Of course, the main purpose of this Instructable is to show you how to build a print server that will allow you to untether your 3D printer from your computer. You will be able to launch prints directly from your phone, no computer required.
Remote Printer Control
By the time you complete this tutorial, you will be able to control your 3D printer remotely, from a phone, tablet, or remote computer. The AstroPrint software we will be using allows you to move your printer, extrude filament, adjust extruder and bed temperature, and actuate the fans.
The most powerful feature of AstroPrint, and the one that sets it apart from other software, is the AstroPrint cloud slicing service. With other similar software, like OctoPrint, on which AstroPrint is based, you still need a computer with slicing software to prepare 3D printing files. The 3D print server we will build in this Instructable will allow you to go from STL 3D models, to launching print jobs, without any need for a computer at all. You can do everything from your phone.
By connecting a webcam to the DIY AstroBox, you will be able to see your 3D printer from afar and monitor its progress. The AstroBox software can also automatically create time-lapse videos of your prints.
3D Printer Compatibility
The 3D print server we will build in this Instructable will work with most 3D printers. Basically, any 3D printer that uses non-proprietary host software will work. So, any 3D printer that uses Repetier, Cura, or other community-driven host software will work. The AstroPrint software we will install on the Raspberry Pi will replace this software.
The printers that will not work are those that use their own, proprietary host software packages. The most notable group of 3D printers that are incompatible with AstroPrint are MakerBots.
Customizing the Software
AstroPrint is open source and, with a bit of web development knowledge, you can fully customize the look and feel of AstroPrint. You can change all of the icons, all of the colors, all of the fonts, even the layout of the software. If you want to change how AstroPrint looks, check out the guide on Dabbletron.
To build your own 3D print server you are going to need a few parts. The table below lists all of the parts needed for this build. In the left-most column of the table, I've identified each part with a number. Below the table are some notes about each part corresponding to the numbers in the table.
The total cost for this project is about $85. If you have Amazon Prime you will not even need to pay for shipping.
Aside from the parts in the table below, you will obviously need a 3D printer. Back up to the previous step for an explanation of 3D printer compatibility with AstroPrint.
|1||Raspberry Pi 2 Complete Starter Kit||1||Amazon|
|2||Edimax EW-7811Un Wi-Fi USB Adapter||1||Amazon|
|3||Micro SD to SD Card Adapter||1||Amazon|
1 This Raspberry Pi starter kit is a convenient way to get all of the Raspberry Pi-related parts you will need for this build: a Raspberry Pi board, a power supply, a Raspberry Pi enclosure, and a micro SD card. Note that this kit does include a WiFi module, but it is, unfortunately, not supported by AstroPrint at the time of this writing. This kit also includes an HDMI cable which is not necessary for this build, but it is useful to have for debugging purposes.
2 This WiFi module is extremely popular for use with the Raspberry Pi. It is also the only module currently supported by AstroPrint. This is a concurrent mode WiFi adapter, meaning it can connect to your home WiFi network and act as a WiFi hotspot which will allow devices to talk to your printer locally and over the internet.
3 The Raspberry Pi 2 uses a micro SD card to hold the operating system (image). So, you will need some kind of adapter so you can plug the micro SD card into your computer and install the image onto the card. If you have a regular SD card reader on your computer, you can get this Micro SD to SD card adapter. Alternatively, you can get a micro SD to USB adapter.