Printer Control Center with Tablet review

Hipstreet W8Pro Windows 8.1 Tablet.

I thought you might like to know, how the Tablet, is working as a control center for my 3D printer. Pretty good so far!

The good:

The 8″ tablet seems to be about the right size. A 10″ might work ( Amazon has a 10″ unbranded Tablet at $75 that are interesting) ok also. But when I tried the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 up against the printer, it was just to big. So 12″ Tablets are out unless you have a really big printer. Of course at $850 for an i5 128GB model makes it more expensive than the printer. Of course if you have one sitting around doing nothing (why is it doing nothing?) Then maybe it makes sense, or maybe not! The Atom quad core handles all of the tasks very well. But slicing really big objects may not work due to only 2GB of memory. I am pleased with it so far. At $56 the price was not to high. The total cost was $72 though I upgraded the SD card to a 32GB at $21 so now total is $88. I did not really need an SD card in it at all as there was plenty of room at 17GB left over after the Win10 upgrade. Very impressed with the screen, very clear and easy to read.

The screen is fairly bright at 25% about the same as the Surface Pro for brightness at 25%.

Time to start Windows is about 30 seconds.

A lot faster than firing up a desktop or a Laptop.

The Bad:

I did have trouble with the Camera not working after the Win10 upgrade. I tried to install an updated driver and that was worse. I then rolled the driver back. Now the camera is working again. That is the only problem I have had so far, except it is never on the printer!

The Volume feels backwards. It is on the right side of the tablet. Volume up (+) is on the bottom instead of the normal top. You have to hold the power button for 5 seconds to turn it on. To turn it off is 5 seconds also. The turn off time is normal on most tablets, but most just need a single push to turn on. The Battery only lasts about 2 hours playing a game. I have not seen how playing Netflix effects battery life.

Ok so the dang thing plays Netflix perfectly. And I keep removing it from the printer to play Candy Crush Saga. I also hauled it to the doctors office, so I could play Candy Crush Saga! Now dang it I bought it so that I could run the printer, but I keep stealing it to play with. I know this is not really bad, but well, it is!

The Ugly:

The USB/power injector cable is just not pretty. But then very few cables are “pretty”. I am thinking about designing and printing a docking connector. That would probably be a better solution than the quick release mount. I could also incorporate a USB hub as part of the dock. This would give me more options like a mouse without the hassle. I did look at Bluetooth mice but true Bluetooth mice are relatively expensive. So have a USB port for a nice cheap Logitech mouse would be better.

Winter is coming up and that is when I get projects like the dock out and work on them.

Overall:

Using a tablet as a Control Center is not a new idea. I found a similar project from around 2012. And YouTube has many videos about it. But setting it up to be powered by the printer and run everything from Sketchup to Cura to Repetier, all on the same Tablet might be. And the fact that Now you can find cheaper Windows tablets, that make it easier, for most people to successfully finish this project. Most of the others used Android Tablets to build their projects.

I still think that a Linux Tablet with Ubuntu would be a better proposition. This would cut out Sketchup as it is windows based. But there are no true Linux Tablets to be had as yet. Some of the Android and the Windows Tablets can take Ubuntu with some work.

Do not even try to upgrade a 16GB Tablet to Win10. Stick with Win 7 or 8. You will not be left with a useable amount of storage, most likely, if you upgrade. You can use the SD card as storage, but that makes it slower. And 8GB is no go. You may be able to slim down Win10 on a 16GB and have it work just fine, but that can be a lot of work!

For this to be a viable project you need to find a tablet under $100 dollars. Remember you will have to come up with the appropriate cable for your tablet to your printer. So finding good specs on the tablet is a must. One of the dual core or better Atoms is a likely candidate. It  should have at least 1GB main memory. I know that Repetier fails to work on some Intel video chipsets. My E-Machine (N270 Atom) netbook would not show in Repetier. Cura seems towork just fine.

If you have a tablet lying around then I would give it a try on your 3D printer!

And just try to resist playing a game or Netflix on your 3D Printer!

Richard

 

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.

Simple Maker to Play Upgrade Kit

I rate this Kit at about 3 out of 4 stars.

So I bought the “PLAY” upgrade kit from Printrbot. The kit is not quite straight forward to carry out. First you have to print out some of the upgrade. You have to disassemble your Maker. Then you have to hope all the parts printed out, close enough to the, right size for you to complete the upgrade. I thought I had my Maker and my Simple Metal both pretty well calibrated. I still had issues with part sizing.
Printrbot Play

Cons to this upgrade:

  1. PLA is just not that good for some of the parts, example the Z axis mounts. If you try to force fit any PLA parts they will break.
  2. If your printer is not very close to on you will need some drill bits close to metric sizes to make things fit. If they are oversized then you will have to come up with a different plan.
  3. You do not reuse any of the screws from the maker, so you end up with tons of extra screws and nuts.
  4. There are no direct “instructions” for assembling the upgrade. You have to use the Play assembly instructions. This has several areas that will confuse you as the PLAY parts are slightly different than the Maker parts.
  5. The Extruder shroud covers the print so it is hard to see if your print is starting correctly.
  6. About 20 hours of printing parts before you can even start assembling the upgrade.
  7. You cannot even think about extending the X axis of this printer. You can “tune” a little bit more out of it. More about this later.
  8. The leveling probe adjustment is not any easier than it was on the Maker. Just different.

