Open Source and 3d Printing

In this recently published video, I discuss four 3d printer companies, Prusa, Monoprice, Creality, and ANET, compare four prints the i3 Mk3, Ultimate 2, Ender 3 V2, and ET4, and highlight the impact of open source software on these products. The includes the following content:

02:35 Who Owns an Invention?
04:36 Copyrights and Patents
06:33 Open Source Defined
07:19 What is Source Code?
08:21 Commercial Software
11:48 Open Source & 3d Printing
14:15 Prusa i3 Mk3(s)
14:51 RepRap & Prusa
19:52 Creality Ender 3 V2
23:40 Monoprice Ultimate 2
26:55 Anet ET4
29:54 3d Printer Comparison
32:51 Does Open Source Matter?

Here is a link to the video.

[video=youtube_share;GgrmYswQ3FY]4 - 3d Printers and Their Support of Open Source Firmware - YouTube

I look forward to everyone’s comments on this interesting and at times controversial subject.


I still wonder who are those guys giving Thumbs down every time!!!

I agree that closed and open source will both continue. They each have their place in the marketplace. I have believed for many years that 1 of the best aspects of open source is that it keeps pressure on companies that produce closed source software. Companies cannot afford to lay back & relax, delay new features and enhancements because they aren’t under any pressure to release them. The closer open source gets to duplicating, or even exceeding, closed source offerings, the harder software companies have to work to keep their marketshare.

Open source also makes it possible for people who simply can’t afford major software offerings to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. This is a great thing. I hate to see people prevented from accomplishing things they want to do due to financial reasons.

Speaking of which, I haven’t seen this model implemented by anyone (but maybe my memory is faulty), but I think F360 could easily implement it. That is, instead of removing features and capabilities from the free version of F360, Autodesk could implement a strategy that says, “You have access to virtually all of the features, but you can only do so many projects a month”. This will work for F360 because you have to be logged into your account in order to use the software. All they have to do is keep track of how many projects are started each month. Another wrinkle they could use would be to only allow a certain number of active projects at a time.

Open source is more acceptable from hobbyists, while some of them can retouch firmwares / softwares and hardwares as well!

In my opinion Open Source in the most cases only works when a company is involved. Look at Cura and Prusa Slicer. Features and development are company and community driven and look how these applications developed over the last few years.

AutoDesk did the same without Open Source and now the users are paying the price, while Fusion 360 more and more drives into a free demo. People should have been warned from day one and I refused to learn Fusion360 stuff, because I knew this would happen. Their afford of bug reporting and testing is lost, when the product is no longer available for free with all components there were.

A company wants to make money. Sure. But there are different ways to do that. Like Prusa and Ultimaker are doing with Prusa Slicer and Cura.

On the other hand (must be the third by now) there is FreeCAD a stand alone application which is developing in a slow pace, as the developers only spend their free time on the project.

Imagine a company like a 3d print manufacturer is supporting that project with one or two full time developers. They get a banner in the about window or splash screen and a preinstalled plugin to upload models to their print service. That´s advertising on a pro level without annoying anyone.

It gives the users trust, as the software is open source and will not go away, even when the company gets sold or out of business. The afford the community is putting into the project is valued and returned in a free product.

Ultimaker added their marketplace, which on the first glance sounds dangerous, but it isn´t. It is somewhat like sharing your usage of cura. You can disable it in settings and if you don´t trust it, there are community compiled versions without these functions. If you even don´t trust the community you can compile the application yourself.

That´s the joy and advantage of Open Source.

And I wrote a book again. :smiley:

I need to learn Py

Relating back to F360, it’s not hard to believe Ultimaker will remove the ability to disable the usage tracking. Fortunately, as you say, the community, or individuals, can proceed on their own.

I like the video.

There is one interesting point thats missing in my opinion:

The Prusa mk3s - as a full open source printer - can not only be bought as a kit from Prusa, but you can also source all of the parts yourself - or buy it as kit from china.
While I have an original Prusa mk3(s), it is my “workhorse”, so I do not like to tinker a lot there. So I build already two clones; one Prusa bear, all parts bought seperatly from different sources and a kit from Fysetc (294€ on Aliexpress, without the plastic parts).

