Installing OctoPrint to control your 3D printer is one of the most practical improvements you can perform to take your printing experience to the next level, as OctoPrint offers numerous benefits to the printing process ranging from remote control to status monitoring, completely free of charge.
Due to it being a lightweight and budget-friendly piece of hardware magnificently suited for this task, the Raspberry Pi is often the device that most 3D printing enthusiasts choose to run OctoPrint on, which makes it possible to get OctoPrint up and running in a few minutes.
In today’s article, we will be focusing our efforts on finding out whether it’s possible to run OctoPrint, one of the most popular 3D printing interfaces right now, on an Arduino instead, the go-to microcontroller for building projects with digital devices.
So, can you use an Arduino for running OctoPrint?
Unfortunately, an Arduino will not be able to run OctoPrint like a Raspberry Pi can, as even though the two can look similar from the outside due to their single-board structure, Arduino is merely a microcontroller, whereas Raspberry Pi is a full-fledged computer.
Next up, we will dive deeper into whether it’s possible to use an Arduino for running OctoPrint, find out if there are any OctoPrint alternatives for Arduino, and look at how we can connect an Arduino to the OctoPrint API.
Can You Use an Arduino for Running OctoPrint?
As an Arduino is much cheaper than a Raspberry Pi, many 3D printing enthusiasts who don’t own a Pi already wonder whether it’s possible to set OctoPrint on an Arduino instead.
It is not possible to run OctoPrint on any Arduino board, as Arduinos are microcontroller boards and not computers, despite being single-board devices that look very similar to Raspberry Pi from an outside perspective, especially if you aren’t too familiar with the differences.
In a nutshell, microcontroller boards, such as Arduino, consist of a single microcontroller unit that can provide a fraction of the computing power and memory a microprocessor can, with no non-volatile storage or graphics unit, making them essentially incapable of running an operating system such as Windows, Linux, or macOS.
On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi comes with a reasonably powerful microprocessor for its size, which includes a graphics unit and the capability for non-volatile storage (through an SD card), qualifying it as a computer capable of running complex software, such as operating systems and the software they support.
While microcontrollers are more suitable for less complex tasks (controlling LEDs is a good example), microprocessors are used for more complex systems, and as OctoPrint requires an operating system such as Windows, Linux, or macOS, a device that contains a microprocessor capable of running these operating systems will be necessary.
Are There Any OctoPrint Alternatives for Arduino?
Since an Arduino cannot run OctoPrint, we are sure that finding out whether there are any OctoPrint alternatives that can run on an Arduino and offer the functionality that OctoPrint offers is the next order of business in most enthusiasts’ minds.
Since Arduino, or any other microcontroller board, is not capable of running the operating systems that software such as OctoPrint run on, it’s impossible to find an OctoPrint alternative that runs on an Arduino, simply because microcontroller boards aren’t designed for such tasks.
On the other hand, a computer such as the Raspberry Pi will allow you to run OctoPrint without any issues while being relatively budget-friendly, especially compared to standard desktop or laptop computers.
How to Connect an Arduino to the OctoPrint API?
A creative way of utilizing an Arduino in the 3D printing process is to connect it to the OctoPrint API (which requires OctoPrint to be running on a separate device that supports it), which will allow the Arduino to send data to and receive data from OctoPrint.
We recommend using the OctoPrintAPI library to connect your Arduino to the OctoPrint API running on another device, which has everything you need, including the documentation, to set it up as quickly as possible.
The library also comes with a few examples that we believe will be helpful to get things running, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in writing code for Arduino boards.
This process allows the Arduino to connect to the OctoPrint server that is already running on another device, which gives you the option to send commands to the OctoPrint server directly from the Arduino without using the OctoPrint interface.
Can You Use OctoPrint without a Raspberry Pi?
Installing OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi is, without a doubt, the most common way of running OctoPrint due to the Raspberry Pi being the perfect device for the purposes of running a small server that can stay online all day without requiring too much power.
Setting up an OctoPrint server on any computer capable of running Windows, Linux, or macOS, any mobile device capable of running Android, and on Docker instances is entirely possible and not much different from setting it up on a Raspberry Pi.
You can find more information about downloading and installing OctoPrint on Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and Docker instances here, along with detailed documentation pages that clearly and concisely explain the process.
It’s worth noting that a vital point of consideration while setting up OctoPrint on one of your personal devices is to ensure that these devices can consistently stay powered on and connected to your 3D printer during the printing process since a loss of connection between the 3D printer and the OctoPrint server will cause your print to fail.
As a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino look very similar from the outside due to both devices consisting of a single circuit board, the question of whether an Arduino can run OctoPrint just as a Raspberry Pi does or not is pretty recurrent.
To quickly recap, as Arduino boards, which are essentially microcontroller boards, are not designed for complex tasks such as running operating systems and the software that runs on them, you won’t be able to run OctoPrint on an Arduino.
On the other hand, while the Raspberry Pi stands out as one of the most budget-friendly hardware options for running an OctoPrint server, it’s also entirely possible to run OctoPrint directly on your personal computer without any expenses.