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Last updated: November 14, 2022
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Is it time to update your 3D printer but you are not sure how to do that? You could reduce the amount of noise the printer produces. You can also improve the quality of prints and even the printer’s general performance by investing in a quality 3D printer control. As the name suggests, a such controller can reinstate or tweak your printer.
To get the best end of the deal when you are shopping for the best 3D printer controller, you will need to understand what it is that this component does. In this review, we explore the numerous factors you need to check out when searching for a 3D printer motherboard. Among the factors to check out include the microprocessor installed. You also need to consider checking the type and number of connections this component comes with. You can have USB, SD and Wi-Fi connectivity options. The power input options are also something to look into. Let us take a more in-depth look into the best 3D printer controllers and what they have to offer.
More features: CNC fan, automatic functions support, XM, YM, ZAM, ZBM, EM motor drive interface, 3.3 V logic voltage, 4 layers
BIGTREETECH is renowned for the production of some of the best 3D printer motherboards in the world. The BIGTREETECH SKR Mini E3 V2.0 is yet another phenomenal 3D printer board that will rejuvenate your 3D printer and life in general. A 32-bit microprocessor is installed in the controller and comes with a frequency of 72MHz ARM cortex M3 series. This makes the controller powerful and super quiet.
When you consider the controller’s connectivity, you won’t be disappointed because there is a micro-USB port. Through this port, you can connect the printer to a TFT screen or BLtouch. To make your experience even better, one of the unit models comes installed with a TFT35 12864LCD. This guarantees easy navigation for you. Don’t forget that the unit boasts of a BTT V1.2’s Wi-Fi interface that improves its user-friendliness.
To prevent any overheating of the printer, this 32-bit 3D printer controller is armed with a CNC fan. You will also love the automatic function support feature and the YM, ZAM, ZBM EM motor drive interface. Given that the unit can be powered by either 12 or 24 volts, whether you are a pro or a novice, it easily exceeds expectations.
What makes it special?
The V1.2 is a plug-and-play unit and is compatible with several Creality machines.
What cons did we find?
Besides the fact that the unit doesn't come with user-instructions and no extension cable for BLtouch, this is one of the best 3D controllers of today.
More features: SD-card compatible, TMC2660 stepper drivers
If you have some experience in 3D printing or are looking to upgrade the 3D printer board of your machine, then try the FYSETC 3D Printer Motherboard Kit. This 32-bit bit 3D printer controller has been equipped with 256 micro-stepping. You can never go wrong with this controller as you can use 12 or 24 volts for power input.
As you will notice, the FYSETC 3D Printer controller is not ideal for a beginner. It boasts of 2660 TMC stepper drivers hence making the operating of steppers relatively easy. This arms it with more power than you could possibly need and also makes the printer super quiet. As for connectivity of the board, the manufacturer has included Wi-Fi, USB and Ethernet connectivity capabilities. An SD-card port has also been included.
As a more experienced 3D printer enthusiast, you will enjoy the incredible quality the controller brings forth and the absence of marks on your end projects. Resetting your 3D has never been easier. With this board, just go through the firmware and avoid the hustle of having to readjust the voltage. The other feature that makes this controller unique is the presence of a reset and an erase button.
What makes it stand out?
This is one of the easiest 3D controllers that you can configure. Besides its user-friendliness, compatibleness with devices and the ability to produce high-quality work, it is super quiet.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
The board is a bit technical, making it inappropriate for a beginner.
More features: SD-card compatible, A4982 stepper drivers, dual-extruder machines compatible
The BIQU MKS-Base V1.6 is a 32-bit 3D printer controller board that boasts remarkable features that will revolutionize your 3D printing experience. Boasting of an ATmega 2560 microprocessor, this controller is guaranteed to work flawlessly. The low power 8-bit microprocessor has been designed to not only use less power but also to ensure instructions are executed powerfully.
The controller is versatile when it comes to power input. The power voltage can either be 12 or 24 volts. The manufacturer has even gone a step further and color-coded the terminals to ensure that you never get confused. It is armed with five A4982 stepper drivers making it easy to hook any drivers you can think of. The quiet motor drivers help at making your 3D printing procedures very quiet.
The extruder feature of this 3D printer component makes it compatible with different models of 3D printers. When it comes to the controller’s communication and connectivity, you get to enjoy a USB and SD interface. The other feature that you enjoy when you invest in the V1.6 is the non-interruption of power even when there is a power outage. This is made possible but resume printing feature.
