Teaching Alexa to 3D Print


Sometimes a gadget like Alexa or Google Home is a solution looking for a problem. Then the problem you’ve been looking for hits you square in the face. I’ve confessed before that I have an oscilloscope problem. I also have a microcontroller development board habit. It appears now I have too many 3D printers. I recently finished building my latest one, an Anet A8 I picked up on Black Friday. While calibrating it, I found myself juggling a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and trying to operate the thing all at one time. I realized I had to come up with a better way.

I don’t know if it qualifies as an addiction yet, but I also have an Alexa in every room (although I call it “Computer” because I’m a Star Trek fan) and a Google Home device almost everywhere. Why can’t I get one of these assistants to operate my printer for me? What are assistants for, after all, other than telling Dad jokes?

You’d think adding voice control to a 3D printer would a bit difficult. With the right tools, it is actually pretty easy. Luckily those tools aren’t anything special… if you want a set up like mine, where Alexa controls your 3D printer, read on.

The Plan

Obviously, the Alexa is going to be my voice control input so that part is taken care of. You could use Google Home, too. What would have been the hardest part a few years ago is now perhaps the easiest part, paradoxically.

The second part of the puzzle is Repetier Server. You could probably use Octoprint (Tom Nardi just wrote a great guide for setting up Octoprint), but I use Reptier. If you haven’t used either, these programs create a Web page that allows you to control your printer from a browser. They also provide a Web-based API. That means you can send commands to your printer remotely just by forming a valid web request.

You might be able to guess the third part of this equation: If This Then That or IFTTT. You’ve probably used this before. It is something of a Swiss Army knife for routing web events to different web services.

With these three items — a voice control assistant, a web server that controls your printers, and an IFTTT account, you are almost there.