3D printer Control Center DIY!

tablet control

After Upgrading the Printrbot Maker to Play, it was time to go to the next step. I wanted to be able to have a stand alone printer. I was using a Raspberry Pi 2B as an Octoprint server. Octopi was installed and ran just fine. I installed CuraEngine on to it and that was a step in the right direction. It still was not what I wanted. I tried Adding a 3.5″ touchscreen so I could have more control AT the printer. I made some progress but it was slow going. I just could not get a full version of Cura onto the RasPi 2B. The cost kept going up.

  • Raspberry Pi 2B $35
  • Micro SD card 16GB $16
  • 3.5″ Tontec Touchscreen $50
  • WiPi dongle $14
  • USB cords $12
  • $127
This excludes the power supply. $5
[9/22/15:
The Raspberry Pi foundation released a 7" touchscreen for their boards recently.
this reduces the price to have a decent sized touchscreen.
  • Raspberry Pi 2B $35
  • Micro SD card Class 6 16GB $16
  • Raspberry Pi 7" touchscreen display $60
  • WiPi WiFi dongle. $14
  • USB cords $16 (depends on how you power the screen)
  • $141
This excludes the cost of one or two power supplies. $5 to $10.
Still on the high side when you compare to the Tablet that has everything integrated into a single package. Plus Bluetooth and a Battery system is included.]

It was time to switch gears. I started looking for a 8″ Windows Tablet. I would have preferred a Linux Tablet but they are all “Android”. I may look into Tablets that except Linux later. The real test was to see if this would work at all on the Hardware available.

So I started looking for a Windows Tablet. What I was looking for was an Intel Atom processor, At least 1GB main memory and at Least 16GB storage. I wanted to stay under $100. To get anywhere near this I looked at remanufactured tablets. I finally found a Hipstreet W8 Pro 8″ Tablet. It stated it had an Intel D525. It actually has Z3735F 1.83Ghz Quadcore Processor, 1GB of main memory plus 1GB Video memory, Met the 32GB storage and it was $54.99.

  • Tablet (refurbished) $55
  • OTG cable $12
  • 8GB micro SD $5 (not really needed)
  • $72
tablet control2

Most Tablets have a single Micro B USB connector, plus a micro B to A adapter. They also have a Micro SD card slot. On this model the charge port is the USB Port. That causes a problem as it needs to be able to charge as it is used. I had bought a Micro B to Micro B OTG adapter cable to go between the Tablet and the Printrbot Play.

I tried a Hub that I had converted to back-power. The port adapter would not let the hub back feed power. In the earlier article I stated I had used an LM2596 to supply power to the RasPi. So I had 5V (actually 5v2) available on the printer now. I cut midline into the OTG cable and built in a power injector. The OTG cable will not back feed on one end. Data and power now were working to the printer. Beware,the constant charge may ruin the tablets battery over time.

power injector

USB

I upgraded the Tablet to Windows 10. I then only had 7GB left of the 32GB. In Win8 I had about 20GB free. The upgrade left a backup file of 9.7GB. this is so you can go back to your original operating system. After testing it for a couple of days I deleted the backup. That left 17GB free. I installed a 8GB micro SD card and pointed document saves to it.

Win10

To be able to send files to the Tablet I added it to the Workgroup. So files can be sent to the printer from any other computer in the house. You have to start the file at the 3D Printer. This may seem to be a pain, but I usually start my prints from my iPad while at the printer in Octoprint anyway. The first few layers are the most crucial so I like to be there. So this system works for me. I will look into installing a print server, but I like it this way. More about that in a bit!

I then installed Cura 15.04 and Repetier 1.5.6. Both installed with no issues and work fine. Repetier Server installed with Repetier. Repetier Server interfered with the connection to the printer. Only one device can connect to the printer at a time. I uninstalled the server. I tried to enter the server but was unable to contact it through the web interface. I will work on this later.

It printed its own mount with no problems.

The Tablet slices objects ok, but can be a little slow. I suspect really large or complicated files will require slicing on a more powerful computer. The RasPi was slow too so no loss there.

So what does this all add up too:

Because this is a full featured OS it can get on the Internet. It can run the full featured 3D Printer programs rather than just the slicing. It adds WiFi and Bluetooth to the system. And it can work all alone by itself. It adds a touchscreen interface. Plugging in the printer powers and charges the tablet.

Go to Thingiverse, download an object file, Extract it, Load it into one of the printer programs then slice and print it. I also can use the web browser to run the Printrbot Simple Metal through the Octoprint web interface. This includes sending files to it. A pretty big bonus!

The closest solution I could find to this is $299 MatterControl Touch

And the Printer control LCD’s at $50 to $100 are just ridiculous.

That is a lot of money to do what it does.

Edit: The Tablet WiFi allows you to make your 3D printer mobile. It gives an easy way to log into network connections. That was a problem with the Raspberry Pi and Octopi. There was no easy way to change to a different  WiFi network. Even after I added the 3.5″ touch screen getting connected to an open network could be trouble. But the Win10 Tablet is much easier.

 

Cons:

The 8″ touch might just be a little on the small side for some. The On Screen Keyboard covers what you are typing most of the time. So program settings can be a trial. A Bluetooth keyboard might be a good addition, or a 10″ Tablet. More main memory would be nice, but that adds cost. The idea is to keep the price low.

Considerations:

This probably would have worked on a 16GB storage model. It would have worked as Win8. More main memory would help, but price needs to be factor. It makes no sense to plow as much on the tablet as the printer costs. If you do that then you are behind the game in my opinion.

I went a bit further and set it up to run from the printers own power. This is not really needed. It is nice but if you do not have the equipment or skills, but I think you ought to at least look into it. I am not talking down to anyone here. It was not that hard to do and I believe it was between easy and moderate difficulty. Everything to do it is readily available. The information to get it done is a search engine away.

If you can install Windows programs then you can do this project!

Summation:

I am pretty happy with how this project turned out. It works great. does most of what I wanted. There is still some things I would like to try, like adding print server abilities. I think Sketchup 2015 would work on the tablet. The screen might not be big enough to really work with it well. I still am going to try it anyway. Then that would be one more feather in its cap as a standalone system.

Someday 3D Printers will be part of our everyday life. There are many places that want to cut out the shipping fees and printing it on site is where they want to go. They want you to pay them for the designs and then you print it out! You may even be under a service contract for the guy to come and fill your printer and service it! I want my own printer that is not locked down like todays cell phones!

Richard

9/18/15:

I installed Sketchup Make onto the Tablet today. Sketchup works pretty well. The screen size may be a bit on the small side for complex projects. A mouse might make Sketchup easier to use on the tablet. But I think small quick objects could easily be designed right at the machine. This Tablet keeps surprising  me as to what it can do!

I created a user named 3D Printer. The desktop only shows programs needed by the printer. I need to find a Bluetooth mouse to try out.

9/30/15

Made the Tablet removable. Much easier to work on the Tablet when it is not mounted. The tablet block slips down into a squared U shaped block with V sides. The Tablet block is mounted with 20lb. 3M double sided tape. The U shaped piece needed some hot glue to stay attached.

I really like the Hipstreet Tablet. Very clear screen at 1280×800.