Monoprice Select Mini Pro 3D Printer

Last week my Colido DIY 3D printer failed again, and I got fed up with it, so I decided to order a new 3D printer.

I used the method that I’ve mentioned before in a post and recently added here:

3D Printer Shopping

I wanted a replacement printer that would suit my normal prints: small items for tabletop games.  I wanted something more reliable/easier to run than my Colido DIY.  I also didn’t want it to be too expensive, particularly as the Snapmaker 2 Kickstarter is upcoming.

After going through all of this, I settled on the Monoprice Select Mini Pro (I’ve linked to the company website, but I bought it through Amazon).  I had heard people say good things about them, and I did some poking around.  I particularly liked that it was effectively version 3 of a standing line of 3D printers, which bodes well for it having a lot of the issues worked out.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

Calibration:

This printer being preassembled and precalibrated is working out really well so far.  I’ve been getting better print quality and consistency with this printer than I did with the Colido DIY that I built myself.  I’ve been able to print things I wouldn’t have dared attempt on the old printer, partly due to quality issues, and partly because the printer had the tendency to fail catastrophically in a couple different ways.

The self-levelling feature saves me a lot of effort trying to figure out how to adjust the printer.  No more turning the z-axis direct drive screws and setting the z-axis stop screw.

Bed:

The metal print bed is rigid and coated, so it should be less prone to gouging and possible warping than the plastic bed I’m used to.

Unlike the previous printer, this one has a heated print bed, which I’ve had no prior experience with,  This will be a learning experience, and broaden my knowledge base.

This bed being coated means I’m not going to have to keep maintaining a layer of painter’s tape.  However… it might be holding too well.  I don’t know if I’ve got something set incorrectly, but it is really difficult to remove prints from the print bed, even with a raft attached.  I’m asking questions in some 3D printing circles to see if I can make it release easier.

Bowden Tube:

I’ve never used one of these before.  This is a tube that directs the filament in a more consistent manner to the print head.  I’m still unsure how I feel about this thing.  I worry that it’s adding another location that could get clogged.  It does make it so that I don’t have to worry about where the path of the filament is too much.

Wifi:

This thing is wifi-enabled!  I don’t have to carry a flash drive or SD card from one room to another to print files, though there is still the option for micro-SD cards and plugging a computer in via micro-USB.  I can even set the extruder and bed temperatures remotely, and tell the printer to print the file after I transfer it over the wifi.  I will note that I’ve had some issues with failed file transfers, which requires power-cycling the printer itself, and reattempting the transfer until it works.  It’s annoying, but not a huge issue so far.  Hopefully a firmware update will help with this.

Be careful to make sure there isn’t something already on the printer when you transfer a file.  Sometimes the printer appears to start a new print as soon as you transfer the file, without clicking the Start Print button.

Headless printing:

This thing can run itself entirely independently, without needing a computer attached to it.  This alone has drastically improved my setup, as I don’t have to have a computer within cable reach of the printer.  No more worrying with an old laptop!

Since there is no computer directly plugged into the computer, you use the onboard touchscreen to control the printer (unless you want to plug a computer in, but that is optional).  This touchscreen can be a bit finicky, but it is nice being able to give commands directly to the printer.  However, there are a couple issues:

  • When a print is finished, the button to return to the main screen is NOT visible.  You need to tap on the right side of the screen, and you will find an invisible home button.
  • PRESSING THE PAUSE BUTTON DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY PAUSE THE PRINT. So, watch out for that if you are trying to stop in an emergency.  You might need to kill the power with the switch on the back of the printer.  So far I’ve only needed to use it once, when I accidentally triggered a movement sequence while there was a print still on the printer.

Slicing:

Slicing software comes with the printer.  It was Cura, if I remember correctly.  However, I use Simplify3D, and they already have a profile from previous iterations of the printer!  I’m continuing to use it to slice my files, and this time I’m trying to apply some lessons learned from previously,  I’m making different printer profiles for different PLA filaments, since they have different temperature ranges.  I used to use one profile for all, and that caused issues with prints because the filaments that you would think only differed in color would not behave the same for the same temperatures.  I’m building these profiles as I go along, based on my tweaks on the default settings for this printer.

