Sunday, May 18, 2014

Attempting to Automate Catalyst EX from the Command Line

Since running a 3D printing service at an engineering college has a lot of throughput for random 3d print orders, it was getting very tiring to manually process every incoming stl file and send an email with the part's filament volume used. My boss put together a SQL database with a simple but very useful user interface for managing print jobs that auto-generates the emails and keeps everything organized, but we still had to process each file manually. So I set out to try and find a way to automate the process.

Comparing Catalyst EX to Other Programs by Stratasys
I've noticed that when using the MaracaEX and cmbview applications that there will be an open command line window that isn't present when using Catalyst EX. My hope was that the window was simply hidden for Catalyst and that there would be different command line arguments that could be used for scripting the STL processing.

I wasn't sure how to begin probing into the possible command line arguments that could be used, but as usual the internet had some helpful advice. Following the instructions I used Process Explorer to view the Strings for Catalyst EX, and while it was initially promising I was unable to find any command line arguments to pass. Using /? and /help as arguments also revealed nothing.

Opening STL and CMB files from Command Line
I found some small progress when I remembered that I had set Catalyst EX to be the default program for opening STL files. Using Process Explorer again I was able to see that you simply had to type the following into the command line to have Catalyst open an STL or CMB file (replace testfile.stl with the path to the file if it isn't saved in the same directory as CatalystEX):

C:\Program Files\Dimension\CatalystEX 4.4\nt\CatalystEX.exe testfile.stl
C:\Program Files\Dimension\CatalystEX 4.4\nt\CatalystEX.exe testfile.cmb

Printing CMB File Information to the Command Line
After playing around for a while I experimented with the other .exe files in the same directory and found that running cmbstat.exe with a cmb file for input printed the information out to the command prompt

The output contains the amount of support and model material used, which could be used for scripting, but there is still the problem of having to process the STL file manually.

Catalyst itself appears to use a combination of TCL and DLL files. I will have to do more research before it's clear whether this is possible.

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