Using OctoPrint to help build the 3D world

If you are a 3D artist who manufactures, physically, the models that you create, then you know how crucial it is to monitor and optimised your 3D Printing Process. Yet, the current processes which are available tend to require a person to have either a dedicated computer which is used for their Desktop 3D printer, or that they have a memory card, or USB Drive, that they shift back and forth from the main computer to the 3D Printer. This takes a substantial amount of time and requires that the modeler be present throughout the printing process. OctoPrint has devised a solution to this issue.

It is a tool not a printer

First, to be clear, OctoPrint is not a Personal 3D Printer. It is an open source code/application that can be downloaded by anyone in order to gain access to their projects, remotely, while the printing is occurring. This is done through an app based platform. The platform is a bit more complex than the standard touch-and-go screens that one may be accustom to. Allowing for tweaking of the .stl layers, pause and stopping of the printer, and (if you have a camera mounted), real time monitoring of the print.

To use the application, you will need a 3D Printer. You also need to have a Raspberry Pi or a dedicated computer for the printing. Prusa i3 MK 3 has a built in Raspberry Pi Zero W connection which is ideal for use with OctoPrint, though the choice is yours as to what you use. The application is compatible with most 3D Printers, but you are encouraged to look at the OctoPrint site to see if yours is listed.

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This is a screenshot of the OctoPrint main page. Note that there are various sections and ways in which you can contribute. Also note the various platforms that the software is compatible with.

Making 3D Printing Easier

The revolutionary aspect of the OctoPrint software is that it allows remote access and control of a 3D Printer from outside of the house. As the world is becoming more tablet and mobile/smart device oriented, it makes sense that desktop 3D Printers should have access to such technology. By having a system which allows you to use a secondary computer, smart phone, tablet, etc. The 3D modeler’s computer is not hijacked for the duration of the print, allowing him or her the freedom to design wherever they like, away from the 3D Printer, so long as he or she has the software to do so.

In terms of ease of use, the software allows for the 3D CAD model to be dragged into the program. So long as the file is in .stl format, the person does not need to contend with setting up the layers for the printer, the program will do that for you. Yes, you can tweak it if needed (including moving the X, Y or Z axis of your printer), but such is not mandatory. For models which have components that attach or move, the tweak function in OctoPrint is ideal, considering how long some layering for printing can take, removing this necessity can greatly quicken the conceptualisation to the fabrication process.

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This simple 3D character created by Siclari Studios, has moveable eyes as well as rotating feet and hands. The drag and drop .stl function of Octoprint makes the layers without the need for separations.

For the Coder

OctoPrint is an open source code meaning that those with coding knowledge can contribute to the development of this software. There are a few guidelines which must be followed when submitting (please see the OctoPrint website). However, it is encouraged that those who contribute to the code do so with the thought of progressing the remote and control functionality for the Desktop 3D Printing process. It is hopeful that the code will develop to incorporate other 3D standard formats such as the .fbx, .dwg, .3ds, and .ml formats, as this would further optimise the workflow of the 3D modeler as well as create a bridge for the program to printer process.

Python as well as Android and Apple based code protocols must be followed. Again, this is an open source software at this point, but it does not mean that the IOS and the Android regulations are not in place.

Donating to the cause

Let’s be honest, technology is expensive and development takes time and money. Although OctoPrint is free to download, this does not mean that it is free to develop, maintain, and put onto servers. Therefore, OctoPrint has a few ways in which a person can help. There is the traditional fiscal donation through PayPal, Patron Sponsorship, or you can purchase the OctoPrint Kits.

The Kits are really the best option, in my opinion, as it ensures that you have all of the external components needed to monitor your 3D Printing Process while at the same time contributing capital to the OctoPrint project. There are two kits available. These are the standard OctoPrint Kit, and the Octo Print Monitoring Kit. They are exactly the same apart from a webcam being added to the later.

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