A new release of the very popular Marlin firmware has been released.
If you’re not familiar with Marlin, you should be, because it powers a huge proportion of the world’s desktop 3D printers.
What is it, exactly? It’s a software package that runs on the controller board of a 3D printer; it’s purpose is to control the real-time operations of the device, including managing the movements, extrusions, heat and monitoring.
The project is entirely open source and has been maintained by the public development community since it was first released in the summer of 2011, now over six years ago. The project has proven so successful that it’s now used as the main firmware for many 3D printer manufacturers, including LulzBot and Prusa, who between the perhaps manufacture an enormous chunk of the machines sold each month.
Part of the reason for that is the wide supportability of Marlin; currently they list no less than 71 different hardware controller boards (Arduino, Sangunio, etc.) on which Marlin is currently supported.
During those years the project has gradually increased its power and reliability, as there are incremental releases of the software every month or two. Typically, each release attempts to address bugs reported by the community as well as introducing new features. While many of the changes may appear very minor and specific, the effects of the change can be profound for certain 3D printer operators: a single problem can destroy an ongoing print operation.
You’ll frequently see fixes relating to increasing the quality of the print, such as the auto-leveling feature that is now included in Marlin.
This month’s release is no different, but apparently includes more changes than usual. From their GitHub page:
We've had one of the most active periods ever, with over 125 pull requests and 450 commits, representing dozens of evolutionary improvements. The 1.1.7 release contains bug-fixes, enhancements, refinements, new features, and other changes aimed at improving stability and addressing outstanding issues.
New releases are always welcomed, but how they’re treated can be a bit different depending on who you are. For hobbyists running their own DIY equipment, a new release is often treated in a manner similar to a new version of an app: just download it and try it out.
But if you’re a 3D printer manufacturer, it’s a bit different. Sometimes the manufacturers don’t use the Marlin firmware exactly as it is released, but in fact add a bit of special code to it for the benefit of their own equipment. This means there is usually a slight delay as they accept the new release, add their code, test and perform quality assurance before releasing it to their clients.
Whether their clients choose to upgrade their firmware is another story, however.
In the meantime, some readers may be interested in checking out the new Marlin firmware, v1.17.