Bambu Lab 3D Printers Become Possessed, Raising Questions about the Cloud

Formnext Germany

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Bambu Lab has made waves in the desktop 3D printing industry with its rapid material extrusion systems. However, Bambu Lab’s cloud solution recently suffered a massive outage, occurring across two instances on August 15 for an hour each. The community backlash and concern were substantial, amplified by the fact that the printers, rather than just becoming inoperative, kept receiving the same print jobs repeatedly. Some machines were reportedly damaged. The incident has reignited previous concerns about thermal runaway protection and potential risks, leaving many questioning if they can trust the manufacturer.

This event highlights a central weakness of Bambu Lab: its slicing and printing are cloud-based. The company can access extensive data through the onboard LiDAR and cameras in the printers, allowing for the measurement of dimensional accuracy and success of prints. If Bambu Labs can access the settings of 100,000 printers, each printing 10 objects per month, the data they collect will be substantial. Project this a few years into the future, with a million printers each printing the same number of objects, and the data becomes even more significant. his data could be used to optimize slicing profiles and eventually build a significant advantage over other 3D printer manufacturers. In contrast, other companies that rely on external firmware or slicing, or those without printers that send data back to a central location, would not have access to this information and thus could not achieve the same capabilities. With the potential for continuous improvement from testing different materials and variables, Bambu Lab could lead the industry.

Secondary camera with timestamps. One to many F… Damaged plate.
by u/Ced_Battlewind in BambuLab

I’m unsure whether Bambu Labs is utilizing slicing data, or employing lidar and cameras to evaluate the success of prints and subsequently adjust settings. However, given their cloud-only setup and software, it seems like an obvious approach. The core issue with cloud-based operations is our lack of control and understanding over how the data is used. This concern is amplified when we consider that many files sent to printers could contain intellectual property (IP), design schematics, or other confidential information. Cloud-based 3D printing applications might be exploited to harvest these files, or someone might extract the necessary information for settings adjustment without interacting with the files themselves. The lack of transparency and control is the crux of the problem. As Joe Scalon expressed on Twitter:

If the 3D printer is a constant business tool then indeed there would have to be some way to use the system without the cloud. This is not only necessary for a lot of companies that want to make secret things but also as a backup. Through Bambu Studio and Bambu Handy Bambu Labs squarely has the firehose of 3D printer data in its hands. That lets it control the experience and make 3D printing easy. That is another key element of the overall experience. But, people who have had doubts before may doubt the entire Bambu Labs approach.

If 3D printers are integral to a business, there must be an option to operate the system without relying on the cloud. This is essential not only for companies dealing with confidential projects but also as a fail-safe measure. Through Bambu Studio and Bambu Handy, Bambu Lab has direct access to a wealth of 3D printer data. This control allows them to simplify the 3D printing process, a vital aspect of their overall user experience. However, those who have had reservations in the past might continue to question Bambu Lab’s entire approach.

The previous statement might reflect a preference for an open-source or at least transparent ecosystem in 3D printing. Additionally, there’s concern over ownership and control. When purchasing a product from Bambu Lab, the question arises: What exactly do I own? Other printers, like those from a Prusa clone company, would continue to function even if the company goes bankrupt. However, without Bambu Lab’s support, their specific printers become inoperable.

Nero’s question touches on a more fundamental issue. It’s disconcerting that I can’t run the machine without the company’s permission, yet they can operate it without mine. This scenario feels like science fiction and raises real concerns. Could someone turn on my 3D printer and misuse it, sending spam or committing crimes without my knowledge? These possibilities reveal potential issues with privacy, intellectual property, and control over purchased items. This concern becomes even more perplexing when considering the right-to-repair movement, as it’s ironic that a machine that could be used to fix many things might itself be unrepairable due to its software.

Not all the feedback was negative. Bambu Lab responded with a blog post, displaying transparency and a willingness to accept responsibility for the issue while working to resolve it. The company has openly stated that it doesn’t have all the answers yet but will share information as it becomes available. From a public relations standpoint, these actions appear to be a step in the right direction.

¨the print job was successfully completed on the printer, but our cloud service believed it had not been done. When service resumed, the once-jammed job was resent, leading to the unexpected printing of an already finished job,” Bambu Lab wrote. “It is difficult to have a cloud service 100% reliable all the time, but we should at least have designed the system more carefully to avoid such embarrassing consequences.¨

The company has announced its intention to continue working on a LAN mode, which could enable some printer functions to operate without cloud connectivity. The future is uncertain for Bambu Lab; it’s unclear whether the company will repair its reputation, continue to grow, or if this issue will merely be a temporary setback. With considerable financial resources and presumed strong growth, the firm’s future looks promising. However, this situation has personally heightened my skepticism regarding cloud-based solutions. The idea of using such technology for business doesn’t seem suitable, and as a user, I’m conflicted about surrendering control for improved print quality. While this trade-off doesn’t feel right to me, it might be a direction the industry takes.

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