The clones are working perfectly like the original Prusa (with one exeption). So I can definitly recommend such a kit, if you want to get into the Prusa ecosystem (without direct support from Prusa), but can not afford an original Prusa. If someone want it as a first printer, you can order the printed parts seperatly on Aliexpress.
But if possible, I recommend printing the parts yourself. I realy liked the mk3-Filament runoutsensor detecting filament movement. Only problem: false detection, caused by PET-G being high reflective, so reflections inside the detection chamber lead to false results. For the clone I printed the (bondtech BMG update) of the old printhead from ExtrudR Greentech pro black, wich is non-reflective - and the old sensor I bought seperatly. So my Clones now actually works better than the original…
Only one error - quite critical - was made by Fysetc: They use a 4.1 bore heatbreak. Which prints O.K., but the Prusa firmware does not limit the temperature to 250°C as needed with PTFE tubed heatbreak, as the original has full metal heatpreak. So nothing stops accidently overheating the tube, starting to release toxid fumes. So I stricvtly recommend to replace the 4.1 bore heatbreak by a full metal heatbreak (if you plan to add MMU2 later, use a e3d heatbreak PE (you can get it from 3djake)).

In my opinion, the pricepoint between an Ender 3v2 and a cloned mk3(s) is not as big. Adding an BL-Touch, maybe a second leadscrew, Filament runout sensor, magnetic bed, direct extruder - you might fast get more expensive than a cloned mk3(s). But off course, tinkering on an Ender 3 is a hobby for its own…

Even for beginners in 3d printing you have to divide between thoose, who have already experience with other electonic/eletromecanic projects, and those who are not only new to 3d printing, but also without other technical experience.
So I would definitly recommand a (cloned) prusa to a 3d-print-beginner, if they have other technical experience, but maybe not to a beginner without other technical experience.

OctoPrint has the same issues. It is a great application, but Gina struggles to get releases out and juggling with her private live.

Printer companies are using her version without talking to her, which result in bugs already fixed in OctoPrint cause users to report them in OctoPrint forum, which eats up time, since the bugs are fixed for month or years. Creality is “selling” cura as CrealitySlicer along with their printers. Crealitys up to date printer comes with a partly rebranded Cura 4.2, while the official Cura is already 4.7.1. Why they do that? Providing the official link in the manual would be a better solution, which almost never never outdates.

OctoPrint is the perfect product to be bundled with a printer, which replaces many applications and even allows to directly connect to Cura and Prusa slicer, so you can print directly from your slicer if you are a first time user.

So instead of rebranding existing open source slicers these company´s could invest the money to support other projects and make their own product more user friendly.

@Geit I am curious how the distribution of OctoPrint would work. What would the users run it on? Are you suggesting the printer manufacuterers load OctoPrint onto the control boards of their printers instead of Marlin or RepRap or some other?

The modern 32bit control boards are more than capable of doing that. OctoPrint is just feeding data to the printer, storing files and handles data transfer like html and print files. It barely needs any cpu power on its own and most cpu power like the 3d rendering of the print process and the overall rendering of stuff like the UI and the temperature graph is done by the browser. Creality and other manufactures even create their own boards, so they you design it even so that marlin gets one SOC and OctoPi gets another and acts as host. That way the printers critical timing get got disturbed by wifi or other user action.

Just remember there are cheap 8 Euro ESP32 modules that you can plug onto SKR boards, doing basically the same stuff as octo print with far less resources.

I can see how having OctoPrint onboard could be a marketing advantage. 'Course, cost would be a major concern. Manufacturers literally worry about nickels and dimes when figuring out the cost of a new product. And I’m being serious: nickels and dimes. An extra nickel can make a large difference to the profit margin when factored over many units.

Yeah, but the product gains a lot of value compared to usually poorly implemented stuff. No need to print via SD card. I never did that. Using a 3D printer like a normal paper printer, by pressing print in slicer. Firmware updates via Cura. Auto power off after printing or when the printer idles in heating state for a specific time. There is even a plugin for a touch screen. Not some crappy one which needs additional programming and another firmware, that needs another update, but some real world touch screen.

