How to Connect Your 3D Printer to Your Computer or Laptop

Connecting your 3D printer to your laptop or computer is a task that many people want to get done, but they just don’t know exactly how it works. This article will change that for the better, giving you clear instructions on how to get it done properly.

3D printers come with so many connection technologies like Wi-Fi and USB. Using them can be difficult for some. With this guide, we’ll help you make things easier.

In this article, we will show you different ways to link your 3Dprinter to your PC. We’ll take you through each method step by step and answer your troubleshooting questions.

So, stick around, there’s a wealth of useful information in this article that will be sure to help you.

Should You Connect Your 3D Printer to Your PC?

Most people 3D print using a simple SD card with their files on it, but connecting to your PC is ideal in some cases. It can offer significant advantages with more control over your 3D printer.  An SD card does make 3D printing easier, but requires more of a manual input.

I would personally recommend going the SD card route.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to each method.

Advantages to Connecting Your 3D Printer to Your Computer

  • Easily send commands from your computer to your 3D printer to set settings and more
  • Directly 3D print files from your computer, so you don’t have to go through the manual transfer of files
  • Some 3D printers that give limited access to their settings like the Ender 5 Plus, so this can overcome it
  • Easier to update firmware quicker on your 3D printer
  • Greater control over the print in real-time, with monitoring capabilities

Disadvantages to Connecting Your 3D Printer To Your Computer

  • A sudden shutdown or even your computer going to sleep can lead to a print disruption
  • Set up can be tricky, especially to beginners since it goes into firmware and driver changes
  • Using an SD card or internal memory can offer advantages in transmission speed and stability

How to Connect Your 3D Printer to Your Computer or Laptop

So if you’ve decided to link your computer to your PC there are different ways you can go about that. The sort of connection you can use depends on the sort of port configuration that comes with your printer.

Most printers come with an SD port and a standard USB A port. Recently, newer model 3D printers have started using wireless connections like conventional printers. With some further configurations and settings, even older models without Wi-Fi capabilities can now enjoy wireless capabilities.

USB, Wi-Fi, and USB proxies like OctoPrint are the preferred methods for connecting to PCs. Let’s take you through how these work.

USB Connection From Your 3D Printer to Computer

This is still the most popular method. USB remains the default configuration on most printers, so this is the logical choice for most users. Although variations can exist between different brands, the connection process largely remains the same.

What Do You Need to Connect Your 3D Printer to a Computer?

  • Your 3D printer
  • Your computer
  • A USB cable that has the right connection to the 3D printer (usually a Type A)
  • The relevant software, drivers, and firmware updates if needed

Let’s take you through how you can use a USB to connect your printer to your PC.

Step 1: Check the ports

  • Before connecting the cables, it’s best to check if the ports on both devices, especially the PC, are functioning properly. You can use a tool like a mouse to check it.

Step 2: Connect the devices

  • You can do this with standard USB Type-A wire that come in the box with the printer.
  • It’s best to use short thick cords. These cords provide the highest data quality.
  • Great data quality is needed to prevent interruptions during printing.

Step 3: Install device drivers.

  • USB devices nowadays are mostly plug and play. Just plug in the device and watch the drivers install automatically.
  • In some cases, the drivers might come in a disk or a drive, and you might need to install it manually.

Step 4: Install the printer control software.

  • After installing the required drivers, you might need to install the printer’s software that comes with it.
  • The printer’s software can come with the printer, or you might need to download it from the manufacturer’s website. Repetier-Host and Pronterface are good software that many people use.
  • Open the device software and follow the manufacturer’s settings for proper configuration.

And just like that, your printer is ready to use.

The video below is a great tutorial using the Pronterface software.

When going through all these steps and installing the necessary software, sometimes there may be unexpected glitches. We have compiled some of the frequently encountered glitches and their solutions.

Wi-Fi Connection From Your 3D Printer to Computer

To set up 3D printing via Wi-Fi, you need:

  • A wireless-capable 3D printer
  • A home wireless network/ router
  • A wireless-capable PC

With a Wi-Fi capable 3D printer, you should have specific instructions to take you through the process to connect things up. With my Anycubic Photon Mono X, the Wi-Fi setup was fairly basic to follow, though it has limited functionality.

