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I originally wrote this Instructable on the Mac, but after running through it several times I ended up rebooting my Mac under Windows 10 to actually get my Printrbot Play updated. I sure hope Printrbot fixes their Mac firmware updater, but I'm totally grateful that the Windows process was straight forward and worked!

I went ahead and documented the steps for those of you needing to update your Printrbot's firmware. If you haven't done this before I encourage you to look at Printrbot's official firmware guidelines. Many of the screenshots are the same, but I hope my version gives you some additional end user insight.

Step 1: Download the Tools We Are Going to Need...

First things first. Go ahead and download the surgical tool we'll use to do the brain transplant on your Printrbot Play.

  • Your Printrbot's micro-controller chipset needs a special program to do the firmware update via USB. Download the tool Flip and be sure to get FLIP 3.4.7 for Windows (Java Runtime Environment included)(21MB, updated August 2012) - wow that stuff is dated! http://www.atmel.com/tools/flip.aspx

Go ahead and install that little gem of an app. It should create a Flip icon on your desktop that we will use once we get the firmware update created and anesthetize your Printrbot!

Step 2: Your Printrbot's Real Name Is "Atmel!"

Nice to meet you Atmel!

Chances are that Windows doesn't see Atmel. If Windows has any hint of your Printrbot being connected it will be in Windows Device Manager and probably listed in the other category!

To get your Printrbot Play to act like a willing USB connected device we need to reconfigure a pin on his Printrboard that lets him show up as a USB Windows device. Not too different than an Android Phone and using USB OTG - On the Go, but the way you do it is old school with hardware connectors!

Step 3: Scalpel, Doctor? Naaa, Pass Me That Hammer!

Actually all you need is a pair of tweezers and a steady hand that will keep you from short circuiting your Printrboard! If you work on a lot of electronics you'll own a pair of ceramic tipped pliers, but for now tweezers or your fingers will do. Nothing like a good shock to make you sit up and pay attention!

Turn your Printrbot Play on it's side so you can access the Printrboard. Go and find the model number of your Printrboard. It is most likely a Revision F5 or F6 board, but you should know it and write it down someplace.

Look at the photo to find a connector block pin hiding out behind the Y Stop labeled HV. Pull the two pin black connector block out from this storage location. You'll then want to look for your Amtel chip at the center of the board and put the terminator block on a white pin connector called BOOT (I don't think F6 boards have these helpful labels, but it is in the same place as in the photo).

If by chance you don't have this block connector you can create a short with a connector from the master/slave setting on an old hard drive, or get creative using a paper clip or a piece of foil, but for legal reasons I'll advise you that playing with electricity with metal usually ends badly for all involved!

The Boot Pin tells your Printrbot that it is okay to listen to the USB port for firmware updates. If your board was on when you did it, and you were USB connected to your PC you probably heard the USB device detected ding!

If not then let's start the formal introduction by turning on your Printrbot, hitting the reset button by the MicroSD slot on the Printrboard, connecting the USB cable to your computer and going into Windows and launching the Device Manager program and looking at your USB connections. If you don't see it you probably screwed up so go back and check the steps. If you still don't see it we can see if Flip can find it.

Step 4: Updating Your Printrbot's Driver That With Retro Download

If your WIndows computer doesn't already know your Printrbot you'll want to go and update it. Go back to the device manager and in the USB other section look for e AT90USB1286, right click on it and choose update driver. Have it look for the driver in the folder we put Amtel Flip into Program files/FLIP 3.4.7. It should be there. If not you can download it from: http://pjrc.com/teensy/serial_install.exe I don't usually trust EXE downloads so if you're worried go ahead and go to Printrbot's website and look for the USB driver download from there.

Step 5: Fire Up the Firmware Update App Flip

Time to launch Amtel's Flip Firmware Updater App we installed earlier.

Now that it can see the Printrbot you would think they'd just embrace each other, but nope, you have to click on the CPU chip icon (as shown in the photo) get a long list of names and choose the name e AT90USB1286 which is the chipset used in Printrbots.

Step 6: Chose the USB Cord Icon Next to the Chip Icon...

It is pretty much paint by the numbers. Go ahead and tell it to use the USB port since we went to the trouble of getting Printrbot's pin installed for it.

Step 7: Skip 7 Icons Over to the Red Load Hex Icon and Click That!

