A controller board is like the brain of a 3D printer. Like any other motherboard, these controllers are responsible for keeping track of most of its functions.
Since they are responsible for a huge variety of work done by the motion system, belts, and motors, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you have the best 3D printer controller in the market. Also, since some 3D printers are designed with huge boards, they always have room for improvement in the future.
Need some help? Well, if you’re all set upon upgrading your 3D printer, our reviews of the 11 best 3D printer controllers could help you make an informed decision.
If You Are Short On Time, Here Is My List of Our Best 3D Printer Controllers:
- BigTreeTech SKR Mini E3 V1.2
- BigTreeTech TFT35 E3 V3.0
- BigTreeTech SKR V1.4 Turbo 32bit
- Re-ARM with RAMPS 1.4
- Kingprint Smoothieware MKS SBASE 1.3
- Duet 2 WiFi V1.04
- Smoothieboard 5X V1.0 ARM
- In Ziyun Replicape with BeagleBone
- Archim RAMBo Controller 1.0
- Arduino DUE with RADDS 1.5
- TWP Lerdge-X
Detailed Reviews of the Best 3D Printer Controllers:
1. BigTreeTech SKR Mini E3 V1.2
BIQU BigTreeTech is among the earliest and most experienced producers of 3D printer accessories and motherboards. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their name comes a few times in this review.
The SKR Mini E3 is a 32-bit controller board upgrade for Ender-5 and Ender-3 3D printers. Each of these controllers is designed with the exact layout and form factor (shape) of the stock Creality boards. As a result, installing it is going to be a very easy drop-in replacement.
If you upgrade to the SKR Mini E3, it will offer you at least twice your original flash memory and approximately 5 times more processing speeds.
- Simple installation
- Ultra quiet performance
2. BigTreeTech TFT35 E3 V3.0
In the second place, we have another 3D printer controller from BigTreeTech. However, you’ll probably find this controller a lot more futuristic since it comes with a 3.5-inch color touchscreen. As a result, not only will this controller be easy to use, but it will continue to provide continuous upgrades in software.
According to the manufacturer, this controller can replace most 3D printer controller boards, and the user will not need to modify its master program. This controller will automatically support the 3D printer’s boot options and image customization.
- Compatible with most 3D printers
- Offers an effective heat dissipation effect
- Allows customization of 7 buttons
3. BigTreeTech SKR V1.4 Turbo 32 bit
Quite like its predecessors, installing the firmware for the SKR V1.4 Turbo is pretty straightforward. Also, since this product is a 32-bit controller board, it will be able to process much faster than your previous 8-bit board.
In our opinion, the SKR V1.4 is a worthy option for people who are planning to make upgrades while keeping to a tight budget. Despite its economical price, it will ensure many smoother prints. Also, you will have access to the latest updates to BigTreeTech’s firmware.
- Latest product from BigTreeTech’s portfolio
- Great build quality
- Budget-friendly option
4. Re-ARM with RAMPS 1.4
Re-ARM is a microcontroller board that has been manufactured with a faster and more powerful processor. Installing this product into your 3D printer will enable faster feed rates than ever before.
This board is designed with an SD card slot for configuration files and firmware. Still, a second SD card slot may be used to connect to an LCD screen during project file loading. Additionally, the configuration of this controller board is done via a text file, which makes your updates super easy and quick.
- Offers multiple configuration options
- E1 heating output
5. Kingprint Smoothieware MKS SBASE 1.3
The MKS SBASE may seem like an all-in-one, feature-rich electronic solution for both – CNC and Reprap 3D printers. Also, the 5 motor outputs of this device are powered by the powerful DRV8825 stepper drivers.
Most of its specs make the MKS SBASE a viable option for manufacturers who use 3D printers for batch production. In addition, it has a similar heating output as the RAMPS 1.4 and can provide flexible outputs against power supplies ranging from 12V to 24V.
- Offers versatility in output based on the availability of power sources
- Great for commercial use
- E1 heating output
6. Duet 2 WiFi V1.04
The Duet 2 WiFi makes this list of best 3D printer controllers because of two main reasons. Firstly, this product can be controlled via a web interface. Also, like most Duet products, this version is also compatible with touchscreen support – known as the PanelDue.
All the Duet controller boards come with open-source firmware; however, users wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of modifying its firmware. The setting stored on the internal SD card of Duet 2 WiFi will be quite enough to upgrade your 3D printer.
- Can be controlled via a web interface
- They support touchscreens called PanelDue
- They are designed with expansion boards to add additional Duet stepper drivers
7. Smoothieboard 5X V1.0 ARM
Smoothieboard products are known to be the perfect solution for the most powerful hardware. However, ever since the first Smoothieboard (V1) was conceived, they have received a number of updates.
The best thing about Smoothieboard 5X is that it can easily be expanded and developed further for innovative and adventurous uses. Still, the overall product and its open-source firmware remain simple enough to work with for basic and first-time users.
