Both of these use a Raspberry Pi computer as a server to send commands to your 3D printer. This frees up your computer so it does not have to be tethered to your 3D printer, and also gets rid of exchanging SD cards between your computer and printer when you want to print a file. You can also check on your printer from any device – which can come in quite handy if your printer is located in the basement of your home like mine. While both Astroprint and OctoPrint allow you to view, print, and edit your printer wirelessly, unless you enable port fowarding on your router, this can only be done while in your local network (EDIT – check out the comment below from Dilanka @ Astroprint. My mistake, you CAN connect to your printer remotely from ANYWHERE using Astroprint); eg. whatever device you wish to use to connect to your server, it must be connected to the same network as the server.
There are 2 main differences between these two print server options, the interface, and how easily they are to setup. OctoPrint is definitely a little more difficult to get going, however, there are a lot of videos out there and webpages that have pretty good instructions. It took me quite a while to get it to work because of a syntax issue wth the file that tells the Pi which network to connect. The problem was with the quotation marks that were generated in TextEdit. This was not easy to discover, which is the main reason I found OctoPrint’s setup to be more difficult.
Astroprint, on the other hand, does have a much easier setup, however, you are required to use a wifi dongle even on a Raspberry Pi 3 (RP3s come with wifi onboard). This is a bit annoying, but you can easily buy a dongle for about $8 (EDIT – and the benefits of not having to mess with your router to gain control of your printer from outside your network are probably worth $8). Instead of needing to access the text file and add your network info onto the boot disk, AstroPrint creates a wifi network that you temporarily join in order to setup your server. It has a very easy setup wizard, and within a few seconds I was online and ready to get printing.
In addition to being easier to setup, I do like the GUI on AstroPrint better than OctoPrint. OctoPrint functions just as well, but the nice large colored icons in AstroPrint do give it a more user friendly look. That being said, after using Astroprint once and then shutting everything down (turning off the RP3 and my printer), the RP3 did not reconnect to my network, and even when I tried to connect manually it gave me an error message that it could not save the settings. This forced me to restore the device to factory settings. I’m hoping that was a glitch and will not happen again. I will update the page after I’ve shut it down again with the results.
Both do the same thing, and both seem to work fine. I had a lot of issues with Repetier or Pronterface crashing during a print, and so was looking to find a way to fix that issue. Having used both OctoPrint and Astroprint neither has stopped printing midway through a print, so both seem pretty reliable. I’ve purchased two Mirco SD cards and have a copy of each Octo and Astro available to switch out whenever I want. Will probably be playing with each one a bit more before deciding which one is best for. Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments.
EDIT – Due to Astroprint’s ease of setup and the ability to control from anywhere, I need to give them the nod as being better. Still, both are good solutions, and I recommend you give them both a try.