Inside the Printrbot Printrhub

A new version of the Printrbot Simple was released this summer, and this sleek new model includes a few highly desirable features. The metal enclosure was improved, linear rails added, a power switch was thrown in, and the biggest feature — a touch screen — makes headless printing easy.

Adding a usable display and achieving reliable WiFi are big engineering challenges, and thanks to the Internet of Things it’s only going to become more common to expect those features. How did the Printrbot team implement this? [Philip Shuster] recently released a write-up of how the Printrbot Printrhub came together.

The story of the display and WiFi module in the newest Printrbot begins about a year ago with a post on Hackaday. [Philip] built the Little Helper, a little electronic Swiss Army knife capable of basic IO, sending out PWM pulses, sniffing I2C, and a few other handy features. The Printrbot team reached out to [Philip], and after a few conversations, he was roped into the development team for the Printrhub.

Departing slightly from the Little Helper, the Printrhub features the same microcontroller found in the Teensy 3, a 2.8 inch TFT display, capacitive touch sensor, microSD card slot, and an ESP-12 module to handle the WiFi connection. The display system was tricky, but the team eventually got it working. Using an ESP8266 as the WiFi module for a printer is more difficult than you would think, but that works too.

One of the more interesting challenges for 3D printers in the last few years is the development of a good printer display with wireless connectivity. Yes, those graphic LCDs attached to an Arduino still work, but a display from 1980 doesn’t sell printers. In just a few months, the Printrbot team came up with a relatively simple, very elegant display that does everything and they’re releasing all the hardware as open source. That’s great news, and we can’t wait to see similar setups in other makes of 3D printers.

5 thoughts on “Inside the Printrbot Printrhub

  1. Got my first printer a couple months ago (MonoPrice Maker Select Plus), and after ‘paying more’ for a touchscreen I have to say kinda not worth the hype once I added a RasPi with OctoPi.

    Pi has the WiFi covered and most control is handled with Octo via a browser. Slice on my NetBook (though I could have Octo slice the stl locally with a Cura Profile), drag and drop via my browser, load and print. Only thing I use the touchscreen for anymore is to preheat the bed to dry the hairspray faster and navigate to the print display to have a local temp display.

      1. Id be more likely to build a printer around those than to replace the internals of my budget printer.

        Bang for buck- Octo is quite likely topnof the list. ~$60 for a Pi3 and required accessories?

  2. My favorite printer was recently ‘updated’ with a touchscreen. Basically the same specs, just a few new features. Cost increased 28% over the previous model. If you’re an optimist/marketer, those features now cost x% less. If you’re me, that’s the fourth time they increased the price in the last ten years for the same exact printer. It’s now 224% as much as it was four generations ago for mostly just gimmick features. No I don’t want to use a 2″ touchscreen to crop, print from an SD card.

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