If you own a 3D printer, you’ll likely have at least heard of OctoPrint from the ever benevolent 3D printing online community. It has the potential to transform your 3D printing workflow for the better, and it’s very easy to set up. This guide will take you through the setup process step by step, and give you some handy tips along the way.
Before we start finding out how to install OctoPrint, let’s look at why you might want to. OctoPrint is a piece of open-source software that allows us to add WiFi functionality to any 3D printer with a USB port (which is pretty much all of them). More specifically, you’ll be able to drop files from your computer onto your printer, start/stop prints, monitor your printer via a live video feed, control the motors, control the temperature, and more, all from your web browser. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility — 3D printers have parts that are hot enough to cause fires, so make sure you have a safe setup, which may include not letting it run unsupervised.
• Raspberry Pi 3 (or newer)
• MicroSD card
• Raspberry Pi power adapter
• USB cable (the connector type will depend on your printer)
• Webcam/Raspberry Pi Camera Module (optional)
• 3D-printed camera mount (optional)
Before we get started, it is not recommended that anything less than a Raspberry Pi 3 is used for this project. There have been reports of limited success using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi Zero W, but only if you have no intention of using a camera to monitor your prints. If you want to try this with a Pi Zero or an older Raspberry Pi, you may experience unexpected print failures.
Firstly, you will need to download the latest version of OctoPi from the OctoPrint website. OctoPi is a Raspbian distribution that comes with OctoPrint, video streaming software, and CuraEngine for slicing models on your Raspberry Pi. When this has finished downloading, unzip the file and put the resulting IMG file somewhere handy.
Next, we need to flash this image onto our microSD card. We recommend using Etcher to do this, due to its minimal UI and ease of use; plus it’s also available to use on both Windows and Mac. Get it here: balena.io/etcher. When Etcher is installed and running, you’ll see the UI displayed. Simply click the Select Image button and find the IMG file you unzipped earlier. Next, put your microSD card into your computer and select it in the middle column of the Etcher interface.
Finally, click on Flash!, and while the image is being burned onto the card, get your WiFi router details, as you’ll need them for the next step.
Now that you have your operating system, you’ll want to add your WiFi details so that the Raspberry Pi can automatically connect to your network after it’s booted. To do this, remove the microSD card from your computer (Etcher will have ‘ejected’ the card after it has finished burning the image onto it) and then plug it back in again. Navigate to the microSD card on your computer — it should now be called
boot — and open the file called
octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt. Editing this file using WordPad or TextEdit can cause formatting issues; we recommend using Notepad++ to update this file, but there are instructions within the file itself to mitigate formatting issues if you do choose to use another text editor. Find the section that begins
## WPA/WPA2 secured and remove the hash signs from the four lines below this one to uncomment them. Finally, replace the SSID value and the PSK value with the name and password for your WiFi network, respectively (keeping the quotation marks). See the example below for how this should look.
Further down in the file, there is a section for what country you are in. If you are using OctoPrint in the UK, leave this as is (by default, the UK is selected). However, if you wish to change this, simply comment the UK line again by adding a # before it, and uncomment whichever country you are setting up OctoPrint in. The example below shows how the file will look if you are setting this up for use in the US:
# Uncomment the country your Pi is in to activate Wifi in RaspberryPi 3 B+ and above
# For full list see: https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2
#country=GB # United Kingdom
#country=CA # Canada
#country=DE # Germany
#country=FR # France
country=US # United States
When the changes have been made, save the file and then eject/unmount and remove the microSD card from your computer and put it into your Raspberry Pi. Plug the power supply in, and go and make a cup of tea while it boots up for the first time (this may take around ten minutes). Make sure the Raspberry Pi is running as expected (i.e. check that the green status LED is flashing intermittently). If you’re using macOS, visit octopi.local in your browser of choice. If you’re using Windows, you can find OctoPrint by clicking on the Network tab in the sidebar. It should be called OctoPrint instance on octopi – double-clicking on this will open the OctoPrint dashboard in your browser.
If you see the screen shown above, then congratulations! You have set up OctoPrint.
