph VX is indeed a brilliant multitool 3D printer, which performed very well across all functions, especially for 3D printing. All prints demonstrated good layer adhesion, and the ability to pick out fine detail in chosen objects. Generally, the process also made it easy to remove supports, and the ZMorph VX produced a near perfect Torture Test proving its ability to overcome the breadth of 3D printer challenges, i.e. overhangs bridges, hinges and floating strings.

With the ability to reference ZMorph Academy for free, we were able to conduct our tests with ease, and found instructions incredibly clear and to the point. Simple tool mounting, the integrated touch screen, and Zmorph’s Voxelizer all contributed to an enjoyable, and intuitive user experience. It has a very sturdy frame, and could conceivably be used time and again over a long period of time. In addition, the machine’s multitool features, CNC carving, laser engraving and paste extrusion, all performed well, indicating the ZMorph VX’s capability as an all in one workshop tool.

The ZMorph VX would be a welcome addition to a classroom, FabLab, or the workbench of an in house engineering/design department. Buy the ZMorph VX here.

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Featured image shows the ZMorph VX multitool 3D printer. Photo via ZMorph.

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Diversity in the graphic communication industry is an important value that should be embraced by businesses, associations, academia and by individuals. However, presently the industry lacks in diversity in several ways:

  1. The number of women in the industry

The number of employees in the printing industry, as calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) NAICS Printing and Related Support Activities, as of the first half of 2018 was at 434,200. Of this number, 171,110, or 39%, were women. The Printing Industries of America has 26 members on its board, not counting its president, and only two, or 8%, are women. A similar discrepancy is true for PIA’s Benjamin Franklin Honor Society. If we take a “deeper dive” into industry numbers, we find that 60.4% of graphic design majors at colleges and universities are women. In 2016, the BLS records show that there were 266,200 graphic designers employed in the United States with the majority being women. In my travels, I am seeing an increasing number of women in top management positions.

  1. Who are the buyers/customers? How do we treat our buyers?

I am told that a number of years ago, the Rochester Institute of Technology estimated that there were fewer than 20,000 print buyers. Printing industry marketing consultant and writer, Margie Dana, states, “In studies I’ve done since then, we learned that the vast majority of print buyers do so part-time — in addition to other responsibilities. The function is folded into other corporate functions, like marketing and general procurement. The vast majority of them are women. The typical corporate buyer is a woman in her 40s.”

Now that we know our buyers are women, how do we treat them? A large printing company in San Francisco that I visited had three bright clean customer rooms with Mac computers, a dog kennel, infant cribs, color-viewing booths, and a fantastic dining room with a professional chef. The food was great. They realized who their customer was. Another company I visited in the Upper Midwest had two customer rooms, no color-viewing booth, a refrigerator filled with beer and Cokes, baskets of high calorie snacks, no computer, lots of magazines, a leather sofa and a large deer head mounted on the wall. Believe me, I have seen much worse.

A few years ago I was asked to do two three-hour lectures for a printing company’s customers. The audience was 95% women. This firm printed very high quality commercial work including catalogs, books, and brochures. The knowledge base of the group was excellent, not only in design but in the actual production of printing, I was impressed.

  1. Graphic communication school enrollment

This year, in Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication major, 70% of the students are women. In fall 2017, the University of Wisconsin-Stout had 74 women and 49 male students. Clemson University boasts a 3:1 women-to-men ratio. In looking at the other major graphic communication programs, the percentage varies between 45% up to 60% women enrollment.

  1. Women ownership of companies

These numbers are a bit difficult to obtain. However, from observations, the number of women-owned graphic design companies is on the rise, as are women-owned digital printing companies.

  1. Women presidents

There has been a rise in women corporate presidents generally, as well as a rise in women-owned printing companies, with more women holding executive positions than ever before.

Finally, women play a vital and significant role in our industry. We like to say, “the customer comes first.” Well, most of our customers are women. Let’s recognize that and address it in a positive way by enhancing women identity in our companies and associations. All of the associations and companies in the printing and related industries need to “open their eyes” and espouse 21st century values of their customers, employees and other stakeholders. This is particularly true if the industry wants to attract young, bright talent to its ranks.

About the Author

Raymond J. Prince has served the industry for 60 years as a printer, student, association executive, and now as an industry advisor and consultant. Ray can be reached at: raymondjprince@aol.com

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