Josef Prusa dropped some big hints about their upcoming 3D printer farm software.
Prusa’s Czechia-based company produces a big percentage of the desktop 3D printers used worldwide, and they do so partly through the use of a massive internal factory composed of their own 3D printers.
Currently the factory has about 600 units in operation. While these days they are frantically producing face shield components, they normally are used to produce parts for their own 3D printers.
It’s a very sophisticated operation: dealing with 500+ 3D printers could be massively complex. Machines could break; machines run out of filament; machines need to be unloaded; machines need to be restarted for the next job; job GCODE must be loaded; and more.
Prusa Research wisely created their own internal software to operate this gigantic 3D printer farm. I don’t know the details, but surely it saved them countless hours of labor and must have increased their part production throughput considerably.
Prusa Farm Software
Many companies develop sophisticated internal solutions only to realize that these solutions could actually become products on their own. One of the more notable examples of this would be Amazon’s server software, which they developed to handle their growing rows of machines. Eventually this software morphed into what’s now known as “AWS”. It’s offered to the public and provides a highly sophisticated cloud platform for pay-as-you-go compute services. It’s one of Amazon’s major revenue producers.
I suspect Prusa Research has made a similar discovery: their internal software could have value for others. To that end they have been developing something called “Prusa Connect”.
We don’t know many details of Prusa Connect, particularly what functionality will be offered. However, it seems the company is releasing a kind of preview with the latest firmware update for the Prusa MINI 3D printer.
The feature on the MINI is “Prusa Connect Local”, and it seems to be a localized (e.g., non-cloud) partial version of the Prusa Connect functionality. In other words, you can connect to a locally attached Prusa MINI and enjoy some features.
“Starting with firmware 4.0.5, we’re giving you a small glimpse of things to come. Prusa Connect Local is a web-based UI that gives you a complete overview of the current status of your printer. Right now, it only displays a number of useful information about the current print job, but we’re planning to expand it in the future with a list of features that will give you a higher level of control over your printer remotely. Our goal is to bring you a versatile tool for managing your own print farm. Prusa Connect Local currently works only on local area network, but a “cloud” version is already in development.”
Prusa Connect Local Features
The display for Prusa Connect Local seen at top seems basic, and offers the following information, presumably in real time:
Hot end and bed temperature over time
Print duration and elapsed time
Material used (or at least what was specified in the slicing operation)
That’s not a lot, and it appears it’s only viewable. There are no options to make changes, such as stopping or pausing the job, altering heat targets, etc. For those Prusa Research recommends using an external set-top box running Octoprint.
One can imagine the full version of Prusa Connect having features similar to Octoprint’s, which includes managing a library of 3D models and previously-sliced GCODE. In Prusa Connect’s case, it is pretty clear they will have an easy link to their rapidly-growing 3D model repository, Prusa Printers.
They will also surely include features to manage groups of devices and coordinate job dispatch amongst them, as those are functions necessary for their internal factory system.
Prusa Connect is not yet released or even described in any significant manner. But with this brief exposure we can get a hint of what is to come.
Via Prusa Printers