Hacking Chipped 3D Printer Filament On The Da Vinci Printer

XYZ Printing has been selling 3D printers for years now with one very special feature not found in more mainstream printers. They’re using a chipped filament cartridge with a small chip inside each of their proprietary filament cartridges, meaning you can only use their filament. It’s the Gillette and ink jet model – sell the printer cheap, and make their money back on filament cartridges.

Last week at CES, XYZ Printing introduced their cheapest printer yet. It’s called the da Vinci Mini, a printer with a 15x15x15 cm build volume that costs only $269. Needless to say, a lot of these will be sold. A lot of people will also be disappointed with chipped filament cartridges in the coming months, so here’s how you defeat the latest version of chipped filament.

A little bit of research showed [WB6CQA] the latest versions of XYZ Printing’s filament uses an NFC chip. Just like the earlier EEPROM version, the latest spools of filament just store a value in memory without any encryption. [WB6CQA] pulled a board from the printer, connected it up to a logic analyzer, and checked out the data sheet for the NFC chip, giving him access to the data on the filament chip.

After running a few prints and comparing the data before and after, [WB6CQA] found a few values that changed. These values could be written back to their previous values, effectively resetting the chip in the filament and allowing third party filament to be used in this printer. It’s a kludge, but it works. More effort will be needed to remove the need to capture data with logic analyzers, but we’re well on our way to chipless filament on da Vinci printers.

63 thoughts on “Hacking Chipped 3D Printer Filament On The Da Vinci Printer

  1. This won’t be necessary, they are open sourcing for filament, starting with the da Vinci 1.0 Pro model. I was one of the many people to nag at them, because I kept breaking it, needed spare parts, and I ALWAYs did it on their public Facebook page, and made it public how to hack it, that I hacked mine, and that I loved it still.

    1. I think people are realizing 3D printers are still in a evolutionary stage similar to the 1980s dot-matrix printer.

      The same MBA clowns that ruined ink-jet technology will certainly show up eventually. However, people tend to punish companies who are tempted to waste engineering resources on DRM. Some investors did not like the HP/Cannon style shenanigans, and many also shorted 3D Systems Corporation (DDD) this year like a fire-sale at a manure warehouse. ;)

    2. Doh! Why didn’t I think of FB?
      I went round and round with their tech support when the first one came out of the box broken. The replacement had the same problems (and more), so it gathers dust next to my wonderfully functional printerbot. So far it hasn’t been shamed into working. ;)

  2. It looks like they underestimated part of their target market, namely the ones that want to hack / fix / re-engineer things for their own use, like bypassing the ‘DRM’ part of the 3D printer…

    Would I be right in thinking that some ingenous programmer could write an Android app so NFC enabled phones could pretend to be a full printer spool cartridge?

    1. Or on micro connected to NFC transceiver chip with all values stored in eeprom and resetable with simple button press. Then just replace the NFC chip on the spool with this module and say “F**k you!” to manufacturer.
      Here laptop owners reset the battery charge count and replace broken cells to avoid paying for overpriced battery packs or new laptops that are as crappy as old ones. That’s why I love hardware hacking, it saves money that could be spent on something useful, like beer or boobs.

  3. There’s always someone greedy trying to force you into their products and services. Which is a good way to sign a death warrant to their products if they keep at it too long. Look at IBM. They had the PC market and when cheaper clones came out they did everything they could to shut them down. They made their chips and their own PCs proprietary to the point they wouldn’t work with anything else. They didn’t count on the people running the other way. They struggled to stay afloat at all in the PC market. Their PS/1 and PS/2 got nicknames like “Piece of S…”. They can either fight open source market or join in. Those that fight it lose. Those they join it stand a better chance of keeping their market share. At some point people will say to let them keep their chipped spools and equipment and see how much it does them good. If they would let their equipment use as many as possible their equipment would look a lot more viable. For those that don’t hack their will look elsewhere.

      1. In IBM’s case they tried to make a closed improvement on ISA bus – they made MCA, which was, arguably very good (and not tied to x86 arch like ISA). but it was closed.
        So – end result – MCA had niche uses. ISA bus branched into EISA (backward compatible) and VesaLocalBus, which was IMO a very big hack.
        Then, finally PCI arrived, which took some ideas from MCA and worked.

        It was not the only attempt to change,close,gather royalties – see RAMBUS, and others.

      1. Inkjets are sold as cheap as possible. Private owner might buy refurbished or third party cartridge, or refill it all by himself, but in most cases it will end up with leaky cartridges, smudges on prints and other problems. Companies however must buy proprietary replacements, and they often spend more money on their office printers, so purchasing alternative inks or cartridges which might damage the printer is discouraged. It’s like Rigol scopes: any hacker can unlock all the options, but company can’t if it wants to avoid a lawsuit. Rigol makes money on hackers and hobbyists that want cheap and decent scope and a lot more on companies that employ them. It’s a win-win.

        Epson and other are now offering printers that can be refilled at home, and in case of Epson bottles of ink are cheap enough, that it has no sense to look for alternative inks…

  4. I’m all for any kind of hack and personal use bypass systems always. I do wonder though, what happens when this becomes so simple that every Da Vinci owner can do it and their business flops because their main income is not there?
    Seriously curious about your thoughts.
    Do they flip and start selling costlier printers then to recoup and stay afloat?

