Talk:Comparison of Electronics

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Board order and popularity ( 2016 )

I have been extracting data from #reprap IRC logs recently, to try to see what boards have been most popular over time.

Obviously, RAMPS is the big winner here, but the data shows some interesting things.

Here are the graphs :

Screenshot from 2016-03-06 12-47-23.png Screenshot from 2016-03-06 12-49-35.png Screenshot from 2016-03-06 12-40-59.png

The raw data can be found at, and the raw IRC logs are available upon request at [email protected]

From this data we can see that :

  • RAMPS has always been number 1, and is staying number 1
  • Smoothie has been steadily gaining popularity, and in the past year, is a very close second to RAMPS, only a few percent below on average.
  • RAMBO has been steadily gaining popularity as an alternative to RAMPS, and while far behind RAMPS and Smoothie, maintains a good third position, well ahead of board 4 and beyond.
  • Besides these three boards, in recent time, there is very little mention of others.
  • In past times, Sanguinololu, Melzi and Gen7 have held the second or third place ( far behind RAMPS ), but they lost popularity recently.

This data is not perfect :

  • If somebody in IRC mentions drinking actual smoothies ( the beverage ) for example, it counts as a mention of the smoothie "board"
  • Smoothie has it's own IRC channel ( which other electronics do not ), where a lot of Smoothie help/community discution happens. This is not counted in this graph, Smoothie would be number 1 easily if it were.

Still I feel like it overalls represents the trends we see in our community pretty well.

Based on this, I find the current "comparison of electronics" needs some updating, both in the introduction, and actual ordering of the list.

Gen7 for example recently got bumped to the second place, which is strange seeing how it is steadily loosing popularity, and is rarely mentioned nowadays. Rambo and Smoothie are very popular, but are lost in the list.

Additionally, the page says as an introduction : « At the date of this edit ( May 2012 ), the IRC channel recommends RAMPS as feature-rich, Sanguinololu as "just works" and Gen7 for the do-it-yourselfer. You can always go there and ask for additional advice, of course. »

This is pretty outdated.

The general recommendation of the IRC channel nowadays is : 

  • $20 Chinese RAMPS if you don't worry about your house burning down and don't care about replacing the board often ( so : not recommended, but people buy it anyway )
  • Genuine Rambo, RAMPS and Smoothieboard are all about the same price, and Smoothieboard is considered to have more features, be easier to use, and better documented ( thus the gain in popularity even though it's much more expensive than chinese ramps ). Rambo is often recommended over RAMPS, and it seems the amount of RAMPS mentions is mostly caused by chinese RAMPS, not genuine ones.
  • Sanguinololu is essentially dead, it's rarely ever mentionned.
  • Same thing for Gen7, though it'll be mentionned when "can be made on a CNC mill" comes up, which is very rare.

Here is what I propose for this page :

  • Re-vamp the introduction to mention Genuine RAMPS, Smoothieboard and RAMBO as recommended by IRC
  • Warn against $20 chinese clones of RAMPS, which caused an epidemic of burnt/broken boards on IRC
  • Still mention Gen7 for those that are interrested in manufacturing their own PCB
  • Re-order the list based on popularity over the past year. It's not perfect data but it's better than the currently completely random ordering.
  • Add one of the popularity graphs to the bottom of the page so that people can see the current trends themselves.

If nobody has any objection to this, I'll do the edit myself in about a week.

If you disagree, discution is very welcome, and I'll hold editing until any problem is resolved.


--Arthurwolf (talk) 04:29, 6 March 2016 (PST)

Adding columns ( 2014 )

I have not been active on the Reprap forums for some time. Just coming back, I was reading through the electronics forum and found a link to the comparison of various boards and electronics packages. As someone who has lost touch with the current generation of electronics, I can somewhat look at this as a complete newcomer. And while the spreadsheet has some useful information (and a LOT of question marks), I can see how this table will still leave a newcomer completely bewildered.

  I suggest adding some columns for :

1) Total cost of electronics package, including a minimum of 4 stepper drivers, 2 temperature, and two heater power outputs 2) Is this version available in completely assembled, fully stocked kit with instructions and diagrams, PC board and parts list and circuit diagram, or circuit diagram and PC pattern only 3) Difficulty of build. Obviously easy for pre-assmebled, hard for schematic and trace pattern only 4) Has this electronics package been tried on Mendel? Prusa? MegaMendal? etc. Should it have the number and drive power of stepper controllers, heat sensors and heater current controllers, end stops, etc to support each model? 5) What software tool chains have been run on this hardware? Which ones should easily be supported?

Many of these questions will best be answered by the designer of each electronics package. As such, it will be difficult to assemble all the answers, and easy on one design may be tougher than hard on another, but this is the kind of information that a newcomer, still trying to decide which reprap to build with what electronics and what software tool chain will need to make an informed opinion.

