Pathio is a new slicer for 3D Printing that is in beta (free now, will be paid once released). It is supported by, but independent of, E3D. The goal of Pathio appears to be to address shortcomings of other slicers available on the market and make certain advanced features easier to use.
A 3D Slicer is software that takes a 3D model and then separates it into layers so your 3D printer can lay down plastic to build up the full model by the end of the print. Some popular slicers include Cura (open source supported by Ultimaker), Slic3r (open source popularly known as what Prusa printers use), Simplify3D (paid), and KISSlicer (premium features are paid). With some rare exceptions you can use any slicer with any consumer 3D FDM/FFF printer. Prusa recommends Prusa Slic3r edition, but you can use Cura or Simplify3D just as easily.
I believe the more quality slicers we have to choose from the better for everyone. Because of the complexity involved with 3D models being sliced for printing I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to slicers. This makes me excited for Pathio because they aren’t just addressing user interface and ease of settings, but they are looking at how to slice smarter and better.
Their focus right now appears to be on generating gcode (what your printer reads to know how to operate for any given print) that produces prints with more consistent wall thickness, better corner reinforcement, easily applying different layer heights, infill, and other settings to multiple parts in a single print, and advanced scripting, all with close community feedback during development. Add in that they are supported by the leading hotend and nozzle manufacturer and I think this has potential for great advancements in slicing.
Keep in mind this is beta software with alpha features. If you are not yet comfortable with the slicer you’ve been using then I would wait, but if you’re an intermediate to advanced user who understands your current slicer settings this might be a great opportunity to try out and help improve a future product.
There are a lot of exciting innovations coming to the consumer/prosumer 3D printing world surrounding multicolor and multi-material prints. Lets look at some of the upcoming options.
We previously covered the announcement of the E3D’s Tool-Changer which looks to have a great motion system and integrated tool-changer. E3D has an updated blog post with some additional details including some information on assembly, updates on build changes, and other minor technical details.
One of the most significant changes is with the frame to allow bigger tool heads. They’ve started manufacturing 30 to send to beta testers. Finally, there is some suggested pricing information depending on how manufacturing goes. Expect to pay at least $1800 for a full system (some of which will not come from E3D, like electronics).
Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit
Prusa announced Multi-Material 2.0 kit a while ago and has been working on improving the design getting ready for shipment in what appears to be November now.
This kit allows up to 5 different materials to be printed in a single print. This means either multicolor prints or different materials like flexible mixed with PLA or dissolvable material mixed with non-dissolvable.
The Multi-Material 2.0 kit takes five filament feeds and, along with Prusa software, determines when filament needs to be changed. So a red, green, blue print would physically move the feeder to the current needed color. When the next color is required the Multi-Material 2.0 will cut the current color and move to the next needed color, feed it, and start printing.
The Prusa team is taking their time with this new product which I think is great. The previous multi-material kit had some frustrations for end users that look to be addressed with this update.
Pricing is $299.
Mosaic Palette 2 and Palette 2 Pro
Mosaic’s take on multicolor and multi-material involves figuring out how much of each filament type is needed throughout the entire print and then fusing different kinds of filament together to deliver a single line of filament to your printer.
Basic example: Say you have a model with red bottom and blue top. The Mosaic figures out how much red it needs then when the time comes for blue it fuses blue filament to the red all while continuously feeding your printer.
For more advanced model coloring or multi-material the Mosaic Palette does the same thing except multiple times depending on what color is needed in each part of the model. This could mean slicing red, green, blue, and yellow hundreds of times over the course of a multicolor print.
Mosaic has announced the Palette 2 series along with two other products to improve the user experience.
The Palette 2 is cheaper than the previous Palette+, and appears it is easier to access internals. With the newly added filament queue the Palette 2 can deliver filament faster than the previous Palette models.
Also announced from Mosaic was the Palette 2 Pro, designed for more demanding professional print situations. The CANVAS Hub which allows communication between the Palette 2 and your printer with the help of a Raspberry Pi. Finally they have created an online slicer called Canvas which currently makes coloring multi-part 3D models easy and provides slicing that is designed to work with the Palette series of accessories. In the future Mosaic has promised the ability to color 3D models that are not already split into parts.
Pricing starts at $499
Which one makes the most sense?
For multicolor prints, all three will get the job done (note the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit needs a Prusa MK2.5 or MK3 printer). I have not tried any of these (none are actually shipping yet) but on paper it looks like the Mosaic Palette 2 would provide the fastest multicolor solution because filament being supplied to the printer is continuous.
For multi-material prints, on paper, the E3D Tool-Changer would be the best option. You could have wildly different materials like Nylon and PVA because each material gets its own dedicated tool head. This means the Nylon head can maintain the desired temperature without adversely affecting the PVA.
The next best option, on paper, is probably the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 kit if you have a Prusa printer. The direct feeding of five different materials allows for the tool head to change temperature as needed although with a delay compared to the E3D Tool-Changer.
Finally the Mosaic Palette 2 will be able to print multi-material as long as the two materials are within 10 to 15 degrees Celsius of each other’s preferred printing temperature. This rules out some combinations of materials people might like to use.
For Prusa MK2.5 and MK3 owners, on paper, the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 kit gives you multicolor and multi-material printing for the lowest price. If the kit turns out to be well designed and it performs as expected, it will be the go-to choice for owners of Prusa printers. As a runner up, the Mosaic Palette 2, would also work on a Prusa printer.
