3D Printer Usage & Service Logging

posted 24 Jan 2015, 07:59 by Colin Bell   [ updated 24 Jan 2015, 08:47 ]

Probably most of my regular readers will know I'm interested in keeping my machines running to the best of my ability, and some future posts around steps I've taken to service my current favourite machines will testify to this.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I usually do a best guess as to when a machine need servicing, which is usually when something doesn't work properly or I want to add an improvement. 

This is all well and good, but I wanted to take some of the guess work out of this, and also be able to review some interesting statistics about my machines going forward. Now, as any proper engineer (not me...) will tell you, the easiest way to keep track of a machines use, service history etc is a simple log. This is as relevant for your 3D printer as for your car, or any other pricey piece of machinery that requires servicing.  It's also very useful in terms of problem solving, producing statistical information and can show you more easily the 'sweet spot' settings for different materials without having to refer to previous blog posts, which I find myself doing a lot of. Also, this becomes more important the more materials testing I do as I'm trying to get more scientific with my approach.

Clicking on the picture here will show you a preview of what I've created for my machines - it's still in the development stages at the moment as I fiddle with it to make it more useful, however I think I've got a good baseline log here now.

Features of the sheet are:
  • Multiple Printer Logging
  • Free text descriptions & comments
  • Success/Fail logging
  • Materials information
  • Temperature logging
  • Bed preparation
  • Job run times (+overall usage in hours since the beginning of the log)
  • Filament usage (+overall used in millimetres, metres and kilometres!)
  • Editable lookups for printers, activities, materials & bed preparation notes
For the time being, I'm fairly happy with this - entering a print or service record is very quick and provides me with some instant statistics and easily readable data when I'm doing different activities. I may fiddle with it later and include more logic, for example next time I service a specific printer, I'd like it to reset the hours usage calculation to zero, but only for that particular machine. Also, although multiple printers can be logged here, currently the sheet will log all hours for all printers combined which isn't as useful as I'd like. 

The problem I find with these kinds of spreadsheets is that I can fiddle with them endlessly to make them smart, but you get to a point where you are spending more time on the sheet than on the activity, which is counter productive!

If you'd like to download the log template for use with your own 3D printer, its available to download below in Excel 2010 format. I suggest downloading the file and using Excel to edit, otherwise Google Sheets will open it and the look-up lists won't work.

Feel free to change it in anyway you see fit - I'd love to know what other people are finding interesting and useful in recording data for their machines!