It's a web interface which connects a Raspberry Pi to your 3D printer, automatically configures the network, updates drivers and pre-configures slicer settings.
That, in a nutshell, describes PrintToPeer, a new project on Indiegogo which features a simple and powerful interface the company says is "designed for a beginner, and configured for a pro."
Sharing 3D printers is the wave of the future as the technology becomes entrenched in classrooms and offices, and PrintToPeer aims to take advantage of that functionality by hosting their app on the web to let users easily add other users to their account.
In addition, files sent through PrintToPeer can be repaired and sliced – all on the web – and then sent straight to a given 3D printer. The makers say PrintToPeer gives you a web dashboard for your 3D printer that lets you upload STL files, or import them from other web services.
"The maintenance console is a re-imagination of what a print driver could look like," says Tom Bielecki of PrintToPeer. "Tutorials will take you through the steps of calibrating your 3D printer, and changing your filament.
You can watch your print job on the web interface from anywhere via a camera module attached to a Raspberry Pi, slice your files in the cloud via Slic3r, Cura, and Makerbot slicers on powerful servers and take advantage of a database of slicer settings to track failure rates through real time websocket communication to give you high resolution data and analytics.
If you're worried that taking care of that heavy file-slicing workload on the cloud might be slow, worry no more. Bielecki says the slicing is accomplished on dedicated, highly-optimized cloud servers which are capable of slicing .STL files faster than on the average home computer. PrintToPeer uses websockets for communication with 3D printers, and he says that in real-world testing, the round-trip for the data is barely noticeable. Don't have a very good internet connection? Again, Bielecki says PrintToPeer is designed to work with any kind of Internet connection, even really bad ones. The entire print's G-code is downloaded to the Pi before printing starts, so if you lose your internet connection mid-print, there's no risk of print failure.
And PrintToPeer is already getting some rave reviews.
"Designers want to design, not deal with files," said Bryan Allen of Smith|Allen Studio. "The PrintToPeer interface allows designers to get back to doing what they do best. Fire and forget. Sending a design to a printer then moving on to the next iteration. In my view, a software platform like this is a critical component to mass adoption."
Bielecki and his team say they've spent the past year building out the core technology; Raspberry Pi software, backend services, cloud slicing, queueing, and printing. He adds that, should all go as planned with the Indiegogo campaign, he and his team plan to distribute the software and add more features such as automatic mesh repair, guided walk-throughs for tasks like bed leveling and fleshing out a more sophisticated API.
According to Bielecki, PrintToPeer is also partnering up with 3D Hubs to integrate the API so that the process of accepting print jobs from other users on the network is fully streamlined. If you're not familiar with the company, 3D Hubs lets people in your area discover your 3D printing capability, handles file uploads and payments, and even repairs the files for you.
For a $40 commitment, you'll get a personal PrintToPeer account that allows you to connect and operate as many Raspberry Pis and printers as you want, and that includes unlimited queueing, slicing, and new features as they're added. There are also a variety of reseller options that run all the way up to a cool $10,000.