Great tools for your 3D printer
Back in 2012, German software developer, maker, and excellent tour guide, Gina Häußge, got her first 3D printer. She subsequently wrote and released a free, open source 3D printer host controller application called OctoPrint which allows users to remotely control and monitor prints from a web browser.
“That’s nice,” you might say, “but what makes OctoPrint any different from all the other 3D printer host apps out there?” The thing that sets OctoPrint apart is its extremely versatile, pluggable framework.
The framework Häußge designed has attracted a community of developers who, in turn, continually extend OctoPrint’s features and functionality through plugins. There are currently 277 plugins in OctoPrint’s repository. Häußge says, “All in all 194 plugin authors have spent time and effort to bring you these plugins.”
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best tools and toys for OctoPrint—plugins that will help you create better prints as well as a few that are just for fun. All these plugins can be installed for free via the OctoPrint interface.
Tools: Best Octoprint Plugins for Better Prints
Predictably, most plugins for OctoPrint are tools to help you make better prints. Installing and using the plugins below will help you improve your 3D printing game.
To get good prints on your 3D printer, the first thing you need to do is make sure your printer’s bed is level. It’s a difficult, time-consuming process that uses up a lot of filament and can be very frustrating.
Bed Level Visualizer takes the guesswork out of that process by showing you a topographical map of your bed so you know which areas are high and which are low. If you want your bed to be perfectly level (hint: you do), this is the first OctoPrint plugin you should install. It requires that you have an auto-bed-leveling tool like BLTouch.
Putting your 3D printer inside an enclosure helps you control the printer’s environment, which leads to better quality prints. If you have an enclosure, install this plugin, and you’ll be able to control lights, switches, power, or any other sensor you can plug into your Raspberry Pi.
You can view temp sensors, filament run-out sensors, turn your LED lights on and off, or even change the color of your LED lights. This plugin is super-flexible and can control almost any aspect of your enclosure environment that you can imagine.
When a print goes wrong, the result can look like a plateful of spaghetti. Moreover, if you’ve left your printer unattended, you won’t even know your print has failed until you check.
Enter The Spaghetti Detective, an OctoPrint plugin that puts AI deep learning to use by analyzing the images from your webcam for any indication that your print is failing. In other words, The Spaghetti Detective will detect failed prints and send you a message so you can react accordingly.
4. Pretty GCode
The Pretty GCode plugin is an excellent 3D model viewer. Click on your GCode file and watch it render before your eyes. Rotate, zoom in on, and detect problems with your GCode files before you print. Pretty GCode even renders arc commands.
All software should be updated regularly. Updating your printer’s firmware can be a pain, requiring you to download the update to an SD card and then installing it locally on your printer.
The Firmware Updater plugin allows you to flash your printer’s firmware from within OctoPrint. Just drop in the update file or URL, click a button, and soon your printer will be running the latest firmware.
6. Arc Welder*
Faulty power supplies, bad USB cables, slow serial connections, and slicer problems can all conspire to overwhelm your printer with GCode. If too many commands are sent or if your connection is slowed down, that can cause your printer to stall, and you’ll probably see evidence of every stall on your printed part. Entire forums are dedicated to solving this problem, and a lot of the advice involves recompiling firmware or other difficult operations that may or may not solve the problem.
The Arc Welder plugin is perhaps the simplest fix. It reduces the number of GCodes sent to your printer— sometimes dramatically—by compressing some GCodes into arc commands. In many cases, installing Arc Welder will completely eliminate stuttering and stalling and improve your print times and quality. Not all firmware supports arc commands, but if yours does, this should be on your must-install list.
Toys: Best Octoprint Plugins for Fun
The plugins above will help you improve the quality of your 3D prints. The plugins listed below will help improve how you interact with OctoPrint and increase how much fun you have.
Have you seen the videos? A beautiful 3D print arises from the printer bed like magic. It’s not magic, though. It’s Octolapse. This OctoPrint plugin creates stabilized timelapse videos of your 3D prints. It does this by moving your printer’s extruder out of the way and your printer bed into optimal position before it takes each snapshot so you end up with a really smooth timelapse.
Put another way, you won’t see your printhead moving around in the timelapse, just your print growing from the printer bed. You can set specific triggers for snapshots such as at each layer change, at preset time or height increments, or when particular GCodes are sent to your printer.
Given the option, many people will choose a dark theme for the apps and web pages they use most. The Themeify plugin allows you to apply themes to OctoPrint. Choose dark mode or from a variety of other pre-set themes. If you know CSS, you can customize virtually any element of the OctoPrint interface.
Are you tired of watching your webcam in OctoPrint’s tiny control window? Maximize it with the Fullscreen Webcam plugin. It does exactly what you think it will do.
Lastly, who doesn’t want a picture of Captain Picard on the background of their temperature output tab? Drop in any pic, and it’ll show up in the background. Fun!
*Full disclosure: The Arc Welder and OctoLapse plugins were created in the attic by my husband, FormerLurker.