3D printing software has come a long way since the days most 3D printers would require you to import gcode. files physically through a USB stick to start the process. Thanks to the open-source culture that was cultivated in the additive manufacturing community and the innovative nature of the industry, user experience has been improving exponentially with better 3D printing software.
OctoPrint started out as a project that would make 3D printing more accessible by making a few quality-of-life improvements to the 3D printing process. The project was developed by Gina Häußge and it is still maintained and updated by her to this day.
OctoPrint and OctoPi: What is the Difference?
It is easy to confuse OctoPrint and OctoPi because they are often used interchangeably. You might think they are the same thing or do the same thing, but that is not the case.
OctoPrint is basically 3D printing software that you can install on any computer and allows you to connect to your printer wirelessly. It was written in Python and is platform-agnostic, which means it can be used with any computer that can run Python.
OctoPi on the other hand is an image of OctoPrint that is usually used when the software is paired with a Raspberry Pi. OctoPi is probably the most popular way of using the software and allows many conveniences to the user like remote printer control, direct gcode commands, and live monitoring.
What Does OctoPi Offer?
Thanks to the added processing power that Raspberry Pi gives your 3D printer, OctoPi comes with a wide array of settings. While some of these features aim to grant you more freedom while you are using your 3D printer, some of them will make the process much easier for you.
Remote Control Over Your 3D Printer
Having to physically import files into your 3D printer using USB sticks or SD cards is a huge hassle. If you are using multiple 3D printers every day, the amount of time you waste on this process will eventually add up.
The wireless capabilities that the Raspberry Pi in your 3D printer offers will give you full control over your 3D printer remotely. You can easily send stl. or gcode. files to be printed, start and stop the printing process or change the temperatures of your extruder from the computer that OctoPi is installed in.
Detailed User Interface
For more advanced users, the freedom to change different settings is important. More options mean more opportunities to experiment and improve on known methods. This is even more crucial when it comes to printing with filaments that are used by fewer people because the standard settings might not be established yet.
From filament feed rates to individual fan speeds, you can adjust any setting you can think of on OctoPi. The added freedom will give you a more personalized printing experience for each print.
Real-Time Terminal Commands
The terminal commands section helps you monitor every single command that your 3D printer receives and the different movements it makes in real-time. This is another feature that will be very helpful for experienced 3D printer users as the detailed information on things like temperature messages or SD card messages will help them adjust the settings to get better performance from your 3D printer.
You can also change settings mid-print in the terminal commands section using OctoPi. So, if you are not happy with the initial setup, settings can easily be adjusted without stopping the printing process.
Live Visual Monitoring
Depending on the version you bought, most Raspberry Pi models either come with a preinstalled camera or have the capability of housing one. While the users find several uses for the camera, most of them will use it to monitor their prints live, remotely.
You can use the camera and the live feed to check on your print from time to time to make sure it is still ongoing so you don’t have to worry about your print during the day.
Easier Time-Lapse Videos
Whether you are a content creator looking to make a timelapse video or an enthusiast who wants to watch your model being printed, the camera you have installed on your Raspberry Pi can be used for more than just monitoring.
OctoPi also has a plug-in called Octolapse that improves on the default timelapse options and makes the videos cleaner and sharper. The plug-in expands the available settings and makes optimization easier.
Endless Plug-In Options
The best thing about an open-source product is the community involvement that ends up making the product better. OctoPi is fully open-source which means any member of the community can work on the project and improve on it.
For example, the Pushover plug-in sends you a notification when your print is over or it has stopped due to a problem. Heater Timeout detects when your hot end is still heating up even after the print is over and cools it down, eliminating any potential fire hazards.
Cloud slicing is a remote slicing feature that can be useful for some users depending on the situation. It allows you to slice models without having to install a slicer on your computer. This might come in handy if you are in a hurry and don't have the time to install a slicer or are using a different computer than you usually do.
All you have to do is to install the required plug-in and OctoPi will start functioning as a slicer. The plug-in utilizes either Cura or Slic3r, so you can expect the same level of quality.
A Helpful Active Community
OctoPi is not the product of a big corporation. So, you won’t have any customer service you can call if you have any questions or problems. What you have though is an active community that will try and help you if you run into any issues.
Even the project creator Gina Häußge herself is an active member of the community and she is in constant communication with the users. OctoPrint and OctoPi are ongoing projects so updates and optimizations are still released every once in a while.