So just say they build a board which is basically a pi, put on some shield with a display you have a really “pro” printer for less than 100Euro extra, when I buy it here. When ordered in china and in masses you get it for cheap and most printer companies are already sitting in china. Most printer currently sold for extra 100Euro and Pro are just bigger build plates or have a bigger screen or crap. This gives value and inovation. The starting company could be the first on the market and make a name with it.

These are all features already there in software, when using Cura/PS and OctoPrint right now.

As I said, having OctoPrint on board could be a definite marketing advantage.

Seems the BIQU BX has at least a build in Raspberry Pi option for its enormous display, which is plug an play and you can switch between Marlin mode, This crappy display needs programming mode and the Octo Pi mode.

@Geit, I totally missed the part where you said, “modern 32 bit boards”. But that’s right where the problem comes in: cost. For the manufacturer, including a 32-bit board over an 8-bit board is a significant cost increase. That’s why so many low end printers are 8-bit. Sure, higher priced printers can afford to include 32-bit boards, but I suspect the great majority of printers sold are still 8-bit. That will, of course, change over time, as 32-bit boards drop in price.

@Geit, I totally missed the part where you said, “modern 32 bit boards”. But that’s right where the problem comes in: cost. For the manufacturer, including a 32-bit board over an 8-bit board is a significant cost increase. That’s why so many low end printers are 8-bit. Sure, higher priced printers can afford to include 32-bit boards, but I suspect the great majority of printers sold are still 8-bit. That will, of course, change over time, as 32-bit boards drop in price.

Most new printers come with a 32 bit board already. At least the big names found out that a 32bit board got cheaper than the 8 bit boards.

You as a private person can get a 32 bit SKR board for 15 euro in china, where a 8 bit ramps board with the required shield is around the same. These prices and the fact they even take the afford to create custom boards for their printers is the reason we see more and more 32 bit boards in printers these days. Customers these days want a 32bit board, testers blame printers for only come with 8 bit boards, so creating a 32 bit board is the only requirement.

The BIQU BX will come even with a shield, where you can pop in the raspberry pi to get octoprint out of the box. That printer gives all features you may need in the future without tinkering and adding a pi yourself. It shows the way to go. Even so BIQU is just a brand of BigTreeTech and they have experience in 3d printing, drivers and mainboards they will set a new mark of what is possible out of the box for a mid range less than 400$ printer that don´t need any tinkering.

I’m sorry, I simply do not believe that most low end printers, by far the largest selling category, come with 32-bit boards. I agree the transition has started, but it’s far from complete. A quick check on Amazon found very few printers that come with a 32bit board. Searching “3D printer 32bit” did get a lot of hits: all of them for 3rd party addon boards.

I view addon boards as a sub-category. I believe most users will not upgrade the controller in their printer. Many people I’ve talked to simply want the printer to work – they’re not interested in “tinkering”, unlike all of us in this forum, who I believe constitute a speciality sub group.

I believe 3D printers have to get to the point where they become an appliance, like a toaster. There should be no need for tinkering or troubleshooting. If your printer has a problem, you take it to your dealer, just like with your car. There will always be people who will do their own, just as there are people who work on their cars, both to troubleshoot and to upgrade, but they will alway be the minority.

I just did, but used “3d printer 32 bit” and I get printers from Creality CR6 SE, Ender3 V2, Flsun Q5 Delta among tons of display and 32 bit boards. If I limit the search to “printing machines” I get TronXY printers with 32 Bit board as well. Sure the old 8 bit models are still there, too, but of course the older models not just vanish from storage. Some developers still decide to use 8 bit for their new printers and they will see the fall out, when they get tested by the community via YouTube. This already happened a few times.

Everyone who gets properly informed about 3d printing will not buy a printer with an 8 bit board unless he is willing to upgrade that himself, which can be an option. Get a cheap printer to tinker with and add 32 bit and silent steppers. Two of my three printers still use 8 bit drivers and it is annoying to see that pausing and unpausing is turning them into turtle mode until the layer is done, which is a known 8 bit problem.

Everyone who just wants to print, will inform himself and get a printer with a future compatible 32 bit board.

We are already there for years. It is not a point in time, but a pricing point. If you buy a 3000+$ printer you will get that kind of support. Just look at prusa. They work at the lower end of that support level and do an amazing job for printers at a 1000$ price range. You can get the same quality printers for less than 300$, but you won´t get the same level of support.