The PreForm software needs a way to use the keyboard to select an object on the build platform, like tabbing through items on the build platform. Granted most people will just use the mouse to click on the items but I have found a situation where I need this feature. Currently my Form1 is connected to my desktop workstation that runs Ubuntu Linux. I like using Blender in this environment and I have a Windows XP virtual machine that I run with Oracle’s Virtual Box when I need to run PreForm and send output to the printer. What I have found is that most everything works except I cannot “touch” any objects on the build platform using the mouse. I can however rotate the build platform and click on buttons and menus within PreForm so I’m not sure if this is a preform problem or an OpenGL/VirtualBox problem. In a nutshell, I can’t click on anything inside the box that defines the build volume. In any case I am severely limited in the functions I can use because many of them require an object to be selected first. I can’t use rotate, faceplant, auto-orient, or scale on an object because nothing is selected by default. Basically all I can do is load a .stl or .form file, generate supports for ALL and send output to the printer. I can select materials, print resolution, advanced support options, save files and a few other little things. I know there are other keyboard shortcuts so it seems as though the ability to select an object is a gap in functionality.
It may help if I describe my work flow to illustrate how this missing feature creates a bottle neck in production. I could switch to VMware but I have other software in my virtual machine that I use for running large printing machine just fine. I would rather not have to switch virtual hosts and rebuild my virtual machine again from scratch just because of one “utility”. Also who knows it VMware would have the same problem.
So here is my work flow. First I develop my design on my laptop wherever I happen to be. All of my work is stored in my drop box. If I am at home I may use my Ubuntu workstation because the screen is bigger. Again all work is saved to my Dropbox. If I finish tweaking my design and I’m ready to print then I’ll export the .stl file to my Drobbox. Often this happens when I’m at a coffee shop so I’ll boot into windows, if needed, and layout the build, generate the supports and save the .form file in PreForm under a “real” windows environment. This way when I get home all I need to do is fire the job off from my workstation, Dropbox already has the .form file waiting. The problem is that if I realize that I need to change the orientation or add extra items to the build I can’t do it easily. I have to either modify my blender source file with the orientation or extra objects I need or dig out my laptop and hook it up to the printer. It gets cumbersome doing that.
This leads to another feature request I’ll post later. Basically I would like to get to the point where I can run VNC or some other RDP to access my workstation at home and fire off the print job while I am away from home. The problem is the printer needs human interaction before it will start. I would like a way to override that in the software as well. How nice would it be to be able to come home to a print hanging on the build platform or at least in progress already?!
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on the preform software and for making a great product!