3D printers are helping us accomplish things in the world of CAD that not so long ago would have seemed impossible. The only issue is that they rarely have wifi, which is strange for such a technologically advanced machine.
Having to ferry your laptop over to the printer itself to connect up and bring one of your designs to life is a needless inconvenience.
During this journey, small as it may be, you’re at risk of dropping and breaking your expensive computer or tablet.
Draping extended cables across the room to hook up a powerful desktop is even more dangerous as someone might trip, injure themselves, ruin the print, and damage equipment.
That’s why we’ve done the research and discovered the best ways in which you can make your Ender 3 and other 3D printers totally wireless, perfecting an otherwise brilliant machine.
Your Options at a Glance
We’re happy to report that there are indeed several ways you can liven up the wifi dead zone that is your 3D printer, but some are more effective than others.
The easiest method is to install a wifi SD card, but there are some key limitations. Another option is a two-pronged approach using Raspberry Pi and Octoprint, but installation is a little more complex.
If you want the most flexible wifi possible, AstroBox is also an option. You could even try AstroBox Touch. It covers the same ground as the standard AstroBox but enables the use of an incredibly user-friendly touchscreen interface.
A Creality Wifi Cloud Box is the penultimate option we’ve got for you today. It’s a relatively new product, but much like AstroBox, it allows you to communicate with your Ender 3 from anywhere.
Lastly, you may want to install a totally new control board with integrated wifi connectivity such as the Duet 3.
This may sound intimidating, but don’t fret. We’re going to walk you through it step by step. For now, all you need to do is have a scan of the brief overview of these methods below and decide which meets your needs.
Wifi SD Card
A wifi SD card is very easy and inexpensive to install, but unfortunately, it will only allow file transfers.
This means that you’ll still be dragged from your station to manually dial in which file needs printing.
- Easy to install
- Saves having to walk your computer over to the printer
- No need for running cables across the room
- Can’t print remotely
Raspberry Pi & Octoprint
This dynamic duo is all most will require to optimize the practicality of their Ender 3, but is it what you’re looking for?
Raspberry Pi is a tiny single-board computer. You can hook this up to your Ender 3 then lay down a wireless connection using OctoPrint. This eliminates the need to get up and choose files manually.
OctoPrint brings a number of really neat plugins and features to the table too, namely ‘Exclude Region’. This is incredibly helpful when printing multiple separate objects simultaneously.
It enables you to halt the printing of a localized zone in the drawing while preceding with the rest of the print.
If there’s an error in one area...a problem with uncured support resin or perhaps the print bed, just stop that particular part of the process and let the rest continue.
- Allows you to print remotely
- OctoPrint has a lot of cool features
- Can be quite pricey
- Installation is a little tricky
This is one of the most advanced options available as it allows you to print from ANYWHERE!
That’s right, folks, you could be chilling on your couch at home and as long as you’re connected to your local wireless network, you can send your designs to the Ender 3 for printing - pretty amazing, huh?
- If you and the Ender 3 are hooked up to a network, you can print from anywhere
- AstroBox is more user-friendly than OctoPrint
- AstroBox doesn’t have quite as many features as Octobox
- Can still be a little pricey
Raspberry Pi & AstroBox Touch
AstroBox Touch is a specialist variant of AstroBox with an intuitive touchscreen interface.
- Makes printing from distance as easy as possible
- Great for use in conjunction with tablets
- Quite an expensive bit of gear
Creality Wifi Cloud Box
This functions in a similar way to AstroBox in that using the cloud connection, it enables you to print from absolutely anywhere.
It’s relatively new, so it’s not as tried and tested as our other options, but it definitely has potential!
- Small Device
- Incredibly stable hardware and software
- Print from anywhere
- Not as popular yet
Wifi Control Board - Duet 3
This is a whole new control board for your 3D printer, with integrated wifi connectivity.
It’s quite expensive, but it’s the most reliable way to solve your wifi drought.
- No other devices required
- Fits directly into your 3D printer
- No Cloud connectivity
How to Install Wireless Connectivity to Your Ender 3 and Other 3D Printers
Now that you’re clued up on the options, you should have more of a clear idea of what you’re after, so without further ado, let’s run through how to install each wireless method.