Helps if you are paying attention.

We need to load the Printrobt Play Firmware that we want to install. PLEASE don't download the old V5 version unless you like crashing your nozzle into the printbed like I did - nice $75 new nozzle life learning lesson.

Be sure to use the latest approved version of the firmware. You'll want to keep a backup copy on your hard drive in case you ever have to do this again and you just want to go back to a firmware that worked well for you!

Okay naviagate to the PrintrbotPlayFirmware.hex file and upload it.

Wait you don't have it downloaded? Guess I forgot to mention we are going to need that little step... Read On.

Step 8: Creating Your Own Hex File From GitHub

Unless you've already got a copy of the firmware you want to use you'll need to learn something about the lives of programmers.

They like to live on a website called GitHub where they post their code to share with other programmers. Code is something that is compiled down to it's very basic set of computer instructions. In this case it is the firmware for your Printrbot written in something called hexadecimal.

Load up your Web browser and head over to: https://github.com/Printrbot/firmware-updater/tree/gh-pages/binaries

  1. Choose the HEX file that matches your Printrbot. In our case the PLAY one. When you click on the filename it will load the firmware codes we need.
  2. You would think we could just download a file and be done. Maybe you can, but when I tried it I got HTML instead of what I needed.
  3. You'll need to copy/paste the firmware into a text file. Before you choose Select All and get EVERYTHING you don't want you should look for that button that says RAW and click that.
  4. With RAW you get a minimal window with just the firmware commands we need. Now you can do a select all and then a copy (right mouse button works good for that).
  5. Now you'll want to launch NotePad (it is built into every version of Windows). When you get Notepad open choose paste into a new document.
  6. You'll then want to save it out with some Firmware name without any crazy symbols or spaces. Go for something like "FIRMWAREHELL.hex" and save it someplace you can find it - liek your cluttered desktop.
  7. No you'll need to actually verify that you got the file extension correct. We need the file to have a .hex extension and NOT a .txt or other extension. You can right mouse click on the file and choose properties. You might need to google how to change file extension names if you are clueless (don't feel bad I had to do it, but don't remember it well enough to document it for you!).
  8. I'm Guessing programmers are just fancy English majors that prefer using word processors to code to bots instead of writing to people. Give yourself a pat on the back for making your first firmware update yourself!

Step 9: Ok, Back to Flip and Giving You the Business

Ok make sure you tell Flip to load that hex file we just created.

  1. You use the load icon to tell Flip where your firmware hex file is.
  2. You make sure you check all the items in the first column.
  3. You verify your PC is still USB connected to your Printrbot Play and it is turned on (and still PINned).
  4. Click on RUN and hopefully you get a nice progress bar...
  5. Followed by all green lights next to the items we checked.
  6. If so you have successfully updated your Printrbot Play.

Step 10: Not Done Yet!

Ok some last minute clean up items.

  1. Be sure to pull off the Boot PIN and put it back where you took it from.
  2. Hit the reset button on the Printrboard with the power on to tell it to wake up!
  3. Fire up Cura. You may need to update to a newer version, just make sure Printrbot says it is cool to do so. As of this writing it is Cura 15.04.4.
  4. In Cura >File >Preferences make sure the printing window is set to Pronterface UI (otherwise you have no command control over your Printrbot Play).
  5. You'll want to rename your old machine in Cura's Machine >Machine Settings as "Old Printrbot" and then add a new machine and choose Printrbot Play.
  6. You'll want to File >Open Profile and load Printrbot Play's ini file that tells Cura what settings to use (look at the filament field to verify it says 1.75mm)
  7. You'll then want to load a test 3D model and then choose Print with USB (the bracket vase icon next to load).
  8. In the Pronterface choose conenct.
  9. In the command window on the lower right side you'll want to enter these commands.
    1. M502
    2. M501
    3. The 502 command tells Printrbot to load the defaults from its new firmware. This step is CRITICAL.
    4. The 501 command shows you the details of what the new settings are.
  10. Now go ahead and run your test print. Hopefully all is well again!!

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More by Stephen Inoue:Fix the Squeak in Your Herman Miller Aeron Chair Windows: How to Update Your Printrbot Play (1505) Firmware  Troubleshooting Printrbot Play's USB Connection 
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