Digifab's current state of disrepair


I used to be quite engaged with maintaining Digifab but have stepped back recently as it isn’t receiving care from almost anyone else. However it’s gotten to a state that is honestly, just unacceptable as almost nothing is currently working.

I’d like to call on the membership to help bring digifab back up to an acceptable level of operation.

I rocked up this afternoon with a couple of new members (who happen to be friends of mine) to help them with some 3D printing and found these problems:

  • Left CR10 was not on the network and was inaccessible. I fixed the network problem and updated the DNS but the bed was severely unlevel so I also levelled the bed. It’s printing well again now.
  • Right CR10 is currently broken (and has been for months). It looks like a broken USB port and the hotend is half taken apart.
  • Taz 5 octo pi would not boot - I’ve re-installed octopi and set it up, but haven’t done a test print.
  • The CAD PC had no network connectivity and throws errors on boot up. I moved the right cr-10 ethernet cable to the CAD PC because the right cr-10 is currently not usable.
  • Left CR-X and Right CR-X have both been sitting in digifab for months and are still not operational.
  • The photon looks like it hasn’t been setup again since being moved.
  • All of the Raspberry Pis have still not been upgraded, even though the budget was approved months ago.
  • All of the Raspberry Pis are dangling all over the place and the printer bench is really messy (also the right-cr10 pi isn’t even plugged in).

I agree that It’s in a sad state.
DigiFab 3d-printing should be ‘low hanging fruit’ in terms of getting it working, accessible, documented - there’s no heavy plant, all the parts are readily available and there is multiple machine redundancy. It should also be one of the most easily accessible areas - inductions are minimal and Octoprint is beginner-friendly.
It’s also front-and-centre being in the main building.

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Yeah one of the biggest draws of the space to some members is the “easily accessible” 3D printers. It’s a shame when members come here expecting to be able to use the 3D printers and none of them are working. If I hadn’t come along with my friends this afternoon (and spent hours fixing them), they wouldn’t have been able to print and would possibly be quite annoyed (and rightly so). This would significantly affect the likelihood of them renewing membership as it’s their first experience with HSBNE. If it was some other person they might have cancelled their membership and not have come back.

There is currently a plan in place that nog and i are working in the revamp the digifab room and get it up and running Tina spec that members would love to use the room.

I would like to point out that the budget for the pi’s was only approved 2 weeks ago not months ago as you say and I have tried to order them twice now but am having issues with divipay, this is something I need to talk to Ian about

Nog ordered the photon PSU this week so that should be arriving soon

Unfortunately digifab has had a dearth of activity regarding maintaining it and improving it. Most of the volunteers who were working on the machines got tired of having to maintain them as they felt like they were the only one doing it.

Unfortunately this is due to a visible lack of leadership in the area, culminating in most of the printers being offline and the red laser cutter being offline for several weeks because only 2 people had been trained in how to calibrate the mirrors - when we have at least 6 members who are supervisors. I’m not saying this to dump on @crofty but he’s more of a doer than a project leader.

I have discussed with Aaron on Tuesday some ideas to revamp the room but I really think before we do that we need to have a working bee to get things back up to a running and workable state first.

Members need to be encouraged and empowered to help out in the area and that starts from the ground up with working bees and not big plans to redo the area, because at the end of the day it’s more important that we nail the equipment being functional first.

So, if we were to have a working bee to fix up Digifab and teach more people how to maintain or use the equipment who would be interested?

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Thanks for the constructive criticism @nogthree , as we discussed the other day I think the system we spoke of will work quite well and i will be calling for a working bee as soon as I have finished moving, hoping that should finish this weekend.

You are right in regard to the current lack of supervisors for the laser cutter, I have been waiting for people to ask me how to be a supervisor of the last few weeks so I could train them on the large laser cutter in the green room that has a bit more forgiveness to it due to the lens being old and a bit messed up. Happy to rain people on how to use the machines and maintenance for them as well.

As most people can understand they are a few members baby and don’t want it to completly fail like it did last time we let it open to the whole space,

3d printers are being worked on and the cr-x are ready to be used but I have not updated the wiki for the machines just yet. I’ll get to that as soon as I can, the user manuals for the printer are located on the SD card for people to read over, and I had a member the other week read over it and got some good prints out of them.

I would be very interested in learning how to maintain and use the laser cutter and printers. It will depend on if i have my shit together at the time. But keep me posted.

Before any working bees are organised, there’s significantly more important questions we need to answer - what actual changes are going to be made so we’re not in the same position 6 months down the track, and does the Cause actually have enough good will with members left to have them care about it enough to keep it going?

