Duet3D’s new Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC is one of the most powerful dedicated controller boards for desktop 3D printers.
3D Printer Controller Board
The controller board is the heart of any 3D printer; it’s the brain that controls the device’s nervous system. Sensors supply it with data, and it outputs signals to all motors, fans and heaters in the device, all according to the instructions in the GCODE.
Controller boards have evolved significantly over the years. Initial desktop 3D printers employed off-the-shelf CPU boards, like the ubiquitous Arduino. Some still use such boards.
However, there are a few companies producing controller boards specifically designed for use in desktop 3D printers. One of those companies is UK-based Duet3D, based in Peterborough and launched in 2013.
The company originally produced various 3D printer parts, then kits, but finally has specialized in controller boards. Since then they’ve released a stream of incrementally improved boards, such as the introduction of 32-bit processors.
Currently they sell a great deal of the boards to OEMs for inclusion in 3D printers. You may be using one yourself and not even realize it!
Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC
Their most recent release, the Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC, has a number of notable features, including:
ARM Cortex M7 32 Bit, 300Mhz Processor
Dedicated High speed bus to a single board computer (e.g. Raspberry Pi) for a user interface
6 Next Generation Trinamic 5160 stepper drivers for near-silent 3D printing
2 CAN-FD buses that support the next generation of Duet3D expansion boards, smart tools and custom addons
10 PWM outputs of varying current capacities support a high current heated bed, 3 extruders and 6 fans
9 IO ports for endstops, probes, filament monitors and other sensors
4 Thermistor/PT1000 inputs and support for 4 PT100/thermocouple inputs
And it supports “all common 3D printer geometries”, so you will could find this component in all types of 3D printers.
The most notable feature of the board is perhaps its ability to expand. While it has six main drivers, it’s possible to expand over an electronic bus to add more drivers. In fact, you can apparently daisy-chain them together “up to the limit of communications” for even more.
One demonstration implementation of the the Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC has been E3D-Online’s famous Tool Changer, which features six different extruders that are swapped in and out of action as required by GCODE. I’ve seen this device in operation myself and can say it does work very well.
Buying Duet 3
At the moment the board is available for pre-order only, with final shipping dates yet to be announced, but expected to be later this year.
Who should buy one of these? I’d say there are two groups who would be keenly interested in this component.
First, the hardcore DIY 3D printer operators who typically build their own machines. They have the skills to install and integrate the powerful Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC into their own 3D printer designs.
The second group would be OEMs building commercial 3D printers who wish to explore the feasibility of using the Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC in a future product. It may be that the powerful features of the Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC could enable new types of 3D printers, with the E3D-Online Tool Changer being one example.
The Duet 3 Mainboard 6HC is priced at £185 (US$237), so it’s not an inexpensive option. But for those requiring it, it could open up many possibilities.