The controller board plays a major role in the performance of a 3D printer. If you are looking for the best 3D printer controller board, this guide is for you.
Why Are 3D Printer Controller Boards Important?
3D printers are essentially run by the controller board. The board handles the logic, such as moving motors, regulating temperatures, parsing g-code files, etc. You can think of the board as the “motherboard” in relation to PCs.
Today, 3D printers come with powerful controller boards with diverse features. If you are looking for a controller board for your 3D printer, you cannot go wrong with any of these five options
Best Controller Boards for 3D Printers
1. KINGPRINT Smoothieboard
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The KINGPRINT Smoothieboard is a 32-bit board, and one of the best 3D printer controller boards on the market. This board has a 120-MHz processor and runs on the upgraded Smoothieware firmware. This is the firmware used by many 32-bit controller boards. The firmware delivers exceptional performance similar to what you’ll get with the Repetier or Marlin, but is easier to configure.
The Smoothieboard has Allegro stepper drivers, an Ethernet port and offers excellent thermal performance. You can even break out the steeper drivers to replace them with larger ones as part of a CNC rig.
2. Panucatt Azteeg X5 GT
All 3D printer controllers are capable of splitting up the smallest movements of stepper motors into even finer movements. This process is known as microstepping. The process leads to more accurate printing.
Majority of 3D printer boards can handle 1/16th microstepping. However, the Azteeg X5 unit can hit 1/128th microstepping. The controller also has large drivers that easily handle more demanding applications.
Generally, the Azteeg X5 GT works in a similar fashion to the Smoothieboard. This is not a surprise since it is based on the Smoothieboard.
The Azteeg X5 GT also has a 32-bit 120-MHz ARM chip and runs on Smoothieware.
One feature that sets the Azteeg X5 GT apart from the Smoothieboard is its inbuilt Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi will come in handy when you are planning to run something like OctoPrint.
3. Duet WiFi
The Duet WiFi controller board has all the features found in the best 3D printer controller boards; connectivity options, great drivers, 32-bit ARM chip, etc. However, this unit goes a notch further by offering 1/256th microstepping. If you are looking for flawless prints, you want this controller board.
There is nothing to complain about the drivers, connectivity and sound of the controller board.
The Duet WiFi controller board is powered by RepRapFirmware. This firmware supports various movement systems, including the Hangprinter as well as multiple independent axes from brands like BCN3D Sigma. This is the ultimate controller board that can fulfil the needs of any 3D printer.
As the name suggests, this controller board has built-in WiFi. Therefore, setting up OctoPrint is easy. In fact, there is really nothing to set up since the print server is built in.
4. Revolve (Preview)
The Revolve (“Replicape Evolved”) is a mashed-together controller board that is a solid performer. This controller board has a 1-GHz process, which is more than 8x faster than the standard 32-bit chips on the market. With this amount of power, the Revolve can run on a fully-fledged version of Linux on-board.
The Revolve easily integrates with LCD screens, and specifically the Manga screen, which is made by the same company.
5. Panucatt Azteeg X3 Pro
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If you are looking for a good old-fashioned 8-bit board, get the Panucatt Azteeg X3 Pr0. This controller has dual heatbed MOSFETS, high current capabilities, and is compatible with Repetier, Marlin and other firmware that are designed for 8-bit controllers.
The XP Pro supports up to five extruders. Therefore, if you would need multiple colors and materials, or extruder redundancy, this is the controller you want. This is one of the few 3D printer controllers that can handle five extruders. The other controller is Maker Faire.
Generally, 32-bit controllers are becoming more common and affordable. Therefore, you would want to pick a 32-bit controller rather than an 8-bit one.
The above are the best 3D printer control boards that you can use to power your machine.