No stranger to the world of 3D printers, [Elias Bakken] from the [Intelligent Agent] workshop has released a new controller board called Recore. The typical 3D printer has a dedicated controller which handles the real-time aspects of driving stepper motors. Many setups also have a second computer, often Linux-based, which is dedicated to supporting tasks like running an Octoprint server and interfacing to a digital camera to monitor print progress remotely. [Elias]’s design merges these together into one compact 12 x 12 x 4 cm package.
The Recore board is powered by an AllWinner A64 system on chip (SoC) which packs four ARM Cortex-A53 AArch64 cores running Debian Linux. The applications include Klipper, a project we wrote about when it was first introduced, and the OctoPrint print server. “But Linux is not a real-time operating system”, we hear you cry, “and controlling stepper motor drivers from an A64 SoC is just asking for trouble”. [Elias] could have addressed this problem by putting a secondary microcontroller on the board, but he found an even more elegant solution instead.
It turns out that there is already a secondary microcontroller hidden in plain sight, integrated into the A64 itself. See that small box labeled AR100 at the top of the block diagram? Meet the AR100, a controller originally intended to manage low-power operations of the A64. It is an OpenRISC 32-bit OR1k processor. But the AR100 is extremely underutilized, and [Elias] takes good advantage of this by repurposing it to those real-time tasks associated with a 3D printer controller. Watch the short video down below to learn how he solves a few of the nitty-gritty implementation details such as timers and communicating with the Linux processors. You might learn some tips from the other short videos in the series featuring some interesting debugging and problem solving sessions. There is a project GitHub repository and a Wiki full of good information and testing results.
[Elias] has a long history of building printer controllers. While his last one had to be abandoned because of manufacturing issues, he learned from that experience. Manufacturability was a top priority in the design of the Recore. We’re jealous of the well-appointed [Intelligent Agent] facility in Norway, but even more so of the nomadic lifestyle that [Elias] appears to enjoy — in his videos, he can be seen working from far-flung locales such as a tropical island resort and a laboratory floating in high Earth orbit. We’ve featured [Elias]’s projects in the past, including the Replicate 3D printer controller, a semi-automatic liquor cabinet, and the dog-operated treat dispenser.
Traditionally, 3D printer control boards have used simplistic 8-bit microcontrollers to command the stepper drivers and ultimately move the machine where it needs to go. Newer boards have switched over to 32-bit microcontrollers, but they’re still relatively limited computationally. Because of this, a Raspberry Pi running OctoPrint is usually used to provide more complex features such as remote management and live video.
Looking to combine these different devices into a single all-in-one board, [pkElectronics] developed the Sigmoid S7P. With an STM32 microcontroller, TMC2209 stepper drivers, a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, and plenty of room for expansion, it promises to be a drop-in upgrade for essentially any 3D printer running on an open source firmware that could be ported over.
According to [pkElectronics], the idea for the Sigmoid had been floating around for several years, but never got off the ground due to the difficulties in dealing with the SO-DIMM interface used by previous iterations of the Compute Module. But with the switch to smaller and denser connector for the CM4, the board finally started to take shape.
If you’re a maker that publishes projects online, you’ll be well across the production values arms race that’s been raging over the past decade. For those in the 3D printing space, this means that you’ll need to be producing slick timelapse videos of your prints. [BuildComics] is now doing just that, with a custom camera arm to help do the job. (Video, embedded below.)
The arm relies on a 3D-printed gear train that allows a stepper motor to turn it slowly throughout the print’s duration. It’s controlled by an Arduino that receives commands via Firmata. The arm is mounted on top of the printer, holding a webcam above the build plate for a good view. It’s setup via Octolapse to take images as each layer is finished, giving that haunting look of a model materialising on the print bed throughout the duration of the timelapse.
Creality, makers of the Ender series of 3D printers, have released a product called Wi-Fi Box meant to cheaply add network control to your printer. Naturally I had to order one so we could take a peek, but this is certainly not a product review. If you’re looking to control your 3D printer over the network, get yourself a Raspberry Pi and install Gina Häußge’s phenomenal OctoPrint on it. Despite what Creality might want you to believe, their product is little more than a poor imitation of this incredible open source project.
Even if you manage to get it working with your printer, which judging by early indications is a pretty big if, it won’t give you anywhere near the same experience. At best it’ll save you a few dollars compared to going the DIY route, but at the cost of missing out on the vibrant community of plugin developers that have helped establish OctoPrint as the defacto remote 3D printing solution.
