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CrowdFunding promotion i-SOLIDS: Creative Control

posted Jan 25, 2015, 8:06 PM by J Shaw   [ updated Jan 25, 2015, 8:24 PM ]

About this project

Intro

i-SOLIDS is a community driven 3D printing service that is unlike any other. We have done our best to summarize the key aspects of this project but we hope that you will also visit our site, i-solids.com, where you can find additional details and FAQs. Thank you for taking the time to learn about and considering support for our vision.


Services

In addition to complete design capabilities and traditional printing services, our primary goal is to support the personal 3D printing community by providing consumers with a completely new way of accessing professional grade equipment. We achieve this by leveraging a hardware and software infrastructure that will enable users to remotely access 3D printing equipment via a secure internet connection. Fundamentally, we allow you to “rent” from a library of 3D printing equipment so that you can create components in the most affordable and interactive way.

Here's how it works:

  • Create a user account - Your account will allow you to receive announcements, maintain your profile, subscribe to resource calendars, and schedule prints on a variety of different printing equipment. It will also allow you to be a part of an open community where you can learn more about printing technology and share creative ideas.
  • Download and install printing software - After you log in to the website you will be presented with a dashboard where you can view announcements, review your upcoming reservations, and download the latest printer software. Detailed documentation indicating the printer compatibility and pros and cons of each type of software will be provided. We will also create tutorials and support videos that will guide you through basic operations
  • Estimate the amount of time needed to print your model - Detailed documentation will also be provided that will clearly indicate the technical specifications, compatibility, and benefits for each type of printer. Once you have determined which printer would work best for your application then simply open your 3D model in the printing software, configure all of your desired performance settings, save a copy of your model in the native file format, and generate an estimated print time
  • Schedule a time to access the printer - An easy to use scheduling interface will also be available after logging into the i-SOLIDS dashboard. After making note of the estimated time needed for your print job, simply open the bookings page, select the date and time range for your desired printer, and complete the reservation details page. Resource specific calendars are available to easily review printer availability and filtering options are provided to select a specific printer or printer type. After creating a reservation you will receive a confirmation email with additional information. If you have requested a reservation outside of normal operating hours your reservation will remain as pending until an administrator is able to ensure that a print technician is available - once approved you will receive a secondary confirmation email
  • Print your model and watch your creation take shape - An hour prior to your scheduled print time we will send you a reminder with additional instructions and provide reservation specific login information for the remote printing portal. We will also make sure that your print material is loaded and everything is functioning properly. At your scheduled time you can log in to the remote portal where you will be able to select the software of your choice and a small file will be downloaded that will launch a dedicated and secure remote application session. After verifying your credentials the software will open just like any other application on your PC. Simply open your previously configured file and you can freely create your own part. All of our printers will have a live camera feed so that you can view the printer in real-time and, if you want, you can even choose to share the video feed with your friends or others in the community
  • Enjoy your creation - Once your print is finished we will send you an invoice for printer access. Once payment is received we will carefully package up your print and ship it to you. No need to worry with any of the maintenance or cleanup – we will take care of that.

Pricing

Other than custom design work and shipping cost, the primary cost will be associated with membership and printer access fees:

Membership Dues


There will eventually be a small fee designed to cover the costs associated with operating our graphics accelerated server, maintaining accounts, and providing technical support. We plan to accommodate both casual and frequent users by providing three different membership options. If you just want to try us out or make small periodic prints then there is a free standard user option. If you plan to be a frequent user then there will be annual membership options that offer significant scheduling and printing benefits.

Printer Fees

Printing fees will be used to pay for the print material, monitoring, and equipment maintenance. This is an hourly fee that will be directly related to the amount of time that a printer was used and a detailed invoice will be sent after your print is completed. The ability to schedule additional prints will be limited by unpaid invoices and the type of membership account. The hourly access rate will also be dependent on the type of printer that is scheduled – a printer with higher precision and accuracy will have a higher rate than one with lower performance requirements. The total cost of your print can be easily and accurately estimated prior to scheduling by simply multiplying the hourly rate times the estimated print time or the amount of time you schedule for your print – whichever is greater. Please take a look at the “Benefits” page to see how our pricing compares to the competition.