- Perfect solution for experimental projects
- Its peripherals can be easily adjusted to vary the output
- Designed especially to be run on powerful hardware
8. In Ziyun Replicape with BeagleBone Black
Past users of the Replicape will tell you that it is a blazing fast printer controller board. This is because of the fact that it runs with the help of BeagleBone Black, which offers 2 200MHz PRUs and 1 GHz CPU.
Another great feature about it is that it is extremely versatile and offers users the ability to control as many as 4 fans, 2 servos, and 5 stepper motors. While powering all of these components, the Replicape works with stealthily low noise.
- Consists of industry-leading stepper motor drivers
- Allows users to interact with their 3D printer via a browser
- Offers versatility for future upgrades
9. Archim RAMBo Controller 1.0
Interesting fact: the RAMBo name is an abbreviation for RepRap, Arduino-compatible motherboard. Also, the Archim was named after Archimedes – the Greek mathematician, engineer, physicist, and inventor. Quite like him, the Archim can be described as an all-in-one controller board.
Archim’s most prominent features include hostless printing on a variety of power supplies ranging from 10V to 24V. It consists of very high-quality connectors, a full-speed native USB, and three independent ATC protected power rails.
- An all-in-one 3D printer controller
- Works efficiently on a variety of voltages
- Made with a high-quality construction
10. Arduino DUE with RADDS 1.5
Short for RepRap Arduino Due Driver Shield, the RADDS makes for the perfect add-on on the 32-bit Arduino Due 3D printer. Once its 8-bit board is replaced, users will experience greater precision and much faster printing speeds.
This version of the controller board has been updated with a 12bit analog to digital converter and now has a more efficient temperature calculation. With regards to its temperature calculation, now it can measure up to 4096 points as opposed to its previous 1024 points.
- The best upgrade option for Arduino Due 3D printers
- Designed especially for effective temperature control
- Results in more precise and faster printing
11. TWP Lerdge-X
From the diverse range of Lerdge controller boards, the Lerdge-X is the only product with features, specially designed for small 3D printers. For this reason, the Lerdge-X is a great upgrade option for entry-level or educational 3D printers.
This controller board uses an open-interface and also features a crisp, 3.5 inch LCD touchscreen. Aside from having all the right features, this controller board is designed with comprehensive protection and has the ability to limit switch connections efficiently.
- Delivers a stable and strong performance
- Features a 3.5 LCD touchscreen
- Designed especially for smaller 3D printers and casual use.
Buying Debates: Buying the Right 3D Printer Controllers
The capabilities of controller boards depend on whether a controller board was designed for a specific 3D printer (like the Arduino Due) or is a standalone product (like RAMPS and RAMBo).
Typically, consumers should look for the right amount of connections for 3D printer add-ons. For instance, if your controller board didn’t come with a heated bed, then the controller board should have enough connection to upgrade to this feature later on.
Most standalone products come with 6 stepper plugs, 2 hotend ports, 6 endstops, and 4 thermistor ports (which measure temperature). Also, these controllers are designed to have as many connections as possible to suit their target customers.
Some controller boards would have the stepper driver built-into them while others require them to be plugged in. Controller boards with stepper drivers offer better heat dissipation because the whole board can be utilized as a heatsink.
On the other hand, replacing a dead stepper driver when it is built-in can be a hassle. This is where the plug-in kind trumps the built-in controller board.
For your 3D printer’s communication, the USB Type-A is the most common connection for controller boards. Still, some controller boards deliver the same results with a USB mini or USB micro port.
Since you’re looking for upgrades, we suggest buying controller boards that offer Ethernet or WiFi capabilities to connect to work or home networks or simply to print in a different room.
Conclusion About The Best 3D Printer Controller
Now that you’ve sifted through our buying debates, which of these products did you think was the best 3D printer controller for your device? We know you have your eye on the Replicapes because of its contributions from Beagle Bone, or BigTreeTech’s SKR because of its phenomenal Amazon ratings and testimonials.
Still, don’t be fooled by what most 3D printer owners prefer and try looking for the product that best suits your preferences.
3D Printer Controller FAQs
What Safety Features Should I Look for In 3D Printers?
Most 3D printers have very well-designed safety features. However, if you’re specifically looking for these features, we would recommend products that cool the heated bed and nozzle automatically once the printing job is complete.
What Kind of 3D Printer is the Best for Hobbyists?
Most hobbyists prefer Fused Deposition Modeling printers, also known as FDM printers. These printers create 3D objects by extruding hot plastics or other forms of filament. However, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Stereolithography (SLA), and Digital Light Processing (DLP) printers are highly recommended as well.
What Should I Consider Before Buying a 3D Printer?
The very first thing one should consider is what they plan on printing with these devices. There is a huge gap between 3D printers that were made for your desktop and those that are designed for industrial-scale printing.
A great place to start would be to think about how much you plan on printing, how much time you are willing to invest in each job, and where the printed objects will be used. With these things considered, you can begin searching for the right 3D printers.