Not seeing that OctoPrint splash screen? Fear not, you are not the first. While a full list of issues is beyond the scope of this article, common issues include: double-checking your WiFi details are entered correctly in the
octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt file, ensuring your Raspberry Pi is working correctly (plug the Raspberry Pi into a monitor and watch what happens during boot), or your Raspberry Pi may be out of range of your WiFi router. There’s a detailed list of troubleshooting suggestions on the OctoPrint website.
Printing with OctoPrint
We now have the opportunity to set up OctoPrint for our printer using the handy wizard. Most of this is very straightforward — setting up a password, signing up to send anonymous usage stats, etc. — but there are a few sections which require a little more thought.
We recommend enabling the connectivity check and the plug-ins blacklist to help keep things nice and stable. If you plan on using OctoPrint as your slicer as well as a monitoring tool, then you can use this step to import a Cura profile. However, we recommend skipping this step as it’s much quicker (and you can use a slicer of your choice) to slice the model on your computer, and then send the finished G-code over.
Finally, we need to put in our printer details. Above, we’ve included some of the specs of the Creality Ender-3 as an example. If you can’t find the exact details of your printer, a quick web search should show what you need for this section.
The General tab can have anything in it, it’s just an identifier for your own use. Print bed & build volume should be easy to find out — if not, you can measure your print bed and find out the position of the origin by looking at your Cura printer profile. Leave Axes as default; for the Hotend and extruder section, defaults are almost certainly fine here (unless you’ve changed your nozzle; 0.4 is the default diameter for most consumer printers).
OctoPrint is better with a camera
Now that you’re set up with OctoPrint, you’re ready to start printing. Turn off your Raspberry Pi, then plug it into your 3D printer. After it has booted up, open OctoPrint again in your browser and take your newly WiFi-enabled printer for a spin by clicking the Connect button. After it has connected, you’ll be able to set the hot end and bed temperature, then watch as the real-time readings are updated.
In the Control tab, we can see the camera stream (if you’re using one) and the motor controls, as well as commands to home the axes. There’s a G-code file viewer to look through a cross-section of the currently loaded model, and a terminal to send custom G-code commands to your printer. The last tab is for making time-lapses; however, there is a plug-in available to help with this process.
Undoubtedly the easiest way to set up video monitoring of your prints is to use the official Raspberry Pi Camera Module. There are dozens of awesome mounts on Thingiverse for a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, to allow you to get the best angle of your models as they print. There are also some awesome OctoPrint-themed Raspberry Pi cases to house your new printer brains. While it isn’t officially supported by OctoPrint, you can use a USB webcam instead if you have one handy, or just want some very high-quality video streams. The OctoPrint wiki has a crowdsourced list of webcams known to work, as well as a link for the extra steps needed to get the webcam working correctly.
As mentioned earlier, our recommended way of printing a model using OctoPrint is to first use your slicer as you would if you were creating a file to save to a microSD card. Once you have the file, save it somewhere handy on your computer, and open the OctoPrint interface. In the bottom left of the screen, you will see the Upload File button — click this and upload the G-code you wish to print.
You’ll see the file/print details appear, including information on how long it’ll take for the object to print. Before you kick things off, check out the G-code Viewer tab on the right. You can not only scroll through the layers of the object, but, using the slider at the bottom, you can see the exact pattern the 3D printer will use to ‘draw’ each layer. Now click Print and watch your printer jump into action!
OctoPrint has scores of community-created plug-ins, but our favourite, Octolapse, makes beautiful hypnotic time-lapses. What makes them so special is that the plug-in alters the G-code of whatever object you are printing so that once each layer has finished, the extruder moves away from the print to let the camera take an unobstructed shot of the model. The result is an object that seems to grow out of the build plate as if by magic. You’ll not find a finer example of it than here.
3D Printing timelapses of models printed on the Prusa i3 MK3! Here’s another compilation of my recent timelapses. I got some shots that i think came out really great and i hope you enjoy them! as always if you want to see some of these timelapses before they come out or want to catch some behind the scenes action check out my instagram!
Thanks to Glenn and HackSpace magazine
This tutorial comes fresh from the pages of HackSpace magazine issue 26 and was written by Glenn Horan. Thanks, Glenn.
To get your copy of HackSpace magazine issue 26, visit your local newsagent, the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or the Raspberry Pi Press online store.
Fans of HackSpace magazine will also score themselves a rather delightful Adafruit Circuit Playground Express with a 12-month subscription. Sweet!
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