Open-Source Firmware and Boards from Geeetech, Go 32Bit!

Open-Source!?

Hopefully you haven’t mistakenly clicked this article and have no idea what Open-Source means. Open-Source means sharing of the original source code for the intent of it being modified and redistributed.

The day was May 29, and the year was 2018.  This was the exact day that Geeetech released it’s Smartto firmware and GTM32 schematics as Open-Source to the public. Some 3D printer manufacturers have been denying public access to modified Open-Source firmware. Of course this is a violation, but let’s skip past all that and get to the REAL point of this article.

The GTM32 Mainboard

open-source GTM32 schematic
A small portion of the GTM32 schematic

Geeetech has been using the GTM32 board in the A30, E180 and the Rostock 301 model 3D printers. This board has a 32bit CPU, which is a significant improvement over the 2560 and 1284 based boards that are used in most of the other consumer based printers. 

The 32bit CPU allows for much faster calculations, which is a necessity when working with the fast Delta/Kossel style of printers. This is also an upgrade for any other printer in terms of computing power, but more than likely it won’t be fully realised on Cartesian style printers. 

The GTM32 has outputs for 4 steppers and also has sockets for the drivers so you can configure the board to your liking. It’s a 12v board, and is capable of delivering 9A to the hot bed. I always recommend the use of either an external mosfet or a solid state relay to offload the bulk of the current from flowing through the board. Don’t burn your house down.

I have compiled a short list of some of the more popular Open-Source boards used in consumer grade printers:

Name RAMPs Melzi Duet Wifi GTM32
CPU Type ATmega2560 (8bit) ATmega1280 (8bit) ARM SAM4E8E (32bit) ARM STM32F103 (32bit)
Removable drivers, driver model Y, A4988 N, A4982 N, TMC2660 Y, TMC2100
Outputs 4+ 4 5+ 4
Price ~$30 ~$30 $170 $63 w/ touch screen

The Duet Wifi is one of the top of the line boards. It offers many bells and whistles and it’s price reflects that. The GTM32 should make for competitive option for users keen to get into 32B but are unwilling to fork over $150+ on a new main board. If Geeetech plays their cards right, they could really sell a lot of these GTM32s.

Intro to Smartto

configuration.h in open-source Smartto
Screen shot of Configuration.h

I would have to assume that other companies, like Geeetech, watched the community back lash towards Creatily and it’s stubbornness towards sharing their version of Marlin firmware.

It’s important for me to bring this up, but Smartto is NOT a fork of Marlin or Repetier firmware. Smartto was designed as a completely new firmware built around the STM32 CPU and the GTM32 boards. Geeetech’s goal was to offer a low priced, fast CPU/board combo with an expandable firmware into the community for Open-Source adoption.

Now that Smartto is Open-Source I finally got a chance to snoop around in some of the configuration files. Anyone used to configuring either Repetier or Marlin will not have many issues navigating the different configuration files. You will find most of the variables and processes are cleanly labelled. As more people investigate and take a look at this firmware option, it should continue to expand as consumers purchase the GTM32 board.

Going Further with Smartto

I am excited to dig deeper into the Smartto. I am curious to see the differences between the processes that carry over across the major firmware flavors. There are also some features that I plan on adding into Smartto in the future.

Geeetech has also uploaded some tools for tuning on their git hub site. My primary workstation runs Ubuntu Linux, and the tools are supposedly all for Windows based platforms.

My experience in using the Smartto firmware has been mostly positive.  I’ve used it on my Geeetech E180 and it has performed admirably.  The only issues I have had with it have been SD card related.  I will not blame the firmware, as all printers go a little wonky with a suspect SD card giving it broken Gcode files. 

Why the Big Whoop about Open-Source?Geeetech's GitHub for open-source firmware

Many different Facebook groups and YouTubers openly petitioned against Creality a few months back. This caused many other Chinese 3D printer manufacturers to start sharing their firmware files.

This is a requirement of the GPL for Marlin and Repetier. These are two of the more popular flavors of consumer grade 3D printer firmware. The GPL is a software license that grants the end user the ability to modify and share the software.

At the end of the day, this really benefits the whole 3D printing community and is the driving force behind Open-Source. If everyone is allowed to peek behind the curtain, the community can work together with the manufacturers to add and tweak features. I am anxious to see how the 3D printing community accepts the tools that Geeetech has provided.

Are you interested in checking out the new Open-Source firmware and GTM32 schematics from Geeetech?  Check out their Git Hub page!

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