Probably one of the most useful tools I use in 3D printing is OctoPrint, more specifically OctoPi; the full operating system that runs on a Raspberry Pi and hosts the entire OctoPrint project along with all the tools needed to manage the server. OctoPrint acts like a print server for your 3D Printer, allowing you to send jobs to your printer over the network.

Why Do I Need A Print Server.

Typically the workflow for printing things with a 3D printer goes something like this:

  • Download or design a file
  • Import The STL file into a slicer
  • Set your Slicer Settings and Slice
  • Export the GCode to a file
  • Move that gcode file to an SD card
  • Move the SD Card to the printer
  • Mount the SD Card
  • Use the Printer Interface to Select a Print and Start

With Octoprint, from my slicer I can upload and start the print. If I have a webcam hooked up to it, I can then monitor the print remotely. I can go into the web interface, adjust temperatures, pause or cancel the print, or access other print functions such as moving the head or extruding.

The Good

Remote Management, print history, temperature control, automatic time lapses, gcode inspector, and file inspector; an impressive list of features Octoprint offers its users and all for free. It is far more than just a convenience of being able to print from your desktop, it is the peace of mind when you are out of the house that you can stop a print if you see it about to fail.

The automatic time lapses is one of my favorite features. You can set a time interval, or tell it to take a snapshot whenever there is a Z index change. It automatically samples the webcam, and collates the images into a mpg that is ready for download from the UI.

If you opt for OctoPi, you can install a set of plugins and manage your software and hardware right in the UI.

From most slicers you can print directly to your printer from OctoPrint. The workflow feels like printing a document. Cura even gives you a monitoring tab so you can monitor your printer once it starts.

Needs Improvement

The Default interface screams bootstrap, which makes sense, but personally as someone who has abused bootstrap, the look and feel can certainly use an update. However it is easy to install a theme to do just that.

OctoPrint ships with its own slicer included. Which in theory means you can give it a STL file and it will do the whole process for you. I have found it is not only slow, but the customization is no where near what I get from inside of cura on my desktop.