Hello everybody and welcome to another video. In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at Octoprint and see what it might take to produce a product which might be comparable in value while simplifying the entire process. Now, as some of you may know, I was sent the Creality Wifi box a while a go and was very disappointed in the results. And while I didn’t like the resulting product, I do believe that there’s room for something different in this space. So if you’re a company looking to do something which is similar now’s the time to take notes because I will be looking for these features when doing another review. As always, what you see here represents my own opinions and no money has exchanged hands.
So to start things off, let's discuss what Octoprint is and what people are actually using it for. Since Octoprint has a very creative user base, there’s actually quite a few plugins which can add additional functionality to it’s core mechanism. Its primary use is to be able to remotely control your 3d printer while providing important information on the print's progress. It’s an open source community which I’ve found extremely supportive to newcomers while continuously innovating. Being open source, everything is very transparent, from the source code to the plugins. It is important to note that Octoprint does use Linux, so getting used to using typed in commands will make the transition easier. So people obviously use Octoprint to start, monitor and stop their printers, however people also use this to create times lapses, intergrade with 3d design collections and much more.
The main question is whether a company wishes to compete or work with Octoprint itself. If they want to compete, then they’ll need to create something which is fundamentally better for mass consumption while enabling the user maximum control. Creating a walled garden isn’t the proper approach in this case. Alternatively, they could simply pre-install Octoprint on something which is similar to the Raspberry Pi, while providing resources to help new time users. Both are valid approaches, but require completely different implementations.
For the remainder of this video, I will be focusing on what would be needed to create a competitive product, since both Octoprint and competing products would benefit the most from this information. As mentioned previously, transparency and giving the customer as much control as possible is paramount. A user should always be able to view the source code of a product, since this makes creating plugins easier for developers and has the added benefits of increasing functionality with a limited amount of resources. This also allows the community to submit information regarding vulnerabilities, further simplifying how a company can address issues as they arise.
Community style plugins should definitely be an option, with verified plugins being clearly marked. G-code slicing should be done on the user’s computer, since they’ll be able to better leverage the resources that they have on that machine, in turn freeing up resources on the printing device. For certain devices, a printing Queue option should be enabled, since these machines are designed to work in a production setting. In those cases, having the option to pause once a print is completed or move onto the next print would help expand the devices' functionality.
A feature which is currently missing in the Octoprint Raspberry Pi is the ability to connect multiple printer’s simultaneously and control them within the same interface. While the Raspberry Pi does have the potential to do so, it isn’t currently a feature which is supported officially. This would make the product more targeted towards small business or printing farms and could be a more affordable option for these companies.
I would consider an offline mode to be essential to any implementation since this helps prevent security issues from arising and would also increase the user base further. Companies who are using machines in a professional setting would most likely find this to be a requirement for security reason. The ability to disable the Wi-Fi connection if it’s implemented with a physical button would also be preferred. Additionally, a secured SSH connection should be integrated by default, requiring a custom password by the user. In order to prevent future issues, I would also recommend providing the user upon purchase with a USB key that has the default installer and password information. Doing this will allow the user to return everything to its default settings should an issue arise. Proper documentation on how to connect to the devices, updating, installing plugins and making changes to the password settings will be essential to a positive user experience.
If a company decided to undertake this project, I would recommend that they work with camera manufacturers, since there are issues with compatibility within the Octoprint ecosystem. I would like to see software updates from camera companies to enable time-lapse options via connection through USB. I can confirm that Sony does have a limitation which causes a timeout after the 30-min mark, and this is often an issue for longer prints.
Now that we’ve gotten the firmware and software out of the way, let's begin discussing some hardware requirements. As mentioning previously, I would have a monitor connection available along with multiple USB ports. Two of these should be used for the keyboard and mouse for diagnostic purposes, but additional one’s for multiple printers would also be a necessity. Having the option to attach a camera and a USB stick for file transfers or firmware updates is always an asset. A unique feature would be to enable the connection of multiple printers together. So in this a case a minimum of 6 USB ports would be needed, however the manufacturer could instead implement support for a USB hub, which in turn would reduce manufacturing costs further. Let’s not forget the Wi-Fi connection if it’s implemented. This feature could be an attachment which could be added as an add-on product or have a physical switch which would turn this feature on and off. I personally prefer a physical switch on Wi-Fi connections because I’m then certain that it’s been deactivated.
So with all of this information, I do hope to see a similar product in the future. If some of these features are implemented within Octoprint or whether a company creates a custom physical device, only time will tell. My main hope with this video is to provide companies with a better understanding of what people may like to see in the future. If you have your own recommendations, I would encourage you to post a comment below so that companies can take this into consideration in the future.