The best 3D printer controller board motherboard
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The 6 Best 3D Printer Controller Boards

Last update: September 2022
Best overall
  • Powerful
  • Many I/O ports
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
Best high-end
  • Wide stepper motor compatibility
  • Suitable for high-end 3D printers
  • Lots of expansion options
Best on a budget
  • Low price
  • Easy to use
  • Silent stepper drivers

From using Arduinos with CNC shields to now having a full-fledged WiFi-equipped circuit, 3D printer controller boards have come a long way. They’re the brains of any 3D printing setup and are responsible for controlling, coordinating, and executing all of a printer’s functions.

If you’ve bought a fully assembled 3D printer that you are happy with, it’s doubtful that you ever had to think about the controller board. But if you’re someone who wants to upgrade his 3D printer or build a DIY printer from scratch, you probably understand how important it is to select the best 3D printer controller board for your needs.

To help you with getting the best control board for your 3D printer, we’ve compiled a list of the six best motherboard options that you can buy right now.

SUMMARY
3D Printer ControllerSummaryInputProcessorPriceBest Offer
Duet 2 WiFiBest overall11-25V32-bit$170
Duet 3 6HCBest high-end11-32V32-bit$255
BTT SKR Mini E3 V2.0Best on a budget12/24V32-bit$65
Creality 3D 4.2.7Best for Ender 324V32-bit$50
BIGTREETECH OctopusMost stepper drivers4.75-36V32-bit$52
BIGTREETECH TFT35 V3.0Best LCD add-on5V32-bit$45

Best 3D Printer Motherboards in 2022

Duet 2 WiFi

Best overall
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The Duet 2 Wi-Fi features a 32-bit ARM-based processor specifically designed for industrial automation projects. As-is, the Duet 2 Wi-Fi can support up to five unique stepper motors. This, however, can be extended to support up to five extra stepper motors and extruders with the Duex 5 expansion board.

All stepper drivers used on the Duet 2 Wi-Fi are TMC2660s, which have a high current rating of 2.4A and are able to run the stepper motors quietly in up to 1/256 micro-stepping. The board runs on the well-documented and feature-rich RepRap firmware.

The great thing about the Duet 2 Wi-Fi is its compatibility with different Duet expansion boards and accessories. You can connect a PanelDue board to get a full-color graphic touch screen, temperature sensing daughterboards, the Duex 5 for additional steppers, servos, fans, and heaters. It even has the option to use a smart effector for delta 3D printers for bed leveling.

The many features and ability to use it with practically any 3D printer make the Duet 2 Wifi the overall best 3D printer controller board that you can get right now. It definitely costs more than your typical board, but you get what you pay for.

Standout Features

  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • External stepper driver support
  • Quiet 1/256 microstepping

Technical Details

Input voltage 11V - 25V
Stepper drivers 5x TMC 2660
Microstepping Up to 256
Microprocessor ARM Cortex M4F, 32-bit
Connections 2.4GHz WiFi, USB serial port
SD card slot Yes

What We Like

  • Powerful
  • Many I/O ports
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Could Be Better

  • High price
Find Duet 2 WiFi at

Duet 3 6HC

Best high-end
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The Duet 3 6HC is the latest release from Duet 3D. The 6HC in the name stands for 6 High Current stepper motors. The board uses a faster 300 MHz 32-bit ARM processor, allowing for high-speed calculations. The Duet 3 features six Trinamic 5160 stepper motor drivers rated at a 6.3 A peak current.

Other than this, you get 10 PWM outputs for the heated beds, extruders, and fans. It has 9 I/O ports for end-stops, Z probes, filament sensors, and other peripherals. These allow you to decorate your 3D printer with many sensors, fans, and accessories and still have room left for more.

The CAN-FD buses will let you connect other Duet boards, smart tools, and custom add-ons, thus ensuring upgradability. There’s a dedicated high-speed SPI bus to a single board computer (SBC) to let you connect SBCs like Raspberry Pi’s.

The Duet 3 6HC is expensive and aimed at professionals that require a versatile high-end 3D printer controller. However, the RepRap community’s ample amount of documentation and support means that if you want one, you can easily configure it to work with any off-the-shelf 3D printer as well.

