Running a Form 1 remotely

We share our house with 3 dogs, 2 of which are large double coated dogs that are always blowing their coat, and 5 cats. As a result, animal fur is a major problem, and animal fur is one more contaminant I wish to keep out of the Form 1 resin.

In an attempt to minimize the fur problem, I have located my Form 1 in a closed room away from the animals. While this has worked remarkably well to limit animal fur contamination to whatever is stuck to my clothing when I enter the room, unfortunately, it does mean that every time I need to create something on the Form 1, I have to lug my laptop upstairs to connect to the Form 1. On my last print, I had a near disaster while carrying my laptop up the narrow and winding stairs to the room with the Form 1. Following that non-destructive drop test of the laptop, I decided to try accessing my Form 1 remotely.

I had a superseded computer, a 4-5 year old Dell Dimension E521 (AMD Sempron 3400+/1.8GHz, with an onboard NVIDIA GeForce 6150LE video card), that used to be my daughter’s computer while she was in high school. It is running XP Pro and has 4GB RAM with an 80GB HDD. The old tube monitor died a few years back, and the keyboard and mouse were purloined to be used as replacements on other computers in the house.

I fitted the computer with a USB WiFi dongle and a 720p capable web cam, and installed Tight VNC, the PreForm software, and the web cam software using a borrowed mouse, keyboard, and monitor, reconfigured the POST process to ignore keyboard errors, and installed it in headless mode (no monitor, keyboard, or mouse), where it was convenient to attach the Form 1’s USB cable. The Web Cam was positioned so I could both read the Form 1’s display and see the tank and build platform.

I accessing the remote PC using a VNC monitor program from the comfort of my desk downstairs.

I do my basic PreForm work on my laptop downstairs, then copy the ready to use “.form” file that is produced to a folder on the remote PC. I log into the remote PC with my VNC program, and open a copy of PreForm on that computer and use that to do the transfer of the data in the .form file to the attached Form 1. The web cam lets me remotely monitor the printing progress and messages on the Form 1’s screen.

I had a number of slightly older Dell Dimensions and Optiplexes, all with 2.8GHz Intel processors and 4GB RAM, but the onboard video cards that they were fitted with, weren’t up to a standard that would work with the PreForm software.

So far, it all seems to have worked as expected. Once the file had been sent to the Form 1, I needed just one quick trip upstairs to press the button to acknowledge that the build platform and resin level were OK.

I’m currently downstairs looking at the remote camera which is telling me that the print job is on layer 255 of 1067.

While this setup is running so well, I’m wondering about something better.

My next step is to see if I can replace the headless PC with a networked USB printer hub. This nay be a long shot, but it’s worth a try.

Attached are screen grabs of the VNC window on my laptop.