My thoughts as a user on Open Source
My thoughts as a user on Open Source
Joseph Prusa wrote a blog about the state of open source, and he wanted to start a discussion. He raised some good points, but I want to add my viewpoint as an ordinary user of 3D printers.
I looked at the stats on my first Prusa, and this MK3, later becoming an MK3s, and now an MK3s+ has printed for well over a year of print time over the past four years I’ve owned it, and over 45,000 feet of filament (higher than the highest a commercial airliner flies.) Sure, there are obviously printers that have printed much more, but this is not my point.
What I am saying is that I printed this much on MY printer. Over the course of the past four years or so that I owned this printer, it has obviously needed repairs. And THIS is my point.
The part called the extruder-body broke where it holds the PRINDA probe. And a fan stopped working. But because the printer is completely open source I was able to print out a new extruder-body. And again since it is open source, I purchased a standard Noctua fan.
Like an idiot, I used cheap Chinese filament that was not checked for a proper diameter and got a jam in the hot end that was virtually impenetrable. Again, fixed by purchasing a new E3D heat break, and back to printing.
What would I have done if I had a “closed printer design” that is designed to be thought of as an appliance? Call a repairman? Take it to some service center? Ship it off to the manufacture to be repaired? Or worse, throw it away? Sorry, that is not something that I am interested in doing. (As a side note, I am on my second inkjet printer in the time I have been using my MK3.)
But there is still more. It’s the feeling of knowing that my printer can always be fixed, upgraded, or changed by me. My first 3D printer was some Flashforge printer. It wasn’t bad, but small and did not have a heated bed. I was curious about 3D printing so I purchased it. But I would always look at it and I had this bad feeling about fixing it. There was no way that I wanted to open it up. But then I built my first Prusa and I never had that bad feeling again about fixing the Prusa. This was a nice feeling.
There is also an emotional attachment to a printer that I built. For example, I have some delta printer that was pretty much plug and play. But printing something on it is not as much “fun” as printing on a Prusa, or some other printer that I built. The symphony of movements that a 3D printer makes is much more enjoyable with a printer that I made compared to a “printer out of a box.” It is difficult to explain, but most of you know what I am talking about.
Earlier I said my first Prusa. After building my MK3, I was hooked and knew I “needed” a second Prusa printer. But this is a hobby, and I decided to have fun and build an MK2s with parts I would buy, and not a kit. I couldn’t find some metric parts locally, like the M8 threaded rods so I purchased some 5/16 threaded rods and bolts from a local hardware store.
I purchased the main board from the original manufacture, I think in Utah, and installed Prusa’s firmware. And when done, the printer worked. I later upgraded it to an MK2.5s and I still use the printer all the time. I have this printer in an enclosure but I would sometimes get a jam from the heat. Because the printer is open source, I was able to print new parts and installed a Mosquito hot end, never experiencing a jam again. (Yes, I know, the Mosquito hot end is not open source. But, wow, what a great hot end.) I was able to build and update this printer because it is open source.
From my experiences, I hope that there is always an option to purchase and build open source 3D printers. I can fix them, change them, and keep them printing for many years.
The Prusa open source printers are well designed. Sure, there are other open source printers being sold, but nothing comes close the the reliability and capabilities of my Prusas.
And I, as most of you, try to give back to the open community in different ways. I have posted a few of my designs that I feel others could use on Printables.com. Many of them take weeks to modify and test before I feel comfortable to publish them for others. But I looked today and saw that over 5,000 of my designs have been downloaded. Open source printing is more than an open source printer, but the entire subculture that grew from it.
But Prusa has good reason to be concerned. The new wave of 3D printers coming out have been getting great reviews. And they will sell well. But many people who print are makers. And makers, well make! We design things, test them, change them, and print again. This type of person will usually choose to build and modify their own printers. But the issue is not with people like me or many of you, but businesses. Businesses need to make a profit or they are doing a disservice to not only their customers, but the people they employ. What do you think they will do? Take the time to build an easy to repair printer or buy a good printer for less money that works within an hour of delivery?
