3D Systems abandons its Cube printers, but DRM means you can't buy filament from anyone else

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A whole bunch of First Robotics teams were awarded free Cube printers last year. Our team the Bit Buckets got one, but it’s so slow and cumbersome to use that we just go with my old Ultimaker when things need printing.

At least we aren’t motivated to break Federal law.


They should go one step further and release a software update that removes the DRM. If this isn’t feasible, I’m sure the right Arduino sketch, if properly connected, could lie to the printer and allow the use of any filament.

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Who else is reminded of the story of “DIVX” saga(the one involving phone-home quasi-DVD players, not the compression format of a very similar name which was for years the preferred mechanism for bypassing all such nonsense)?


I have a resin printer (The Nobel) that uses an NFC chip to make sure you use their resin (which isn’t badly priced). I’m also friends with the founders of madesolid.com, who make third party resins. I plan on figuring out how to hack the NFC mechanism so I can use madesolid resins but haven’t gotten around to it yet.


Anyone familiar with the history of 3D Systems knows they’re almost certainly not going to do any of the suggestions. When they introduced DRM to their material cartridges, they went and tried to by up the old systems that weren’t locked down. Over the years they have routinely sued their partners and competitors over perceived IP violations. And their commercial systems use similar (possibly identical) DRM, so they won’t give customers the means to bypass that DRM.

It’s an industry-wide problem, and it is starting to show strain more and more each year.


The list of companies who think it’s just peachy to block aftermarket components and uses for their equipment with obstructive software and DRM just grows by leaps and bounds. Once I purchase your POS, it should be my call if I want to use aftermarket printer cartridges, compressors, or software, or throw it into an active volcano, should I so choose.


3D Systems and Startasys are the rightly hated bullies of the 3D printing world and will happily hold any and all innovation back to protect their profit margins and monopolies (through patents) on key technologies.


I can’t imagine how they got into trouble with such a brilliant business plan…


can’t you just replace the brains with a grbl arduino and be up and running?


Let’s hope their commercial business tanks as well. Plenty of bad press like this will certainly help.

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That is shortsighted and IMO wrong, but perfectly understandable. What boggles me is why so many people let themselves be conned into buying the stuff when there are open/interoperable alternatives.

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There are workarounds. You actually CAN buy a bulk filament and using it in the Cube, it seems.
All that it requires is a bit of willingness to do an undetectable violation of an effectively unenforceable law.

Virtually certainly yes.

The stress-strain curve of this kind of systems leads to the users yielding to hacks.

If it is a standard NFC, you can dump the content of the chip on the cartridge, and compare chips from several cartridges. Then try a replay attack, and/or generate your own chip IDs. There are quite some NFC-hacking frameworks out there, and e.g. Kali Linux with a suitable hardware dongle with the right NFC read/write chip can emulate the cards with apparent ease.

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Actually useful advice. I was planning on comparing several and just trying some bit fiddling.

I also figure that there is a memory of previously used values (so you don’t use the same virtual liter of resin forever) that I could probably just wipe on the control hardware in memory.


Good plan. Look for a checksum, though, to channel Captain Obvious. Likely they will use some common algorithm, programmers are lazy and either homebrew it simple or use libraries.

I did some minor poking around the Dublin bus cards, the disposable paper ones. Got a stock of them, to be used as generic NFC tags; just associate a serial number to action. Anything that can be read will do the job in this way.

Or make the “cartridge” read-only so it won’t decrement the remaining filament value.

But if you can generate the cartridge ID randomly, you won. Just feed the emulator from the printer and make a new value at each power-on. We did something similar with an emulator of phone calling cards, the EPROM-based ones.

Try this for the card emulation:
I think some Android phones can emulate the NFC cards too.

And if it is a 125 kHz RFID, there should be some Microchip PIC assembler code for read-only tags. (Or maybe ATtiny or so?)

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This is not entirely true. There are alternative sources for Cube cartridges which we featured on Fabbaloo a few months ago:

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I wonder if something like this could be made in a sealed form, in a tiny form factor (directly bonded FPGA chip, perhaps), sealed in bioglass and implanted in hand. With enough surplus gates to implement beefier-than-standard crypto algos.

Possibly with firmware upgrades doable via near-IR serial link through skin.

DRM is the new war on drugs - it makes everybody a criminal just for living a reasonable life.

When they raid your house on suspicion of being uppity, they will always find at least one “illegal” MP3 or hacked coffee maker, thus retroactively justifying the invasion of your privacy.


On the other hand it is oddly liberating. You’re a criminal anyway, so breaking one more stupid law doesn’t make that much difference.