Using Cura on my Reprap

I got a message the other day on g+ from ultimaker letting me know that Cura was available for Macs. Cura is software that does both slicing and printer control. It has some cool features so I decided to check it out.

INSTALL –
The install went very smoothly. It searched for a python module that I didn’t have, then installed it for me. That was it.

CALIBRATION –
Calibration was pretty quick as well. Cura and slic3r both are front ends for skeinforge. EDIT – thanks Gary for the correction. They do a bunch of math behind the scenes so that you can tweak one number and have it ripple through all of the other things that number influences. Cura seems to be even simpler than slic3r, but in my experience that has been a good thing. I had to set my bed size, x,y,z, max length, nozzle size, filament, filament size, and possibly a few other things. There is a first run wizard that guides you through the things that you need to change. The one big sticking point is that you (strangely) need to put your extruder steps per mm into cura. I’m not sure if it was in the wizard. If it wasn’t then you can find it under preferences called “steps per E”

SLICING & PRINTING –
The slicer in cura is well laid out and labeled. It is a little slower than slic3r, but gave me better results. It also allows me to tweak things like speed (by a lot) and have much more consistent results.

COOL THINGS ABOUT CURA –
There is a project planner feature that is pretty awesome. It is a plater, in that it allows you to gang up multiple pieces in one print but it allows you to apply different slicing settings to each piece. Being able to print a wade’s extruder at .2 layers and the gears at .1 on the same bed is really awesome. The coolest thing about project planner is that you can control whether the separate parts are printed individually or all at the same time. I can’t count the number of times that a 3×3 grid of gears will have one gear come up and then it will eventually knock all of the rest free. I LOVE this feature.

There is also a gcode post processor in cura. This has been a staple of traditional cnc software for a long time. I love this. For example: cura was generating a M190 code in the startup. This means that it waits for my heated build platform to get to temp before moving on. I don’t like to wait that long as my apt is cold, and my bed heats up slowly. I was able to swap out all “M190” codes with “M140” and away I went!

BAD THINGS ABOUT CURA –
You can’t control the printer without sending a print to it. The overall print section seems to be the least developed part of the whole thing. You can’t select a gcode file to send without generating it in Cura. You can however generate it in cura, then edit externally, and then send it from cura. I have also had far more print freezes and line checksum errors in cura than in slic3r.

CONCLUSION –
I’m stoked on cura. I wish it had a bunch of other features, but it seems like it is developed by a person (? /community?) that has been continuing to add new features and push things. I’m sure that there are some things that I’ll use pronterface for. I may even do my slicing in cura and my printing in pronterface. Either way I am glad to have made the leap, and now I have another software tool in my toolbox.

Hack saturday – spend $25 free on amex @ small business

American express has a one a year campaign where they will reimburse you $25 if you register your amex card online and spend more than 25 at a participating small business. Just to reiterate, here are the two rules
1) register your (amex) card online at http://shopsmall.com
2) buy a minimum of $25 worth of stuff from an amex approved small business. Want to find one? Check out their online small business finder.

Just so you know that this isn’t “too good to believe” you can see that I did it last year and got a bunch of free gear from sparkfun.

So here is why this is hacky enough to go up on my blog. The small businesses don’t have to be local to you. They just need to be on the map. I’ve looked for a bunch of my favorite small open source hardware / reprap stores and have a small list. The most difficult part is that you need to know the store’s physical address, and their name according to amex. I’m sure that I have missed some just because they might have their cc account under a different name than their actual store name.

Here’s my list:
pololu
makerbot
inventables
artisans asylumn
matterhackers
protoparadigm
robotshop
hobby fever
DIY Drones (3d robotics)
you do it electronics

NOT eligible – post with the zip code and address if you can find that they are actually there. I would LOVE that.
shapeways
sparkfun :(
ponoko
adafruit
emsl
printrbot

It’s not too late to register, and I haven’t picked out my list yet. PLEASE post your thoughts for any hacker friendly small businesses that accept amex, or even better – check them out on the map and post back here