New Valence Robotics Markets Its 3D Technology to Businesses and Schools

06/06/2017

 

The NVBOTS NVPro 3D Printer

 

Recently, at the Inside 3D Printing show in New York City, Keypoint Intelligence - Buyers Lab (BLI) technicians received a demo from New Valance Robotics (NVBOTS). We saw the company’s new technology that improves adhesion between printed objects and the build plate, along with its automated part-removal system to simplify 3D print workflows by reducing user intervention. NVBOTS NVCloud, a cloud-based tool that helps end users build and submit 3D print jobs from anywhere on the globe using their favorite web-browser, was also shown. The company hopes these improvements will help it make headway with businesses and all types of schools that want to implement 3D print into their operations.

 

Better Adhesion, Less Intervention

BLI techs have been frustrated with the current crop of fused deposition modeling 3D printers because they struggle to coax adhesion between printed objects and the build plate. Adhesion issues have been the biggest contributor to failures with our test devices in the BLI 3D lab, and manufacturers have turned to glue, tape, special coatings, strategically placed fans, and heated build plates as solutions. The NVPro uses the combination of a heated build plate and a raft-like structure printed with each object to promote adhesion, which appears to work very well. In the roughly 20 remote prints we submitted to the device, no problems were observed via the live-feed camera.

 

The NVBOTS system features a unique automated and patented object removal system, which enables the device to print and process multiple objects and jobs in succession without the usual user interaction required to remove a completed object. The device employs a blade-like arm that moves across the build plate to sweep the completed object into a locked area of the printer for temporary storage. Any user (or administrator) that has a key can unlock the NVPro and access the printed objects.

 

“During our undergraduate days at MIT, we had a 3D printer in the basement of our house and we got tired of having to walk all the way downstairs to check on the status and to remove parts and reset the printer for the next job,” said AJ Perez, President of NVBOTS. “So we surveyed the market, figured out that nobody offered any automation with 3D printing and then set out to create the capability. With the help of MIT, we patented the automated part removal, which was really the beginning of our company.​”

 

NVPro’s patented wiper arm clears off the build plate so printing of the next object can automatically begin.

 

To the Cloud!

Although the NVPro has not been tested in our lab, we were provided with real-time access via a full-featured demo of their cloud-based printing system. NVCloud is accessible using any browser (for us, it was Firefox V53), and we did not experience any connection or operational issues other than a very occasional video feed interruption, which is to be expected. BLI technicians were impressed by the logistical capacity of the system. While the NVPro was located in the NVBOTS Boston headquarters and the (software) administrator of the demo machine was working from New Hampshire, BLI was uploading and editing print jobs from our lab Fairfield, New Jersey. We did not experience any issues with the software or the operation of the remote NVPro printer. We think this shows the high level of reliability (and dependability) NVBOTS has attained with their printing system at this point.

 

The user interface includes a dashboard for monitoring the job progress through the live webcam, a display of the nozzle, build plate, and ambient temperatures as well as filament supply status, name of current job printing, and job queue.

 

Several menu tabs are found at the top of the page. When “upload” is selected and an STL file is uploaded, a slicer control screen is automatically launched. The UI was similar to other on-premises slicer applications BLI has tested and offers several functions that allow the user to modify the object before slicing and printing. Users can program job settings such as Fast or Standard print mode (0.3mm and 0.2mm layer height, respectively), infill percentage, infill type, adding support structure, number of copies, and scaling. The user can also rotate the object on the build plate to change its orientation and select the number of copies to be printed. Job history can also be accessed where users can view and sort all of their job history by status, printer, organization, and group name. A support tab provides access to online help articles, tips, and troubleshooting procedures. Users can also enable email notification of print job status, which includes up to 10 status conditions.

 

Once object modifications and function selections have been made, the object can be saved for future use and submitted to the print queue for slicing and printing approval by the administrator. Users can view the print queue to see which jobs will be processed next. After completion, the user can access the Job History menu and view a time lapse video of the print, details such as print time and material used, and job settings, along with being able to reprint the object or open it in the slicer for editing.

 

BLI techs felt that NVCloud was easy to use and delivered most of the frequently used slicer settings and features users would expect from such a system. Some more advanced settings are not available but this is in line with NVBOTS’ goal of providing an easy to use system with centralized administration that insulates the end user from the details and complexity of 3D printing.

 

Since it’s based in the cloud, an administrator (or multiple administrators) can oversee the print process of all of the NVPro machines installed in a location. (A printer installed in a remote location such as another building or floor might require a locally assigned admin to maintain printer functions such as a jam or filament change).

 

Admin functions at the software level include approval of each job before an object is printed, re-slicing and restarting failed print jobs, limiting the number of prints per user, and assigning printer access rights when multiple machines are available. The admin can also control jobs in the queue and rearrange the print order when necessary. At the machine level, the admin can perform machine maintenance such as jam recovery, filament changes, and support of other mechanical issues that might arise.

 

“Once we created the automated part removal, we realized that you now had the ability to queue up print jobs and run the printer without human interaction between jobs,” Perez said. “This created the obvious opportunity to manage the printer remotely, which made creating a cloud interface so you could operate the printer from anywhere, the optimal solution to maximizing the benefit of the part removal.​ With a cloud interface, instead of a proprietary UI, users can manage the printer and submit jobs from any web-accessible device, anywhere in the world. It creates the ultimate flexibility in using and managing 3D printers, which expands the uses cases for them considerably.”

 

Educational-Based Project Library

Also unique to NVBOTS is its extensive online library of STEAM-certified 3D objects. With a focus towards the education vertical, objects are “themed” for different subjects including mathematics, life sciences, history, engineering, and technology. Each includes instructions and lesson plans. The entire system is geared to help classroom teachers by eliminating the need to design 3D parts in complex CAD programs, removing machine/software maintenance from the classroom, and allowing students to explore each subject and gain knowledge through the experience of building an object using a 3D printer.

 

“We are always adding new lesson plans, parts, and projects to our library,” Perez said. “Some are contributions from our user community, and some we develop ourselves. It is a constantly growing library and continues to benefit the educators that use our solution.​ It is a great peer-to-peer development environment for helping educators grow their teaching capabilities leveraging other educators.”

 

The NVLibrary features a host of 3D printed objects the NVPro can print and a link to instructions on how to begin 3D printing.