We Tested 4 Wireless 3D Printing Services—Here’s What We Learned

Everything is connected to the Internet nowadays. Phones, cars, thermostats – why not your 3D printer? Several companies have recently released products and software that give you total control of your printer from your computer or phone. Now you can start and stop 3D prints while grabbing a coffee, or manually adjust motors and temperatures when you are out of town. If you are wondering how your print is doing, you can check on it in real time with a webcam. Here’s a look at some of the best wireless services, and the unique features each one brings to the table. All of the services listed below are compatible with all 3DP printers.

The OctoPrint software is open source and flexible, making it perfect for users who want to adjust the fine details of how their printer works. One of the most powerful features of OctoPrint is the plugin system, which lets users radically change the software to suit their own needs. Want to keep track of how often your builds are failing, and why? Use the Printer Statistics plugin. Frustrated with OctoPrint’s phone interface? TouchUI redesigns it from the ground up. All these plugins are free, and if you cannot find what you need (and have a bit of programming knowledge), you can build your own in Python. Another bonus is the ability to program in “event hooks” – G-Code scripts that automatically run when certain conditions are met, such as when a print fails or when OctoPrint’s built-in slicer finishes slicing a model.

OctoPrint is free. However, the software needs to be installed onto a Raspberry Pi.

Check out this video review for more information.

The AstroBox provides some advanced features like plugins and event hooks for user-friendliness and ease of use. If you don’t want to configure a Raspberry Pi, you can buy a pre-made AstroBox that can be plugged in and installed to print in minutes. The straightforward user interface works well on phones, tablets, and desktops, and Thingiverse integration makes it a snap to send models directly to your printer. AstroPrint’s app store API offers several ways to quickly and easily modify your AstroBox and add features to it. You can also save your own models to the cloud and slice them anywhere using the AstroPrint Cloud Slicer, which can use Cura or Slic3r. Plus, the AstroBox (along with the two other cloud-connected devices below) updates automatically, so you can focus on printing instead of managing downloads.

The AstroBox can be bought for $149, or you can download the software for free and install it on your own Raspberry Pi.

3DPrinterOS brings many powerful features to the table, such as version control, and the ability to edit STL files and repair them with its Magic Fix App. But what sets 3DPrinterOS apart from its competitors is scalability and connectivity. A 3DPrinterOS account can support any number of 3D printers, and printers can be shared between several users, with adjustable permission levels for each user. 3DPrinterOS also offers accounts for universities and businesses with several additional features, such as in-depth analytics, custom APIs, and administrative tools.

3DPrinterOS can be installed onto a Raspberry Pi for free. The pre-made 3DPrinterOS EasyBox can also be purchased for $249, and comes bundled with an HD webcam. A premium account costs $200 per year for each user.

Like the Astrobox, The Element is a standalone, preconfigured device that’s simple to set up and use. It has several features that set it apart, though: For one, it’s the only product of the four whose slicer has out-of-the-box support for delta printers, making it a must-have for certain printers. The built-in search, powered by 3DShapes, puts hundreds of different free and ready-to-print models at your disposal. And for advanced users, a G-Code console lets you send commands directly to your 3D printer, which is extremely useful for troubleshooting a faulty 3Dprinter. When we initially tested The Element, we had a couple issues with spotty connectivity between The Element and our printer. However, the team at printr (which makes The Element) was very friendly and very helpful when we reached out to them, and the problems were quickly solved. The Element can be purchased for €199. Products were tested on or around 29 June 2016. Information contained in this article is accurate, to the best of 3DP’s knowledge, as of that date. 3DP does not produce and is not affiliated with the manufacturers of the products on this page. While 3DP strives to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible, 3DP makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of this site, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of this site. No warranty of any kind, implied, expressed, or statutory, including but not limited to the warranties of non-infringement of third party rights, title, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose or freedom from computer virus, is given with respect to the contents of this website or its links to other Internet resources. Reference in this site to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of 3DP customers and the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by 3DP.

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