3D printing is amazing technology that is far speedier than traditional manufacturing—at least when you take into account tooling and setup time. That’s why it is often called “rapid prototyping.” But 3D printing is still painfully slow in practice and a single object can easily take several hours or even days to complete. Sitting next to your 3D printer throughout that entire process simply isn’t feasible, which is why OctoPrint exists. OctoPrint is software that lets you remotely monitor and control your 3D printer. It is open source and very affordable to setup, but is there a better alternative? In his newest video, Thomas Sanladerer tested an ESP8266 device to see if it can replace OctoPrint.
Before we go any further, you should know that this can’t come close to providing all of the same functions as OctoPrint. It doesn’t, for instance, have any ability to view your printer remotely through a webcam. But it does give you one very handy feature: the ability to load G-code files onto your 3D printer remotely. This is done with an ESP8266-based device built by a company called FYSETC. This is a really interesting device that acts like a wireless SD card. After configuring the device, you simply insert it into the SD card slot on your 3D printer. Then you can slice 3D models and send the outputted g-code to the SD card via your wireless network. From there, you can simply go over to your 3D printer, select the file, and run it.
The major downside here is that you can only do that on your local network unless you remotely connect to a computer that is on your local network. More importantly, there is no way to automatically start the print job once it is sent to the 3D printer. But this is a very affordable way to add the convenience of wireless file transfer to your 3D printer. Many 3D printers come with built-in WiFi these days, but some are still some that are missing that feature. Even so, it is only slightly more expensive to purchase a Raspberry Pi Zero W and the required accessories to setup OctoPrint. Doing so will give you legitimate remote control over your 3D printer, instead of just file transfers. As Sanladerer points out, file transfers with the ESP8266 device are also very slow compared to OctoPrint. Therefore, most users are probably better off going with OctoPrint. But if you only care about wireless file transfers and have a limited budget, this ESP8266 alternative could be for you.