3D Printer Kits and Components

"Ok so I finally have a 3D printer but what software do I need to make it go?"

Open source software and hardware are great because they give people the freedom to experiment and change things however they want and perhaps make it better. This flexibility also give us greater choice in which product to use, however sometimes there is so much choice you just don't know where to start. Open source 3D printers can sometimes be like that, there are so many different hardware and software combinations that its hard to know which to choose. I thought that I would briefly go through my usual software tool chain in the hope that it might give you a starting point to get up and running.

What software do you need?

There are four software systems that you need. The first one is the firmware to load onto your controller electronics. The stepper motors on 3D printers are driven by an electronic controller such as the popular RAMPS controller, but these controllers need a program to tell them what to do. This is what the firmware is for. My favourite firmware is the Marlin firmware written by Erik Zalm which you can download from https://github.com/ErikZalm/Marlin . To load the firmware onto your controller you will need to download the Arduino software from here http://arduino.cc

You will need to modify the 'configuration.h' file in Marlin to suite your printer, there are many resources online to help you do this. Once you have done that follow the instructions at the bottom of Erik's page to load your firmware.

The next piece of software you will need is a slicing program. A slicing program takes a 3D model and turns it into layers and tool paths in a format called G-code. This information is then sent to the controller board which interprets it and tells the stepper motors what to do. The slicing program that I mainly use is called Slic3r and you can download it from here http://slic3r.org/download .

The final piece of software you will need is a program to communicate between your computer and the controller board. I use Pronterface which is available from here http://www.pronterface.com/ . Pronterface is a program that allows you to control your 3D printer manually if necessary and allows you to load your G-code file and send it to the printer to print out your object.

There are many other options out there and I am not saying my choices are the best and only ones you should consider but they should get you going fairly easily. Once you are up and running and become more familiar with your printer you can then begin to experiment and try other options.

So in summary:-
Firmware - Marlin
Programming - Arduino software
Slicing - Slic3r
Control software - Pronterface

Happy printing.
Dane.

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