Aside from being more than powerful enough to drive nearly any 3D printer, the Duet 3 is an equally attractive option for a home CNC machine or laser engraver.

Standout Features

  • High-speed ARM processor
  • High current stepper drivers
  • Numerous i/o options

Technical Details

Input voltage 11V to 32V
Stepper drivers 6x TMC2160 or TMC5160
Microstepping Up to 256
Microprocessor ARM Cortex M7, 32-bit
Connections Ethernet and USB Serial port
SD card slot Yes

What We Like

  • Wide stepper motor compatibility
  • Suitable for high-end 3D printers
  • Lots of expansion options

Could Be Better

  • High price
  • Requires technical expertise
Find Duet 3 6HC at

BIGTREETECH SKR Mini E3 V2.0

Best on a budget

The SKR Mini E3 V2.0 is the successor to the original E3, designed explicitly for the Ender 3 3D printers. With the SKR Mini E3 V2.0, Bigtreetech offers support for more Creality machines like the CR-10, CR-10S5, and Ender 3 3D printers.

The V2.0 is a 32-bit 3D printer controller board that features ultra-silent, TMC 2209 stepper motor drivers and can handle 2A RMS current. It also comes with two Z-axis ports, so that you can drive dual Z-axis stepper motors.

Aside from the excellent stepper drivers, the SKR Mini E3 V2.0 also comes with support for BLTouch and filament detection sensors. This gives you the option to install additional Ender 3 upgrades and Ender 5 upgrades that reduce the chance of failed 3D prints.

The Mini E3 V2.0 supports the open-source Marlin firmware. It offers a variety of additional features like the power resume function, automatic shutdown, and onboard sensorless homing functions.

If you’re on a budget and want to upgrade your Creality 3D printer, the SKR Mini E3 V2.0 is likely the best 3D printer controller for you.

Standout Features

  • Parallel Z-axis interface
  • BLTouch and filament detection ports
  • Improved thermal performance

Technical Details

Input voltage 12/24V
Stepper drivers 4x TMC2209
Microstepping 256
Microprocessor ARM Cortex-M3, 32-bit
Connections Mini-USB-B type
SD card slot Yes

What We Like

  • Low price
  • Easy to use
  • Silent stepper drivers

Could Be Better

  • Limited upgradability
Find BIGTREETECH SKR Mini E3 V2.0 at

Creality 3D 4.2.7

Best for Ender 3
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The Ender 3 is still one of the best budget Creality 3D printers. But it has aged in terms of its features and capabilities. The latest version of the 3D printer controller board from Creality – 4.2.7 aims to bring the Ender 3 to the current 3D printing trends.

The Creality 3D 4.2.7 controller board features a 32-bit ARM processor with increased flash storage that lets you run more firmware features faster, and with this supporting the latest Marlin 2.0 firmware. Creality calls this controller board the “silent mainboard” due to the TMC 2225 stepper motor drivers that keep your 3D printer’s motors silent.

This 4.2.7 now comes with a pre-installed bootloader, which means that you can update the firmware by merely inserting the SD card with the firmware BIN file. It also has ports for the BLTouch auto leveling sensor and filament sensors that remove the need for any previously needed extenders.

The Marlin 2.0 comes pre-installed with the board, and with a little bit of configuration, you can directly use it with your Ender 3. It is an excellent upgrade for the Ender 3 3D printers, considering that you get an officially supported board with the latest features.

Standout Features

  • 32-bit processor
  • Pre-installed bootloader
  • Silent TMC 2225 stepper drivers

Technical Details

Input voltage 24V
Stepper drivers 4x TMC2225
Microstepping Up to 256
Microprocessor ARM Cortex-M3, 32-Bit
Connections Micro-USB port
SD card slot Yes

What We Like

  • Easy to install and use
  • Official company support
  • Affordable

Could Be Better

  • No UART control
  • Poor quality control
Find Creality 3D 4.2.7 at

BIGTREETECH Octopus

Most stepper drivers

The BIGTREETECH Octopus controller board natively supports eight stepper motors. You can choose your stepper motor drivers and the mode in which you want to run them, and this makes the board a beast in terms of sheer stepper motor support.