A $1 per hour surcharge may be applied if your print continues beyond your scheduled time frame. Please note that printing rates may be adjusted in the future as we determine demand, grow our fleet, and work with suppliers to reduce filament costs.

Development

The thought of providing a new method of accessing 3D printers was initially identified in August of 2014. The idea was shared with a group of engineers and software programmers who decided to work together to develop the concept. The group naturally gravitated to a formal project development approach and quickly gained additional interest. After obtaining feedback from potential users, defining operating requirements, and brainstorming various concepts we soon determined a robust and reliable approach and created a functional prototype. We now want to share this fundamentally simple idea with the world and get your support to help us make it a reality.


Due to its reputation, advanced features, reliability, and ease of use, we have chosen a Flashforge Dreamer for our initial prototyping and we plan to use this same top of the line printer during our initial service launch. Over time we plan to expand our service offering to include a wide array of 3D printer manufacturers, material types, and performance specifications with intentions of providing even more affordable and professional grade options that will fit your specific needs.

Benefits

There are a lot of companies that provide services that will create and ship 3D prints. These services generally come at an elevated cost due to the personnel overhead. At i-SOLIDS we eliminate this major expense and pass the savings back to you by allowing you to take over during that creation process.


When considering all of the different 3D printing products and services that are available we believe it is important to keep three different factors in mind:

  • What kind of quality and performance will you expect? - Simply put, lower cost generally means lower quality and/or performance – a consumer can’t expect a mid-range sedan to have the same performance as a sports car
  • How often do you plan to make 3D prints? - Even at today’s reduced prices, for the average user it may be difficult to justify the cost of a quality printer. There are no doubt many practical and enjoyable reasons to create 3D prints (prototyping, art, personalization, education, etc) but the casual 3D printer owner may find themselves not printing as often as anticipated or spending money on print material creating things needlessly.
  • What is your experience and skill level? - Three-dimensional modeling and printing is still an advanced technology and can be a very intimidating concept for people who are new to it. A major research firm has concluded that consumer level 3D printing is ultimately limited by the inherent complexity that still exists in the industry: "3D printing involves a complex ecosystem of software, hardware and materials"

Prototype

We are working diligently to develop a user controlled remote 3D printing infrastructure that is easy to use, reliable, and secure. We want to create a solid foundation so we have decided to open our test environment with the public so that we can promote the concept and start obtaining user feedback. Updates and improvements will be made frequently over the next few months so please check back periodically and keep in mind that what you see today may not be completely depictive of the user environment you may see once we go live.

You can currently create a standard user account, explore the scheduling interface, and even trial the remote printing process for free by accessing a basic inkjet printer. The scheduling and remote login procedures for creating a 3D print would be nearly identical - allowing you to experience the process before making any commitments.

Kickstarter Perks

Personal donations will give you early access to printing before we offer services to the public.


Our primary goal is to start with a series of Flashforge Dreamer printers due to their balance between quality, volume, and speed. As donation levels continue to increase we commit to adding more availability and variety to the fleet.


Risks and challenges

• The current prototype requires manual schedule administration and account maintenance. Our long term development plan consists of integrating our scheduling interface and the remote portal into a completely automated system. Despite having a detailed plan and conducting preliminary testing to ensure proof of concept there may be unexpected programming complications during development.

• Reliability tests have been performed on our prototype printer; however, due to limited resources we are unable to conduct testing with printer makes and models that we are currently planning to add. If we find that a manufacturer or model has unacceptable downtime we may need to re-evaluate our resource plan and adjust our scheduling availability to account for any unforeseen circumstances.

• Our plan includes having a skilled 3D printing technician available to setup and carefully monitor the status of each print to ensure there are no mechanical failures. As demand is determined we may need to adjust available print times and/or printer quantities.