Welcome to 2021! I am pleased to announce the release of the next version of SmartSlice! Version 20.2 delivers a lot of capability to our users, and we’re proud of our accomplishments. Yes – we know the release is named in the year 20, not 21. We started developing the functionality in 2020, and we planned to release the technology in 2020, but we just didn’t feel the experience met your expectations, so we iterated until it felt right. I hope you are as happy with it as we are!
The team at Teton is committed to listening to our customers and working with our partners to provide a first-rate experience and deliver technology that provides the most possible value to its users. Our team has 3 objectives whenever we develop and release new functionality:
The way our company decides which features and enhancements to implement is based on (1) customer value and (2) pervasiveness. We actively listen to our customer base and comb through data to identify customer needs which are highlighted by the two metrics above. The needs are then prioritized based on the data we have collected – after all, we are engineers, and we like structure. Taking a pragmatic approach allows us to deliver the most value to our customers in the shortest amount of time.
Our team is committed to constantly delivering new functionality and enhancements as they come available. We do not adhere to time-based release cycles (where you can expect a new product at certain times during the year). We release functionality when it can solve a problem for our customers. This allows us to iterate very quickly and release multiple versions of our technology throughout the year.
We are committed to your security and privacy! Our solution does run in the cloud, but we never retain any customer Intellectual Property (IP). Once your results have been delivered, your IP is deleted from our servers. Our cloud technology has been independently audited by a 3rd party that specializes in penetration tests (check that out here), and our user interface within Cura has been independently audited by a different 3rd party specializing in ethical hacking.
Finally, we are committed to providing you with the best customer support we possibly can. The world is not perfect, and no matter how much time we place into delivering the best product possible, there will be instances that require support from our experts. We actively monitor our servers and proactively reach out to our customers when something does not seem right, and we guarantee responses to customer inquiries within one business day. Our goal is to make you successful!
Now, understanding our commitments to our customers and the FFF market, let’s dive into what we have been focusing on for this release. The following are the main pieces of functionality for this version, SmartSlice 20.2:
There has been quite a bit of work put into these pieces of functionality, so let’s go a little deeper into a few to understand what they can offer.
In talking with our customer base, we constantly heard concerns that the Use Case might not have been set up correctly. Users were wondering if they had applied Anchors and Loads correctly to mimic what the part actually sees in service.
We can completely understand the need here – a quick “sanity check” to make sure that everything seems reasonably setup. So, we added a way to view how the part deflects under the prescribed Use Case. As shown below, you can quickly toggle on the displacement to view how the part deforms and ensure you have set up the problem correctly!
Have you heard of the term “Design for Additive Manufacturing” (DfAM)? Its most basic definition is the design of geometry for the additive process – which is fairly nebulous. For FFF, we (Teton), don’t really believe DfAM is possible… until this latest release. The reason we are stating this is because the FFF process itself greatly influences the behavior of the as-printed part. So, a true DfAM for FFF would include the sliced and printed part geometry when evaluating performance and suggesting modifications.
When talking with our customers, we kept hearing the question “If you cannot optimize the slice parameters to meet stiffness and strength requirements, can you tell me what to do next”? This is the essence of DfAM for the FFF process - guiding users as to next steps to create a part that behaves as required when printed with the desired process.
After some thinking, some research, and careful development, we now have implemented the ability to inform users as to next steps when an as-printed component does not meet requirements. Users can view suggestions after a Validation or after an unsuccessful Optimization in SmartSlice.
For a Validation, SmartSlice will now inform users as to the logical next steps if the as-printed geometry with the specified material and slice settings, does not meet stiffness or strength requirements, including:
For the last option, SmartSlice will now show the user where the part is either (a) the weakest, or (b) the softest. The user can then take appropriate action to ensure their part will perform as expected.
Similarly, if SmartSlice cannot find a set of slicing parameters to meet the desired requirements, the user will be shown the areas of the geometry which need modification, and suggest the user either:
The user can now decide which action is the most appropriate for their specific use case, guided by SmartSlice, which is the next step for true DfAM for FFF processes.
We love listening to our customers and users of the software. Feedback comes in a variety of forms, from direct conversations, surveys, and support tickets. We fully understand not everyone is a “simulation” aficionado and might not have a lot of experience with engineering.
One of our objectives when developing software is to make it simple – our intent is to create workflows that are largely intuitive and guided. As we were talking with customers and helping them through some of the sticking points, we found that the workflows are not as intuitive as one would imagine – some of this is due to the fact that we are setting up a “simulation,” and the other is that some of the buttons and pieces of information are not clearly labeled. We also found that users were clamoring for more information from the optimized results table – “what does each one of these results change?”
All of this led us to the conclusion that we need to continually guide users through the product, so we implemented a few nice pieces of technology:
What factors are important when deciding to move forward with a print? Confidence in the end result and print time are surely important – time is money, right? Another factor that is definitely important is the amount of material used (relatable to part weight). But, what if the cost of the material is so high that using more of a lower-cost material is a better solution? We actively heard this from our customer base during our discussions – “can you tell me how much it’s going to cost to make the part, and let me sort by that?”
Cura allows users to enter costs for materials so they can price prints from a material perspective – just one more datapoint in evaluating a specific print. This information is valuable (pun intended) for determining if a print should be started. Well… we decided to also include the cost of the print in our optimization results table (if the material has a cost associated to it)! Now you can sort and filter optimization results by print time, mass, factor of safety, maximum displacement, and cost! Just one more variable for users to leverage when selecting an optimized result.
Last, but not least, the materials discussion. As FFF continues to evolve into producing components that have structural needs, materials are evolving with it. Now there are more high-performance materials than ever, which allow for stiffer and stronger parts. We continually see advanced materials being employed to produce components with extraordinary stiffness and strength requirements – rivaling injection molded and metal components.
Teton is continually testing materials for mechanical properties to be added to our materials database from a variety of material suppliers. Our objective is to test as many structural materials as Cura supports (which is a lot), so our printers and mechanical testing machines are constantly running.
Here is a list of materials we have added for this release:
That means we’re up to 40 supported materials, which allows you to explore a larger variety for structural applications prior to purchasing them! We will always take requests to test custom materials, just reach out!