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Best ( simplest ) controller

Posted by Delco 
Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 02:23PM
Hello,

I am sure this has been asked many times, but I cannot find the answer.
I have completed the build of a Prusa i3 printer.
I am ready to purchase the controllers.
What is the best, easiest controller to start with.
Programming is not my strong point, I would like a controller for which plenty of help is available.

Thank you

Tony
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 03:39PM
There seems to to be a few choices as shown in the electronics folder [forums.reprap.org]
Duet, Controllers, Ramps, Sanguino(lolu) The post date seem quite up to date and active, so have look in there so able to decide the best board to use.
I have used printers with Duet and Sanguino controllers but at most the programming was being able to understand and update the configuration.h file then upload to the board using the Arduino IDE.
The sanduino board is quite dated and used marlin. The Duet used RRP pro firmware.
The wiki link below gives more details about which hardware can be used with each firmware.

I would believe that the most common firmware for a Prusa i3 would be marlin
Here is list of others [reprap.org]


Supporting 3D Printers with Parts and Build services.
Printer: Ormerod 2 (528.4) Duel extruder set-up with Aluminium X-Rib, RRPro Firmware v1.11-ch (2016-04-08)
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 04:25PM
The most common board used to control a Prusa i3 is Arduino Mega/RAMPS because it is cheap. It is most often used with Marlin firmware, but there are other options such as Repetier. However, if you are looking for something simple, I don't advise using those. Configuring Marlin is not simple, and getting the stepper motor currents right is difficult for those without electronics experience. The hardware also has a some gotchas such as the fragile voltage regulator.

Easier to use are the Duet 0.8.5 from Think3DPrint3D or Filastruder, and the Smoothieboard. These are also much more capable boards.



Large delta printer [miscsolutions.wordpress.com], E3D tool changer, Robotdigg SCARA printer, Crane Quad and Ormerod

Disclosure: I design Duet electronics and work on RepRapFirmware, [duet3d.com].
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 04:29PM
I recommend you skip the 8 bit controllers such as Arduino/RAMPS (A/R) and go right to a 32 bit controller. I like Smoothieboard, but Duet is good, too. You will have to make all the same connections to motors, endstops, thermistors, and heaters, but on smoothie they are mostly brought to the edges of the board using plug-in screw terminal connectors, so cable management is a little easier.

The two biggest advantages of smoothie over A/R are the motor drivers and the configuration. A/R uses poorly designed motor driver modules that are easily broken when you try to adjust current and they are poorly heatsinked so they tend to get killed by overheating. If you go with A/R, be sure to buy an extra set of motor driver modules because you will blow a few of them by the time you get the machine working unless you are extraordinarily careful. Smoothie's motor drivers are soldered to the ground plane on the controller board which sucks the heat right out of them. You won't blow them or break them trying to set current because the current is set in the firmware, not using a tiny, easily broken pot.

That brings me to the other main advantage of smoothie over A/R. In A/R config changes require you to hunt through multiple configuration files to find the variable you want to change, then recompile the firmware using the flaky Arduino IDE. In smoothie, all config variables are contained in a single text file on a uSD card plugged into the board. All you have to do is edit the config.txt file with any text editor then reboot the board. The config file is read each time the board boots up. There's no recompiling at all. The motor currents are specified in the config.txt file along with every other variable that can be adjusted.

Smoothie has other features such as built in networking and a web server, but I don't use them. You can print gcode files from the uSD card on the smoothieboard via the web server or via USB (and of course, if you must, you can use host software on a computer and stream gcode to the controller via USB ). You can also get an LCD panel that allows you to control quite a few variables at print time as well as print from SD cards.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/07/2016 05:48PM by the_digital_dentist.


Son of MegaMax 3D printer: [www.instructables.com]
Ultra MegaMax Dominator 3D printer: [drmrehorst.blogspot.com]
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 05:02PM
All the advantages of the Smoothieboard that DD lists above apply to the Duet as well. Plus the Duet supports a much better web interface including fast file upload from the web interface to the SD card.



Large delta printer [miscsolutions.wordpress.com], E3D tool changer, Robotdigg SCARA printer, Crane Quad and Ormerod

Disclosure: I design Duet electronics and work on RepRapFirmware, [duet3d.com].
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 05:44PM
Has anyone implemented an alarm in the web interface, that lets you know when your house is burning down?
When I read about the Smoothie at its crowdfund launch I thought this is the board for me,
I wanted CNC, and all in one solution, but fry something on that and things would get expensive real quick.

I'm not really a coder either but with kids all over the world using arduino, how hard can it be?
I think it's a great combo to cut your teeth on, just thank god you dont have to do like the pioneers, and build one from components.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 07, 2016 05:57PM
No alarm via the web interface, but RepRapFirmware on the Duet does have two watchdogs, over-temperature and thermistor disconnected checks every 16ms, and a hot end heater timeout, all to guard against a software malfunction that could pose a fire risk. Even so, I have a a smoke alarm in the room with the printer, a fire extinguisher outside the door, and I never leave the house while a print is in progress.



