"Watch My Print" - Startup idea #3 that I'm not going to pursue
I've had a few ideas of products/services/companies I/someone could start over the years, and haven't pursued any yet. This idea seems the most practical to pursue(the equipment necessary is cheap, and I already have some experience with it), but I probably won't end up doing it. After some more research, a company called Octoprint has already done much of the work I describe below. Their service is still very DIY, so the main difference is that I would attempt to make an easy plug-and-play solution. Anyways, enjoy reading it, feel free to steal the idea and try to implement it yourself. I'd love to help if someone else wants to spearhead it.
Watch My Print is a service that monitors 3D prints and alerts users in the case of a problem, with the option to remotely kill the power to the printer.
One concern with 3D printers is the issue of safety. 3D printers heat up the extruder up to 280 C, and the bed up to 120 C. Heating these elements requires a lot of power, and many of the entry level printers are rated for a wattage barely above what the printer requires.
There are countless ways to monitor your 3D printer, but not many ways that you can turn it off remotely that are marketed towards 3D printing. You could set up monitoring software yourself and buy a wifi smart outlet. This product is different in that it offers an integrated solution with easy setup.
Wifi connected smart plug, with USB port for webcam - Plug this into the wall outlet, and your printer into the smart plug. After initial setup connecting the smart plug to wifi or a smart home hub, download an iPhone app to remotely turn the outlet on/off. The webcam plugged into the USB port will continue to record after the printer is turned off
The webcam can be any type of webcam above a certain resolution.
Some kind of mounting hardware for the webcam, maybe just a stand or clip. Heck just provide lots of 3D models people can use that support different webcams
Optional: LED lights, so that the printer isn’t too dark. Also maybe a portable background so that it’s easier to see the printing head.
Website and phone app allowing live streaming of the printer when requested. However, most of the time just take and upload a picture every 5 seconds or something. That way you get the maximum resolution from the webcam without constantly streaming video.
There are a few ways to go about “monitoring” the print.
Have a paid tier where a human person monitors the prints, clicking an alert button if something looks wrong
Open source it, make all prints viewable by anyone on the site. Anyone using the print could tag it as having problems. Would have to keep track of how many false alarms users tagged, maybe by logging a screenshot of when they pressed the alert button.
Use software to try to identify problems. This could be challenging because the webcam could be at any angle, you may or may not be able to see the actual print head, lighting will always be different, the filament color will be different, etc. Eventually maybe possible. You could at least monitor for what looks like flames or smoke I guess.
Option to generate timelapses of the print. Allow the time between pictures to change, maybe from 1 second (2 minute timelapse per hour of printing) to like 30 seconds (4 second timelapse per hour of printing).
If there are 3D printers that you can remote into and change the settings, try to support that functionality.
Very small user base. Not a ton of people have 3D printers, and even less will be concerned and want to buy a prepaid monitoring software.
It’s something most people could do with any kind of webcam monitoring service. The only real addition is the smart plug. Look up “Octoprint” - you can set everything up fairly easily. This just makes it an all-in-one solution.
Would the online service be free? How does it make money? Just ads? Selling the smart outlet at a high price?