Understanding RepRap 3D Printer Control Electronics

Part of the 3D Printing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

A RepRap 3D printer is an example of a purpose-built robot, using the popular open-source Arduino microcontroller at its heart together with stepper motor controllers, motors, and sensors to control its movements. Some custom 3D printer boards have been created to integrate an Arduino's functions and the related items typically found on a 3D printing "shield" that attaches to the basic format. Some of these options include:

  • RAMPS: The original Arduino shield designed for multiple stepper motor control and management of the extruder and built plate heaters.

  • RAMBo: A modular all-in-one combination of the Arduino board and RAMPS shield.

  • Sanguinololu: A popular build-it-yourself all-in-one board integrating both microcontroller and stepper motor controllers

  • Minitronics: A reduced size variation of the Sanguinololu.

  • RUMBA: A modular integrated board with modules supporting LCD panels, external memory cards and other add-on capabilities.

  • ELEFU-RA: A developer integrated electronics set that can plug in standard ATX computer power supplies

  • Megatronics: The "big brother" of the Minitronics board, which allows the use of higher-temperature thermocouple thermal sensors in place of the more common thermistor type sensors.

Many components have multiple options such as the selection of contact switches or magnetic hall-type sensors for the end-stops or the use of different fans to meet the type of plastic you are using. Even the type of motor controllers and wire connections (soldered vs. crimped) will affect options available upon completion of your RepRap.

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