Large delta printer [miscsolutions.wordpress.com], E3D tool changer, Robotdigg SCARA printer, Crane Quad and Ormerod

Disclosure: I design Duet electronics and work on RepRapFirmware, [duet3d.com].
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 08, 2016 02:03AM
Thanks for the info guys. I've looked at the Smoothies and it appears that the 4X model would have the minimum required outputs for 3d printing. Thanks again. I was terrified at the prospect of compiling. DD makes it sound like an easy way to go.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 08, 2016 03:38AM
Arduino Mega & RAMPS with Marlin software, just works, is very cheap, large user group. Getting the settings correct in configuration.h is not the most easy thing ever but it helps to get a better understanding of your 3D printer so I see that as a plus not a min grinning smiley

When buying your stepsticks (often included in the Arduino/ramps/lcd packages on ebay) get two extra and a small ceramic screwdriver.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 08, 2016 05:44AM
Can the smoothie work with Mach 3? I forgot
Does anyone know if the Create it real board will ever be real?
Obviously it is real but does it live upto its claims, its been used in a printer,
but what the max speed filament can reliably be extruded.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 09, 2016 02:37AM
Thanks for the replies.
I will look more into the Smoothie and the duet.
I appreciate the advice.
Tony.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 09, 2016 03:07PM
Hi Delco,
I just wanted to mention that some have had problems with the Smoothie clones, aka Azteeg due to the DRV8825 drivers on the Azteeg.
The DRV8825 drivers can cause missed microsteps and should be avoided.


My printer: Raptosaur - Large Format Delta - [www.paulwanamaker.wordpress.com]
Can you answer questions about Calibration, Printing issues, Mechanics? Write it up and improve the Wiki!
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 09, 2016 04:33PM
Just received my Duet 0.85 today, so I hope it is easier to setup then RAMPS running Marlin, but for an i3 printer, I have to wonder if a single board RAMPS clone running Repetier firmware with Repetier-Host would be the simplest place to start. Web interface to configure the firmware, with multiple user difficulties, syncs with the Repetier-Host firmware for bed leveling and EEPROM editing, and can utilize cheap LCD panels to expand features at a latter date.

Ultimately a 32-bit board would be better in the long run, but it isn't yet needed on an i3 and for $25-$50, you can get your feet wet with a cheap 8-bit controller. I could see an argument for a Duet 0.6 board for $50, though setting up a dual motor z-axis on it might be complicated for a beginner and you couldn't run dual-hotends.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 12, 2016 09:27AM
It is definitely common, but the motor driver modules are easy to blow up, voltage regulator dies if you apply more than 12V to most of them, and traces burn up if you use a heater than gets the bed hot enough to print ABS. What's "forgiving" about it?


Son of MegaMax 3D printer: [www.instructables.com]
Ultra MegaMax Dominator 3D printer: [drmrehorst.blogspot.com]
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 13, 2016 07:48AM
Quote
the_digital_dentist
What's "forgiving" about it?

The $5 it takes to get a spare? To be fair it's just a basic IO board with some well documented limitations, but the value is undeniable. I went up the learning curve with RAMPS and have yet to damage a driver module. Most people stick to 12v power, and if you need to use more it is trivial to remove the diode and supply 9V power from a buck converter. 90% of heating problems can be easily avoided by not routing the heat bed +V through the board and using an inline fuse instead. It's old school and simple, and mostly it's cheap - you can be up and running with Chinese mega2560/ramps/steppers for about 15 usd. Add an lcd for another $10 - at these prices you don't have to worry if something does go wrong while you are learning your way around the printer electronics. With one of the high end boards with soldered on drivers things are a little different.

But, horses for courses. The 32 bit boards do have many advantages in both performance and usability and there are times when it makes perfect sense to use them.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 13, 2016 08:59AM
Quote
the_digital_dentist
It is definitely common, but the motor driver modules are easy to blow up,
But that has nothing to do with the ramps/Arduino but with the design of the driver module. And also it's very easy to connect an other more robust driver to the ramps. The best way I found to blow up the stepper module is by moving the X Carriage on my Prusa I3 fast and serveral times by hand. grinning smiley

Quote
the_digital_dentist
voltage regulator dies if you apply more than 12V to most of them
That's because the recommended maximum input voltage is 12volts. Yes maybe the designer could have increased that maximum but again is not really an issue

Quote
the_digital_dentist
and traces burn up if you use a heater than gets the bed hot enough to print ABS.
I run only ABS for almost 3 years now and never had a ramps die on me because of burned traces. In fact still use the ramps I started with.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/15/2016 04:40AM by [email protected]
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
February 15, 2016 03:36AM
This comes down simply to price. When 32bit controllers are as cheap as ramps/mega clones then they will be bought instead. Most people are printing on a shoestring.

I've used ramps plenty now and haven't had any problems, but if I were building a really high spec printer I'd go 32bit, why cheap out on the controller if you've spent $1000's on the printer.
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
March 01, 2016 01:50PM
What is the ballpark cost of these different boards.

Thanks

Tony
Re: Best ( simplest ) controller
March 11, 2016 01:01PM
A cheap RAMPS board will likely run you $25 - $50, a cloned 32-bit board in the $50 - $100 range, and a well made 8-bit board or an original 32-bit board will likely be in the $100 - $150 range, but the higher end board typically comes with better support and are made to better standards.

There are of course always exceptions, but I would say the above is a decent generalization of the prices out there, at least from what I have seen / read.
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