    I’m not sure a company trying to make their money in one of the only ways available to them is “greedy” either. Of course, screw giant mega corps who have plenty of revenue from many other sources, but is that what they are in this case?

    Still great hacking of course.
    (Buy boobs… Hah :)

    1. Inertia!

      This printer is aimed at people who want something that’s plug-and-play. While it’s obvious that lock-in is the major factor for the chipped spools, there is something to be said for not having to worry about dialing in parameters for new filament. And if it “just works” then I imagine many of their customers won’t think twice about buying their filament because the additional cost is worth it to avoid the effort of dealing with a hack.

      There are less greedy ways to do this of course. IIRC someone had proposed a 2d barcode scheme to communicate the parameters.

      1. Even with a reprap, once found the right settings, staying with same brand of filament is pretty plug and play. I usually go for the “trouble” of finding the right temperature spot of a new brand only if i can save more than 5% of the price or is exotic.

    2. Kuerig’s 2.0 coffeemaker DRM didn’t last very long. Aside from the dead easy bypass of peeling the lid off one genuine K-Cup and taping it under the lid, 3rd party manufacturers now make refillable cups that work with the 2.0 machines.

      Kuerig’s big flop is going to be their “Kold” carbonated drink machine. Not only is it expensive at nearly $500, the things to make the drinks only come in 4 packs and most cost around $1.25 per serving. Who da fuk is going to be dumb enough to buy that when $500 buys a metric shiton* of 12 packs, in far more flavors than Kuerig offers?

      An even better deal, buy a SodaStream and a tank adapter, drill a hole in your kitchen counter to feed the hose through and you can use ANY flavored syrup to make carbonated drinks. Fizzy grenadine? Local bottlers/distributors will sell boxed bags and tanks of the syrups and CO2 to anyone. Doesn’t matter to them as long as they make their profit.

      *Shall we make this the official HaD-ese for “a large amount”? Someone on here coined that a few days ago…

    1. replacement electronics: 5x stepper drivers: 7.5usd shipped, arduino: 6.00usd, RAMPS1.4 board: 14.00usd, lcd display: 9.00usd. Total for free open source electronics conversion: 36.5usd (from aliexpress)

  5. I am curious about the ethics of hacking a product so one does not have to pay–sounds like stealing to me. One may not like the ink jet model. Then don’t buy the printer. This company spent untold amount of money in engineering, manufacturing, creating a supply chain and distribution system so that we could get a cheap 3D printer, which they are probably selling below cost. Is it somehow evil that they would want to profit by making money on the filaments?

      1. Regular reader…several times a day for years, instead of doing real work….

        I’ve enjoyed all the replies. In general I am on the anti-DRM side of things. In this case I was just thinking that if I were a small company, invested in all it takes to bring a 3D printer or other device to market, set the price low so it could reach more average people, and chose to write really long sentences and make my profit in the consumables, then I would be bummed if I lost my house and 401K I invested because the profits never came. BTW, I have know idea how big these companies are.

        1. Read up on King C. Gillette. Socialist, anti-war, against all things military. Made his fortune selling safety razors and blades to the US Army during World War 1.

          He’s the one generally acknowledged as coming up with (or at the least the first to do it on a massive scale) the marketing tactic of selling a product at a loss or break even, then making the profit off of consumables.

          Most consumers don’t have a problem with that business method. It makes the gizmo affordable and if a 3rd party makes compatible consumables at a lower cost, happy happy joy joy.

          What a certain subset of consumers do have a beef about is when a company attempts to lock their customers into buying consumables only from them, especially when the price is egregiously high and makes that cheap device extremely expensive to use.

          Price the gizmo to sell at a slight profit and same for the consumables. Make sure the gizmo works exactly as well as it’s supposed to and you’ll sell a lot of them, and make even more keeping them fed with affordable yet profitable consumables.

          You build customer loyalty because they not only don’t feel like they’re getting shafted, they aren’t getting shafted. All but the most penny pinching customers will buy your consumables. Often it’s not about being able to use 3rd party stuff, it’s the *knowing they can* if they ever want to, which most won’t do.

          It’s amazing how many people will quite willingly ‘sit in a box’ and stay there if they can clearly see that they can ‘get out’ any time they want, so they never do leave. ‘Lock the box’ and some of those people will throw a fit – despite the fact that they wouldn’t ever leave through an open door.

          1. It is a misnomer that Gillette started this type of selling. He did adapt to this type of selling but only after his patents ran out and all his competitors picked up this method of selling. In fact, it was J.D. Rockefeller who was the first “Big” company to do this. He did it with oil lamps. The way I heard it was: He gave away oil lamps up and down the Amazon river and in China, but sold the oil to use in the lamps to them at an easy repeatable profit.

    1. You do sit and watch intently every commercial on TV as well as very carefully read every single ad? if you don’t then you are also a dirty rotten thief.

      They deserve their profits…. and if you did not buy an advertised product, well you broke that social contract.