Prusa Research was built from people like us hobbyists. But Prusa has a responsibility to make a profit or they are doing a disservice to us and the many people they employ. The real money for 3D printer manufacturers in the future is in print farms, not hobbyists.
Times are changing, and Prusa will change. They need to. And things changing is good. If not for the drive for profits, we would still be living as we did in the middle ages. Prusa needs to adapt, and we need to accept this.
Prusa has always enjoyed a lot of freedom making open source printers, firmware, and software. Going “closed source” takes away much of this freedom. They may eventually have more lawyers working for them than they do engineers and programmers. This will drive costs up, but that is business in the real world. Business is a bloodbath. Real business is a modern day version of the Vikings invading new lands. And we are the villagers standing out in front of our huts watching the carnage. People are people. We have been this way for the past 100,000 years, and will be this way as long as “the flame on this candle flickers.” (To paraphrase Elon Musk.)
I hope that Prusa expands their professional printers, such as the TRILAB line, and focus more on businesses. They need to produce “closed”, patented printers to compete in the future. But I hope they never loose sight of hobbyists and continue producing great open source printers for many years to come. If they go out of business, we all lose.
Open source printers will always be around. So if Prusa does leave us behind, there will always be options for us such as Voron. Voron is the purest from of open source, and I will hopefully build one this winter. (Summers are short here and I don’t want to waste the few months of summer weather being locked up in my basement!) Maybe Prusa can even sell a Prusa Voron kit one day. That would be interesting. Especially if they add their unique skills and knowledge to the Voron open source community.
Honestly, I never really gave this much thought until I read Joseph Prusa’s blog on the state of open source. But now I have been thinking about it and was interested what others feel about this. Some people take open source seriously, or maybe more accurately they are taking it passionately. I read some reviews the other day on Amazon about the Mosquito hot end. I’ve had one installed in one of my Prusas since it first came out and was surprised that there were some bad reviews. Reading the “bad” reviews, it was just people complaining that it is not open source. Really?
I am sure that many do not agree with some, or all of what I said. That’s fine, it’s how I feel and I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. All I presented was my opinion, and nothing else. Others have printed much more on their printers, others have created and posted better designs than mine on Printables.com, and others have had their designs downloaded much more than me. Again, this is not my point and I understand where I fit in this community. But this is my experience, my opinion, and my understanding of where we are and where I hope we go in the future.
Good luck to Joseph Prusa and the Prusa Research team. Most of us want them to succeed. And to succeed they need to change. But I am also confident they will never forget about us.
RE: My thoughts as a user on Open Source
the MK4 is still largely open source, the firmware and printable parts are available, as it PrusaSlicer. I'm not sure about the electrical components on the Nextruder, whether their schematics have been published openly. Repairability has definitely gone down as they move away from widely available V6 parts. But as a new part, availability will be low. But eventually they may be? Even the V6 wasn't always the "industry standard" for compatibility.
Speaking of Vorons, I would like to build one some day. But the "pureness" is a hindrance to its own success. Most people will not have time to source for the parts, and few if anyone sell ready-to-go kits. And because the lack of economies of scale, the full cost of building one (which includes money and time) far exceeds name-brand printers with similar specifications. The guys behind Voron would help the movement they could partner with guys from LDO or Triangle Labs or FormBot and make "official" Voron full kits with everything you need to build one.
RE: My thoughts as a user on Open Source
this is honestly a big turning point for Prusa, they've put a tremendous amount of effort into the nextruder and the new input shaper, these both should really be open source if Prusa wants to keep the opensource friendly image. I really want to see what the community can come up with for mods for the mk4 and XL, and that simply wont be possible without Prusa keeping the platform open.
I hope that in a few years down the line, we still see companies like Slice Engineering, e3d, bondtech, ldo, etc, making upgrade kits for the mk4 to help us squeeze even more performance out of these printers.
I think community is one of the biggest strengths open source brings can bring, and I just hope Prusa empowers the community wherever it can.