Dumpster-Diving DIYer Uses Salvaged Wi-Fi Router to Control His 3D Printer

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When Floridian Matt Defenthaler bought a home 3D printer, he went with a kit rather than purchasing a fully assembled one. He ordered his Makerfarm i3v printer (I’m pretty sure he got a Prusa 8” i3v, which sells for around $550), he knew he’d get everything he needed to assemble his new 3D printer with the exception of the glass and the 12mattv 30 amp power supply. Defenthaler knows his way around machines, so this was a DIY project that he didn’t find at all intimidating. According to his bio page, he’s been taking things apart to see how they work and putting them back together since early childhood, a curiosity for all things mechanical that foretold, in a bit of an indirect way, his future career.

When he got to college, Matt was first attracted to mechanical engineering, but he found the math “too abstract,” and the concepts he was learning all seemed relevant to a later date — kind of kicking the information can down the road. So he turned to computer science, where he found the information he learned immediately applicable. Now, Defenthaler enjoys his day job working on government contracts as a Systems and Software Engineer and a world view that embraces cutting edge technology, the open share philosophy, and the maker and DIY spirit. On Defenthaler’s list of interests, which includes quantum mechanics and sport driving — he’s a well-rounded guy! — you’ll find “hardware hacking,” although there’s nothing on that list about dumpster diving.makerfarm

One day while dumpster diving — yes! it’s a great way to find cast-off machines (among other things) that you can either repair or use for parts — Defenthaler happened upon a Netgear WNDR3700v1 Wi-Fi router. That router, which has a USB port, presented itself as a solution to a problem Matt had discovered with his Makerfarm 3D printer, a problem certainly not confined to just this particular machine:

“3D printers are super convenient when you need a part quickly,” explained Matt, but “they can be seriously inconvenient if the 3D printer has to be tethered to your computer for the duration of the entire print.”

He took the Wi-Fi router home and staring researching 3D print server software, which led him to OctoPrint. He discovered that OctoPrint is written entirely in Python and was pretty confident that he could run Python on the dumpster-sourced router.

Defenthaler began by installing OpenWrt, a Linux distribution for embedded devices, on the router and then configuring it as a client. Since there was only one USB port on the router, he realized he needed a hub so that he could connect to the printer and his computer, as the router didn’t have sufficient memory to run OctoPrint. He uses the web browser on his computer to access OctoPrint on the router-turned-printer-driver so he can get a 3D print job going and still use his computer without interfering with the print process.octorouter1

It’s a pretty ingenious way of controlling your 3D printer remotely and reusing e-waste. For details about Defenthaler’s process, see the Projects and Thoughts section on Defenthaler’s website. For a fantastic discussion of the ins and outs of dumpster diving culture, don’t miss the lively comments following the article about Defenthaler’s project on Hackaday.

Let us know what you think about dumpster diving to get parts for your own hacks or builds. Does Defenthaler’s project sound like one you would undertake, or already have? Tell us your opinion in the Dumpster-Diving DIY Turns Trashed Router into 3D Printer Controller forum thread at 3DPB.com.

[Via Hackaday]

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