 

Summary:

Overall, this printer appears to be a vast improvement over my previous one.  I think this one might even be stable enough to let it print semi-unattended.  The print quality seems so much higher that I might even be able to start printing more standard-style minis, once I tweak a bit more.  It could use a more detailed manual, though.  It’s rather short, and I’m having to poke around various sources for guidance.

3D Printer Refresh

Earlier this week when trying to print another mini for D&D, I made the mistake of leaving the room before it started the first layer.  As it occasionally does, the Colido DIY that I have went past the endstop switch, and gouged the print bed, getting the nozzle stuck in one of the screw holes on the printing bed before I could get to it to yank the power breakaway cable.

I got fed up with the printer.  I can probably still fix it as I have before, but as far as I’m concerned I’m done with this one.  I ordered me a new printer which arrived today.

I ended up getting a Monoprice Select Mini Pro 3D printer, based on using a tool I’ve mentioned previously to find something that fit my criteria.  It’s got a much smaller print volume, but it comes preassembled, precalibrated, has a heated print bed, is self-levelling, and is wifi enabled.

I’ll probably go more into this 3D printer at a later time, giving my review of it so far… especially after I get it fine-tuned.

Suffice it to say, I was tired of running a printer I didn’t feel I could trust, and it was time to get a new one.  As I’ve mentioned before, I eventually want to get the Snapmaker 2, which will get me back up to the larger print volume and expand my manufacturing capabilities, but I needed something in the meantime that wasn’t too terribly expensive.  Most of what I print are small miniatures for D&D games, so I’m not really giving up much except the occasional larger print item that I rarely do anyway.  I’ve currently got one of the provided test print files running on it, and I can already tell you that this printer is much quieter than the last.  I can’t hear it from my computer room like the other one.

MTG Deck Rebuilding

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before on here, but I play Magic: The Gathering, often going in to play casually at the game store, particularly in the Commander format (formerly known as EDH).  I pick a theme for a deck, and assemble 100 cards to build that deck according to that theme and the rules.

One of the decks I’ve always wanted to build, partly because it was one of the first things I ever heard about in Magic when my brother told me about it when we were kids, is a sliver deck.  Slivers are creatures within the world of Magic that mutate and share their mutations with other slivers (thematically).  Gameplay-wise, whenever you play a new sliver, it has some ability that it then shares with all the other slivers (more or less).  One sliver you play might give them all +1/+1, another might give them first strike or deathtouch, etc.  I finally built that deck recently, and had ordered some more cards to fine-tune it.  Yesterday, some of those cards came in, and I planned to start integrating them into the deck.

The deck is gone.

I’ve looked all over my house, my car, the game store, the bag I carried them in, the deck is not there.  It’s been driving me nuts for the past 24 hours.  I finally built what I wanted, and now it’s gone, possibly through carelessness on my part, and that irks me.  I’m going start carrying my decks in a more reliable setup, and take inventory of which ones I have on me much more frequently to prevent this from happening.  I put too much time (and yes, money) into this hobby to start losing things because i tried to carry too many decks in a bag that can’t hold them all without them falling out, or forgetting them behind a box or bag or something at the game table.

So, I’m rebuilding.   Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone found it, or maybe it’s in some weird place that I put it for some unfathomable reason and forgot.  But, I’ve always wanted to play this deck, and I’m going to.  And I’m going to build it better this time.

To help with that, I’m keeping in mind the things I learned from building it the first time.  It’s technically a five-color deck, but trying to truly play five colors, particularly in the Commander format that prevents you from using multiples of anything other than non-basic lands, is a recipe for getting stuck with the wrong mana at the wrong time.  I’m making it mostly tri-color, with a splash of the other two colors.  I’m also cutting out most of the non-basic lands that I used before that came into play tapped, and some of the not-so-great mana rocks that always came out at the worst possible time.

Also, this time I’m using this site: Deckstats.net

By putting my decklist in, I’m getting an analysis of the mana curve, mana color distribution, mana production distribution, test draws, and more to help me tweak the deck before I purchase (or in my case, repurchase) a single card.  I’m sad that I lost my cards, and it’s gonna cost me, but I’m going to build a better deck.

AND MAKE SURE I DON’T LOSE IT THIS TIME.

