Best bang for your buck controller suggestions?

I have a few small projects I would like to use some steppers on. Of course I would like them to be headless. Marlin is a plus as I can really quickly tweak it to my needs. So using the ZenXY as an example of a good use case, What do you suggest?

Jeffeb3 has this nice setup to consider. This would be controlled from a smart phone and looks to cost about just under $50 winner so far

The protoneer board is cool but no headless (?). ~$40

Protoneer Pi version, I’m sure (?) it could do headless but GRBL, and ~$80-90

Marlin is coming with a RTOS, Real Time Operating System, version. This could open some doors!

A Rambo mini and lcd is ~$100

Import Ramps…I know it can be cheap but too many DOA for my liking. Trying to avoid this one.



I am still using the prontoneer pi board on my low rider. It works great with grbl and cnc.js.

I know the esp board has WiFi, but I’m not certain there’s software written for it. If love to experiment with something like that, especially for a zxy like project. This might be a good winter project for me.

I’ll be interested to see what others say.

Oh, I see they have a Bluetooth app:

Dang. I’ll probably have to buy one of these…

Feels like I am missing something. Are there really no other decent options for really low cost? I guess a nano and a pololu could work for my single stepper belt feeding machine, a few buttons but no screen needed. Maybe another custom pcb!?

Hopefully the Marlin RTOS will end up working on the esp, I can’t find the board they were testing it on. That does seem like a real cool board. especially the one with the oled…

Nice app, that is looking more promising.

And this one with a battery wifi and oled. power goes out…pause and wait to resume…oh the possibilities. This board seems very exciting. The shield doesn’t seem to have reverse current protection from the steppers.

When we doing that pcb work, I looked at a huge thread talking about running full fledged Marlin on an esp32. The problem was the number of pins. There are plenty of peripherals, but only so many pins and 6 of them are input only. They were ending up with a port expander chip, and then I wonder if it makes sense anymore.

For your purposes, it would be fun. But it’s not the same as arduino. You’ll have to learn some more. It is awesome though.

Do you think other people will want it? If it’s just a one off, I think any arduino and a drv8825 would be good. You could either use a serial bluetooth module or connect via usb and send serial commands or wire in a knob and lcd (how many full graphic lcds do you have right now?). It seems like gcode is a mismatch for a belt counter.

Are you sure you don’t want a machine with two motors? One to count and one to cut? Then you give it a twitter account and when you’re filling out orders, you just dm it “@heavyweightchampionofthebelts 2.2m”. :smiley:

Maybe an MKS board and display. That’s under $30 without drivers and not much more with them. It’d be capable of quite a bit more than a ZenXY but better too much capacity than too little.

So easy though. Had a friend over and made a prototype and ran it in under an hour. A cutter would be nice, I need a small lazy susan to keep it tangle free. and then update from there. The way I do it currently without the belt counter is comical.


Yeah a better board with genuine pololu’s might be the solution.

Looks like they are coming right along on that web ui.

I like it. I think I will give it a bit longer before I jump in.


Lil tangent, What is the least expensive pi that the v1pi will run on? I am taking some notes and want to update some info. For controls we have a computer hardwired, LCD/sd, or V1Pi. The Archim boards have an SD built in but honestly I am not sure how you would use it.

Scratch that. I found it. correct me if I am wrong.

A zero (wireless probably) works for basics similar to the stuff you would do from an lcd, A 3 or better is needed for webcam or slicing.

Yeah, I’m not sure if the webcam would work with a zero. The interfece is noticeably slower on a zero than a 3. But it does work on a zero W (I’ve been running it on one of my printers). FTR, I only have zero W.

Microcenter has pi zero W for $5!!! In store pickup only. That is insane, They must be making those things at a freaking massive scale.

I will have to get one. A $10 Zero to replace a $15 LCD, sounds like a win if it is at least as fast as an LCD. A 3 is $30, again not bad. A $20 version would really take the cake.

Yeah, although you have to add in power, at least, and an sd card and a usb otg cable. If you want video, then hdmi cable…

LCD needs a sd as well. We have extra power going to the Control boards. This dope little thing called v1pi let you run headless from a cell phone. So board only?

Right? I don’t remember plugging it in to anything after using etcher.

I think you’ll still need a USB OTG cable if you’re connecting to a mini-rambo/rambo. And You’ll either need a separate power adaptor, or power it over the 5V pins (so a wiring harness). Or are you talking about the prontoneer pi board? It might not need a USB OTG or separate power adapter. Mine is old, but I have a full sized pi, and I power it separately. In fact, IIRC, the arduino gets it’s power from the pi, not the other way around.

Your right forgot about the USB. Power sounds like an easy problem.

This board would be cool if they just used the dam digipots…

Yeah. That would be nice. Or, if it just used the trinamics, you could set the current via spi.

Did you see some of his other boards:

Has mounting locations for the steppers for some tiny drawing robot, but might be helpful.

2 drivers, about as simple as you can get.

Looks similar to the prontoneer one, but not shipping from Australia, and cheaper. Some DIY soldering required though.

Using grbl would expand my selection.