3D Printer with Tablet for Control Center.

Dell 3168 2 in 1 laptop/Tablet for proposed control center upgrade to 64 bit.

In the past I have written a couple of articles about my Printrbot Play with Control Center. And not a lot has changed on this.
Since the Last CURA has advanced to the point that it’s newest version is 64 bit only. this rules out it’s use on a a cheaper tablet, most tablets. So I have been looking at future options. The fact is true Tablets are on the wane. in their place has risen the 2 in 1. These are Laptops that have a keyboard that folds all the way back so that they can be used as a tablet. On the good side many of them have processors better than an Atom based CPU to choose from. On the bad is most of them use a laptop power supply at 19.5V.
The Atom based Tablets mostly used 5V power in from a cell phone charger. So getting 5V from 12V is relatively easy. You can get 19.5 volts from 12V but it is more expensive and larger in size. Some printers are 24V so this would not be a problem on those.
Since these 2 in 1’s come with a keyboard there is not the problem of trying to find a TRUE Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for ease of use. And they are lightweight so there is no reason they cannot be mounted to the side of a printer. They are found in sizes from 11″ to 17″.
The primary one I have been looking at is the Dell 11″ 3168 2 in 1. It has a Celeron N3060 Dual Core processor, 4 GB memory and 32GB SSD, 64 bit Windows 10. It has a lot of connection options which are nice compared to Tablets. It has 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, a MicroSD card slot. So much better connection options than the tablet. You have enough USB ports that you can use a cheaper mouse with dongle. and you can use a USB3.0 stick to backup your files or transfer files to the 2 in 1.
New this costs about $249, outlet $203. Considering the 64 bit operating the 32GB SSD might be a bit on the small size. But it has an upgradeable drive bay as they can also be found with a 500GB HDD. A SSD is preferred for use as a control center because of vibration from the 3D printer. I think a 64GB SSD drive would be large enough. But the Micro SD card could be used for that extra storage to keep the price down.

There are two ways to power this from the printer. 1. Tie it into the 110V to the printer. when the printer gets plugged in so does the 2 in 1.

  1. A Boost converter to raise the voltage from 12V to 19.5V.
    I do not consider running off battery a viable option. Even with screen blanking and such active you could easily end up with a print that is longer than your battery life. You cannot let the system power down as it is streaming the code to the printer.
    Overall I am contemplating the move to a newer control center computer. Newer software is all going to 64bit. The added memory will really help with programs like Sketchup. The CPU is not a whole lot more powerful than the Atom in the tablet.
    I recently let my Nephew borrow the Play with tablet. He did not have any experience with a 3D printer. He found it very nice to have the right programs and drivers already waiting rather than have to install all of that on his computer, then try to figure it all out. He was printing on it in minutes and had a very good experience. He now has an upgraded play his dad gave him. Then he found out what it takes to get everything working right versus it is setup and ready to go. He also agrees that having a computer integrated into a 3D printer would help bring them into the mainstream. He liked that he could use the printers tablet to get into Thingiverse then download and be printing very quickly. Currently he sneaker nets a SD card to the printer which he runs in his wash room due to noise.
    Good printing everyone!

3D Printer Control, Matter Control 1.4, Cura, Repetier, Sketchup

Today I installed Matter Control 1.4 on the 3D Printer Tablet. It seems to work well on the Intel Atom Z3537G Processor. I played around with settings to get it sized to my Printrbot Play. Took a little bit of searching to find how to set it up. Matter Control Supports the Printrbot Simple Metal but does not show the Play. You just need to set the bed size and makes sure it is not looking for a heated bed.
I used the Windows version on my 10″ Win10 “Unbranded” Tablet. I did run into one problem. When I used the maximize/restore down (upper right window controls) The mouse and the touchscreen were not clicking in the proper place. I had to tap or click below the buttons or check boxes to get the proper response. When maximized everything was fine, except pert of the screen was under the Task bar. Hiding the Task bar would solve this. If you were using the Tablet just for 3D Printing I do not see where this would be an issue.
So now an unfair comparison between MatterControl T10 at $299 or my $76 Tablet;
The Matter Hackers MatterControl Touch;

Matter Control 7″ Tablet with Matter control software.

It is a touch enabled, WiFi enabled Tablet with no battery. It supports mail alerts. Web control and other feature.
GPU: Quad Core 4×1.4GHz
Android 4.4 KitKat
Internal Storage: 8GB
External Storage: SD Card
Camera Included
Voice Capable
Standalone Control
Web Monitoring
Web Control: Coming soon
Controller Does Not Contain Battery – Must Remain Plugged In
Reading through their advertising I could not tell whether it can “browse” the internet for content, such as Thingiverse or YouMagine. It does not support remote printing, yet, and sending files from other devices like smart phones or tablets. You can install a web based android print client.
Overall it looks like a pretty good solution if you have no computer skills of your own. If you know your way around a computer you can do this for a lot less!

10″ Win 10 Tablet with Matter Control, CURA 15.04.2, Repetier Host, Sketchup.

My Tablet specs “Unbranded” Tablet:
Quad Core 1.33Ghz (up to 1.8Ghz) Intel Atom CPU Z3537F
Windows 10
Internal Storage 32GB
External Storage Micro SD card up to 64GB
Camera included
WiFi and Bluetooth
Controller Does Not Contain Battery – Must Remain Plugged In (I disconnected the battery and power directly, this might change)
I think mine compares pretty nicely. If I want “web control” I could install Octoprint or Repetier server. And I have more than just MatterControl to use to print with. Plus the ability to Draw and change objects with Sketchup.
I think I came out pretty good so far. More work to do still!

3D printer Control Center DIY

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
This excludes the power supply. $5

Printrbot Play upgrade with integrated 8" Tablet as a control center for printer.
Printrbot Play upgrade with integrated 8″ Tablet as a control center for printer.

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)
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)

Windows 10 Tablet powered by the printer power supply

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.

The white connector is the power injector. This comes from the LM2596 board that is connected to the power in on the printer.

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.

Windows 8.1 upgraded to Windows 10.

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.

USB devices showing Printerbot Simple Metal (Play) connected

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.
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!
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!
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.
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.