Hopefully none of you will make the same mistake.  Always keep track of your decks, and if your bag seems like stuff might drop out, you should carry less or get a more appropriate bag.

Snapmaker 2 Kickstarter Upcoming!

I’ve mentioned before the Snapmaker 3D printer, which is a combination of a 3D printer, a laser engraver, and a CNC milling machine.  As  I mentioned at the time, the original model is smaller than my current printer and would require me to downsize my printable area (assuming I’m replacing rather than supplementing my current printer).  I’ve also gotten the impression that a 3D printer with a single z-axis column is prone to having vibration issues.  They had teased an image of a two column model that they were going to release down the road, but had not provided a lot of information about it.

Well, that’s changed.

Somewhat recently they have announced that they are going to start a Kickstarter campaign for the Snapmaker 2.  The Snapmaker 2 is their blanket term for their next generation, which has upgraded components across the board.  It also includes three sizes of printers you can get.

As you can see, the larger two sizes have the two column design I want, which should be more stable and provide a larger build area.  I haven’t decided which of those two I’ll eventually want, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be getting one of those two at some point.

This new generation appears to be loaded with features, including auto-leveling, wi-fi control, filament sensors, power-loss detection and recovery, and more.  That’s a hell of an improvement over my Colido DIY which is almost completely manually operated.  I look forward to being able to get more reliable prints that I can run wirelessly and not require a computer to be plugged directly into it.

I’m looking forward to learning more, and hopefully getting my hands on one of these sturdy multipurpose fabbing machines.  Gonna get busy building with one of these!

VR Feature Wishlist

Here’s a list of features in various media, including some VR games themselves, that I would like to see implemented across most if not all VR games.  I may have to come back an update this every so often as I remember or come across things.  I’ve separated them into things I think are needed, things I’d like, and things that would be cool but I don’t expect to have anytime soon.

 

Needs:

Standardized Controls:

Depending on the VR developer, they will choose different control schemes based on what the developer thinks is a good idea.  In particular, the control to grab or to interact is often moved around between the A button, trigger, and grip on the Oculus Touch controls, which gets confusing when switching games.  “Let me just grab this item from you… HOLY CRAP, I DIDN’T MEAN TO SHOOT YOU!”

Customizable Controls:

I don’t know why we’ve gone backwards on this, but most VR games do NOT have a controls screen that allow you to remap the controls at all.  It can be difficult to even find instructions on what controls do what within a game.

Sometimes I disagree with what a developer thinks “makes sense” for controls, or maybe I want to unbind a command entirely.  For example, Skyrim VR puts the Shout command on the right grip… and the grip button is the easiest to accidentally activate.  (Sorry, Companions, I didn’t mean to Fus your guildhall up).

In-game height adjustment:

I’m looking at you, Portal Stories: VR.  The game appears to have my eye level set at the floor, and I have yet to be able to get it to work with me being at the correct height.  It’s kinda hard to interact with the puzzles when I can’t reach the buttons, objects, or get enough altitude to aim the teleport.

Treadmill Compatibility:

Go figure, the treadmill owner wants games to take treadmill input.  Anyway, I tend not to buy VR games that don’t have the inputs for it, but that is troublesome to determine, which I’ll get into below.  I know that those of us with treadmills are early adopters, but we would like at least some support for them.

Adequate Labelling in Stores:

There isn’t standardized labelling for certain aspects of VR games in the Steam or Oculus stores.  The following items need to be addressed/identified as features when they are present and/or explicitly being listed as absent:

  • Peripheral Compatibility
  • Keyboard/WASD input accepted (this also ties into peripheral compatibility)
  • 1st person / 3rd person / variable
  • Flexibility (again, this ties into the treadmills.  Games that require picking stuff off the ground do not work well with treadmills that have a solid ring around waist height.

Currently I have to go asking around their forums and hope someone responds to figure out some of these things.  You don’t always get answers, and I’ve seen gamers being ridiculed for even asking some of these questions.  I mean, come on, peripherals are thing, and they’ve often used keyboard input mapping to interface with games for decades at this point.  False superiority among ignorant people bugs me.  The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again!

