It is our mission at AstroPrint to simplify how ALL 3D Printers are used, regardless of brand, model, or technology. That being said and done, we are still working towards that goal!
There are a number of reasons why a 3D Printer may not be compatible with AstroPrint.
Let's go over the top three reasons for incompatibility:
1. Closed Systems
These are 3D Printers in which the manufacturer has closed off the ability for outside software to interact with their 3D Printers. In most cases, they are purposely blocking out 3rd party software providers in an effort to control the entire customer experience. This is similar to what Apple does with smartphones. In the business world, this is called a "walled gardened" business strategy.
Examples: Ultimaker 3, Ultimaker S5. MakerBot. XYZ Printing.
Interestingly, Ultimaker is still Open Source (for now). However, they have found other ways to block out 3rd parties from communicating with Ultimaker printers.
How can AstroPrint become compatible with a Closed System?
There is only one 'First Step' in becoming compatible with a Closed System: The manufacturer needs to grant AstroPrint permission to work with their printer line.
Often a closed system is closed on purpose. They are ACTIVELY trying to block third party software out, therefore it would be unethical for us to try and code around (i.e. hack) into their system. The manufacturer needs to change their mind and decide there is value in opening their printers/software.
This will happen when enough customers reach out to the manufacturer and let them know they may stop buying their printers unless they are compatible with 3rd party software like AstroPrint.
2. Proprietary Firmware
These are 3D Printers in which the manufacturer developed highly customized firmware. In many cases they have chosen to use a custom computer board inside the machine, and that custom board required a very custom firmware to be developed for it. In these cases, that custom firmware likely lacks the software code needed to interact with AstroPrint.
Examples: 3D Wox, Smoothieware, Markforged.
How can AstroPrint become compatible with a 3D Printer running Proprietary Firmware?
It's important to note that, in most cases, the firmware can be made compatible with AstroPrint! This will just require a bit of custom software engineering work. We have done joint projects with major 3D Printer manufacturers in the past in order to update their firmware to be compatible with the AstroPrint system.
3. Non-FDM Technologies
At the moment, AstroPrint is only focused on the desktop FDM market. Over time, we may add in other Additive Manufacturing technologies, but our plate is full with FDM right now...
Examples: Formlabs, Powder 3D Printers, Metal 3D Printers, etc.
How can AstroPrint become compatible with non-FDM Technologies?
This is possible, and is on our LONG TERM roadmap... But... It would take a lot of engineering resources to do this. If a MAJOR partner would like to cover the engineering costs to integrate a new technology, we're open to having a conversation about it.