For the future and crazy ideas, on paper, the E3D Tool-Changer is the only option. Keep in mind this involves building a whole new printer that, in total, will cost at least 3 times a Prusa MK3. That said, if you want to have a fine print .25 nozzle combined with a volcano that does .8mm infill, or a pick-in-place tool head, laser engraving integrated into your work flow, or some other crazy idea for a tool-head, your only option is the E3D Tool-Changer.
When can I get it?
The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit is shipping very soon. Probably in September. The Mosaic Palette 2.0 is expected to start shipping in October. The E3D Tool-Changer will ship when it’s done, which I suspect will be November-December or later.
What do I need to know?
The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit and the Mosaic Palette 2 will require purge towers. This allows the printer to get the next color or material ready when there are changes during a print. On paper the Mosaic Palette 2 might have a smaller purge block, but we will know more once it comes out.
The E3D Tool-Changer will not have purge towers but it will have to purge and wipe the nozzle before and after printing each color or material type. This is done at the sides where filament is pushed out then the nozzle is wiped across a brush. This will slow down prints and waste filament just like the two products above.
The Mosaic Palette 2 will only work with 1.75 filament.
The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit is the cheapest option by at least $200.
The E3D Tool-Changer will require some advanced knowledge and experience with 3D printers, firmware, and tweaking to get running. Your costs will be at least $1800 since it does not include required electronics.
Prusa started the i3 style printers but the printing industry has expanded well beyond the original Prusa i3 to include many i3 clones. These clones are often cheaper and many print quite good. With these readily available clones, should you still be buying Prusa brand printers?
I bought the kit version of the Prusa i3 MK3 printer in early March and received it early May (note: mine came with B2 parts). My MK3 was not a review unit so I did not get the fancy powder coated PEI spring steel sheet that showed up with reviewer models. I still don’t think they are shipping the powder coated PEI sheets in any kind of volume so my recommendation is base your purchase on the performance of the double sided PEI sheet instead (spoilers: it works fine).
So what does the Prusa i3 MK3 have that the Prusa i3 MK2S (and older) doesn’t have?
My previous experience putting together 3D printer kits has included splicing wire, soldering, adjusting potentiometers, cutting and drilling parts, and even building small circuit boards.
The Prusa i3 MK3 kit suffers from none of the above. It is a well designed kit that I would compare to building a complex lego set. This is helped by a detailed manual (both printed and digital), properly labeled bags, community discussion, videos, and hundreds of hours of testing.
If you are confident you can properly connect negative and positive wires to the correct terminals and follow a visual guide showing you where and how to connect pre-made wires, then recheck everything, I believe this kit isn’t as hard as it might seem on the surface. With a few tips I think most people, who can handle the above, can easily put together the i3 MK3 kit.
Expect to spend 4-8 hours building the kit.
Always read the instructions first before starting. They often include important build instructions that help you understand why you are performing the tasks.
I highly recommend using a torque controlled screw driver designed for electronics/delicate-parts and set it to the lowest torque setting. Allen keys are too easy to over tighten and you can end up with cracked parts. I know this is an added expense, but that tool will come in handy in the future so it is not a lost investment.
Before you let loose with the power screw driver or even the Allen keys I would hand start any screws to make sure they catch appropriately. This will prevent binding and stripping of threads.
Triple check the power supply and bed wires. One of the few things that cannot be fixed is powering up the printer with it incorrectly wired for power.
The P.I.N.D.A. probe should be very close to the surface of the print bed while the nozzle is touching. Setting the P.I.N.D.A. too high will result in the nozzle possibly crashing into the bed. The manual recommends using the thick part of the zip tie, however I used the thiner part of the zip tie instead based on my experience with the P.I.N.D.A. probe on the Prusa i3 Mk2.
Use the online manual if the print manual images are not clear. I found this particularly helpful for the E Axis and E Axis wire strain relief.
A majority of screws and parts are color coded in the manual. The manual will show, for example, a screw boxed in orange then often an orange arrow or box where the screw goes and finally an orange bullet marking in the text that refers to this part and screw.
Aside from using the occasional wrong screw I did run into two significant issues that you might be able to avoid.
In the right Z part you need to insert a nut into a hard-to-access slot. Unlike other places in the manual where you can essentially pre-seat the nut, this is not possible (see the blue box below).
When trying to insert the screw it ended up binding and I was not able to either reverse the screw or tighten it. The nut would spin and even with significant force trying to hold the screw in place I could not dislodge the two. I did this without the trapezoidal nut installed because I was trying to align the nut and screw. The trapezoidal nut cannot be attached due to the screw head. The solution, for me, was to cut the screw head off:
The printer works in this setup, however I will print a replacement right Z part to have the trapezoidal nut properly secured.
The second issue I had involved the calibration wizard. I was getting self test error “X-Axis Length” which essentially means the printer is not returning the expected length of the X axis. Often wires or zip ties can cause this, but in my case the Z was misaligned enough that there was minimal binding stopping the X from moving the full distance. To solve this you can exit the setup wizard do a quick Z calibration. Once that was done the self tests all passed in the wizard.
I hope to put up a review of the Prusa i3 MK3 in the next month or so.