BuildFlow Update – March 2019

Group up!
Welcome to the March BuildFlow Update. We’re at version 0.7.0 - more like version oh-point-seven-point-whoa, amirite? No? Nobody? Ahem. Sorry.

We’ve been working away for the better part of the last year adding group management tools to BuildFlow. From Friday 29th March all BuildFlow users will roll over to the new version. If you’re a private user then you won’t notice a difference. Enterprise users (schools, etc.) however will find a bunch of new cool stuff at their disposal! Let’s dive into what’s new.
Screenshot of group management screen in BuildFlow

Manage Your Users and Groups

This is the main addition to BuildFlow v0.7 - enterprise customers can now group up your users and assign printer access rights to them. We’ve also made it easier to get an overview of all your current users and their print activity from the new admin dashboard (see below).
Add users and printers to a group with printing rights to grant access to those printers. Add other site administrators (whether they’re teachers, librarians, IT managers, your makerspace leader, or the kid in your class that knows more about fixing 3D printers than we do) to a group with management rights to allow them to create and manage their own groups. Users inherit their rights from all the groups they’re active in, so you can also disable and re-enable groups as often as you need.
As we add more functions and features to BuildFlow, you’ll be able to enable them for group access here - timed printer access, custom print presets and access to specific lesson resources are just a few examples.

Get Up to Date with the Dashboard

At-a-glance dashboards are all the rage these days, so we thought we’d jump on the bandwagon. Also we thought it would be really handy to get a summary of all your users’ activity this week, total print filament consumption and print time, plus some other handy statistics. Also, you asked us for all the above.

The first thing you’ll see when you click through to the new enterprise tools tab is the dashboard. It’s a little sparse at the moment but we’ll be adding all manner of charts and numbers and such soon.

Just below that is the user management section, where you can check details about registered users, open user registration for your organisation and remove users.

I already mentioned the group management tools above, but the enterprise tools page is where you’ll find them. Just click the groups icon. Next in the list of tabs you’ll find the printer section. Here you’ll find an overview of all the printers operated by your organisation - current status, what print job they’re running, current temperature and more. This is now where you’ll find the printer configuration tools to setup a new printer or modify an existing one.
Screenshot of BuildFlow enterprise dashboard
Oh yeah, you can rename your printers now. Phew. Sorry it took a while.

Finally, the educational lesson content that comes with your BuildFlow subscription has moved to the enterprise tools tab. Not many changes here at the moment but as we grow as a company and expand our userbase to cover many different syllabi we’re going to have to change. No surprise then that we’re working on some really big changes to how you create, share access and present lesson plans. Did I say create and share? Hahahaha, no you must have misread. No further questions at this time.

Bugs, Bugs and More Bugs

We’ve crushed bugs, created more bugs, crushed them, then got bored and decided to make more bugs… and then crush those too. Turns out we’re pretty into bug crushing around here.
While the scope of bugs is a bit too huge to cover all of them here’s a hit list of some of the big bugs destroyed recently:
- We’ve implemented a whole security middleware layer that queries what kind of access you’re allowed. Some of you suddenly discovered that you weren’t able to join a new school and got a lot of 401 errors instead. That was pretty bad so we fixed it right away.
- We’ve had an issue where a few printers suddenly disappeared from a school group without warning. Turns out they were homesick and reverted back to our deployment environment, mostly due to an issue with our process for provisioning new print servers on-site. We’ve fixed that up, returned the printer servers to their rightful accounts and now know how to spot similar problems in the future.
- Users started reporting interruptive errors talking about rate limits. Behind the scenes we use a query language called GraphQL (which was invented by Facebook) which is very cool and also makes it really easy to accidentally throw more requests than your database can handle with a single query. This is obviously also a very bad thing when that query is being fired off every time you want to see which printers you can use. Sorry about that one, but thanks for your feedback - we’ve now implemented some pretty strict checks and balances to make sure we don’t get similar problems because we're lazy again.

There were literally hundreds more but mostly they’re concerned with whether or not buttons have the right drop shadow behind them, etc.

As ever, I’d like to take this moment to remind you that we live in constant conversation with all our users and we need your feedback so we know what you want us to work on next - if you have bug reports, feedback on the way a tool works, accessibility issues, feature requests or maybe you’d just like to make Alex’s day and tell us we’re doing a good job then please submit a ticket to our helpdesk through the help button on buildflow.online, by emailing support@me3d.com.au or by visiting Me3D's support site at support.me3d.com.au.

Wait, a year?!

Well, almost a year, more like 10 months and change. As software developers go we’re a tiny team, but we don’t like cutting corners or taking risks when it comes to safety and security. Implementing identity and access management (IAM) tools is no small feat at the best of times, doubly so where handling the contact details of minors are involved.
These group management tools are just the start of a series of new feature releases that will be coming out for BuildFlow over the years to come. We had to build a lot of infrastructure to make sure that our cloud services and API (Application Programming Interface - the software hooks that let your phone, computer and BuildFlow server connect to Buildflow.online and do… stuff) are not just secure against malicious attack but are also flexible to the needs of your users, whether you’re a school, a business, a makerspace, a library, a community, a family or a super cool 3D printing lone wolf, awoo.
Now that that this very important but extremely dry infrastructure is in place, we can finally start building fun stuff again. Ahem. Sorry, we’re just really excited to spend time on creating cool shape generators, adding plating tools, a queueing function, editing tools so you can add your own lesson plans, smart model analysis tools, improving accessibility and a bunch of other really useful things as well as dealing with database access protocols every day.

That’s the big news for now. We’ll keep informing you of future changes, bugfixes and big releases here on the Me3D blog, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, if you have any questions or problems you can always find us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, email us or hit up the support knowledge base.

Cheers! Now for a lie down.
Fletch
Fletcher Thompson CTO chief technical officer headshot
Fletcher Thompson
Co-founder, CTO
Mechatronic engineer, robot enthusiast, bad dancer.