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Octoprint for multiple printers:  How to get started

Octoprint for multiple printers: How to get started

As you probably already know, OctoPrint is an open-source 3D printer controller that allows you to monitor and control everything through a web interface. Now, the question is how can we use it with multiple printers? That’s what you’re about to find out.

OctoPrint wasn’t initially developed with multiple printers in mind. Nonetheless, with a bit of creativity and know-how, we can adapt it and use it with more than one printer.

What is OctoPrint

 

OctoPrint allows us to control 3D printers through a network, whether it’s wireless or wired. The most common method of connecting the devices is by running OctoPi on a Raspberry Pi.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Pi, it is a type of computer commonly used to learn computer science and develop practical projects. As for OctoPi, in essence, it’s an operating system for the Raspberry Pi, on which the OctoPrint software runs. The advantage of running OctoPrint on OctoPi is that you’ll be able to use your main computer during the printing process without worrying about the Pi.

OctoPrint is compatible with almost every 3D printer and it comes with a wide array of plugins that enable us to collect data and receive customized notifications.

Why Use Multi-Printer Monitoring Software

If you just started out and you’re playing with the idea of running multiple 3D printers, you’re probably looking into OctoPrint as the ideal control application. After all, it’s open-source, free, and packed with a lot of features. And despite not being usable with multiple printers out of the box, it comes with a lot of useful features and it can be adapted in many ways.

Having OctoPrint added to your setup will allow you to control multiple devices in real-time by running them from a central computer. Using a dedicated Raspberry Pi for this will make things easier. Just keep in mind that the more printers you plan to use, the more computer resources you’ll require. Some setups may work better on a regular PC.

Requirements

 

Here’s what you’re going to need if you plan to use OctoPrint with a dedicated Raspberry Pi:

  • Raspberry Pi: The Pi is a tiny computer that can be used just like a desktop. There’s a variety of them out there and each one has its own pros and cons. What really matters for starters is that OctoPrint will work on it. The safest bet is probably the Raspberry Pi 3 because it’s more efficient during the slicing process. Alternatively, you can use the Pi Zero, which is a bit cheaper, but it’s slower when it comes to performance.
  • PSU (power supply): You can either purchase a dedicated power supply or use a regular phone charger. Just make sure it’s rated for at least 2A, preferably 3A.
  • Micro SD card: You’ll need at least 8GB of storage space, which shouldn’t be a problem since most SD cards nowadays start from 16GB onwards. The operating system requires up to 4GB.
  • Wi-Fi adapter: If you don’t want to keep the cable clutter at a minimum, you can purchase a USB Wi-Fi adapter.
  • USB power cable.
  • Webcam: If you want to see how the printer does its job, you should get a webcam (or several)

Octoprint for multiple printers:  How to get started

Once you have all the hardware, you can easily set up OctoPrint. You’ll have to create an image file of OctoPi and write it to the SD card. Afterward, you connect the power supply, SD card, and Internet cable / Wi-Fi adapter to the Raspberry Pi. As the system boots up, you’ll be able to connect to your network. Afterward, your system is ready to start printing without having to sit next to the printer.

Connecting Multiple Printers

The setup is complete, but we’re ready to monitor and control only one printer. What we want is to connect multiple printers to the Raspberry Pi.

The first step is to connect all the printers and set up their profiles. At this point, you should start familiarizing yourself with OctoPrint and OctoPi to work comfortably. Each printer has to have its own working profile.

Once that is done, you can use the printers, but you’ll see that you can work only with one at a time. When one printer starts printing, the others can’t be used without disconnecting the active one. That’s no good because we want all of them to work at the same time. To work with multiple printers, we’ll have to create a unique instance for each one of them.

If every printer works on its own, then you should start giving them proper device names to easily identify them. The next step is to set up another OctoPrint instance by performing the following steps:

  • Copy the OctoPrint folder
  • Copy and edit the OctoPrint2 configuration file
  • Copy and edit the Octoprint2 init file
  • Insert a new init script for the auto-start function

Keep in mind that when you make changes to the OctoPrint files, you need to use the appropriate device name, like “OctoPrint2”.

Alternatives

If you think configuring multiple printers with OctoPrint is too inconvenient, there are other options. First of all, even the developers of OctoPrint recommend having a dedicated Raspberry Pi for each printer. Remember, the software isn’t designed with multiple printers as it comes out of the box. Since Raspberry Pi’s are quite cheap, setting one up for every printer might be worth it. You should explore that option.

However, there are alternative programs you can try, such as:

  1. MatterControl: This software is more than just for monitoring. It also provides the user with modeling and slicing options. Essentially, it’s a 3D printing package, and it’s also free just like OctoPrint. However, it won’t work with the Raspberry Pi. You would need to get acquainted with Linux, if you aren’t already, and install the software package manually. Because of this, MatterControl is ideal for small-scale setups.

Remember, the more printers you use, the more computational power you need. There’s only so much one PC can handle, and multiple computers are more expensive than Raspberry Pis. Furthermore, this software doesn’t come with a webcam monitoring feature.

  1. Repetier Server: You’ll find a lot of software from Repetier, but in this case, we’re only interested in Repetier-Server. This is what is used to connect multiple printers and fortunately, it works with the Raspberry Pi as well as next to Windows, Linux, and Mac. In addition, if you have a Pi with touch screen support, the Repetier software supports it.

This software comes with a lot of features, including webcam support. However, to get full access to everything Repetier has to offer, you’ll have to pay around $70. The base version is free but lacks some of the features.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours depending on your needs and particular situation. You can certainly make OctoPrint work with multiple printers, but know that you have a few other options as well, just in case. However, OctoPrint should be more tempting because it comes with far more plug-ins and customization than any of the other solutions.

OCTOPRINT FOR MULTIPLE PRINTERS: HOW TO GET STARTED

Final Thoughts

Managing several printers through OctoPrint is possible, as long as you’re willing to go through a series of modifications and tweaks. If you have a bit of technical know-how, or you’re willing to spend some time tinkering, you can pass OctoPrint’s limitations with the help of a Raspberry Pi.

Otherwise, you can invest in multiple Pi’s, since they’re so affordable compared to regular PCs, and set one up for each printer. Alternatively, you can replace Octoprint altogether if you aren’t happy with it and use another printer management solution, like MatterControl or Repetier-Server.

Keep in mind that there’s always a solution out there if you’re willing to look for it. And even if it isn’t as easy to implement as you’d like, the future might bring other possibilities.

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