This 3D printer controller board supports up to four hot-end heaters. Then there are six PWM controllable fan interfaces, six end-stop switches, and two inputs for filament detection sensors. You even get a CAN bus interface if you decide to upgrade further and a USB-A port that can interface with a Raspberry Pi using emulated serial over USB.

Another expansive feature of the Octopus board is the support for a dual Z-axis drive. This can come in handy if you’re building a large cartesian or even a Core XY-type 3D printer. There are many other features too, and the sheer number of connectivity options make it one of the best 3d printer controllers if you’re planning to build something like a Voron 3D printer that needs many stepper motors.

Standout Features

  • Supports up to 8 stepper motors
  • Interfaces with Raspberry Pi
  • Marlin and Klipper firmware support

Technical Details

Input voltage 4.75V - 36V
Stepper drivers 8 pluggable stepper driver support
Microstepping Up to 256
Microprocessor ARM Cortex-M4, 32-bit
Connections USB type C port
SD card slot Yes

What We Like

  • Suitable for large 3D printers
  • Lots of expansions ports
  • USB-C interface for easy compatibility

Could Be Better

  • Complex wiring
  • Limited community support
Find BIGTREETECH Octopus at

BIGTREETECH TFT35 V3.0

Best LCD add-on
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The BIGTREETECH TFT35 V3.0 is an LCD touch screen upgrade designed for the Ender 3 and CR-10 3D printers. The V3.0 stands out because of its dual nature. You can use it as a regular LCD screen with the knob or use the touch screen to navigate the menu quickly.

It gives you the best of both worlds without the hassles of either. Additionally, you get a port for an external Wi-Fi module, a full-sized SD card slot, and a USB 2.0 port, giving you plenty of options in terms of connectivity.

However, the touch screen is not plug-n-play, and you need to tweak some firmware settings to get it working with your 3D printer. Teaching Tech on YouTube has a comprehensive guide covering everything you need to get the TFT35 working.

The BIGTREETECH TFT35 V3.0 is not meant as a completely new overhaul for your 3D printer but rather is aimed to improve the functionality of interfacing with it. The touch screen combined with the knob is suitable for many users. And considering the price, it is a worthwhile upgrade to make.

Standout Features

  • Dual-mode use
  • Pre-installed bootloader
  • Wi-Fi module and filament detection ports

Technical Details

Input voltage 5V
Microprocessor ARM Cortex-M3 series 32-bit
Connections USB A port and external Wi-Fi module support
SD card slot Yes

What We Like

  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with many 3D printers
  • Lots of configuration options

Could Be Better

  • Firmware can be buggy
  • Technical expertise required
Find BIGTREETECH TFT35 V3.0 at

Buyer’s Guide

Above we have listed some of the best 3D printer controller boards available. But what if you want to look for more boards? What exactly do you look for in a 3D printer motherboard, and how do you select one for yourself? Here are a few pointers that you need to keep in mind.

Firmware Compatibility

Firmware is the software on the 3D printer controller board that is responsible for all calculations and commands to the printer hardware. There are many different types available, for example, Repetier, Prusa, Klipper, and Smoothieware.

Each one is designed for a slightly different purpose, and you need to keep in mind your goals with the machine. For example, if you want a high-speed 3D printer, Klipper is the best choice for you. Marlin and RepRap are the go-to options if you want well-documented and widely used firmware.

You need to consider the choice of your firmware beforehand to select the best suitable controller board for yourself. Make sure there’s enough documentation and support available with your combo so that if you run into any issues, you can quickly sort it out.

Processor

3D printers either have an 8-bit controller board or a 32-bit board. An 8-bit board is cheap to manufacture and provides all the basic functionalities you would expect from a 3D printer. However, it comes with low onboard memory, and the lower number of bits means that it can process fewer calculations at a time, thus significantly affecting its speed.

32-bit motherboards operate at a higher clock speed, have a slightly greater onboard memory, and execute calculations at a much higher rate. They’re compatible with more I/O ports and communication interfaces, and all of these translate to a more feature-rich 3D printer motherboard.

If you want a basic 3D printer with limited functionalities, 8-bit boards are an option. They’ll save a bit of money, and you won’t have to pay for things you won’t use. However, if you want your 3D printer to be future-proof, have advanced functions, and print faster, a controller board with a 32-bit processor is vastly superior.

