The Smoothie project
It started years ago as an offshoot of the Reprap project electronics, it aimed at adding the following things :
- Use more powerful hardware ( 32 bits vs 8 bits )
- Be more modular/easier to modify, have cleaner code that’s easier to add onto
- Support not just 3D printers but also lasers, CNC mills/routers, out of the box, creating a single project more people from different horizons can contribute to
- Easier to use, and more complete, beginner-friendly documentation ( at the time all systems required users to compile code to use, Smoothie introduced simple “edit text file and done” configuration )
We did a Kickstarter for the the first version of the hardware, which got a lot of enthusiasm and got us up and running. It is to this date by far the most successful Kickstarter for a CNC controller or even a 3D printer component. You can learn more about the project's basic features in the video for the original Kickstarter for v1 :
You can also read the original Kickstarter page for v1 to learn some of the core design principles and advantages of the Smoothie concept.
Over the years, Smoothie has pioneered a lot of new features in the Open-Source fabrication machines ecosystem, many of which have then been implemented in other Open-Hardware systems later on.
Smoothie v1 has been a huge success, it is used in tens of thousands of machines around the world, a lot of its users are very fond of the experience, and it’s also been used in a lot of innovative machines ( it’s the recommended board for Open-Source Pick and Place machines, Water-jet machines, Lab Work machines, etc ).
As we kept adding things, we started running out of room on the v1 hardware ( both in terms of ROM, RAM, and processing power ) and that’s where we started working on the v2 project :
Creating Smoothie v2
One part of the idea for v1 was to see what was possible to accomplish with newer hardware. As v1 grew, new stuff appeared, and we started designing new boards around it.
Starting fresh also meant we could listen to what users have been asking for and start making that happen. This is why v2-prime has nicer stepper drivers ( making your machine silent ), or a probe input amongst many other new features, why v2-mini is aims to be priced as low as possible, or v2-pro has an FPGA and so many bells and whistles.
The firmware has also been rewritten from the ground up, the foundations rebuilt on a RTOS, and the existing code ported and adapted. It’s currently capable of actually running machines, and only peripheral features ( network, panels for example ) still need to be ported.
It is also a platform to try new ideas, and v2 has many which you can discover in the specifications :
Here are all 3 v2 board types compared to the current version :
Excited ? We are.
And we have even more board types planned for the future, you can read the full v2 project spec here.
Using a more powerful chip means we have more space, RAM and computing power to do what we do now better ( a perfect example of this is network transfers with v1 were capped at around 100kB/s, we expect to go 10-100x that on v2 ), and to try new things.
The higher micro-stepping means smoother, quieter, and less resonance-prone movements.
All inputs have better protection ( where v1 was already very resilient ), and specialized ports have been added, such as the one for leveling probes, or the servo/relay outputs.
Additionally, where v1 was only about to provide 5V at a maximum of 1 Amp to peripherals ( and only as an option ), v2 will have an on-board regulator capable of giving them up to 3A by default.
You can find more complete specifications here.
The design rationale for v2-prime is it’s the successor of the current v1 boards, upgraded for the v2 project. Most everything is getting upgraded :
- The microcontroller of course, the new one is faster, has more of everything, a floating point unit, a co-processor, etc
- The stepper drivers are much nicer, with higher micro-stepping ( less noise and resonance ), new features and diode protection.
- Most inputs are getting more protection making the board more resistant to interference and breaking
- Mosfets are getting extra protection ( on-board failsafe switches which shutoff power to protect against outputs failing closed )
- Much faster SD card, Ethernet, USB
- A port to plug a Raspberry Pi right on the board ( hey Octoprint friends ! )
- Many extension ports
You can see a tour of v2-prime in this video :
The video is from a year ago and is not perfectly up to date on a few minor things but gives a good idea, for current specifications see the current page.
We have a first prototype of this board where most everything works, and intend a second prototype run before the final product gets delivered to you.
This board has been printing for hundred of hours on beta tester machines.
Here is a v2-prime with a Raspberry Pi on-board :
V2-mini is designed to be as inexpensive as possible, while still giving you all of the firmware-side advantages of the v2 project. It looks a lot like a simplified version of the v1 board, with the v2 brain.
