Could the Alligator be the most advanced 3D printing board ever developed?
Over the last couple of years, the DIY community has experienced a proliferation of RepRap 3D printers. As the possible number of machines continues to grow, as does the need for more open-source control boards — many of which built around Atmel | SMART and AVR microcontrollers.
Adding to the growing list of 3D printer electronics is a new Indiegogo project from a Perugia, Italy startup. First seen back at Maker Faire Rome 2014, the Alligator Board was designed to serve as a complete and reliable solution for those seeking RepRap 3D printer control modules. It is based on the Atmel | SMART ATSAM3X8EA, which represents a big step towards greater computing power, compared to existing solutions driven by 8-bit MCUs. This product is well-suited for any standard 3D printer, particularly Delta models requiring more complex data computation.
The Alligator features both the native USB interface of the ARM Cortex-M3 MCU as well as a USB to UART interface. Beyond that, the control board comes with a 10/100 Ethernet interface, capable of running a web server and any kind of Internet-based application. Alligator boasts the ability to adjust the current of its motors via firmware, thereby enabling three axes to work in perfect harmony.
What’s more, the combination of its adjustable microstep size up to 1/32 and the performance of the 32-bit ARM processor ensure high-resolution prints with any architecture. Pending all goes to plan, the board will come with several expansion pack options as well, such as the Piggy Module Lite (allows for one additional extruder), the Piggy Module Plus (allows for the addition of up to three more extruders), and the Thermocouple Module. The Alligator can also be connected directly to a Raspberry Pi unit.
Other notable features include:
- External 32Mbit Flash memory (in addition to the 64Kbit EEPROM)
- 12-24Vdc power supply input
- 4x stepper motor driver, running at 1/16 or 1/32 microcstep (up to 2.5A firmware configurable current and no trimmer)
- 6x end-stop input compatible with both mechanical and optical/magnetic solution
- High current hot-end heater driver output (high-current connector)
- High current bed heater driver output (high-current connector)
- 2x precision analog input for temperature measurement with RTD (compatible with external adapter for thermocouple)
- 2x external FAN output with PWM speed control
- USB to virtual COM port interface (microUSB connector)
- Native USB port (microUSB connector)
- microSD Slot
- 10/100 Ethernet port with unique MAC address pre-programmed chip
- Expansion connector with 3 UART or 6 GPIO with firmware selectable +3V3/+5V logic levels
- 26pin Raspberry Pi-compatible expansion connector
- 3x generic PWM open drain output for general porpouse application
Interested? Head over to its official Indiegogo page, where the team is currently seeking €10,000. Initial shipments are expected to begin in June 2015.