Why did it make our list?
It goes without saying that the 'resume printing' feature is a big plus for every 3D printing enthusiast.
What is not ideal about it?
The downside of owning this controller is the limited information available about it. The controller also seems to have a shortage of fans.
More features: LPC1768 main control chip, double Z-axis interface, SD-card compatible
If you are looking for a quality inexpensive upgrade of your 3D printer controller, the BIGTREETECH Direct SKR V1.4 Turbo is the one to go for. This unit’s power input can either be 12 or 24 volts. By buying this controller, you get to enjoy an ARM cortex-M3 CPU microprocessor which makes the board function pretty fast. The LCP 1768 control chip ensures that the performance never stutters.
When you invest in this 3D printer controller board, you can rest easy knowing that the 3D printer will operate in complete silence. This is mainly due to the use of the stealth chop feature. The double z-axis interface on this controller helps eliminate the headache of having to use an external drive expansion module.
The manufacturer has included a USB port and a Wi-Fi interface to connect this controller with your computer and other devices. The controller is SD compatible and comes with a 128MB SD. The other feature that makes this unit stand out is the D3 blue light, which indicates when the power supply is normal. You will need to use a jumper cap for the TFT screen to connect with the 5V on the board.
What stands out?
You will undoubtedly love the versatility and affordability of the SKR V1.4 Turbo controller. You will not need an SD extender, and the quietness of the printer is at another level. Even for a novice, this is the perfect investment.
What cons did we manage to find?
The things that we weren't happy about this unit are the lack of enough fans and its complexity, making it less than ideal for a beginner.
More features: SD-card compatible, metal construction
If you are looking for a reliable 32-bit 3D printer controller, the answer might be lying in the Flashforge Creator ProMightyboard. This controller comes with 12V and 24V power input options. Having been made of metal, you are guaranteed to enjoy using it for a long time.
For functionality, the manufacturer has loaded the unit with a USB port. This makes it possible to connect with a computer and other electronic devices. The controller has further been made functional by the inclusion of an SD slot. If you’re considering upgrading your 3D printer with an affordable controller, this is a great unit to go for. Besides making your printer quieter, you will get to enjoy neater prints. Flashforge is a reliable company that has been manufacturing both 3D printers and high-quality accessories. You can rest easy knowing that the brand you are investing in is renowned.
What makes it special?
The motherboard allows you to use 12 or 24 volts input options. For connectivity, you can use the USB port provided.
What cons did we find?
Though manufactured by a renowned company, there is very scant information on the unit.
Things to Consider
Let us now explore that many features that one must consider when shopping for a top-quality controller. To get the very best out of your printer, installing the perfect motherboard money can buy is of importance. We are going to explore the very features that make such a controller perfect for your machine. We have further explored some of the FAQs that seem to bother many of the 3D printing enthusiasts.
What are 3D printer controllers?
In the simplest terms, a 3D printer controller is the heart of a 3D printer. It, therefore, follows that a controller is responsible for all the electronic functioning of your printer. The controller is responsible for handling parsing G-code files, controlling the printer’s motion and regulating the temperature. Controlling the machine’s motion is particularly important because stepper motors and fused deposit modeling comes into play.
A 3D printer controller will come in handy when you want to replace it or upgrade your printer’s performance. However, when picking the right controller, there are brands and models to consider, making this process quite tough.
How to install 3D printer board
A majority of the 3D printer motherboards fall under the RAMBo (RepRap Arduino-Mega Board) category. These are the type of boards that come loaded with easy-to-use connectors. The connectors are such that they are straightforward to insert and clip into place. No soldering is required when installing these controllers.
Once the board has been affixed onto the printer, it is now time to install the drivers. You will use the USB port to connect the machine to the computer for this to happen.
The next step involves uploading a firmware that is configured to your specific printer. Such firmware includes the popular Marlin. You should then set up the firmware.
Now it is time to connect the hardware. This involves connecting all power cables and other wires. This is then followed by mosfet connectors preparation.
Prepare the thermistors and then the endstops.
After all this has been done, it is now time to connect the RAMBo. The final step is connecting to power. Make sure that the polarity is not inverted when connecting to the power source.
