German RepRap, manufacturers of professional 3D printers based on RepRap designs, have announced a new way to control their equipment: the 3DPrintBox.
It’s a set-top box that can drive print operations on attached devices. It’s like a print server for 3D printers. Usage is straightforward: GCODE files generated by slicing software are “printed” to the 3DPrintBox via ethernet or WiFi. The GCODE is stored on the 3DPrintBox, freeing up your desktop or laptop for other use.
The 3DPrintBox then dribbles the GCODE directly to any selected 3D printer attached to the 3DPrintBox by USB. The 3DPrintBox provides a web interface, so print progress and control can be performed from any platform having an internet connection, including mobile devices.
There’s an optional feature to provide a live video feed from any webcams attached to one or more printers. It appears that up to three 3D printers can be attached to the 3DPrintBox, and German RepRap says they can be any 3D printer having a USB connection - but they’d prefer you purchase their machines, of course.
While personal users may find this functionality interesting but perhaps not critical, it is much more important for business users who may require very long duration prints. In such situations, it’s critical to understand real-time progress in case of print problems. Days of lost printing could be saved with this device.
The rather attractive 3DPrintBox is priced at €149 (USD$187), so it’s definitely not a budget-buster, particularly for businesses who would surely recoup those costs during use simply by reducing wasted prints.
If the price is too high for you, German RepRap will be offering the design to the open source community, so you’ll be able to build your own at perhaps lower cost.
Via German RepRap