DIY 3D Printer from scratch – Boards and LCDs

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DIY 3D Printer from scratch – Boards and LCDs
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Welcome to 3DPrinterChat.com, this article is part of the DIY 3D Printer from scratch, and we will cover the most used 3D Printer Boards and LCDs, this guide is intended to show what are the best options available on the market.

 

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

 

What is the Controller board? and how it is useful?

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

The controller board can be named as the “brain” of the 3D printer, it will convert the digital data from the received GCODE, to electrical signal that will move the motors, heat the extruder and bed, and keep things working as they should.

They are basically ranked according with the number of motors supported, micro-stepping and the power processing.

 

What is the LCD, and how it is useful?

 

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

The LCD (short for Liquid Crystal Display) is the main interface between the printer and the user, this is also called HMI – Human-Machine interface.
The LCD provides easy access to the settings, Actual temperatures and targets, motor position (in relation to the home point) selection of files to be printed from a SD card, and also keep track of the progress.
There are several models available, so we will only cover the most used and those worth testing. We can rank the LCD based on its features, like SD support, resolution, response-time, touch and colors

 

 

 

 

1. RAMPS

 

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

 

The RAMPS is by far the most used control board, the name is a short for Reprap Arduino Mega Polulu Shield. It has the major advantage of being easy to replace in case of damage, making it more trusty to work with.  For example, if your micro controller get damaged from a power surge, you can replace only the Arduino, and not everything else too.  Same goes for drivers, they can be easily replaced.

 

Its main features are:

  • Open Source
  • Available everywhere
  • Inexpensive
  • Easily replaceable
  • Supported by the majors firmware’s
  • Protection against short and power surge?
  • Features an ATMEGA2650 – 8bit processor
  • Supports up to 5 drivers with 1/32 micro stepping
  • Supports most kinds of sensors and also Servo-motors
  • Three heater controller’s, PWM and PID available.

Source : Ramps

2. Smoothieboard

Smoothie Board

The Smoothieboard is slowly earning its space, this board has great features and a great processor.

The Smoothieboard main features are :

  • ARM-Cortex M3 LPC1769 ( 120Mhz, 64kB RAM, 512kB Flash ) Microcontroller
  • Ethernet interface
  • MicroSD card slot ( comes with a 4GB SD card, filled with documentation and host/slicing software packages )
  • 5 stepper motor drivers ( A5984, for stepper motors rated up to 2 Amperes ), well cooled on-board, 1/32 microstepping for smooth motion
  • Digital current control ( no need to use a screwdriver to set a potentiometer for current setting )
  • 3 ZXMN4A06 ( 5A, up to 24V ) small mosfets for hotends and fans
  • 3 AOT240L ( 12A, up to 24V ) big mosfets for hotends, fans and heated beds
  • 12 to 24V power input
  • Optional Voltage Regulator so the board can run without a host computer
  • 4 Thermistor inputs ( 12bit ADC ) for thermistors
  • 6 Endstop inputs
  • Extensions : SPI, I2C, PWM, DAC, free GPIOs
  • Open-Source Hardware, community developped

Source : Smoothieboard

3. RADDS

3D Printed Boards and LCD’s

The RADDS (short for Reprap Arduino-Due Driver Shield) is a great board, powered by the awesome Cortex-M3 (32-bit processor) which has a great processing power.  This board main features are:

  • Open Source
  • Easily replaceable in case of damage
  • Supported by the major’s firmware’s
  • Protection against short and power surge, with a easily replaceable fuse
  • Features a Cortex M3 – 32bit processor
  • Supports up to 6 drivers with 1/128 micro stepping
  • Supports most kinds of sensors and also Servo-motors
  • Support for 6 heaters controller’s, PWM and PID available.
  • Firmware support on safety features

 

Source : RADDS

 

4. Geeetech  Open Source 3D Printer Control Board(74$)

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

Designed by the MakerBot company, this is one of the most versatile yet powerful boards out there. Master Control Chip is AtMega 1280 which is fitted with the control software of  MakerBot, and it can function for multicolor printing as well.