How to choose the best 3D printer controller
Over the last few years, 3D printing has grown to become a diverse and thriving industry on its own. This has seen the importance of controllers grow not only because they make a printer whole, but also because they determine the very features your printer can exude at the end of the day. It is the diversity of the features included in the many makes and models of 3D printer controllers that have helped push the 3D printing industry forward. Here are some of the main features that you need to check out;
A 3D printer heavily relies on its connectivity with the computer and other devices. This means the printer has to have excellent connectivity if you are to reap the machine’s full benefits. Given that the controller is the heart of the printer, good connectivity around this component is essential. You will find that most controllers come with a USB port and SD compatibility. In some instances like that of FYSETC 3D Printer Motherboard Kit and BIGTREETECH Direct SKR V1.4 Turbo, Wi-Fi interface has been included.
A 3D printer controller gets its power from the microprocessor installed on it. It is the microprocessor that determines whether your printer will be quiet or slow. In all of the featured controllers here, 32-bit processors are the most preferred. You will realize that the microprocessor used in a controller determines the number of calculations a motherboard can make in a minute. At the end of it all, this component determines the efficiency of the printer. You need a processor, especially if you are a pro.
Price plays a vital role in determining whether a person will buy something or not. In the case of the 3D printer controllers, you will find that the price ranges between $40 and $80. Considering the impact the controller can have on the quality of products produced and the ease of doing your job, this is not a pricey thing to add to your printer. Whether you are on a shoe-string budget or are looking to get the very best the market can afford, there is a pick for you.
Stepper drivers are found under the 3D printer hood. They are primarily designed to control and cause the coils found in the stepper motors to trigger. This then makes the shaft of the motor turn in a very controlled way. You will find that the steppers come affixed to the board in some instances while in other instances, they are replaceable plug-is. But what matters is that the central chip found in a stepper driver can process inputs and outputs across the axis.
Before you give out your money in exchange for a 3D printer board, you should consider its quality. In many instances, the quality is determined by the materials used to make the part. In the case of the Flashforge Creator ProMightyboard, the manufacturer used metal hence ensuring that the part lasts for a long time. In other instances, you should consider the subtle features that help make all the difference in terms of the controller’s performance. Some of these small things to consider are the type of firmware the controller is compatible with, the stepper drivers it comes with and the connectivity it affords you.
The performance of the controller you invest in will be determined by the features it carries and how useful those features are. In the case of the BIGTREETECH SKR Mini E3 V2.0, you find that the printer’s performance becomes smoother, quieter and more refined because of the 32-bit 72MHz frequency ARM cortex M3 series microprocessor. You should look up the controller’s features to know whether the performance will be better than when you had the old controller.
Don’t we all love buying products that come with something extra? Even the 3D printer motherboard makers know this. They do strive to include a few extra features. Extra features are the erase and reset buttons in the FYSETC 3D Printer Motherboard Kit.
The main advantage that comes with building your own 3D printer is the reduced cost. Depending on the type of printer you intend to make, you will find that a corresponding printer at the shop will cost you much more. The other advantage that comes with buying a printer is the improved knowhow you acquire in the process.
If you are a beginner, an 8-bit controller will work just fine. However, if you are looking to upgrade your prints’ quality and its speed, you will need to change the factory board. Remember though that a 32-bit processor will not come with a spectacular difference in your everyday printing. But for those that wish to enjoy better control of small movements, a 32-bit controller will work. If you wish to improve the speed, quality of the prints, and the printer’s overall performance, you will need to change more than just the controller.
Our editor’s choice is the BIGTREETECH SKR Mini E3 V2.0 controller. It scores highly because it boasts of a 32-bit microprocessor and its connectivity is made possible by a mini-USB. This 3D printer controller is loaded with features, key among them is the automatic functions support, CNC fan, 3.3 V logic voltage and EM motor drive.
The FYSETC 3D Printer Motherboard Kit takes second place in our review. This controller affords you not only superior connectivity but also unrivalled SD-card compatibility. It is a controller that will rejuvenate your 3D printer instantly. Don’t forget the manufacturer has given you the option of using 12 or 24 volts.
You may be shopping for the best 3D printer controller that is adorned with cool features but whose price tag is pocket friendly. Well, the BIQU MKS-Base V1.6 controller, which boasts of USB connectivity and SD-card compatibility is going to tweak your printer and your overall 3D printing experience.