In the few years I’ve been a member, I have lost track of the amount of times I’ve had to tell new members that although we have all sorts of cool stuff like 3D printers and laser, none of them work or aren’t accessible.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve had to knock back small printing jobs that would have made a significant amount of money for the Space.

I’ve lost track of the hours I’ve spent repairing, maintaining or cleaning Digifab. This has ranged from simple stuff that almost anybody can do or learn to do like leveling beds, to totally rebuilding the Taz from scratch in my own time.

I know for a fact I am not the only one who is in this position, or that I’ve spent as much time and effort as some people have.

Early on, almost all maintenance was gatekept, and although it would often get done it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to wait weeks or months. I wanted to learn how to level beds, but was told it wasn’t something I could be trusted with. I couldn’t print a few things I wanted to with the current slicing profiles, but was told there was no changes I could make. To get past this, I just ignored the advice and did it. Was it the right thing to do? Probably not, but it was the only way I could actually get any of the jobs I needed to get done.

Thankfully now it’s not gatekept, but there’s just not that many people who care enough after getting frustrated from years of apathy and buck-passing that, without some significant changes, I don’t see the situation changing in any meaningful and lasting way.

It is -incredibly- disappointing that one of our most user-friendly and accessible Causes, one absolutely synonymous with the whole idea of a Makerspace, is in the state it’s in. There’s a reason I bought my own 3D printer. There’s a reason I’m looking at my own laser cutter. I’ve seen first hand members quit after being disappointed with Digifab equipment, and I don’t blame them. Asking somebody to do 20 minutes of maintenance before a 10 minute printing job, that they then have to pay for? Hell no dog.

The issues aren’t something you can just throw money at (ie. buying a heap of new printers despite none of our existing ones working). It’s not something you can just keep asking others to take responsibility for (working bees, asking for more supervisors, etc). It’s much more than that.

I hope the changes can be made, but I’m yet to be convinced that they can be.

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That is a fair call, but overtly negative. But how to be positive about a negative situation? I don’t know.

I disagree regards your assertion that a working be won’t fix the current situation. Something like a working be and thereby up skilling members to do basic maintenance and required cleaning, is something is see as a positive change to the lack of efficacy and moral in the digifab area.

Up spilling people and changing the moral, so the up skilled people actually want to do the work, I see as being a changing force in hsbne’s sense of disrepair, and for what of a better word apathy.

What else would you suggest to resolve the problems you have pointed out? Anything that would change your comment from essentialy a complaint, to something solution and action focused?

If working bees were all we needed to fix the issues we’re having (and make them stick), why haven’t the 3 or 4 I’ve been involved with in the past worked? Sure, some of the equipment gets functional for a few weeks, but we then go back into the same cycle of things being broken quickly after.

I have a number of solutions that would probably work… but I’m approaching it from the same stance I would use in my business where I have final say over what happens. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it :sweat_smile:), HSBNE and Causes don’t work like that.

what actual changes are going to be made so we’re not in the same position 6 months down the track, and does the Cause actually have enough good will with members left to have them care about it enough to keep it going?

This is the most important question. There is absolutely no point fixing things and bringing the room back up to an acceptable level of usability if it’s going to be neglected and slip back down again in a matter of months. This is one of the primary reasons I stopped engaging.

The biggest problem I see is a lack of direction and leadership in the area. This means nothing ever gets done, the area is totally disorganised and most importantly nobody “cares” about it any more. Woodshop is a shining example of how a cause should be run. There’s no gate keeping, the cause leader has a specific plan and direction, there’s a small team to help get stuff done, and the cause leader is always on top of things and delegates effectively. None of this has been happening with digifab.

As drew mentioned, I went and bought my own printers and actually bring them into the space with me when I need to print because none of HSBNE printers ever work properly. This is really sad when we now have 6 of them…

I’d like to see us implement the following as a starting point, and before any major reorganisation:

  • every printer needs to be operational and properly documented.
  • the printer bench needs to be tidied.
  • all of the new raspberry pis need to be ordered and installed.

I think the following will help us maintain things and stop it getting to a state it’s currently in:

  • We need an official induction process for the printers and make it a requirement before use.
  • We need regularly scheduled maintenance periods were a printer is taken off line “automatically” until someone can level the bed and check everything is operational etc.
  • Buy a bunch of common spare parts and keep on site for fast repairs.

Thanks for chipping in guys.

I realise I hadn’t made it clear in my original post in this thread but the working bee should not be just to build the area back up again. We need to get things working - sure, but the working bee should be also run to identify the issues we’re having in the room so we can resolve them.

