AMS Spring 2023

AutoFarm: A Single Tool for Managing an Entire 3D Printing Farm

Inkbit

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For a number of years 3DQue has been making tools to automate, manage, and improve 3D printing with desktop printers and print farms. Now, the Canadian firm has released AutoFarm, which allows one person to manage up to 100 3D printers.

Developed over the course of three years, the software makes it possible to check system vitals and statistics on a handy dashboard, so you can easily monitor your farm. Through a single file management tool, jobs can be distributed, while magical artificial intelligence (AI) is used for failure detection. The system also features auto part ejection capability and traceability to improve and log results, all with live alerts to your mobile.

“AutoFarm3D is our customers’ secret weapon, allowing operators to manage and monitor tens, hundreds or thousands of printers from a single dashboard. Designed to scale as a print farm grows, AutoFarm3D is suitable for every operation from Etsy stores and online sellers, to service bureaus and large industrial farms. It even helps manage complex record keeping in regulated industries such as aerospace, automotive, and medical,” Steph Sharp, co-founder and CEO, states.

“Manual farms running on old technology are less productive because tasks cannot be done in bulk, and every printer needs to be micromanaged. AutoFarm3D treats your 3D print farm as a single interconnected system, rather than a set of isolated machines. It is the first software designed specifically for FDM print farms of all sizes and compatible with a mixed range of 3D printers, materials, colors, and part designs,” COI Mateo Pekic adds.

I really like the fact that 3DQue has considered scalability here. The software is accessible, with the ability to grow along with it without having to switch to another tool. The company also offers bulk file management tools that can take a lot of the drudgery away from getting print jobs to the machines themselves. One dashboard also means that one can easily oversee an entire operation, with one place to see many printer feeds and one repository for build files. The company claims that output increases 200% to 300% with its software when compared to managing a print farm manually.

3DQue also offers SmartTags, which enables users to indicate their own tags for details such as nozzle size, nozzle types, and 3D printing materials. You could have a printer set up for highly detailed prints in PETG, used only with the right orders, while you have another printer set up for high flow for larger, more utilitarian parts. The company also has SpaghettiVision for checking for failures. Print farms could be local, but 3DQue tools could also be used to monitor several of print farms all over a campus or all over the world. Files are also locally stored, but accessible remotely.

I think that the next leap of the industry is coming from space and orthopedics firms using our technology to make mission critical parts on very expensive machines with high-end materials. But, I’m also seeing the emergence of low-cost 3D printing at scale. Print farms are operating as services using only Prusa or Creality machines. With such low-cost systems and cheap filament, these services are very accessible. There are companies 3D printing thousands of machine tool parts using low-cost, desktop systems, as well. I expect more to happen in orthopedics, orthotics, and consumer goods, as well. Entry level 3D printers are good enough for B-side parts. Coupled with finishing systems, they may also be used for some visible parts . They’re not suited for everything and other parts may be smoother or more detailed. However, for a great many of the things in this world, a desktop material extrusion 3D printer is good enough and just about the cheapest way to make that thing.

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