Wifi SD Card
Installing a wifi SD card couldn’t be easier, but you will have to purchase a wifi SD adapter as well as the card itself.
This is because wifi SD cards are much larger than the micro SD cards designed to fit into your Ender 3 micro SD port.
Don’t worry, though, you can snag an awesome adapter for less than $10.
This one in particular is a favorite of ours: LANMU Micro SD to SD Card Extension Cable Adapter Flexible Extender
All you have to do is plug your wifi SD card into the adapter, plug the adapter into the micro SD slot on your Ender 3, and voila! Now you can send files directly to your 3D printer from where you sit.
You’ll still have to set your Ender 3 off manually, but you’ve successfully eliminated cables from the equation for less than $50. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask us.
Raspberry Pi & OctoPrint
Installation of these two magnificent beasts is a little complex, but the rewards far outweigh the cost and effort of setup.
You can even use OctoPrint to hook up cameras to your 3D printer and make mesmerizing videos of the 3D creation process. Remember us when you’re a famous Youtube personality!
As we mentioned in the overview, this hybrid approach is probably what most had in mind when they began researching how to give their Ender 3 wireless connectivity.
Using this method you can send files and print commands remotely. All you’re missing is a little droid to collect and clean your 3D prints for you.
Things You’ll Need
- Ender 3 3D Printer
- Raspberry Pi - We highly recommend this one that comes with both a powerful micro SD card and a power adaptor.
- Raspberry Pi Power Adapter - Only if you settle for a Raspberry Pi with no included power adapter.
- A Micro SD Card - Ditto. 16GB it’s the sweet spot. This one’s perfect.
- Micro SD Card Reader (Included with Ender 3)
- Mini USB Cable for Ender 3
- Male/Female USB Cable Adapter
- Acquire Raspberry Pi, a power supply, and a micro SD card - Make sure your Raspberry Pi features embedded wifi or at least the capacity to accommodate a wifi dongle.
- Transfer OctoPi onto the micro SD card and then install OctoPi onto your Raspberry Pi - OctoPi is the OctoPrint image used to connect OctoPrint services up to your printer via Raspberry Pi.
- Configure the wifi using your SD card
- Hook up Raspberry Pi and connected SD card to your Ender 3 using PuTTY and the Pi’s IP address - PuTTY is software that enables you the command-line interface of the Raspberry Pi.
- Install OctoPrint on your computer and that’s that...all sorted!
Now let’s go over some of the more technical steps in detail.
Connecting Raspberry Pi to Wifi
1. First, you’ll need to make sure you have the latest OctoPi operating system. You can download it here: https://octoprint.org/download/
2. Next, you’ll need to download Win32 Disk Imager. This is the program that allows you to place the OctoPi image on your SD card.
3. Plug in your SD card
4. When the OctoPi image is fully downloaded, click ‘Extract All’. Now you can ‘Write’ the image to the SD card.
5. Open the file directory in your SD and search for a file with the name ‘octopi-wpa-supllicant.txt’.
6. Code in the file will read as follows…
7. Now you’ll need to remove all the hashtags other than the very first two. This makes them uncommented. The code should now look like this…
8. Type in the SSID and your password where indicated.
9. Directly beneath the Password codeline (psk=...), type the following code...scan_ssid=1
10. Select your country, save all changes, and you’re done!
Connecting Your Computer to Raspberry Pi
- Your first port of call is to connect the Raspberry Pi to your Ender 3 via the USB cable.
- Power the Pi with the power adaptor.
- Insert the SD card with the OctoPi image into the Pi.
- Check the IP address of the Pi by opening the command prompt.
- Insert the IP address in the PuTTY interface on your computer.
- Using ‘pi’ as the username and ‘raspberry’ as the password, login to the Pi.
- Type the Pi’s IP into the search bar of your web browser. This should trigger the Setup Wizard.
- This is where you set up your printer profile.
- For ‘Origin’, set it to ‘Lower Left’.
- Width (X) should be set to 220.
- Depth (Y) also needs to be 220.
- Height (Z) should be set to 250.
- Click the ‘Next’ box, then the ‘Finish’ box.