- It has basic stepper drivers, enough mosfets for a small CNC mill/laser or a 3D printer that has no bed ( bed support is easy to add with extension boards )
- The inputs don’t have the extra protections you’ll find on prime, and there are fewer of them
- Aiming for a $70-80 public price hopefully thanks to process improvements, kickstarter price is higher because those won't be implemented yet.
We did a first prototype of this board, and thanks to it’s simplicity everything on-board works. However we learned some things from the v2-prime and will integrate some of those things and thus do a prototype of this board again before production.
V2-pro is meant as an experimentation platform, we essentially thought of every crazy/overkill thing we could, and put it there. If you want to get the best performance and experience, you are probably looking for prime. If you have a specific very crazy project and know what you need for it, this may be for you. It’s got :
- A FPGA which we intend to try using for stellar step generation and later maybe some other uses
- Better/more powerful stepper drivers, some using external mosfets
- More inputs and outputs overall.
We did a first prototype of this board a long time ago, and definitely need a new one because some things changed in the project since. We are definitely making another prototype of this board before we have a final version, and might even have to do another on top of that. Except possible delays on delivery for this one, and also for firmware dev to take longer than for prime.
One thing users keep asking for is ways to make wiring their machines easier and cleaner. There are a lot of things you might want to wire to a Smoothieboard, so we decided to make dedicated breakout boards for all of them, even if that's a lot of boards. Sparkfun and Adafruit showed us all that people love breakout boards.
And to make sure all of those boards can easily be wired to the Smoothieboard v2, we used a standard port that always has the same connector, but can be used for many different things ( Gadgeteer ).
This means we are making many different breakout boards, but they will all have the same connector.
Here are just a few of the things we are making breakout boards for. Note that a lot of those already have prototypes ready, see the specification.
Some of those things are things that are already on the Smoothieboard, and the extension boards allow you to add more:
- Mosfets, big and small, to control ( on/off ) loads like fans, lamps, motors, solenoids, heaters etc
- End-stop inputs, for endstops, switches, probes, and anything reading on/off signals, or if something is in contact or not
- Stepper motor drivers, including the ones that are on the Smootheboards, but also other varied models depending on your needs
- Raw pin breakouts with various types of connectors to make wiring easier
Dual extrusion ( or triple, or more ) will be done by the addition of one or more extension boards too. We have a future plan of a system that would allow adding infinite ( dozens ) extruder boards via a chaining bus, we have prototypes of it but it was put in pause to concentrate on other v2 tasks, however we plan on finishing it once v2 is more stable.
Some other extensions are for things you can't directly interface with a Smoothieboard, and you would normally have to do work to wire them, but these breakouts now make it plug and play:
- Mechanical and Solid State Relays to control heavy AC or DC loads, including mains ( 110/230VAC ) tools
- SPI peripherals such as Thermocouples, LCD screens/Panels, PT100 readers
- Raspberry Pis, and other Single-Board computers
- Spindle control ( for VFDs ) using Modbus or Analog signals
- Servo motors, filament sensors, retractable leveling probes
- Sensors, for pressure, flow of cooling systems, safety switches, etc
- Laser control for laser cutters, making wiring much simpler for these
- Long distance adapters, to take any of the breakout boards, and be able to use them over very long cables ( using standard RJ45 cables ), which is very often a problem with large machines.
We already have dozens of extension boards planned, covering most imaginable use cases, and we will be adding new extension boards anytime somebody presents us with a use case we do not support yet. Give us your ideas anytime you want ! ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
We had an opportunity to rewrite some of the firmware as we ported it for v2. Jim Morris ( lead dev ) moved the firmware to run on top of FreeRTOS. The original firmware tried to do some RTOS-y things, but this is a huge step towards a cleaner and more interesting code-base.
Right now, the firmware mostly reproduces what you’d find on a v1 board, just removing a lot of limits and benefiting from some easy upgrades such as the floating point unit. But we have a lot of things we would like to try with the v2 firmware ( generating steps on the M0 co-processor, or on the pro’s FPGA, USB/MTP support, log files ), and the new hardware means we’ll have room for future ideas too. You can see some of what’s planned at http://smoothieware.org/todo
Smoothie can be controlled via LCD panels, Android tablets ( via apps and web interfaces ), computers, phones, CNC pendants and more. We expect the increased power and speed will help us implement even better control interfaces that are more responsive and make your life even easier.
We are also getting a new boot-loader that can unpack archives at the same time as it flashes the firmware, allowing us to ship things like web interfaces and documentation along with the firmware easily.
