RA 3D printer controller board does everything, has disco lights

3D printers are getting far, far more complicated than a 4-axis, plastic-squirting CNC machine. These days, you really haven’t earned your geek cred unless you’ve hacked an LCD and SD card interface into your 3D printer, or at least experimented with multiple extruders. There’s a problem with the controller boards everyone is using, though: most boards simply don’t have enough output pins, greatly reducing the number of cool things a 3D printer can do.

Enter RA. It’s a new 3D printer controller board with IO for any imaginable setup. Going down the feature list of RA, we’re wondering why we haven’t seen some of these features before. A 24-pin ATX power header is soldered directly to the board, giving RA users a stupidly easy way to power their printer. Of course there are outputs for LEDs, camera triggers (printer time-lapse movies are really cool), light rings, buzzers, an LCD/rotary encoder/SD card control panel, and support for two heated beds for gigantic printers. If printing in one color isn’t good enough for you, RA has support for three extruders

Compared to other 3D printer boards such as RAMPS or the Sanguinololu, the number of outputs on this board is simply amazing. If you’re planning to build a huge, feature-laden 3D printer, you probably couldn’t do much better than what RA is offering.

15 thoughts on “RA 3D printer controller board does everything, has disco lights

  1. Since this is mega based it should have a similar number of outputs as RAMPS. Looks like theres a few more fets. Meh.

    I had really hoped we’d only be using 32-bit Reprap boards by now but I guess you can’t kick the 8 bit habit easily.

    1. cuz people like me just cant help dual, or quad, 8-bit uC, just for the fun of it… and with enough multiplication and overclocking and shift registers… lol what fun.

    2. Many Reprap firmwares are in C and rely on the Arduino libraries, so it’s likely that many of those will follow the path of the Due and use Atmel’s SAM3 SoCs.

      IMHO the current crop of 8 bit micros are sufficient for single and dual extrusion cartesian bot setups. We should be using them as cheap real-time glue between bigger systems like a PC or RasPi rather than adapting a more powerful embedded platform to driving motors and such.

  2. 32 bit reprap electronics are in the making.
    Firmware is already well advanced, and can not only do 3D printers, but also las0rs and cnc mills etc.
    And a board is in the making : http://smoothieware.org/smoothieboard ( several others too, see 4pi for example ), coming out soon, very feature packed like this one.

    1. Smoothieboard uses A4982, which are much more difficult to fry than the A4982/3s that other boards/pololus use.
      And even if you really want to burn them, all pins are broken out so you can just connect an external driver anyway.

      Also, RAMPS controls more than one extruder.
      Also, Smoothieboard has a connector for an external driver, and after the first batch, a version with 5 stepper drivers will be available.

      Also, while by putting the drivers on the board you make them more difficult ( but not impossible ) te replace, you also gain a lot in terms of cost. Smoothieboard is $120 which is the same cost as the cheapest current reprap electronics, and is more powerful and more feature-packed than any of the more expensive ones.

      1. RA is $149 and modular to grow with you. It can Talk there is no other board that has MP3 talking ability. Also it controls lighting to convey status or just for fun. So for features its RA hands down. It also does not need a computer attached for operation if your running with the control panel.

      2. Smoothieboard is $120, is 120Mhz 32bits ARM, has ethernet with a webserver control interface, shows to the computer over USB as both serial and mass storage, can control not only 3D printers but also lasers and cnc mills, can do standalone operation too, is configured via a simple config file on the SD card, and I know I forget a lot.
        Just having new features is not the same as having more features.
        Other boards have other features that RA does not.
        All boards are differents, all have different features, it’s really pointless to pretend to be first feature-wise.

  3. Good to see Arthur and James slugging it out :-)

    Both the RA and Smoothieboard appear to be very impressive compared to what I have currently.

    @Arthur: You say $120 for the board, then $10 here and another $10 there… how much for a complete, drop it in, good to go, board?

    1. I’d say $130 if you buy a usb cable, microsd and connectors yourself. Lots of us already have those, so that’s why the base price excludes them.
      We’ll have a board with conectors soldered, and the extra vitamins, for $140 I think.

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