Jason Frasca |||

Improvements to the 3D Printing Lab’s Network

Since the launch of the MIX Lab in 2015, I’ve been responsible for networking the printers.

We’ve been cloud-based from the beginning.

MakerBot’s networking platform got us started - the only one of its kind when we launched.

In 2017 we transitioned to 3DPrinter OS to manage the load with more granular control of the system.

The primary differences between the two platforms:

  • MakerBot is like Apple, a walled garden
  • 3DPos is like Android, open, all features accessible

3DPOS uses Raspberry Pi’s to run their software locally communicating with their servers. The distribution ratio is one Raspberry Pi to every four printers. I have 34 of our MakerBot Rep+’s networked.

The challenge I face managing the MIX Lab network is the same challenge I’ve faced managing networks going back to 2009: I don’t network devices often.

Once a network is up and running - devices online, VPN installed - you don’t go back to it until it stops working. Bad switch. Faulty cable. Device freezes or dies. Software update. If I address the network 4 times a year it’d be a lot.

The infrequency leads to forgetting. Networking takes longer than it should. Despite excellent notes and documentation, it’s a muscle memory issue.

Two improvements I made this fall have helped me manage my network:

IP Software - Angry IP and a detailed map of networked devices.

Angry IP gives a fast and complete view of networked devices, known and unknown. Much simpler to address the network through a GUI than googling or sifting through notes for every command line prompt I need to execute.

Pairing Angry IP scan results with the network map (spreadsheet) of networked devices speeds the detective work required to identify which device has lost its connection and what the IP address is of new devices.

Determining IP addresses is only needed for the Raspberry Pis, (8 of them) headless. Finding their IP address was a command-line process until Angry IP came around.

The Makerbots display the device’s IP address. Still, I found a way to improve my workflow. Now I allow the network to dynamically assign the MakerBots IP addresses, turning them into static IP addresses. Prior I would assign a static IP address to each new device. It was an unnecessary step I picked up running the MakerBot platform.

The glue to it all is keeping the network map up to date with changes. Document each new and swapped devices with: Device name IP Address MAC Address Serial number Device location

The result is an efficient network. The MIX Lab has not run this well since 2015-2016.

Now, if we can get people back in the lab…

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© 2020 Jason M. Frasca