Almost 2015, and one electronics combination seems to have emerged as the most versatile and offering the best price/performance ratio (or "bang for the buck", if you want) for beginners and more experienced reprappers alike: Arduino Mega 2560 + RAMPS 1.4.
Unfortunately no 32-bit ARM-based solution offers the same flexibility and low cost, so we are still stuck with an 8-bit MCU @ 16MHz, but, guess what? It does the job! --AndrewBCN (talk) 22:38, 7 December 2014 (PST)
Hey. RAMPS is actually not low-cost, if you ignore the dangerous chinese counterfeits. If you ignore those, it's actually in the same price range as other 8-bit -and- 32-bit solutions.
And no, 8-bit does not do the job. It's not fast enough for delta printers, it's barely fast enough for cartesian printers, and it's getting to the point where nothing can get added to 8-bit firmwares without causing a mess. There is no room for progress in the 8-bit firmwares/boards. 32bit solutions also offer much simpler use/configuration ( no more recompiling/reflashing, which is great progress for beginners ), and neat things like Ethernet access with web-interface control ( which lots of us think is the future of printer control ).
So no, 8-bit solutions are not cheaper than 32bit solutions ( and there is no good reason why they would be ), they do not do the job ( unless "the job" is defined as "what we expected of repraps in 2009" ), and they actually offer the worse price/performance ratio as they cost the same, but perform much worse. --Arthurwolf (talk) 02:56, 8 December 2014 (PST)
Hey. Right now as I write these lines a combination of Arduino Mega 2560 + RAMPS 1.4 + DRV8825 with 1/32 microstepping for X and Y axis (all bought from China) is doing the job i.e. printing just fine, on both my P3Steel printers, using Marlin firmware. Both printers have an LCD panel, one uses the 2004 Smart LCD controller and the other a 12864 Full Graphics controller. I have not experienced any "mess" with these setups, so I guess you are just spreading FUD for the sake of it. Also I am using 32-bit dual core ARM SOCs for the two OctoGoatBoxes (Debian armhf + OctoPrint, see OctoGoatBox here in this wiki) that I have connected to each printer. Whenever someone somewhere develops a faster, truly practical and economical alternative solution to replace the combination of electronics that I am using right now, be certain that I'll be among the first ones to try it. But right now (February 2015), there is nothing on the horizon as far as I can tell. Lots of developments in many different directions but nothing usable, as far as I am aware. Hopefully this will change this year, but - again, right now - I am perfectly satisfied with what I have and it's all working just fine. YMMV. --AndrewBCN (talk) 05:54, 4 February 2015 (PST)
I guess you missed Smoothieboard, Arthur's pet project. It certainly works fine. Wether it's worth the price and wether it gives you an advantage for your setup is hightly subjective, of course. There are also currently some 10 to 12 other 32-bit controllers, including 4pi, Alligator Board, Azteeg X5 mini, ... --Traumflug (talk) 07:02, 4 February 2015 (PST)
Well, I actually checked the Smoothieboard some time ago and also its prices and - as much as I am impressed by the Smoothieboard and Smoothie firmware in technical terms - it's really an impressive piece of engineering - I concluded that I would be getting a more expensive, more complex to setup and less maintainable, less complete solution than what I am using right now. Now, again this is just my opinion and others will certainly come to different conclusions based on their particular requirements. I have modest requirements (driving a Prusa i3-like 3D printer at modest speeds around 40mm/s) and I find OctoPrint essential for my day-to-day printing, so I am perfectly satisfied with the combination of electronics and firmwares I am using right now. I'll take a look again at the Smoothieboard + Smoothie firmware when/if I upgrade to a linear delta printer running at higher speeds. --AndrewBCN (talk) 04:16, 5 February 2015 (PST)
@AndrewBCN : I'm not saying 8-bit systems -are- a mess, I'm saying they -would become- a mess if you tried to implement much more in them. And I'm not saying they can't print ( that'd be pretty dumb ), I'm saying as times goes, the criteria for what is generally considered "good printing quality" or "easy to use" becomes stricter, and that 8-bit firmwares can not keep up with that change, while 32-bit firmwares allow for the necessary evolutions to make the technology go further. Yes, your 8bit system works fine for you. I think we just use different working definitions of what "the job" is, and that's why you think 8-bit systems "do the job", and I think they do not. Guess we'll just have to work on making 32-bit solutions so impressive you'll feel it's worth moving :) Cheers. --Arthurwolf (talk) 03:35, 5 February 2015 (PST)
Arthur, I understand where you are coming from and it's obvious you have poured an incredible amount of work, passion and engineering skills into the Smoothieboard and Smoothie firmware. I am just an old lazy bastard that always goes for the simplest, easiest to setup and least expensive solution that does the job, and that is why I am using whatever I am using right now. --AndrewBCN (talk) 04:16, 5 February 2015 (PST)
not sure about 8 bit not being enough, most of the reasons firmware like marlin struggle on the 8 bit atmega chips is mostly down to how it's written, marlin is a mess and loaded with all sorts of bandaid solutions to simple problems and bugs, repeteir is better but still has the same fundamental problems, firmware like teacup goes a long way to prove that it's not the 8bit 16mhz chip thats the problem and by comparison to smoothie on a lpc1768 chip is really quite comparable when it comes to step smoothness and general usage , of course smoothie has a few more things that teacup doesn't, personally i think we're heading in the wrong direction as far as chip choice while the arm chips are good for some strange reason chips with floating point modules have been avoided as have chips which are considerably more powerful , flexible ,future proof and cheaper , the reality of the cost front is that even if you are buying genuine boards from the designers themselves 32bit boards generally cost a lot more and the wholesale pricing/moq requirements on some are unrealistic, which is probably why we've got a dozen boards instead of 2 or three on the market, the main difference is the in the 8 bit days people built and designed boards like ramps with no real commercial interest in mind, these days people only tend to get into building a 32bit board with mostly commercial interests in mind, --Thejollygrimreaper (talk) 14:12, 6 February 2015 (PST)