New Part Day: Smoothie For RAMPS

When it comes to 3D printer controllers, there are two main schools of thought. The first group is RAMPS or RAMBo which are respectively a 3D printer controller ‘shield’ for the Arduino Mega and a stand-alone controller board. These boards have been the standard for DIY 3D printers for a very long time, and are the brains for quite a few printers from the biggest manufacturers. The other school of thought trundles down the path of ARM, with the most popular boards running the Smoothie firmware. There are advantages to running a printer with an ARM microcontroller, and the SmoothieBoard is fantastic.

Re-ARM for RAMPS — a Kickstarter that went live this week — is the middle ground between these two schools of thought. It’s a motherboard for RAMPS, but brings the power of a 32-bit LPC1768 ARM processor for all that smooth acceleration, fine control, and expansion abilities the SmoothieBoard brings.

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Tiny Smoothies At Maker Faire

For almost the last decade, desktop 3D printing has, at its heart, been centered around 8-bit microcontrollers. The ATmegas and other Atmel chips are good enough to move a few steppers and squirt some plastic. With faster processors, you get smoother acceleration, leading to better prints. Modern ARM devices have a lot of peripherals, allowing for onboard WiFi and Ethernet connectivity. The future is 32-bit print controllers.

Right now there are a few 32-bit controllers, from the very weird, out-of-nowhere controller for the Monoprice Mini 3D printer to the more traditional SmoothieBoard. Only one of these boards has the open hardware cred for a proper 3D printer controller, and a this year’s Maker Faire, Cohesion3D introduced a few machine control boards built on top of Smoothie that add a few interesting features and techniques.

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Open-Source Laser Cutter Software gets Major Update, New Features

The LaserWeb project recently released version 3, with many new features and improvements ready to give your laser cutter or engraver a serious boost in capabilities! On top of that, new 3-axis CNC support means that the door is open to having LaserWeb do for other CNC tools what it has already done for laser cutting and engraving.

LaserWeb BurnsLaserWeb3 supports different controllers and the machines they might be connected to – whether they are home-made systems, CNC frames equipped with laser diode emitters (such as retrofitted 3D printers), or one of those affordable blue-box 40W Chinese lasers with the proprietary controller replaced by something like a SmoothieBoard.

We’ve covered the LaserWeb project in the past but since then a whole lot of new development has been contributed, resulting in better performance with new features (like CNC mode) and a new UI. The newest version includes not only an improved ability to import multiple files and formats into single multi-layered jobs, but also Smoothieware Ethernet support and a job cost estimator. Performance in LaserWeb3 is currently best with Smoothieware, but you can still save and export GCODE to use it with Grbl, Marlin, EMC2, or Mach3.

The project is open to contributions from CNC / Javascript / UX developers to bring it to the next level. If you’re interested in helping bring the project even further, and helping it do for 3-axis CNC what it did for Laser Cutting, project coordinator [Peter van der Walt] would like you to head to the github repository!

We recently shared a lot of great information on safe homebrew laser cutter design. Are you making your own laser cutting machine, or retrofitting an existing one? Let us know about it in the comments!

Make Awesome, Win Smoothieboard

If you haven’t looked around the RepRap project in a while, you probably haven’t heard about the Smoothieboard. It’s an extremely unique electronics board for 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machines that is trying to get away from Atmel and AVR microcontrollers and towards more powerful ARM micros. On the Smoothieboard, you’ll find enough five motor drivers, six big ‘ol MOSFETs for hot ends, fans, and beds, enough thermistor inputs for just about anything, and an Ethernet jack, because all 3D printers should be able to run headless.

The team behind the Smoothieboard has decided there’s not enough awesome included in the Smoothieboard already. To fix this, they’re opening up a contest where coders, documentarians, graphic artists, and creatives of all types can contribute to the Smoothieboard project. What’s the prize? A Smoothieboard, duh.

The Smoothieboard team is looking for a few good coders, builders, or anyone else to contribute to the Smoothieboard project. If you have an idea that would work with the Smoothieboard – a web interface like Octoprint running on the Smoothieboard, better documentation, graphics, or just want to build a five-axis CNC mill, this is where you sign up. The prize is a Smoothieboard 5XC, the top of the line board with five motor drivers.

Of course you’re always welcome to not contribute to open source projects, and for those consummate consumers, we have the Smoothieboard 5XC available in the Hackaday Store.

You have until February 15th to come up with a great project idea for a Smoothieboard. The best 30 project ideas will be chosen, and those projects will get a Smoothieboard. Actually building a project in a month isn’t a condition of the contest; the best idea wins.