After devouring eight pounds of chocolate-covered cranberry granola and configuring/re-configuring 3d printers 892 times, we’ve come to a conclusion. 3d print software makes up 38% of what’s lame about 3d printing. Fortunately, other people feel the same and are less lazy and more computer savvy than we. AstroPrint is wireless 3d printing from your mobile device. They have a rocket for a logo, a Kickstarter video that doesn’t totally suck and shot past their funding goal, so we know they mean business. We asked Drew Taylor, Founder and CEO of AstroPrint, what makes their software so much better and so different from the other 3d printing slicing, dicing, temp and position-control software like Repetier host. Here’s what he had to say.
“We store files in our cloud service. These files can be accessed from any web-enabled device. This lets you print on other people’s printers or in different locations on different printers. Also, we save all the users gcode files in relation to the stl it was sliced from. This gives users a ‘tree’ where they can see all the slices they have made from a particular stl. Repetier doesn’t really save files for you unless you request it, and then gets lost in a general folder with all your other gcodes.”
Now that’s something we can get behind.
Tell me if you’ve been in this situation. You install 3d print software on your computer hooked up to a new 3D printer in your family room. After three days of ABS fumes soaking into the couch fabric and the quiet whir of the printer at work, you decide to move it to the garage. But you can’t (or don’t want to) move the computer. So you install/configure it again on an old laptop found in the closet. Or, maybe you just want to have better access to your files when you hop on down to the fab lab. Is AstroPrint a complete replacement or even supported by the massive amount of 3d printers available? We had to ask.
Does this replace any other slicing/print software, Slic3r, MakerWare, et al?
AstroPrint replaces the need to use Repetier Host, Octoprint, Slic3r, Cura, and others. MakerWare will come later, we’re working on it. For slicing, we put Slic3r in the cloud, wrapped in an API. This means that when you slice through AstroPrint.com, or through your AstroBox, you are actually using the most updated version of Slic3r, everytime. Within the next few months we’ll be adding the option to use Cura or the MakerBot slicer. So, yes, AstroPrint users do not need to use any other pieces of software. We replace them all.
What systems/formats is it compatible with?
AstroPrint is compatible with any printer that uses Marlin firmware, which is about 80% of the desktop printers. Basically, any printer that accepts gcode can use AstroPrint. One way to think of us is as the ‘MicroSoft’ of the 3D printing world. Windows runs on almost any PC, just as AstroPrint operates on almost any desktop 3d printer.
Are you partnering with any 3D print companies?
Absolutely! The primary reason we are running the Kickstarter campaign is to make a huge splash with the community and get our feet in the doors of the printer manufacturers. We have had three manufacturers already lined up for beta testing and expect to contract a few more over the next four weeks. At the moment we cannot mention the names of the manufacturers. Manufacturers who are interested can contact us.
You saw Drew mention the AstroBox. The software is great, but this is the key element. You still plug your printer in, but now you’re plugging it into a Wi-Fi router that both stores your data and allows you to connect to your printer from any location with web access. Once the gcode is compiled and the print has started, no web connection is needed unless you need to monitor or adjust the settings of your printer through the AstroPrint software.
Does a pretty, web-enabled, wireless interface solve all the problems with 3d printers. Not entirely, but we’re hopeful. With a wireless option working on the majority of 3d printers and lined up to be supported by others, the hope is that the process gets more efficient overall.
AstroPrint has blown past their $10k Kickstarter goal and are rounding the $20k bend with nearly a month left to go. With the AstroBox software already in beta, they’re planning to have the first batch of devices delivered August 2013. The earlybird specials are gone, so the full plug-n-play set-up is available at US $125 for an October 2014 delivery. Run over, pop a coin in the Kickstarter machine and watch your 3d print software worries disappear with the cords.