Oct. 1, 2014

In the 3D printing community, Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized $35 mini-computer are often being used by hackers to free laptops from their 3D printers. Usually you need to tie up your laptop whole night long to control the 3D printer, but with a Raspberry Pi and a web interface you can simply handle some basic instructions to 3D printer.

Engineering student Owen Jeffreys owned a PI. "[I] wanted to do something useful and unique with it which would help people who dismiss the PI to realise that it is capable of a lot more than they could possible imagine." notes Jeffreys. He came up with a Raspberry Pi 3D printer which he claims to be the world's first.

"If you Google (or Bing!) Raspberry PI 3D printer you will find several people who claim to have made "Raspberry PI *Powered* 3D Printers", but if you examine them in detail, they are not actually *powered* by the Raspberry PI at all." explained Jeffreys. "These people use the standard firmware which comes with the 3D printer and replace the PC interface with the Raspberry PI - hence the PI is not controlling/powering the printer at all, but simply sending buffered GCODE commands to the pre-built printer and acting as a neat user interface to display print progress etc."

But Jeffreys' 3D printer is not like those. "The 800MHz PI actually controls every part of the machine including, but limited to the motors, heaters and temperature sensors."

It took him approximately eight months to complete the project, and almost every part of the 3D printer was made from scratch, including the circuit board, the aluminium framework, the drive system and the C++ program to run on the PI.

The PI can be hooked up to a HDTV or laptop to display the print progress and other information, and it can also run completely stand-alone. "The 3D printer runs at around ¼ speed compared to a typical, hobby 3D printer (e.g. RapMan, Cube or Touch), taking around 25 hours to print a 60mm high chess piece – the speed only limited by the stepper motor choice and gearing." explained Jeffreys.

But this project is not entirely complete yet. Jeffreys is still trying to improve his device, such as faster print speeds and a dual print head. "One such improvement which is underway is to modify the interface board used to connect the PI to the 3D printer from a hand-etched, double-sided PCB to a compact 'shield' which will stack neatly on top of any PI," explained Jeffreys.

This video below outlines the building and testing of this unique, home-built, 3D printer which uses a Raspberry PI as its "brain" or CPU. Check it out:

Posted in 3D Printers

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Paul wrote at 4/2/2015 6:45:37 PM:

Being a newbi to responding to articles, I left it on linkedin. I hope you see it.

Wallacoloo wrote at 10/4/2014 9:24:31 AM:

Printipi developer here (in response to Feign), Owen Jeffreys posted his video on Vimeo on July 21 (http://vimeo.com/101339613). The source code for my firmware wasn't *publicly* available until August 14 (https://api.github.com/repos/wallacoloo/printipi - ctrl+f for "created_at") If he is indeed powering his printer with a Raspberry Pi (his video neglects to show the electronics close up and while the device is actually printing), then he must be using completely different firmware. That being said, this is not the world's first true Raspberry Pi 3d printer. There is 'piPrint', from May: http://youtu.be/JW6yJvLF7Jk and possibly Dado Sebo's 3d printer from March: http://youtu.be/Rd6bIdbhPhk

Bogdan wrote at 10/2/2014 11:03:33 AM:

Interesting effort but kind of useless as others said. Can he make the printer run at comparable speed of Arduino driven one ? Can he replace PC+Arduino board by Raspberry PI ?

manko wrote at 10/2/2014 4:29:57 AM:

Unless, he is using Direct Memory Access. Which should limit interruptions by overhead processes.

Matthew Bennett wrote at 10/2/2014 3:21:28 AM:

Yeah, this doesn't really make much sense to me. If you have a Pi connected to a seperate board with stepper drivers, why skip the Arduino? Printing at 1/4th the speed to save $20 seems... not useful. The lack of links is also 'spicious. Just my 2c. -matthew-

laird popkin wrote at 10/1/2014 7:46:49 PM:

Well it's an interesting technical achievement, directly controlling the 3-D printer from a Raspberry Pi it's not a very good idea from an engineering perspective. The reason 3-D printers are generally controlled by an embedded controller like an Arduino is that it gives you very precise control over timing which is required for controlling things like stepper motors. Linux, the operating system used by the raspberry pi, is not a real-time so you can't reliably control stepper motors so you can only run them extremely slowly. So from an engineering perspective the smart thing to do is to use the Pi to drive the user interface and interactive application and things like slicing to generate Goode, and then integrate an Arduino for low-level device control. Relative to the cost of a 3-D printer, the cost of adding an Arduino Controller is quite low. And of course that's a lot easier than writing a real-time operating system for the raspberry pi.

Feign wrote at 10/1/2014 6:52:19 PM:

This firmware has been open source for a few months now. https://github.com/Wallacoloo/printipi/ Unless Owen Jeffreys is the same guy as WallaColoo, the story and its timing seems a bit suspicious.

KFF wrote at 10/1/2014 5:55:09 PM:

Any more info? A URL?

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