3D Printering: Remote Control Of 3D Printers


With new owners comes new editorial direction. You’re looking at the first evidence of that right now. We’re going to be doing some weekly columns dedicated to certain subjects, and with our fascination of all things three dimensional, it only made sense our first weekly column was dedicated to 3D printers. And using 3D printers, stuff made with 3D printers. Also, things that can be used with 3D printers. Great wordsmiths we are, we’re calling this column ‘3D Printering.’ If you have a better name (or a title pic) send it in and we’ll probably use it.

With that out of the way…

This week we’re taking a look at remote printing. With anything from an Android tablet to a Raspberry Pi, it’s possible to have a networked 3D printer, the perfect thing for hackerspaces or anyone who wants to print objects from multiple computers. One of the most-used tools for this is OctoPrint, a printer host designed to be run on small embedded devices such as a Raspi.

We’ve seen OctoPrint before. but since then it’s matured a whole lot. with a ton of reports of successes running on everything from a Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, and even an OUYA. All the major electronics boards – RAMPS, RAMBo, Sanguinololu – and firmwares should work with OctoPrint, making an Internet-connected 3D printer simply a matter of connecting a Raspberry Pi.

Of course OctoPrint isn’t the only networking solution for a 3D printer. PrintToPeer is deep into development and should be released sometime this fall. It’s a much more sophisticated way of networking a printer that includes an iPad app and ‘enterprise class’ functionality.

The PrintToPeer team is offering private beta invitations, but with a catch: you need to print out a piece of a sculpture and send it to them. These pieces will be unveiled in September as the largest 3D printed sculpture, and the word’s first collaborative 3D sculpture.

47 thoughts on “3D Printering: Remote Control Of 3D Printers

    1. Has anyone found one that works with Makerbot Replicators? We have one in the office here at SupplyFrame but I haven’t yet found any way of remote printing, or even print finish notification.

      1. That’s what you get for buying into the makerbot-closed-source nature.

        OctoPrint spawned of parts of Cura (only a few bits and pieces) but it gave Gina a nice start point. With everything being open you get innovation.

  1. I kind of feel like this post was somewhat biased, or at least ill-informed. There’s plenty of other print servers such as repetier-server mentioned above, and BotQueue, the one I am working on. I’m sure there’s more than that as well.

  2. 3D printering? That is just cruel. You are forcing us to come up with alternatives aren’t you?
    How about:
    One-off printing (off the side?)
    DIY manufacturing
    Geek Money-pits
    Barebones manufacturing
    WTF Didn’t I think of those printers
    Things I’d like to have someday
    Patent breakers
    Cottage manufacturing

  3. I have access to a BFB3000 dual head and am experiementing with engineering co-polymers such as NYLON 618.

    I am interested in 3D printing, But this doesn’t mean that i want HACKADAY to become another overhyped website. We are the future of technology, we are elite we are so much more than 3d printing.

    Leave the 3d printing stuff to MAKE and alike. Lets focus the HACKADAY efforts to real hacking.

    Kind Regards

    1. So long as an attempt is made to look at quality, innovative, original 3D printer hacks, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with discussing 3D printers. If it’s of the same quality as other hacks, why should it not be included?

      1. Agreed. Once I have open access to a 3d printer, I’ll be interested. I’d much rather sit back and let everyone else do the heavy lifting and I’ll reap the benefits of a commercial product in a few years. Show me something really WOW in the meantime please.

          1. Are you talking about Cricut? (I pronounce it cry-cut) If so, they’re not bad machines. The SureCuts-A-Lot software that you can buy separately works great with mine. I don’t think it’s the best machine ever but for the price it’s a great entry level machine that even with SCAL still costs less and is more flexible than more “professional” setups I’ve seen.

  4. spiritplumber.dyndns.org:8081 two printers, work in progress. Uses my broom attachment to put away a finished piece. Password is derp (please don’t interrupt if a print is in progress)

  5. To be honest I can’t see the attraction of remote printing.

    If you do print remotely you have no e-stop, no ability to pull the plug, you’ll really want to monitor it remotely. so that means a web camera too.
    I think that most if not all fused filament style printer owners even with the perfect setup have gotten used to standing and watching the first few layers to ensure that they actually stick.

    but we’ve all walked away mid print and come back to find a skipped step means that the print is a little to the left or right/front/back etc, and it’s sods law that it happened right as you walked away so that you’ve wasted a lot of filament since the error happened, or that it’s begun to de-laminate. or it’s now just a small golf ball sized of blistered burned plastic stick to the print head which is now clogged…

    1. Agreed. But standing there watching the whole print job is about as appealing as watching paint dry. I think we need remote printing to allow us to walk away from a print while still being able to monitor and stop a print if necessary. I wonder if tracking print head temp would help alert to a clogged print head, or a change in feed rate?