Other 3D printers with Wi-Fi functionality usually have many benefits and control so I’d definitely look out for those.

(Note: On some printers without a LED display, you need to connect the printer to the PC via USB initially to be able to connect to the Wi-Fi network.)

Step 1: Power up the printer, router, and PC

Step 2: Install the printer, software, or firmware on the PC

Step 3: Connect the PC and the 3D printer to the router

Step 4: Click on the connected device on the PC and select the printer from the list.

Step 5: Open the printer software and configure the printer

Step 6: Send your models to the printer for printing

You can choose to use something like the Creality Wi-Fi Box to start a Wi-Fi connection to your 3D printer. The video below by Teaching Tech is a walkthrough and  review of this product.

Connecting Your 3D Printer Wirelessly With OctoPrint

Octoprint is a great way to connect your 3D printer to your computer. It began as a way to print remotely for 3D printers without wi-fi capabilities.

Over time, it has evolved into a brilliant application that not only offers remote monitoring from various devices but also includes multiple plugins that extend the functionality of basic 3D printers.

Octoprint consists of an Arduino board with a wireless connection and a web-based interface for controlling the printer. It serves as a USB proxy for 3d printers without wireless connection capabilities.

Setting up OctoPrint can be a little difficult, but with a little elbow grease, it can be done. Let us show you how:

What do you need;

  • A PC with wireless capabilities.
  • A wireless network.
  • A Raspberry Pi with a Wi-Fi adapter.
  • An SD card for the Raspberry Pi (8GB minimum).
  • A USB cord for the printer.

How to get it done:

Step 1: Download and install the OctoPrint Software with Etcher.

  • Download the OctoPrint image here.
  • Download and configure the Etcher software.
  • Insert the SD card in the PC and follow the instructions here to flash and configure the Octoprint image to the SD card using Etcher.
  • Configure the wireless settings using settings found here.

Step 2: Configure the Raspberry Pi

  • Insert the SD card with the OctoPrint image into the Raspberry Pi.
  • Connect the Wi-Fi adapter to the Pi and power it on.
  • Access OctoPi from your PC by connecting to http://octopi.local.
  • Follow the first run instructions and create a username and password.
  • Logout and disconnect the Raspberry Pi from the power supply.

Step 3: Connect the printer to the Raspberry Pi.

  • Using a standard USB A cord, connect the printer to the Raspberry Pi.
  • Power on the Raspberry Pi.
  • Connect to the web interface with the http://octopi.local.

You should be able to print from the web interface now.

Fixing Issues With a USB Connection From 3D Printer to USB

Failed Initialization

Sometimes, there might be communication issues between the printer and the PC. The PC might fail to recognize the printer and not display it on the device manager. To fix this:

  • Check the USB ports and the USB cord in use for faults. Replace the cord if necessary.
  • Reboot both the printer and the PC and try reconnecting them.

Failed Driver Installation

Many problems can occur during driver installation, due to issues like maybe outdated OS or a botched installation. There are many ways these issues can be solved, let’s go through some of them.

Method 1: Using the device manager.

You can use the device manager on Windows to search for the drivers.

  • Search for the device manager in the windows search box and click on it.
  • Look for the printer, it should be there with a yellow sign near it that indicates a driver issue. If the printer is not there, then check your connection.
  • Right-click on the printer and select update/install drivers from the drop-down list.
  • The PC will search the internet for the appropriate drivers and install them.

Method 2: Manually Installing the drivers.

In case the first method doesn’t work, you might need to download and install the driver manually.

  • Arduino drivers are some of the most commonly used drivers for 3D printers.
  • Download the Arduino IDE drivers here.
  • Follow the installation guide here and install them on your PC

Software Problem

The software included in the box may be non-responsive or buggy. Sometimes printer manufacturers don’t even offer print control software. Here are some tips to solve these problems.

Method 1: Troubleshooting the software

  • You can try rebooting the PC and checking all the connections to make sure there’s nothing wrong there.
  • Reinstalling the software is always a great way to solve issues.
  • Check the manufacturer’s website for updates and support if the following steps do not work.

If the software problems persist after that, it’s time to consider third-party software. There are a lot of third party printing software that work with a wide range of 3D printers. A great example is Repetier-Host.

You can download it here and follow the installation and configuration guide here.

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