I’d really like to have the members who have maintained the machines before come together to discuss what the issues are (machine, consumable and area wise) so we can come up with a plan to get the area humming and not burn out volunteers frequently.

I’ve done a bunch of silent maintenance on these printers over time as well and whilst I have an understanding of some of the issues I really want to try to really nail down the issues we’re having so we can then as an area discuss fixes for them so it’s not just a lot of individuals running approximately in a similar direction.

I didn’t say working bees were all we needed. Just that getting people involved to produce moral and expand general knowledge is a good start.

TBH, I think that’s the absolute last thing that needs to happen.

If we jump straight in to asking people to donate time and effort, and in 3-6 months time they see that we’re back in the same position we were in, I can guarantee people are going to be bummed out and much less willing to help out in the future.

There is a time for putting energy into directly solving problems, but it’s really for nothing unless we get on top of why we’re having the same issues over and over again.

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Hi Nog

Really like your focus to readdress why things don’t work in digifab, and how we can make processes toward great organisation in the future.

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My induction for the 3d printer was basicaly octo print, and that was it. If we can get people through inductions that teaches people machine maintenance and trouble shooting, that would make a great change to how digifab works.

I like the idea that it wouldn’t be burning out the few volunteers who are in the know. But relying on a broader knowledge base.

We must arm people with knowledge!


For those not aware, I had a meeting with all the Cause Leaders 2 weeks ago and asked them to produce a plan through to 2021 to get their areas/tools/machines Working, Accessible and Documented. They were also asked to nominate a team, ie at least 2 others. The next meeting for them to produce their plan to the exec and other cause leaders is in 2 weeks (ish).

I was having this conversation with a member in a different cause on tuesday night: When something breaks, its not enough to just fix it. You also need to go through an assessment process to understand why it broke. From there you can make alterations to improve robustness. If you keep doing this, eventually the breakages drops to a minimal level.


  • Drills keep dying > they were cheap ozitos and we were expecting too much of them > buy ryobis
  • Drumsander keeps getting burnt through. > people arent trained and the thicknesser needs induction and the drumsander doesnt so they misuse it > label the drumsander with plenty of JIT documentation, start work on an induction process for it, make the thicknesser induction more accessible.
  • The plasma cutter keeps getting burnt out > one, inductions and swipes will help, two the clip system that manages distance on the head is very flimsy and easy to dislodge even for an experienced user. Modify the head so the clip is more secure.

So how does this apply to digifab?

  • Make the printers as robust and as process driven as possible. That means:
    • properly setting up each one with an rpi.
    • having that rpi mounted correctly to the printer
    • mitigation strategies for known issues like usb cable wear and tear.
    • same workflow for everything
  • Document each printer with the new template. Make a single printer overview wiki page to go through the workflow
  • Make the printers themselves robust. Get good extruders. Get bed levelling sensors. Put on flexible build plates. These changes made my personal printer an absolute factory that i can trust to print without even looking at it.
  • Put all the printers into a 2x4 grid shelving, preferably with 4040 extrusion so you can enclose each one so they print more reliably.
  • Have a big bucket of common spares, like 0.4mm nozzles, silicon socks, heater blocks/cores, extruder gears etc. Document this in the wiki and restock whenever you run low. do stocktakes regularly.
  • Have the correct tools to maintain each printer as part of that printer, such as in a drawer under the printer. That means buying a specific spanner, allen key, whatever. This has been a huge win in woodshop.
  • Have an online induction going
  • Make an online induction for people who want to be able to do maintenance
  • Have a nominated computer that has specialty software on it, like simplify3d. Have this computer clearly associated with the printers and labelled clearly.
  • It seems pedantic, but having all the switches to turn a printer on either automated with a sonoff or similar or even just broken out to the same place at the front of the printer with clear labelling.
  • Cable management, with labelling so its clear whats going where and doing what.
  • A regular maintenance schedule
  • Having a central printer directory webpage, where someone can go and see all the printers, current status, and click a link to open octoprint for any of them, rather than having to figure out links off the wiki. Make this the homepage for the aforementioned nominated computer.
  • Clean up the room. Remove any non working printers. put consumables into appropriate storage. Dont have things on the ground, dont pile stuff on top of stuff.
  • There are 6 printers. nominate some as no-touch workhorses, nominate others as advanced user setups where you can self-slice.
  • Put an interlock on each printer.
  • Have a way for people to report problems. Have a process and a timeline for turning around a resolution.

It sounds like a lot of work, and thats because it is. You have to build up an area with a bunch of work to begin with so that its a lot less work to manage/maintain down the line.


Theres a reason we induct nearly 10 people every fortnight but our numbers dont grow. Because we as a group overall need to pull up our pants on these points.