 

Wants:

Swipe to open in-game menus:

Obligatory Sword Art Online reference is obligatory.  I like the idea of a standardized gesture opening things vs fiddling with controls on the controllers breaking immersion more.  I’d just like for the rest of the menu to actually be made sensibly instead of their insanely nested menus.  I didn’t notice how insanely nested/badly designed the menus were until I watched this video on youtube channel “Mother’s Basement,’ but I still like the gestured-based menu opening.

Partial/Full Body tracking:

Immersion currently has issues with free-floating hands in VR.  Also, for more social games such as VRChat or Altspace VR, a lot of body languages is lost with only the headset and hand controllers tracked.  And, sometimes you wanna dance… and it just doesn’t come across.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Then again, with using a treadmill your body posture can be altered oddly, so it might be for the best that we don’t have that much body tracking for now.  Maybe we just need some upper body tracking.  I know that there are ways to get this in your own rig, but I don’t see it widely supported right now, and the main method I know involves a Kinect camera, which has been discontinued and requires digging through secondhand stuff.

Intuitive inventories: 

This pretty much requires hip and possibly shoulder tracking.  It would be great to have a belt inventory and possibly a back inventory for a lot of games, but so far I don’t usually see this implemented often or well.  I want to reach for something on my belt, but the few games that do have a belt inventory are having to guess at what the appropriate spot is, based on the current position of your headset.  I would like to be able to reach for items on my belt or weapons on my back without having to look and hope that I’m reaching in the correct spot.  Then again, the belt is a more difficult place for me to use things now that I use a treadmill.  It would still be nice to have the option, though.

Full-body avatars:  

Once again, kinda requires some body-tracking for the arms to not drive you nuts, but freefloating hands can get weird.  I have run into some odd implementations at times, where the avatar’s arms are shorter to mine and the game doesn’t somehow make adjustments for it, so I end up in situations where I’m still extending my arms and the character’s arms are at full extension, which is a weird feeling.  I also find it kinda odd when in most games you look down and you are still a free-floating head with no body, and your in-game shadows reflect this.  It breaks immersion to not see “my” body and to see a headset and controllers (or hands) via my shadow.

Avatar-Centric Persistent Space Through Loading Screens:

I know it’s a mouthful, and I might need to change what I call this.  I don’t know of an actual term for this, but many games completely remove even the rendering of your controllers, let alone your avatar’s hands and body when you go into a loading screen.  You go from being able to perceive your own body location and orientation of your hands via sight to suddenly being bodyless, and in some cases blind.  Star Trek: Bridge Crew is bad about this, everything goes to black when you load during warp from one location to another.   It’s disorienting and uncomfortable.

We should have at least a digital skeleton of some kind (think of what Neo sees when he uses his code-based vision in the Matrix movies) when loading from one place to another, and not suddenly lose all reference points.  In other games we might need even more, as whether you have a weapon drawn when you walk into a place can drive an entire interaction, and it would be great to be able to see whether it is still drawn and possibly do some inventory management.  You might say “you should remember whether you have it out.”  Well, first, depending on the user’s equipment, loading screens can take a while, to the point you would almost feel more comfortable taking the headset off, and you can forget in that time.  Secondly, the loading screen can trigger the doorway effect, like when you walk to another room to do something and you forget what it was when you get there.

In any case, I would like to have some persistence in my experience through the loading screens, particularly since they block out the rest of your world.  I would have listed this as a need, but I get the feeling that the code and hardware requirements would be driven up a good bit by this, so it’s in the want category.

 

Would be awesome:

Haptic Gloves:

Yeah, I know it’s cliche to mention this from Ready Player One, but they would really make interacting with objects more intuitive.  Grabbing objects to pick them up, turning doorhandles, and similar interactions would be more comfortable.

I know this is a niche thing, but it would also be really helpful for thrown objects.  With controllers in your hands, throwing objects without throwing your controller is a pain, even if you keep the wrist-loop on so you don’t accidentally throw the controller through a window.  I wanna be able to use grenades, throwing axes, throwing knives, etc. in games, but having a controller in my hand and not actually letting go while still throwing the object correctly in game is difficult.

Cross-compatible Avatars:

Again a feature from Sword Art Online and from Ready Player One, but I would like to be able to create an avatar that I can carry from game to game, probably with different resolution scaled between games.  This would particularly be great for people wanting to do VR livestreaming from within VR.

