Printrbot Simple 2016 – Hardware (PCB) explained

This blog post describes the details about the hardware, more specifically the PCB that I have developed for the display component of the new Printrbot Simple 2016. As we believe in Open Source we have published everything under the MIT license. Have a look at the code respository, too.

To give you some context why we have chosen these components please first read my Behind the Scenes report that describes the process of selecting the right components for our purpose.

Block diagram

Let’s have a look at the Block Diagram of the Simple 2016 and how various components are connected. First we have a very clever power management that delivers enough current for all the motors and PCBs but also does that secure and with great efficiency. Next there is the Printrhub, which is the display component of the printer. The hub also controls the Printrboard and the ESP module to communicate with the Printrbot cloud that holds all the projects, materials and settings of the user. Last but not least there is the printer itself, powered by the g2 Printrboard with advanced motor handling features and advanced algorithms for great prints.


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Custom LCD Controller for Printrbot Simple (Metal)

In order to print with the Printrbot Simple Metal you have to connect your computer with your printer via USB and make sure that the computer continuously sends data to the printer. If your computer crashes, your printer stops and your maybe long hour print is a piece of chunk. If your computer goes into stand by the result is the same. And there are various other reasons like energy consumption. The way to go is untethered printing.

The Printrbot Simple Metal is capable of that in two ways, both of them require a Mini-SD card inserted into the printer. The first way is to write the G-Codes generated by your Slicer, typically Repetier Host and Slicr to the SD-Card. Name it auto0.gcode, insert the card into the printer. Shut it down and on again. The printer should now start to print. But you will not know if it works for a couple of minutes as it’s first heating up. Nothing moves, etc. I tried that a couple of times and found the procedure to be very annoying.

The second method is using the Addon LCD Controller sold by Printrbot.

Getting your hands on a LCD Controller

Your Printrbot is already capable of displaying a nice LCD-Menu with all kinds of options and the option to browse the SD-card and run any print from it untethered from your PC. All that is needed is a Standard 20×4 LCD Display and a rotary encoder. A rotary encoder is a special kind of input sensor that sends signals when it is rotated.

Printrbot sells these LCDs for $65 in their store. But they still have that wood look. It does not match the Metals Design. And, as I am living in Germany you will have to wait a few days for it to arrive and you will likely have some issues regarding customs. I did not found a german distributor a few weeks ago so I wanted to built my own. A few days ago I have found selling the LCD Controller in Germany for €70. That’s a lot of money and by doing it yourself you will end up with 30-40 Euros for the LCD Controller.


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Getting started with Printrbot Simple Metal

Printrbot Simple Metal Black

My DIY-Wireless-Home-Automation-System requires various nodes to be placed around our house. Having kids and a wife, there is no way around building nice looking enclosing for my stuff. So I decided to invest into a 3D printer. It took me some time browsing the web to find what I was looking for. I really want good quality prints. And as my primary interest is electronics and not 3D printing, I wanted a machine that runs out of the box and does not need a lot of preparation before each print and various reprints until you have printed a piece that is ok.

As I did not want to spent too much money on a 3D printer I bought a Printrbot Simple Metal. As you browse the web you read a lot of very good things about this tiny (well, not really) machine. And I tell you the same. This machine is really very, very good. But there is a major fault with it: It’s not plug and play. But it’s so close! The software is good, and the hardware is very, very good, too. Even the Getting Started Guides on Printrbots Website is quite good I think. But there are some minor Bugs that prevent a hassle free start – well in my case, and as you are reading this I think you have problems, too.

I must admit that I purchased the assembled one. If you are having problems your job is harder as you could have built something wrong. Either way, perhaps you did everything correctly and now you are running into the same issues that you will have even with an assembled one.

What I really do not understand is that there are so many comments and forum posts with people running in the same problems over and over and it all comes down to faulty getting started guides and other minor documentation bugs. And they have not been updated till now. But I am here to help!

Here is my own getting started guide. But I will not write down every little step. Instead I will give links and will comment on the bugs, issues and solutions I have found while following the official guides.


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