Pro’s to the Upgrade:

  1. The whole assembly is rock steady compared to the Maker frame. There is just no comparison at all!
  2. You get the new V2 extruder as part of the upgrade. Do not try to use your V1 extruder, it will not fit under the extruder shroud.
  3. Plugging in the USB and SD cards is a lot easier in the Play chassis than it was in the Maker Chassis.
  4. You get a Filament Spool bracket as part of the upgrade!
  5. Easier to carry around. It is taller but not really “bigger” than the Maker. I find it is easier to store overall.
  6. Prints are a whole lot more accurate than the Maker ever was!

You need to test fit all of the printed pieces before assembly. This is especially important for the “Bridge”, X bearing clamp. Mine was loose and allowed the print head carriage to tip left and right. I had to sand down the pedestals so it would clamp the bearings tighter. One of the clamps on the bed (Y) bearings was rubbing against the belt Delrin pulley assembly. I had to file down the clamp so the pulley would spin freely. I also found that you need to install a washer under this pulley. If you do not it will bind. You need to steal one of the thin washers from your Maker parts, as it is not included in the Play upgrade.

I did have some problems in my upgrade kit. On the bridge, two of the clamp holes had been drilled, but they had not been threaded. On the base My Z rod holes were not large enough to allow the smooth rods through. This was not just an issue with the coating. I had to find a drill bit and open the holes up. The Wire wraps that come with the Maker are reused on the Play upgrade. They seems to be a bit on the stiff side for the Play. The newer kit my brother bought had a different wire relief that works a lot better than mine.

My brothers play upgrade kit did not have these issues. His Z rods were very tight, but they did go in. He did not have any problems with threaded holes as far as I know.

So most of the problems I encountered were caused by the printed parts themselves. Be ready to fool around with the parts to get everything to fit. Having some files and drill bits around will make it all easier to get done. But if you built a Maker kit then you should have no real problems with the upgrade at all.

The Y axis can be extended! My brothers kit now has a 7.28″ (185mm) extended bed on it. You can usually get a true 4″ (101.2mm) out of the X axis, mine is 104mm and my brothers came out at 102mm.

My Brother had ordered a Heated Bed upgrade for his Simple Metal. He had the OEM bed lying around. So he had it cut down to 5.5″ (139.7mm) by a machinist friend. We then cut a set of 8mm Smooth rods down to 9 11/16″ (246mm) to replace the 6.5″ (165mm) OEM rods. I also had GT2 belt lying around (besides the smooth rod). The printed Y axis ends were used. The bed and Y axis ends were drilled to match. A couple of holes were drilled in the “wing” at the end of the bed to allow belt tension adjustment. The Stock Y switch is usually bent nearly 90deg. We left ours flattened, even flattened them out more than stock to get maximum travel. The we adjusted the firmware until the bed hit the mechanical limit. Then subtracted 1mm. This was about a 3 hour job, but a bed area gain of 3.35″ of print area.

Play Y axis switch bent

Printrbot Y axis and belt detail

Printrbot Play Xaxis switch detail

After applying a few tweaks and tunes to my own Play I ended up with 104mm X 107mm X 130 (4.094″ X 4.212″ X 5.118″). I did not try to get any extra out of the Z axis. It looks like I could get 5+mm out of Z.

My project for today was to get power from the Play to power an inexpensive Windows 8.1 Tablet. I upgraded the tablet to Win10. It has Cura 15.04.2 installed and Repetier-host 1.5.5 and Repetier-Server 0.60.3. Cura works very well, Repetier-host opens and displays an object But I have not setup Slicing configurations as yet. Repetier-Server web page works on the Tablet But I cannot reach it on the network. I was able to design a mount for the Tablet and send the .STL over to the Tablet as a  Home System under Documents. So at least that way can be used to reduce Sneakernet work.

To get power for the Tablet I used a LM2596 board soldered into the power Connector under the Base. The board is double-sticked to the inside of the base. The LM2596 was set to 5v2. It supplied power to my Raspberry Pi and now supplies power to the Tablet. This Tablet has 1 Micro B USB port. It is both the USB port and the charging port. I used a Micro to Micro USB OTG Cable to connect the Tablet to the Printer. I had to cut into the OTG cable and create an injector to power the Tablet. It seems to work well.

I need to do some more setup and testing but so far it appears to be a true Standalone 3D Printer system. I was able to search and download an object from Thingiverse, extract the file and slice it in Cura. I did not print it, but I did print the mount I needed with the Tablet on the Play printer. I have no doubts as to whether it would have printed the file. I may see problems with very large files. The Intel Atom Z3735F Quadcore Processor can only handle 1GB of main memory. The Tablet has 1GB of video Memory as well. It has 32GB of Storage of which only about 17GB is now available after the Win10 upgrade.

Tablet ; Hipstreet 8-Inch Windows Tablet 32GB Wi-Fi White.

I will try to get some actual printer photos up soon!