Hello everybody and welcome to another video. In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at Octoprint and see what it might take to produce a product which might be comparable in value while simplifying the entire process. Now, as some of you may know, I was sent the Creality Wifi box a while a go and was very disappointed in the results. And while I didn’t like the resulting product, I do believe that there’s room for something different in this space. So if you’re a company looking to do something which is similar now’s the time to take notes because I will be looking for these features when doing another review. As always, what you see here represents my own opinions and no money has exchanged hands.
So to start things off, let's discuss what Octoprint is and what people are actually using it for. Since Octoprint has a very creative user base, there’s actually quite a few plugins which can add additional functionality to it’s core mechanism. Its primary use is to be able to remotely control your 3d printer while providing important information on the print's progress. It’s an open source community which I’ve found extremely supportive to newcomers while continuously innovating. Being open source, everything is very transparent, from the source code to the plugins. It is important to note that Octoprint does use Linux, so getting used to using typed in commands will make the transition easier. So people obviously use Octoprint to start, monitor and stop their printers, however people also use this to create times lapses, intergrade with 3d design collections and much more.
The main question is whether a company wishes to compete or work with Octoprint itself. If they want to compete, then they’ll need to create something which is fundamentally better for mass consumption while enabling the user maximum control. Creating a walled garden isn’t the proper approach in this case. Alternatively, they could simply pre-install Octoprint on something which is similar to the Raspberry Pi, while providing resources to help new time users. Both are valid approaches, but require completely different implementations.
For the remainder of this video, I will be focusing on what would be needed to create a competitive product, since both Octoprint and competing products would benefit the most from this information. As mentioned previously, transparency and giving the customer as much control as possible is paramount. A user should always be able to view the source code of a product, since this makes creating plugins easier for developers and has the added benefits of increasing functionality with a limited amount of resources. This also allows the community to submit information regarding vulnerabilities, further simplifying how a company can address issues as they arise.
Community style plugins should definitely be an option, with verified plugins being clearly marked. G-code slicing should be done on the user’s computer, since they’ll be able to better leverage the resources that they have on that machine, in turn freeing up resources on the printing device. For certain devices, a printing Queue option should be enabled, since these machines are designed to work in a production setting. In those cases, having the option to pause once a print is completed or move onto the next print would help expand the devices' functionality.
A feature which is currently missing in the Octoprint Raspberry Pi is the ability to connect multiple printer’s simultaneously and control them within the same interface. While the Raspberry Pi does have the potential to do so, it isn’t currently a feature which is supported officially. This would make the product more targeted towards small business or printing farms and could be a more affordable option for these companies.
I would consider an offline mode to be essential to any implementation since this helps prevent security issues from arising and would also increase the user base further. Companies who are using machines in a professional setting would most likely find this to be a requirement for security reason. The ability to disable the Wi-Fi connection if it’s implemented with a physical button would also be preferred. Additionally, a secured SSH connection should be integrated by default, requiring a custom password by the user. In order to prevent future issues, I would also recommend providing the user upon purchase with a USB key that has the default installer and password information. Doing this will allow the user to return everything to its default settings should an issue arise. Proper documentation on how to connect to the devices, updating, installing plugins and making changes to the password settings will be essential to a positive user experience.
If a company decided to undertake this project, I would recommend that they work with camera manufacturers, since there are issues with compatibility within the Octoprint ecosystem. I would like to see software updates from camera companies to enable time-lapse options via connection through USB. I can confirm that Sony does have a limitation which causes a timeout after the 30-min mark, and this is often an issue for longer prints.
Now that we’ve gotten the firmware and software out of the way, let's begin discussing some hardware requirements. As mentioning previously, I would have a monitor connection available along with multiple USB ports. Two of these should be used for the keyboard and mouse for diagnostic purposes, but additional one’s for multiple printers would also be a necessity. Having the option to attach a camera and a USB stick for file transfers or firmware updates is always an asset. A unique feature would be to enable the connection of multiple printers together. So in this a case a minimum of 6 USB ports would be needed, however the manufacturer could instead implement support for a USB hub, which in turn would reduce manufacturing costs further. Let’s not forget the Wi-Fi connection if it’s implemented. This feature could be an attachment which could be added as an add-on product or have a physical switch which would turn this feature on and off. I personally prefer a physical switch on Wi-Fi connections because I’m then certain that it’s been deactivated.
So with all of this information, I do hope to see a similar product in the future. If some of these features are implemented within Octoprint or whether a company creates a custom physical device, only time will tell. My main hope with this video is to provide companies with a better understanding of what people may like to see in the future. If you have your own recommendations, I would encourage you to post a comment below so that companies can take this into consideration in the future.
Hello everybody and welcome to another video review. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Creality Smart Kit which was sent to me for review purposes. No money has exchanged hands, so this will represent my personal opinion on the device and will be followed up with a detailed video discussing what the company could do to improve the follow-up version of this product. I personally like to see companies improve, so I hope they will take the information I present in these two videos to create something that pushes innovation. I will be posting a link in the description below as to where you can actually purchase this device, however I strongly recommend you watch until the end of the video before you even click on that link.