And this is just what we are working on right now, so much more is possible, much of which we haven't thought about yet.
Kickstarter campaign and fulfillment
The time-line for the Kickstarter is as follows :
This is aspirational, it's possible technical issues, or production issues, could push some deadlines back a bit. Interestingly, for v1 we were able to deliver very close to the estimated time-frame. We will do our best to do the same for this new campaign, but this one is much more challenging technically, and much more complex in terms of organization.
Shipping to North America will happen from Oregon ( Uberclock ) and to the rest of the world from France ( Robotseed ), don't hesitate to contact us if you have special requirements for shipping or anything else.
Want something extra with your board, like extension boards, other hardware ? Just ask us in the survey that will be sent out, and we'll convert your pledge into a discount of the same value at the official Smoothie web-shops, allowing you to get more in the same package.
If you want to follow the project, get updates, ask questions, request features and chat with the community, you can follow us on the various social media platforms:
If you have questions about this Kickstarter, any of these is perfectly appropriate to ask in, or you can ask directly via the Kickstarter interface as well. Or Email even ( email@example.com ).
Please, if you can take the time to share this project on your social media profiles so it can reach other manufacturing geeks, it would help the project a lot, we would really appreciate it.
If we reach the following milestones, we'll do extra work, sooner than initially planned, by spending some of the money to speed these tasks up. All of these are things we'd eventually do, but reaching these goals would help getting there faster:
- 40,000€ : We'll do a "how to set up your board" video for all those receiving their Kickstarter board. This isn't a replacement for reading the documentation, but we believe video documentation is the future, and we have a lot of videos planned. This one would come early.
- 50,000€ : Design v2-central, a board with no on-board powered peripherals, but that makes it much easier to set up complex/large machines with lots of external peripherals. Learn more in the v2 specification.
- 100,000€ : We'll speed up testing and documentation of Raspberry-Pi integration, letting you easily interface a Raspberry-Pi zero or a normal one to your board.
- 150,000€ : Everybody gets two extension boards with their board, the "raw pins breakout" and the "single channel small mosfet" board.
- 200,000€ : We will hire somebody to work on implementing the M0 co-processor utilization, speeding up that feature a lot, making all board types significantly more powerful right away.
- 250,000 € : We are making Smoothieboard v2-core ( a board with only gadgeteer ports, allowing a-la-carte board building using only extension boards ) sooner than planned.
We'll add more if something crazy happens and we get above this.
Some more stuff
You love Open-Source and have some free time? There are a lot of ways you can help the Smoothie project. The project is built by volunteers like you, and there are always things to do, no matter your skill-set. Contact us ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Want a Smoothie-powered Laser Cutter, CNC mill, CNC router, giant 3D printer for your business, but don't want to build it all yourself? We also sell full machines, Smoothie-powered, with some great features, and support. Contact us ( email@example.com )
None of this would ever have been possible without the awesome community that grew around the project, and without it's root in the Reprap and GRBL communities, as well as the overall Open-Hardware CNC world.
Risiken und Herausforderungen
The main issues we could have are:
* Issues with the prototypes, requiring additional prototyping runs. These take around a month if they have to happen. These are going to be second prototypes already though, and the first ones have worked on a lot / have very few issues left ( except for v2-pro, which is why we have set aside more time for it ).
* Issues setting up production, though we have a very efficient relationship with the current manufacturer used with v1, and they are making some of the prototypes already.
* Delays in setting up functional testing of the boards. We think we have set aside enough time for this, but delays are imaginable.
* Customs, the new US tariffs are hurting us quite a bit and complicate clearance. They are also responsible for a small price increase compared to some previously cited prices.
We will spare no effort to meet the deadlines.
We’ve done a first Kickstarter in 2013 ( got 110k with a goal of 20k and shipped pretty close to the planned timeline ), and since we’ve also been delivering sometimes thousands of boards at a time to customers ( Smoothieboard is very popular with OEMs ).
We have an established supply chain, and we have a plan that we think is reasonable based on the current state of the project.
Still, there are more unknowns here than when we did v1 ( this is a very ambitious project, taking more risk overall ), so expect the possibility of delays to increase accordingly.
Though there are for sure things we'll have to solve, and we think this is likely to be very stressful the same way the first campaign was, this isn’t our first rodeo.
- (22 Tage)