Your 3D printer has a "brain" to do the processing and the "muscle" to do the work, but it's the RAMPS 1.4 that connects them. Find out what makes your 3D printer tick.
Every 3D printer has a small computer and control circuitry to amplify and direct the signals that perform all the functions the printer needs to operate. Some printer suppliers put all these functions on a single circuit board and use proprietary chips to control their printers.
Historically, that hasn’t always been the case. Development in this area was spurred by the appearance of the Arduino computer, and the Arduino Mega had enough digital and analog control circuitry to do the job. All that was needed was a means to make the raw power of the Mega available to the mechanical parts of the 3D printer.
These days, 3D printing has progressed to a point where commercial systems can be purchased that are literally plug and play. That’s great for people who just want to print and don’t care about the internal workings of these fascinating machines.
But if you do care or want to build your own, it’s useful to understand more about what all the parts do and how they fit together. In this article, we take you through one of the original circuit boards that made possible the control of the motors, switches, heaters, and sensors, all of which are essential to your 3D printer’s function.
RepRap Arduino Mega Polulu Shield, or RAMPS, is a board that serves as the interface between the Arduino Mega — the controller computer — and the electronic devices on a RepRap 3D printer. The computer extracts information from files containing data about the object you want to print and translates it into digital events, like supplying a voltage to a specific pin.
It takes many, many such pins turning on and off to tell a printer what to do. Unfortunately, the Mega doesn’t have enough power to actually operate the printer’s hardware.
That’s where the RAMPS board comes in. It organizes and amplifies the information coming from the Mega so that they’re properly directed down the correct channels.
For example, if the hot end carriage needs to move one step to the left, the RAMPs board routes the signals from the Mega to the X-axis stepper motor via the appropriate pins and wires.
years of development by the RepRap project. It satisfied the need for a single controller board that used the Arduino Mega and Pololu stepper drivers to manage all the functions of a 3D printer.arose from
In the spirit of RepRap, it was originally designed to allow home production. Soon, it became too sophisticated and the design switched to favor commercial boards.
The basic layout of the board started with RAMPS 1.2 and has continued to (at least) 1.7. Nevertheless, the most popular version has remained 1.4 (with thru-holes or surface mount components). This board has been widely copied and can be obtained and assembled for under $10 from Asian manufacturers.
The RAMPS 1.4 comes with all the necessary components to run most 3D printers:
The RAMPS 1.4 board comes with a number of advantages:
The RAMPS board is constantly evolving. Version 1.5 changed the configuration of the MOSFET transistors and changed the fuses. (Unfortunately, it’s also not open-source, which is in violation of the original hardware license).
Version 1.6 added screw terminals, improved cooling of the driver MOSFET transistors, and moved some components around. These are improvements but not functional changes. There’s also a version of the RAMPS board that allows it to be connected to an Arduino Due, which is a 3.3-V computer.
RAMPS 1.4 is an inexpensive, well-supported hardware controller for your 3D printer. Coupled to an Arduino Mega, it represents a basic and flexible control package that is highly suitable for most 3D printing needs.
It’s especially useful for “hacking” and trying out new software or hardware solutions for 3D printing development. Although you can buy more flexible and higher-level boards, the RAMPS 1.4 is the best bang for your buck.
Feature image source: Reef Morse / All3DP
License: The text of "RAMPS 1.4 3D Printer Controller Board – Review the Specs" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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