          1. What about people who only watch free OTA television broadcasts? They aren’t paying for the content at all. It’s the advertisers who pay the broadcasters and the broadcasters use part of that money to pay the companies who produce the shows, and more of the money to the government for the license to use their assigned chunk of radio spectrum.

    2. They could just sell the printer at a profit like everyone else. In the long run it’s a lower total cost of ownership for whoever buys the printer anyway. I think selling the printer below cost is dishonest to both they customers and their competitors since they hide part of their cost in those consumables, like with inkjet printers. I really don’t see how a system like this would lead to lower costs for everyone. Perhaps except economies of scale that stem from tricking enough people into buying your product thinking it was cheaper than it really is. I wonder if there’s any hard evidence of that happening with the inkjet printers.

    3. These would be the same ethics as buying a nice Kleenex refillable dispenser, then refilling it with cheap house-brand tissues. Ain’t no ethical problems here – I bought the dispenser, let me put any reasonably compatible usable good inside.

      On the other side, its not unethical for companies to /try/ to lock you into their brand of refills, but no one should complain when people defeat the locks.

    4. I don’t think they are evil. I’m just saying “Hey, nice try but I found a way to not have to buy your filament.” Additionally, Barnes and Noble specifically is pushing it as using readily available filament from anywhere. There are a number of consumers who have been disappointed to find out the retailer was incorrect. If you could modify your car to use a much cheaper fuel, would you be stealing from the oil companies who rely on the income from the current design of the car? Profits are not evil, but neither is a consumer modifying the property they purchased to make it more economical.

      1. I don’t think the practice is evil. I do think trying to protect their technical measures with legal ones is evil.

        Consider what Lexmark is trying to do, and HP is jumping on board with as well. They’re trying to claim the cartridges are intellectual property and thus making a case under IP rights… That should not be allowed for the protection of the consumer.

    5. Why would you need to wonder? The company offered the printer for sale. I accepted the offer, paid them their money, and took the printer. The printer is now mine, and I am free to do what I please with it. There is no legal or ethical reason why I must use it the way the manufacturer intended. Nor is there any reason why I must make future purchases from the company.
      The company is free to choose a business model that requires future sales to make a profit, but I am not required to go along with that.

  6. I worked with a Stratasys printer some years ago , which was already “old” but performed admirably for engineering purposes ( 2008 circa one, 1200ES ). It had proprietary cartridges that “counted” how much material had been spent …
    In retrospective, their ABS was far superior to what you could order back then …. and the printer did deliver (it was a 15k ro printer). But the cartridge meter was a joke.

    It was extremely unreliable when it indicated under 10%. You could be getting just a 5% real filament.
    But the DRM protection? Tough as b*lls. I think I just found 1 website that tried to crack it … and all they got was to just reset the count on every boot .

    Just like this hack ^3^
    I just don’t comprehend how a user-oriented brand hopes to pull this off.
    Their market is a handy, savyy user that will find a way .

  7. I find the very idea there is a chip in the spool pretty scummy on their part as it would be easy enough to just have a clear window to see how much filament is left and use a micro switch to tell the machine when it’s running low.
    There is no excuse you could damage it by running it dry like inkjets but even there it wouldn’t be too hard to use a hardware sensor vs some inaccurate counter chip.

  8. Let me play devil’s advocate; I can imagine a call to customer service:

    Joe Hacker: “Your printer doesn’t work!” –
    Customer Service: “What kind of filament are you using?”
    Joe Hacker: “Something I made from old soda bottles and chicken bones.”

    1. That’s a common argument on their behalf, yes. Guaranteeing the quality etc…

      But really, most people use quality filament. Because we care about our prints and even excellent quality filament is only a fraction of what they charge.

    1. You all do recall that this has been done for the DV 1.0, and at least a couple later models? When I got my DV (used) I printed one sample object to be sure it was working, then immediately reflashed it with Repetier. No more chip counter. Also extended the SD card socket out to the edge for stand-alone printing from SD. Better menu’s, more options, works great.

  9. There is a odd funny model of home appliance that uses this same mode, the Cat Genie an automated cat toilet. 50 cent of sani-solution in a $$$ chipped cartridge. There are hacks, lawsuits, and even rip that evil microprocessor out and put one in with a clock and other features they left out.

  10. That’s ok, they make their bussiness not selling printers but selling chipped spools. But guys, they could sell them a bit cheaper! Most of us would be way happy buying them at a lower cost, and we’d recommend their printers to friends without problems. But their spools cost more than twice the price of generic ones! They are forcing us to do hacking, as well as to be prudent before recommending them.
    With inkjet printers, one uses to know what is going to get from the printer. You print your document once, usually. But with 3D printing you have to pre-print some tests, you get failed prints, etc… It’s an expensive game!
    Btw, XYZWare.exe is written in .NET and it can be decompiled using tools like ILSpy(free). The code has lots of references to Repetier, Slic3r, etc. For slycing it uses \slicer\out.exe that seems to be Slic3r.
    Thanks for the post. I have da vinci Mini wifi (awesome printer, btw.), and I want to hack it!
    Regards.

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