Opensource-based system development for the custom hardware based on a generic 3D printer hardware platform developed by a partner company. An easy-to-use, menu-driven workflow and graphical UI envisaging unmanned usage scenarios in public KIOSKs were required. Unmanned operations enable customers to bring their design files in USB Disks or SD Cards, insert them and follow a menu-based workflow triggered when the disk is detected. The major development challenges were to create a single source code for two product models and a source code structure that allow easy merging with the time-to-time open-source releases.
The customer wanted to enter the low-cost 3D printer retail market segment and become a provider of online 3D printing supplies. The target market also includes educational institutions, research centers, and small-scale OEMs who want to experiment with their initial prototypes of electro-mechanical product designs. The users, in most cases, are expected to be not experts in the 3D printing domain. Hence, the key focus was to develop a software design that helps the user navigate through a step-by-step process with options and helpful tips to avoid mistakes in selecting available choices that may critically impact the output quality. Users can insert a USB disk or SD card to initiate the menu-driven process. However, the design also allows expert users to connect their design software from a laptop via the USB host interface.
A team of software engineers with experience in firmware, embedded applications, and hardware development was formed to execute the project under a fix-price contract of 5 months. After the initial product release, a six-month maintenance contract was awarded for maintaining the 3D printer firmware and Mac OS-based Slicer Applications software.