Tag Archives: host software

Recent Printing

I haven’t been doing much printing lately, the usual hassles of life catching up with me.

I’ve printed up a few more of the earbud holders over the last few weeks, for people who are jealous of the ones that I gave out during Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted this page over on thingiverse, which generates some nameplates. I thought that these looked like a lot of fun, and an easy way to print name-tags for the kids’ bags and stuff.

I printed out a few of them one evening while my wife was having a craft night with her friends. They loved them, so I ended up printing out lots of them for their kids as well.

Last week, I went through and updated the software toolchain – SFact, Pronterface and Marlin. It never fails to amaze me just how much improvement comes through in the software, over the space of two months.

The only other thing of note that I’ve printed out lately is some bracelets. Slightly strange story behind these – when I was speaking on the phone with my Mum a few weeks ago, she said that she had a dream that I’d printed her out a bracelet. So, to make the prophecy self-fulfilling, I found a design on Thingiverse and printed a few out for my Mum and daughters. Turned out very nicely.

I adjusted the size of the first couple of larger ones by playing with the ‘scale’ setting in SFact, but this didn’t work very well with the smaller bracelets. So I downloaded the OpenScad file, and modified the variables in that. That worked really well to generate the smaller bracelets.

The printer’s working really well these days, completely hands-off. I just hit ‘print’, then walk away. The printer even shuts itself down at the end of the print, and always produces nice results.

Software Update

I’m still in ‘waiting mode’ at the moment, so in preparation for eventual printing. To help get everything ready, I thought I’d update the software. It’s only a month old, but a month is a long time in Reprap, particularly with the software.

I went and downloaded the newest version of Pronterface. It doesn’t seem to be much different from the old version, but will undoubtedly have some improvements.

I’d also heard about the fork of Skeinforge, called Sfact. It doesn’t seem to be covered in a lot of the reprap documentation, but it was definitely worthwhile finding. It’s a simplified version of Skeinforge, with a lot of the unused options removed. It’s even got a simple configuration page, where the most common options are set. It definitely makes life a lot easier for a newbie like myself.

I also went and downloaded the lasted version of Sprinter. I went through and put in the correct configuration settings, ready to go.

That’s one more thing out of the way.

Easier Starting of Pronterface

Starting Pronterface from the command line gets old pretty quickly. Ordinarily, I’m a big fan of of the command line, and usually use it several times a week, but using it just to start up a graphical program is not ideal.
To make it easier, I wrote a little micro-script in TextWrangler (my favorite Mac text editor) that looks like this:
# This little script starts pronterface
python /Users/david/Documents/Reprap/Printrun/pronterface.py 
Then saved the text file (creatively called ‘Start Pronterface’) to the Reprap directory. I then open up the file information dialog (command – I) and changed the ‘open with’ section so that the file opens in Terminal, like so:
File Information Dialog
Once that option has been set, a simple double-click will open up the script in Terminal, which will then start the Pronterface program.

Missing Virtual Com Port

As I mentioned in a previous post, when using Pronterface or Arduino, I mentioned that the virtual com port was dropping out, and requiring re-installation.

When I was attempting to do more experiments with the electronics, I had the same problem again. The virtual com port was just not showing up. I tried re-installing the software several times, but the port was still not showing up in Arduino.

It was becoming quite frustrating, so I turned to Google. I started searching for “arduino virtual com port”. Luckily, on the Arduino website, it came up with this line:

Make sure that the board is plugged in: the serial port menu refreshes whenever you open the Tools menu, so if you just unplugged the board, it won’t be in the menu.

So my problem was that I was starting up Pronterface or Arduino without having the RAMPS board plugged in first. So yeah, that was frustrating.

Installing Pronterface

There are a few different software packages (aka host software) which can be used to controlled a Reprap. There is Pronterface, Repsnapper, and the creatively-named RepRap Host Software. Kliment’s pronterface (aka Printrun) is one of the most supported and popular at the moment. It had a lot of recommendations behind it, so I thought that it would be the best one to go with.

It was a little bit tricky to install, mostly because if you use a mac you also have to install wxPython as well as pyserial, which requires a command and installation from a command line.

Pronterface also needs to be run from the control line:
python pronterface.py

Running the program bought up the following screen:

First up, I tried to connect to the electronics. For some reason, the usb serial ports which I had previously used to connect Arduino to the electronics weren’t showing up, so I had to reinstall that software. It seems like it disappears every time the computer is rebooted, so I’ll have to track that problem down.

Next up, I tested the electronics, to see if they were correctly reading the thermistor on the hot-end. I set up the hotend to the electronics like so:

After a little bit of fiddling with the wires (I didn’t even strip them) I was able to get it to correctly read 22 degrees.

My next steps will be to install skeinforge inside of pronterface, and I’ll hook up a stepper motor and make it spin.