      1. I don’t stand and watch a whole print, probably the first few layers going down and then I just check on it every half hour to make sure it’s still on track.

        but if I feel I need to be there at the start to watch the first few layers going down then the ability to print remotely is not really that useful.

        remote temp monitoring would be useful (but not as useful as the current and built in over temp stop and under-temp stop.)
        Change in feed rate is difficult to detect as the stepper motor driving the filament will keep turning, though perhaps a roller higher up in the filament could be set to turn and measure feed rate against an expected rate, (though no electronics are set up to do this at present, and a lot of popular boards currently lack the ability to receive this extra input.

        It’d be nice to get a text or something at the end of a print job to let you know it’s done. but given that I generally am checking each half hour of so that nothing has gone wrong at worst I’ll loose 29 minutes of time through not knowing! though I believe that there is a RAMPS LCD display that allows headless control from an SD card and will sound an alarm when the print is done. -I’m in the same vicinity as the printer so should hear the buzzer going. (I have Sanguinolo electronics anyway so don’t know much about RAMPS)

        the machines and processes just aren’t quite fire and forget just yet.

        remote 3d printing is really a solution looking for a problem.
        much like 3d printing.

        1. I think that is a failing of open source work to date. In a conventional engineering environment, after the initial iteration was done, everyone would step back and do a final review before either calling it done or moving on to the next iteration.
          Open source seems very suited to agile development, but misses out on some of the qualities of waterfall development.
          In this case, “what needs to be done to make printers more reliable” would be the title for the review meeting.

      2. The PrintToPeer Platform will indeed include these features, along with many more! ;-) (Ability to remotely trigger an e-stop, temp warnings, native webcam monitoring will be added later this year, however we suggest U-Stream or a similar service in the interim)

        We’re really surprised that we were mentioned on hackaday, and are very excited by the enthusiasm in the community! I’d also like to point out that the PrintToPeer client is 100% open source (GPLv3), and some server side technologies will be released as well (some AGPLv3, some GPLv3)! (more details later this fall)

        Thanks for the bump!

        Kaz Walker,
        Senior Developer @ PrintToPeer

    2. What 3D printers seem to be lacking are any generic feedback or safety mechanisms. Tip switches, thermal sensors, overtravel sensors, jam sensors, overcurrent/overload sensors, heat shields, finger guards, and no doubt others. My friend’s printer began to climb his filament when the spool became tangled. It’s also attempted to vibrate itself off his desktop. It has nothing inherent that would shut off the heaters or stop the motors.

      It would be good to get those safety features in place before some unlucky geek burns his house down and the lawsuits begin to fly. That could lead to a lot of unwanted regulation.

  6. I run Bangor University HackerSpace and we’ve just set up a remote desktop connection with the print computer and a webcam broadcasting on ustream or something similiar… The only time we want remote is to stop the thing if there is an issue.. Can’t really see the point in remote starting due to reasons mentioned above including the print not starting correctly… At this moment in time; it is much easier to be in the same room.

  7. It’s nice for print farms. I wrote printerface in node.js with that in mind. I own more printers now than laptops and having some raspberry pi’s run them all night is a super nice to have feature. Also ease of use. I do this in the evening
    for(int i=0;i<3;i++){
    open a webpage from printerface (see project on github);
    press print button();
    go to sleep.
    Wake up and have three filled platters with stuff I wanted the night before, I never got around or even needed temp monitoring or the webcam stuff. After first layer is mostly done I don't need to worry anymore. Mostly if the printers haven't been moved even that's not necessary I know after the first skirt it's already good ;).

    Gotta admit octoprint is looking much more slick and has a nice stylesheet and loads of features… Keep up the good work, wonder if it's as easy as printerface to set up though…

  8. Has anyone managed to get Repetier Server running with an Ultimaker v1? Config file would be much appreciated. It doesn’t seem to work with the ASCII option. Alternative would be to get Repetier firmware installed on the Ultimaker if anyone has done that? Much appreciated.


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