How to Connect a Camera to Your 3D Printer Using Raspberry Pi
Should you want to keep an eye on the printing process from a distance or make some awesome printing videos to share with the world, you’ll need a quality camera. We recommend this one: Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2.
- Attach the camera to your printer.
- Connect the camera to the Pi using the ribbon connector. The Pi has a special ribbon input.
- Now fit the Pi on your Ender 3.
- Using a USB cable, connect the Pi to the Ender 3 power supply, and you’re sorted!
You can design and print your own camera mounts, ensuring your camera is secure and that you’ll always have the best view of your designs coming to life.
Raspberry Pi & AstroBox Kit
This combination allows you to initiate printing from completely different locations, and as a bonus, it’s much easier to set up.
You can even buy them pre-packaged as a whole kit with everything you’ll need to get started. It includes:
- Raspberry Pi 3B+
- Wifi dongle
- 16GB micro SD card preloaded with AstroBox software
- Pi power supply
- Pi case
Setup is as simple as plugging your AstroBox directly into your Ender 3, then Presto!
Your 3D printer has wifi. It’s also connected to the cloud, so you can send commands via any device connected to a local network.
This means you can also observe the printing process from anywhere using a camera.
Other AstroBox features include…
- Design slicing via the Cloud
- Totally wireless printer management
- No SD cards required for uploading STL files
- User-friendly interface
- An AstroPrint mobile app
- Self installing updates
As we’ve discussed in part already, the AstroBox Touch is a premium AstroPrint product that provides you with an exquisitely designed, easy-to-use touchscreen interface.
It’s a little pricey, but it’s fantastic, and so simple to learn how to use, a child could master it in minutes.
Meant to function as part of a completely connected system encompassing 3D printers, laptops, tablets, and phones, it offers the same cloud connectivity of the standard AstroBox, allowing you to send commands from anywhere you can find connection.
Despite its simplicity, the articulation it gives you over a 3D printer is often greater than if you were in the room with it.
Creality Wifi Cloud Box
This product works in a very similar way to the standard AstroBox. It’s a compact router with Cloud connectivity, that lets you print from anywhere.
It allows you to do all the good stuff such as real-time monitoring and slicing, all from a remote location.
If you’d like a closer look at it, you can check it out here.
Installation is a total breeze…
- Plug it into the mains.
- Connect it to your printer via the micro B cable.
- Remove the SD card from your printer.
- Turn on your printer.
- Download the Creality Cloud app.
- Select ‘Devices’ and then ‘+’.
- Scan your Creality box QR code.
- Name your box.
- Choose a wifi network.
Duet 3 is a way of avoiding Raspberry Pi completely. It is a control board for your 3D printer that has wifi capabilities already installed.
Once you’ve got one of these locked and loaded, all you’ll have to do is connect to the network and you’re good to go.
The installation process can be a little confusing but follow these steps and you should be fine…
- Go to the Duet 3 webpage and download the USB drivers.
- This will take you to Github where you’ll click ‘Download’.
- When downloaded, extract the file.
- A dialogue box will appear with two files. Right click on the one named ‘duet’ and click install.
- Now you’ll need to use the ethernet or USB cable to connect the board to your computer.
- To set up the Terminal Emulator click on the Duet 3 page’s ‘YAT’ download link. (This is slightly different for Mac users. Just follow the instructions on the page).
- Sourceforge will open. Click ‘Download’.
- Extract the file.
- Right click on the file ‘YATx64(64-bit)’ and click ‘Install’.
- Open YAT, go to ‘File’ then ‘New Terminal’
- Check the terminal Type is set to ‘Text’ and that the correct Duet unit is in the Serial Port box, then click ‘OK’.
- Update the firmware.
- To set up network name and password type, ‘M587 S “your network name” P “your password”. Now click ‘Send Text’.
- Type in the text bar, ‘M552 S1’. This should confirm the Duet is connected and show you the IP address.
- Type the IP address into your web browser, and you should arrive at the Duet’s interface.
There you have it, folks, some amazing ways to hook up wireless connectivity to your otherwise wired 3D printers.
Installation can be tricky with some of them, but the payoff is well worth sitting down for an hour or so, knuckling down, and getting it done.
From there on out you can enjoy free-flowing creativity, unimpeded by distance.