Tag Archives: integrated computer

3D Printer with Tablet for Control Center.

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.

2. 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!

More on the Control center

While messing around with the Hipstreet tablet I dropped it and cracked the screen. I bought a Unbranded (that is the brand name) 10″ tablet. It had the same Intel Z3537F quad core processor and 2GB main memory. It was also a 32GB storage. It also was upgraded to Win10. I then tried the OTG cable with the power injector. A no go. One end worked for Data, the other for power. It would not work as data and power no matter what I tried.

Unbranded Tablet as 3D Printer Control Center

Unbranded Tablet as 3D Printer Control Center

Next I tried to get a data connection through the keyboard connector. No luck there. It needs a pull down to activate the data port. No firm information on the resistance value. It could be 10K or 100K ohm. After checking the keyboard connector I could no longer charge the Tablet. If it wasn’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all.

So I opened the tablet up. I cut the battery leads. I soldered a small Molex connector into the board. I reduced the LM2596 to 4.1V. Now the tablet is directly powered. Now I had power and Data both. The power system is not optimal. I would like to have the battery in the system as a surge source. I have had some power crashes.

The Control Center works well, but it can take a while for the date and time to correct themselves. The 10″ screen is not as clear as the 8″ was. And the scaling is different. Overall I liked the Hipstreet 8″ tablet better. It was faster (better SSD I believe) and the single cable was a cleaner installation. Size wise the smaller tablet was better overall.

I found it is nice to use a Bluetooth keyboard in conjunction with the tablet. Makes it much easier to change print settings. I setup a public account within my local network. This allows me to send files from my other computers to be used on the tablet. The one problem is the inability to use a USB stick in the tablets for file transfers.

Unbranded Tablet on Printrbot Play

Unbranded Tablet on Printrbot Play

 

What to look for in a control center Tablet:

Separate power and USB ports. Much easier to setup to operate with the printer

2GB main memory. Allows you to open a web browser while operating the printer.

Decent quality screen.

An extra USB port.

Bluetooth keyboard or Keyboard connector.

 

I will get you some pictures later.

 

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