One of SE3D’s core principles is to provide a seamless user experience: we chose to focus on designing with the user in mind. When we first started designing the r3bEL (pronounced as “rebel”) bioprinter, we carefully considered what our users needed and how they would use our bioprinter to enhance their research or educational goals. We opted to use open-source programs, such as Pronterface and Slic3r, because there are many great advantages for our end-users to leverage these open-source programs.
1. It is FREE
Who doesn’t like free products and services, especially when the quality is not compromised? Rather than focus on developing a new program, we sought to invest our time in end-user development and dedicate our time to creating customer resources such as curriculum and protocols. We also found that many open-source 3D printing programs available were more often than not one of the best ones.
2. Crowdsource knowledge-base / platform
Open-source programs are often being contributed to and constantly updated by a community of users. This unique collaboration often attracts the best software developers out there, each bringing their own expertise to further enhance the program. In addition, anyone can contribute to the development of the software as it progresses, including future researchers and students who will be using this program. This provides students using our bioprinter an opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge to a real application.
3. User freedom
Unlike proprietary software provided by the manufacturer of your typical 3D printer, there are absolutely no restrictions on what you can or cannot do. It is easy to gain full access to all the information you need about the program through the community. The user has full personalization control over the program’s software interface. This allows the user maximum freedom and flexibility on how to interact with the software, from basic to advanced level users.
4. Learn to code
The best part about using open-source programs for students and researchers is that they are given the opportunity to learn how to use and manipulate the program. Let’s face it - a dummy proof click-and-go button is not going to teach you very much. Is this how we really want students to learn? When we rolled out the first batch of r3bEL bioprinters to our pilot schools in 2016, the protocols we provided were not fully optimized yet so some of the students faced issues when printing. While SE3D immediately attempted to rectify the situation, several teachers were actually happy with it because it actually gave students the opportunity to go in and troubleshoot the issue themselves. Many students actually felt more enthusiastic about learning how to use the bioprinter and the software programs because they felt they were part of the R&D team. We were pleasantly surprised to hear the positive attitude and learning mindset they had.
5. Unlimited Support
It is easy to get the software support you need whenever you get stuck with something. Often times, someone else may already have encountered the same problem and the open-source community provides a plethora of resources such as FAQ and forums to search through issues and questions you might have whenever you encounter a problem. This applies to both the end-user and to us as the provider. Students and researchers can feel more empowered through working collaboratively with us rather than being kept in the dark.
We at SE3D chose to utilize open-source programs due to the flexibility and access to the collaborative community that comes with it. We believe that collaborations fuel innovations and are open to collaborate with small and large companies to extend our reach. If you would like to explore partnership opportunities with SE3D, contact us here.
To learn more about these open-source programs, check out this online course