 

Well, there you have it.  My current list of things I think VR games need, things I want, and things that would be awesome.  Feel free to comment what else you think it might need, I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve overlooked… and if any game devs are reading… PLEASE READ THIS POST AND THE COMMENTS AGAIN.  It will improve our experiences and likely improve your sales.

 

DM Tools: DM’s Toolbox of Holding

I thought it was time to share some of my tools of the trade.  This toolbox was supposed to be the first post in that series, but I realized the section with Flatminis wouldn’t make much sense without doing the Flatminis article first.

Anyway, I would like to start by making it clear that this is just my toolbox, what I’ve decided to put together and what works for me.  This is by no means saying that this is “THE” way to put a DM’s toolbox together, this is just what works for me.  I know many other DMs who use almost completely different and often much smaller sets of tools/ game aids and run games as good or better than mine.  I also bring in the toolbox regardless of whether I’m running or playing, as a DM can always have a bad day when they forgot to bring something, or a player might have forgotten stuff for the character they are playing that night.  I must note that I’ve only been running Adventure League games with this toolbox, so the items I might need are more predictable and the NPC characters are premade, so there are some items that homebrew DMs might use to help with a more spontaneous game that are not included in the toolbox in it’s present form.

I’ve included hyperlinks in this article to the appropriate Thingiverse pages for most of the items in the box.

For my toolbox, I got a standard crafting toolbox from a hobby store, since it has a bunch of compartments for small objects.  I customized it a bit for my own use.

Toolbox_Top.png

Translation of the runes:

“I prepared explosive runes this morning”

I finally found a place for a bumper sticker I’ve always wanted to use.  I thought it was appropriate for DMing.

Back_Of_Toolbox.png

One of the top compartments holds a couple of spare sets of dice, in case of a new player or someone forgetting their dice.  The other holds a couple dozen goblin Flatminis.  You can never really have enough goblins.

Toolbox_Top_Open_2.png

Here’s the inside of the toolbox.  As you can see most of the items in my toolbox are 3D printed.  I won’t go into everything in the box, but I  will cover some of the highlights.

Toolbox Open.png

At the top of the toolbox are minis I keep for a lot of common enemies, mostly the Flatminis kind.

Toolbox_Open_Upper.png

This toolbox has minis for groups of:

For use with those, I have numbered bases to make DM monster accounting simpler, and unnumbered bases for more distinct minis that I covered in another post.  For enemies I don’t have specific minis of, I have ninjas.  Because… why not ninjas?

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FlatMinis: Ninja

I have doors for when we want to mark open or closed doors on the game mat.  When I made these I scaled them up so they’d match a 1 inch grid.

doors1.jpg

Mansions of Madness Doors

I even have a kicked in door that someone designed on Thingiverse shortly after I put a general inquiry out on one of the groups.

Kicked In Door.jpg

Broken Door Miniature

For when I don’t have a distinctly different mini for a chieftain or other leader of a group of enemies, I have some different colored marker bases to indicate them.

Minis Leader Marker.jpg

Minis Leader Marker

For creatures that are enlarged from medium to large, or to hold some of the larger minis I have, I have these bases which I modified to be compatible with a few different things.

Numbered Multicompatible Base.jpgNumbered Multicompatible Enlarger Base

I also have a few templates for various spell effects, and markers for effects.  The easiest to do one are the status effect indicators, which are just rings from plastic soda bottles.  I keep them on a carabiner clip for ease of storage.

templates.jpg

Some of the most fun/useful items to me are the tokens I use.  I have tokens to remind people of various effects they have access to.  Inspiration tokens for DMs to hand out, bardic inspiration tokens for my bard to use, a token to mark enemies who failed to save against vicious mockery, and death save success and failure tokens.

tokens.jpgThere are many other odds and ends in here such as scatter terrain, and minis that I rotate in and out of usage when I feel I need them (or not).  I often don’t use more than a fraction of the box when I’m not DMing, but I’ve also had situations where it ended up saving the game that night because the DM forgot to pack most of their minis or didn’t have a collection of their own yet.  That (and all the stuff I tend to make for my own characters) makes it worth it to me to carry it around every game night.

Oh, and I can’t forget this guy:

kool-aid

OH YEAAAAAAAH!

Sometimes you just need somebody to represent a large creature.

Maintained by Adept Ral