In our list with the best 3D printer controller boards above, we have only added 32-bit controllers. We believe that an 8-bit board is not worth buying and a 32-bit board is always the better option.

Communication methods

The most basic method of communication on a 3D printer motherboard is a USB port. A USB serial port allows you to control your 3D printer via a USB connection with a computer.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports are other methods of communicating with your 3D printer. An ethernet port would allow you to control your 3D printer over a local wired network.

Wi-Fi connectivity would allow you to control your printer wirelessly. One benefit of Wi-Fi is that you don’t even have to be present in the same room as your 3D printer, and you can control it remotely from anywhere.

Low-end controller boards don’t come with Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports; some might have pins for attaching external Wi-Fi modules, though. A USB serial port is enough if you want a basic 3D printer. If you want wireless 3D printing or operate many 3D printers simultaneously, you should consider getting a Wi-Fi-equipped controller board.

Connectors

Aside from a USB port, there are many other connectors (or headers) on the controller board. These are used for a wide variety of purposes. Endstop connectors, hot end heaters, stepper motor connectors, bed leveling, and filament runout detection sensors are some of the few.

A well-specced-out controller board like the Duet 2 Wi-Fi or the Duet 3 6HC will have almost all of these connectors and then some more. Connectors allow you to interface various devices with your 3D printer, providing additional functionality.

The more connectors your controller board has, the more expensive it will be and take a lot of space. You need to know what features you want in your 3D printer and select the board with the particular connectors to get the maximum benefit.

Stepper Drivers

Stepper motor drivers affect the size of the stepper motors you can drive in your 3D printer and the sound levels you hear in the process. On most 3D printer controller boards, stepper drivers can’t easily be swapped out. Therefore, selecting the right kind of controller board with the right stepper driver is essential.

Basic stepper drivers like the A4988 are cheap, easily accessible, and provide a relatively good experience for basic 3D printers. They do drive stepper motors loud, are unreliable, and can only provide the steppers with limited current.

TMC drivers, on the other hand, are known for their silent operation and current-carrying capacities. The TMC 2xxx series are rated at 2A peak current, while the TMC 5160 typically offers 3A to 4.4A on 3D printer controller boards.

You need to consider the microstepping capabilities of the stepper motor drivers as well. Microstepping divides a full step into smaller steps. The smaller the step, the higher the resolution and the smoother the vibration. As a minimum, you want 1/16 step microstepping, but the best 3D printer controller options offer up to 1/256 step

Touch screen support

A touch screen enhances the functionality and ease of use of a 3D printer by making navigating the menu and dialing in the various features easier.

Not all controller boards have touch screen support built-in. While choosing a controller board, look at the connectivity options and the compatible touch screens. You need to make sure that the board’s firmware supports it, and there is at least a little bit of documentation on how to interface the controller with the touch screen.

FAQ

What is a 3D printer controller board?

A 3D printer controller board is a piece of hardware that controls all electronic components in a 3D printer. It is responsible for motion, temperature control, and reading all commands from GCode files.

Why upgrade your printer’s stock controller board?

As time passes, the current features in your 3D printer start to seem obsolete. A controller board upgrade will give you access to many advanced features, allow for added functionalities and enhance your overall 3D printing experience.

Is a 3D printer controller board the same as a 3D printer motherboard?

Yes, in the context of 3D printing, the terms ‘controller board’ and ‘motherboard’ are used interchangeably. They mean exactly the same thing.

Conclusion

The best 3D printer controller boards are the ones you’re able to afford and will work with your 3D printer. With so many options on the market, it can be tough to choose just one. The important thing is figuring out which one of these top-rated controllers would be right for you.

In our opinion, the Duet 2 Wi-Fi is the overall best 3D printer controller board that you can get right now. Despite its high price, the Duet 2 Wi-Fi ticks all the boxes in terms of features, connectivity, upgrades, and ports. It is designed to be a universal solution for all types of 3D printers and can serve as an effective replacement for practically any board.

Let us know what you think about it, and if you have anything else to add, feel free to comment below.

  • Pranav is an avid maker and DIY enthusiast who specializes in 3D printing. He’s built and operated 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser engravers. He is also familiar with most other machines that you’d find in a MakerSpace. In his free time, you can find him on the road cycling or reading in a corner.

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