A controller board or a motherboard is the heart of a machine. This special unit manages and links the machine’s components to one another. The motherboard oversees the processes, ensuring that your 3D printer or laser engraver is operating to its full capacity. Check that the motherboard is compatible with your 3D printer or CNC machine as some items are manufactured for certain brands. Easily find a high-quality motherboard for your machine in our collection.
So, how do you go about selecting a controller board?
Choosing a mainboard depends on the kind of device you are working with and also what the tasks that you intend on having the device perform. The most important feature to consider is the firmware that supports the mainboard. There are many different types available like Marlin, MK4duo, and RepRapFirmware. Do take into account that certain mainboards will come with the manufacturer’s firmware installed, for example, Creality and Klipper.
Another consideration is the amount of axis that you would like to be supported by the mainboard and the number of extruders you will be able to hook up to your 3D printer. The speed of the main processor is also determined by your choice. The higher the MHz the faster your machine can run. Furthermore, ensure that the peripherals you would like to incorporate into your machine are supported by the controller board. This concerns the fan outputs, external stepper drivers, thermistors, thermocouples, SD cards, and LCD/touch screens. It can also be that you want to set up another circuit for the heated bed, allowing you to provide more power to your machine. Decide which voltage is required to run your machine as higher voltages will give more power for the heaters and stepper motors. The most commonly supported voltages are 12-24V. The expandability of the motherboard will also be different. Some will accept certain add-ons, like Duet 3D known for electronic devices with various innovative expandability options.
Firmware is an essential part of the motherboard and acts as the connection between all components. A firmware will function based on the scripts and programs designed by developers. This can vary depending on a device and its intended function. Without firmware, devices would not know what to do and in fact, would not function at all. Firmware can be found in all devices like TVs, washing machines, and security cameras. Firmware processes the inputs and controls the outputs in 3D printers and CNC machines. An example of an input is the file provided by the slicer software with G-code instructions which is then executed by the firmware.
Updating firmware is possible however there are many factors to take into consideration. Compatibility is very important since not all motherboards support the same types of firmware. There are many reasons to update your firmware, however, it is advised to do this if really required. For example, if you need to fix some bugs and your machine keeps crashing. If you feel like you are missing out on the necessary features that your project or activity requires, this is also a good reason to look into updating your firmware. In case you would like to fully replace your motherboard, it is very possible that you will also have to change the firmware as well, especially if the previous firmware does not match.
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Connect your 3D printer to your computer with a USB cable or download the compatible firmware onto your USB and plug it into your 3D printer. Always check the manual as this can depend on the 3D printer. There is a series of firmware to select from like Marlin, MK4duo, or RepRapFirmware. Make sure that your firmware is compatible with your 3D printer’s mainboard.
The best controller board for your 3D printer depends on the kind of machine and the firmware that is supported. Decide what kind of peripherals will make your machine complete and determine the features and operations you need to perform, this will majorly outline which mainboard to select. Find your 3D printer and see the available upgrades for your machine on the product pages.
A 3D printer’s controller board or motherboard is often referred to as the heart of the machine. It is a special unit that oversees and manages all operations of a 3D printer or CNC machine. The firmware is located in a mainboard that connects all components to the same place for inputs and output commands.
A 3D printer is controlled by the firmware. The firmware receives input from the slicer software with G-code commands for the 3D printer. The 3D printer is then instructed on where to place the extruder and when, or how much filament to extrude at a certain temperature appropriate for the material or model being printed.
A controller board should be selected based on the intended functions for your 3D printer. Choose a 3D printer mainboard that supports the peripherals best for optimal operation. There are many aspects to take into account like the overall setup, voltages, and expandability options. We list upgrades for specific 3D printers on the details page in our 3D printer section.