Features:

  • Supports dual extruders.
  • Adopts professional thermocouple temperature measurement chip, to ensure accurate temperature measurement.
  • The heating module has protection function to make sure the safety of using.
  • Unique RGBLED display.
  • Compatible with the Arduino development environment, easy to develop further functions.
  • Use active cooling in the printing process to make sure the printed items can form better.

Source: Geetech

 

32 vs 8-bit in practical applications

Before we go to the LCD modules, i would like to explain why 32 bits boards are better than 8bits, as suggested by our reader Adam Meadows.

[TL;DR]  32-bit are better because of its processing power and higher resolution capabilities

8-bit boards are basically more limited than 32-bit boars, but what this means? well, for simple XYZ printers, 8-bit will do just fine for most applications, but if you pretend to assembly a delta printer, the microprocessor will have to perform really complicated calculations, really fast. and this is where the 8-bit board gets on its limits (but it still works).  these calculations will use almost all the ram and processing power available, and it wont be able to support higher resolution boards (like 1/32 or 1/128).  less resolution will mean more shaking and unwanted visible details on the printed part. Also, selecting menus and updating the lcd screen will take more time, because the printer will have to reduce its processing power going into the printing process and allocate it into the lcd routine.
If you are considering to build a delta printer, or even a coreXY, you should really consider a 32-bit board, as it will give you better results, but if you are using a simple 3 axis linear printer (X, Y, Z, like prusa), the increased performance wont be great.  You might want to check the price, i consider its best to invest a bit more (10-20$) and get a board where i can expand the printer limits, or, even, if i want to build a delta from a prusa, i can do using the same board.

Now, what about the LCD’s avaiable? We will only talk about the most used LCD’s because there are a huge amount of them avaiable,but only a few are supported well on marlin/repetier firmwares  (by well, i mean fast response, good readability and SD support).

1. RepRapDiscount Full Graphic Smart Controller

Reprap LCD

This is my favorite LCD so far, it is cheap and have a lot of functions, while maintaining a fast response on a 8bit MCU. this board contains a SD-Card reader, a 128 x 64 LCD display and an rotary encoder . It can easily be attached to the RAMPS using the provided cables and adapter,  here are its main advantages.

  • Open Source schematics
  • Easily replaceable in case of damage
  • Supported by the major’s firmware’s
  • 128×64 lcd display, that can be provided with blue, green or white background
  • Adjustable brightness
  • Embedded SD Holder, supporting most card
  • Reset button (but it doesn’t work well on some firmwares versions)

Source: RepRap

 

2. RepRapDiscount Smart Controller

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

This is the most used LCD on RepRap derivatives (prusa i3, graber and others). and also contains a SD-Card reader, a 20 characters x 4 lines (20×2) LCD display and an rotary encoder . It can easily be attached to the RAMPS using the provided cables and adapter,  here are its main advantages.

  • Open Source schematics
  • Easily replaceable in case of damage
  • Supported by the major’s firmware’s
  • Adjustable brightness
  • Embedded SD Holder, supporting most card
  • Reset button (but it doesn’t work well on some firmwares versions)

Source: RepRap

3. 2.8″ Mks TFT28 Monitor Lcd

3D Printer Boards and LCDs

This LCD seems really promising, i didn’t tested it yet, but its already ordered, by seeing the videos we can see that it is not so smooth on pages transitions and commands setting, but hey!, its touch and color! this module works really well on printing and setting things up, and its price is really good, i believe that in a few months, with improved firmware responsiveness this will replace the standard 20×4 lcd.

Its main features are:

  • Open Source schematics
  • SD Support
  • You can easily replace any button image or logo
  • 2.8 inch color touch screen, support U disk and SD card.
  • Wifi support (need separated board)
  • Ramps support on Marlin and Repetier
  • Support power failure renew
  • Support for fault detection.

Which board or LCD you think is the best? comment below and let us know!,

 

5 Comments
  1. BoozeKashi says

    Very informative post, Italo, looking forward to more in this series!

  2. [email protected] says

    A lot of great information on these boards.

  3. mperkins37 says

    Awesome one for the tinkerers

  4. jvastine says

    Great article!

  5. Phon Xay says

    Nice to know just about to start what a find!!!

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