Beagle from Mintion
The video showing the Gadget in moving pictures
You can buy the Beagle camera in the Online Shop of Mintion. There you will also find more accessories for 3D printing.
How Open Is This Gadget?
About the GadgetFigure 1:
The "Beagle" camera from Mintion is meant to remotely monitor and control a 3D printer. The device only works with printers that run the open source firmware Marlin, which is the case for the majority of FDM 3D printers in the consumer sector. Printer and camera have to be connected via an USB cable, remote control can then be done with a browser interface.
Package contentsFigure 2:
The package contains, in addition to the camera, two USB cables, a power supply that delivers an output voltage of 5V at up to 1A, a micro SD card and a needle to operate the reset switch.
A printed quick start guide is also included.
A Mediatek MT7901UN processor running Linux works on the mainboard. Nothing more is not known about the firmware.
The built-in camera takes pictures with a resolution of up to 1920x1080 pixels. When the ambient light is low, the camera switches to night vision via a relay and delivers black and white images from that point on. 4 IR LEDs are installed for lighting
Via a loudspeaker, system information is provided by voice output.
Data is stored on a micro SD card, which can also be used to import firmware updates.
If the Beagle is started for the first time or after a reset, it works in WLAN access point mode. The IP address of the camera is "192.168.0.1" in this mode, but there is no connection to the home network. The integration into a WLAN can (at least for the moment) unfortunately only be done via the smartphone app. There is no information to which servers the Beagle or the smartphone app connects to.
Once the WLAN configuration is done, the camera can be operated via browser by entering the IP address (which can be queried via the app, for example). Also to be criticized is the forced registration that comes with using the app!
Timelapse videosThe integrated function for recording time-lapse videos is a feature for playing around. If this is activated, the camera takes one photo after each printed layer. The print head and the Y-axis are moved to the end points to give the camera a clear view on the print. The Beagle camera automatically inserts the appropriate commands into the G-code file. However, this does not work with all slicing software - my favorite Slic3r was not in the list at the time the video was recorded, I had to work with a different program.
In this mode, printing is a little slower and there can also be slight differences in terms of print quality due to the short interruptions. As said before, this function was programmed for the video artists and game kids among you, not for better printing results. However, a time-lapse video can be helpful in narrowing down errors during a failed print job. Here are the video sequences I recorded while printing components for a strain wave gear:
Download package timelapse videos Mintion Beagle (128MB)
My conclusionAnyone who, like me, has a 3D printer working in the basement, but whose office is two floors above, can quickly take a look at a running print job with the Beagle. Thanks to the possibility to access the camera via browser, no extra software needs to be installed and that's how it should be!
Not so good is that the integration into your WLAN (at least so far) is only possible via the closed source app on a smartphone. This app accesses the camera over the internet. There is no information about which server are used for the remote control. The firmware is also closed source, which means that it is not clear which data the camera is sending to this unknown server. Another downside of the closed source firmware is that time-lapse video functionality is limited to Mintion-specified slicing programs. Also, as with all gadgets that rely on web servers and whose firmware is closed source, there is a risk that they will become unusable as soon as the server in question goes down (this doesn't just happen with small companies, but big ones too!).
I have told Mintion these concerns and also the advantages of open source and they are probably at least thinking about opening the source code of the firmware at some point. It should then be available on the Mintion website...