That being said, the hardware itself seems pretty interesting. For just $20 USD you get a palm-sized Linux computer with WiFi, Ethernet, a micro SD slot, and a pair of USB ports; all wrapped up in a fairly rugged enclosure. There’s no video output, but that will hardly scare off the veteran penguin wrangler. Tucked in a corner and sipping down only a few watts, one can imagine plenty of tasks this little gadget would be well suited to. Perhaps it could act as a small MQTT broker for all your smart home devices, or a low-power remote weather station. The possibilities are nearly limitless, assuming we can get into the thing anyway.
So what’s inside the Creality Wi-Fi Box, and how hard will it be to bend it to our will? Let’s take one apart and find out.
A very common hack to a 3D printer is to connect a Raspberry Pi to your printer and then load Octoprint or a similar program and send your files to the printer via the network. [Teaching Tech] noticed that Creality now has an inexpensive WiFi interface that promises to replace Octoprint and decided to give it a quick review.
You might wonder why you’d want this system when Octoprint exists? Mainly, the value proposition is the price. You can buy the Creality box for about $20. A Raspberry Pi with a similar case would be at least twice that price. In addition, the box integrates with a Thingiverse-like library and does cloud slicing, which is attractive when you have a very small computer connected to your printer.
However, [Teaching Tech] found some issues. The box was pretty picky about connecting to printers and there were many other problems. The 3D model library wasn’t very comprehensive, although that could change if the thing got very popular. Worse, the slicer didn’t really produce stellar results.
We have to admit, an attractive network interface for $20 would be of interest. But it is hard to see how this would be a better value than Octoprint unless you were very short on cash and had no Raspberry Pi surplus laying around. You still need an SD card and a power supply, so those extras are a wash.
On the other hand, if Creality fixes the problems and expands the 3D model library, we’d buy one. But it remains to be seen if either of those things will happen, much less both of them. We do wish [Teaching Tech] had opened the thing up for us. Maybe next time.
There was a time, not so very long ago, that buying a reliable 3D printer was a fairly expensive proposition. Many chose to build their own printer instead, and for a few years, we were flooded with very impressive custom designs. But as you might expect, with the prices on decent 3D printers now having hit rock bottom, the custom builds have largely dried up.
Arguably, the only reason you’d build rather than buy in 2020 is if you want something very specific. Which is precisely how [Joshendy] ended up building the Big F… Printer or BFP. No doubt the F stands for Fun, or Friendly. Either way, it’s certainly something special. With a 300 mm³ build volume and heavy-duty Z axis, this fully enclosed CoreXY machine is ready to handle whatever he throws at it.
It did take [Joshendy] a few attempts to get everything the way he wanted though. In fact, the prototype for the machine wasn’t even CoreXY, it started as an H-Bot. In his write-up he goes over the elements of the BFP did that didn’t quite live up to his expectations, and what he replaced them with. So when wobbly leadscrews and a knock-off V6 hotend both left something to be desired, they ended up getting replaced with ball screws and an authentic E3D Hemera, respectively.
To control this monster, [Joshendy] is using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi and a BigTreeTech SKR Pro running Klipper. OctoPrint gives him the ability to control and monitor the printer remotely, complete with a camera mounted inside the enclosure to keep an eye on things, while the Klipper firmware on the SKR board pushes all the computationally expensive aspects of 3D printing onto the vastly more powerful ARM chip in the Pi. The end result is faster and more accurate control of the steppers through the TMC2130 drivers than would be possible otherwise.
Recent price drops put entry level masked stereolithography (MSLA) resin 3D printers at around $200 USD, making them a very compelling tool for makers and hackers. But as you might expect, getting the price this low often involves cutting several corners. One of the ways manufacturers have made their machines so cheap is by simplifying the electronics and paring down the feature set to the absolute minimum.
If this were a traditional 3D printer, he might have installed OctoPrint and been done with it. But resin printers are a very different beast. In the end, [Luiz] had to develop his own remote control software that worked around the unique limitations of the printer’s electronics. His software runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero and uses Linux’s “USB Gadget” system to make it appear as a flash drive when plugged into the USB port on the Elegoo Mars Pro.
This allows sending object files to the printer over the network, but there was a missing piece to the puzzle. [Luiz] still needed to manually go over to the printer and select which file he wanted to load from the menu. Until he realized there was an exposed serial port on control board that allowed him to pass commands to the printer. Between the serial connection and faux USB Mass Storage device, his mariner software has full control over the Mars Pro and is able to trigger and monitor print jobs remotely.