So what is this set of devices supposed to do exactly. Well, the intended goal is to be able to easily control your printer remotely while being able to check on the printing status visually. Now the idea behind this product is good however as we’ll discuss latter on in this video how the implementations just isn’t that great.
So this kit includes the Creality Wi-Fi Box along with a webcam and before starting anything I wanted to so see if any of these devices would work offline. During my tests, and attempts at hacking the devices, I discovered quite a few important details. First off the camera is pretty standard, so you can actually use like a normal webcam and although the video quality is too bright to begin with, once you adjust your settings it’s actually a decent camera. As for the Wi-Fi Box, unfortunately that’s where the issues started to creep up. Now luckily for me, I had two of these on hand, and I was able to sacrifice one in the name of experimental hacking. Now I personally am not skilled at this endeavour, however I did come across some instructions online which seem to be processing, so I decided to give it a shot. And I promptly bricked the device, and it hasn’t really worked since, so that didn’t go as planned. Turning my attention to the backup Wi-Fi Box I began the setup process.
The machine doesn’t come with the power adapter, so you’ll need to use one that’s 5Volts to 2Amps, which most phone adapter’s use. You won’t be able to connect to the device without installing the app, which is a little disappointing since it means that people like me can’t really use if for client work because of security issues. Also, this won’t work with anything but your cell phone, which means you’ll be forced to use the built-in slicer program to get it to work correctly. Once again, we’re going to be a little limited on our use case for this. So once you plug in the Wi-Fi box with an internet cable, the lights should look like this when they are fully functional.
When you first open the app, you’ll be greeted by a welcome screen which has a browse only mode and a term agreement mode. By selecting the browse only mode you’ll only be able to look at the content and won’ t be able to access any of the services which are provided by the cloud which includes the slicing of 3d models. So if you want to use the device, you’re going to need to agree to the terms of service. There are four tabs at the top of the screen which allow you to change between content. The follow tab is where you’ll go to follow your favourite designers and get up to day info about their designs. The “For You” tab is recommendations that will be made to you by Creality Cloud. Groups is where you can join groups that has content you want to stay up to date with. The last tab is the models one, where you can search for models to print.
To be able to slice the downloaded files, you first need to create a creality account. You will be prompted to create the account the moment you attempt a download. There are two options for this, one is you can use your phone number and the other is through e-mail. I choose to use my phone instead, at which point I received a confirmation number to complete the setup. In order to add a printer, you’ll first need to sink up the Wi-Fi box. To do so, you’re going to go to the bottom right corner of the screen to the “Me” button. From here, you’ll select “Add Device” and choose “Scan or Code” since this will be the easiest solution. If you haven’t already, you will be prompted to give access to your devices' camera. From here you can easily scan the QR code which will allow you to select from two options. Depending on how your printer is to be connected to the Wi-Fi Box, you’ll choose the option accordingly. They do a good job of informing the user of what they need to do in order to make sure that the connection is made to the device. At this point, you will be given the password for the Wi-Fi Box, which is a default of 12345678. This is where you’ll be redirected to your network and internet options, where you can enter the password to connect with the device. After entering the password I could clearly see that I was properly connected to the Wi-Fi box but the box itself wasn’t recognizing the Internet connection. From this point, I tried pretty much everything I could think of. I rebooted the Wi-Fi Box, followed by my network router, and tried resetting them to the factory defaults. I then proceeded to troubleshoot my hardware by replacing both the network switch and the cables to ensure that it wasn’t a faulty connection. My unit no matter what I tried just wouldn’t connect to the internet, which means it's pretty much useless. Once you have your device linked up, it seems like you can add multiple printers to that device, however I was not able to test this feature because the device wasn’t working correctly. This brings up a glaring issue with the device. The Wi-Fi box is pretty much useless if it’s not connected to the Creality Cloud.
So was this product even what people were looking for? I’d argue that probably not, although I could easily see how someone who was looking from the outside of the community might think so. If this product was intended to rival Octoprint, it needed to provide a very similar and secure service that was stable. Now to be clear Octoprint does have its own issues however there are ways in which you can actually use it offline. Octoprint also allows the user to slice their models with their own software, rather than relying on someone else's settings to do the job correctly. This product requires Creality Cloud access and transfer the data to the device via Wi-Fi, which inherently make the data more unstable when compared to a wired connection. We’re also limited to a maximum of 2 devices. A great innovation would have been to allow the user to be able to connect at least 3 to 4 printers and control these remotely. This however is not the case either.
Frankly, I’m very disappointed with creality since this is the first product I’ve used from them which didn’t work out of the box. And my final verdict is a 0/10. It couldn’t do its basic function and as such it failed to deliver on its promise to its user base. Having a working camera means nothing if the user didn’t intend to use the camera on its own. If you’ve spent money on this device, I feel very sorry for you and I really hope they send you a working device or refund what you paid for it. As I said before I will be posting a link for the product in the description below, but unless you’re a talented hacker this might not be the best solution at the moment. If Creality is able to release a product which functions offline and is resilient enough to compete with octoprint then I will re-visit this specific review in the future. As I said before, I intend to do a breakdown of what they could do to improve the user experience if they choose to release a new version in the future.