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Resources3D Printing DesignKlipper vs. Marlin - 3D Printer Firmware Comparison

Klipper vs. Marlin - 3D Printer Firmware Comparison

Xomety X
Written by
Team Xometry
 11 min read
Published May 30, 2024
3D printer. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/MarinaGrigorivna

Klipper and Marlin are two popular 3D printer firmware implementations. Marlin was first developed in 2011 and is the most popular FDM (fused deposition modeling) printer firmware today. It is easy to use, reliable, accurate, and compatible with the majority of 3D printers. Klipper was developed in 2016 with a unique design philosophy and a focus on speed and print quality. Because of this, it has rapidly gained popularity, to the point where several well-known 3D printer manufacturers have released Klipper-based 3D printers.

In this article, we compare Klipper to Marlin firmware in terms of how they work, how they handle processing tasks, and their main advantages and disadvantages.

What Is Klipper Firmware?

Klipper is a free open-source 3D printer firmware project. It started in 2016 with a focus on improving the processing speeds of 3D printers. Nowadays, Klipper supports printing speeds of 500 mm/s and up and has pioneered features such as input shaping and smooth pressure advance, which dramatically improve the quality of prints.

Klipper features a design philosophy where the computational load is divided between controllers. A 32-bit controller, such as a Raspberry Pi, performs computationally expensive G-code conversions into machine instructions. The main 8-bit microcontroller of the 3D printer is then used to interface directly with the hardware and relay the converted instructions.

What Is the Purpose of Klipper Firmware?

The purpose of Klipper firmware is to convert G-code into hardware instructions for the stepper motors of a 3D printer, and interface with the hardware to produce a 3D printed object. Klipper’s design philosophy involves using a powerful computer board to convert G-code into low-level instructions and then using a less powerful controller to interface with the stepper motors, heaters, and extruders of the 3D printer.

How Does Klipper Firmware Work?

Klipper firmware works by converting G-code into instructions for the hardware installed on the 3D printer. This can include incorporating advanced features such as input shaping and pressure advance into the movement instructions sent to these printers. 

These G-code conversion computations occur on a relatively powerful computer board such as a Raspberry Pi. The resulting movement instructions are then sent to a less powerful control board which interfaces directly with the motors and is solely in charge of relaying instructions to the motors.

When To Use Klipper Firmware?

Klipper firmware can be used with any 3D printer that it is compatible with, to take advantage of the high-quality, high-speed printing that can result. Klipper requires some level of technical knowledge to install correctly, but the introduction of “installation helpers” has lowered that barrier of entry. If you would like to get the most out of your 3D printer, and you have a basic-to-fair understanding of computers, then it is worth trying out Klipper.

How Does Klipper Firmware Handle Processing Tasks Compared to Marlin?

Marlin performs all processing tasks on the printer’s main 8-bit controller board. This includes converting G-code into movement instructions and interfacing with the stepper motors and extruder. Klipper uses a processing approach in which it splits the computational workload between multiple controllers. Standard controllers are reserved exclusively for interfacing with motors. More powerful computer boards are used to handle computationally expensive operations that occur when converting G-code into movement instructions. A Raspberry Pi is typically used for this, but other 32-bit Linux-based computer boards can also be used.

What Are the Features of Klipper Firmware?

Klipper firmware has the following features, among others:

  1. High-Speed Printing: Capable of achieving industry-leading speeds on stepper motors, enabling high-speed printing of speeds up to 500 mm/s.
  2. High-Resolution Motion Planning: This can achieve highly precise, highly detailed motion planning, which ultimately improves print quality.
  3. Customizability: Easily configurable with config files, and features many different web interfaces to work with depending on your preference.
  4. Input Shaping: Pioneered input shaping, which can compensate for vibrations and resonance that show up in printed objects as ghosting or ringing. Input shaping alters the movement of the extruder to eliminate vibrations. It does this by using mathematical models to calculate and alter a movement in such a way that it compensates for the vibrations caused by earlier movements. 
  5. Smooth Pressure Advance: Smooth pressure advance changes how the printer extrudes filament. Traditional pressure advance attempts to accomplish instant extrusion speed changes. However, this causes extrusion lag, where there is a delay between the start of the pressure buildup and the actual extrusion of the filament. This causes underextrusion at the beginning of a pressure advance, and overextrusion at the end.  Smooth pressure advance preempts when the extruder should increase and decrease pressure. At these points, the extruder will start increasing the pressure slightly earlier to get the filament to start flowing at the correct time. At the end of the extrusion, it will start decreasing pressure earlier, in order to get the filament to stop flowing earlier before overextrusion can occur. This leads to more uniform prints with fewer defects.

How Does Klipper Firmware Enhance CNC Machining Capabilities?

Many of the core features of Klipper firmware can be translated to CNC machining capabilities, including: fast processing, remote control, customizability, high resolution, and precision motion planning. However, Klipper was developed solely with 3D printing in mind, so many basic pieces of CNC functionality, such as: tool-changing, probing, and milling control are completely missing from the firmware in its current implementation. There are efforts in place to add some of these basic features to make Klipper suitable for CNC machining.

What Is the Main Advantage of Klipper Firmware?

The main advantage of Klipper firmware is its speed and print quality. 3D printers running on Klipper firmware are capable of reaching speeds of 500 mm/s and up. Features such as input shaping help keep the quality of these prints extremely high. Klipper is also easily customizable with many options for GUIs and remote control of Klipper-based 3D printers.

What Is the Main Disadvantage of Klipper Firmware?

The main disadvantage of Klipper is its dependence on additional hardware. Klipper’s main design philosophy is to offload computationally expensive operations onto a separate computer board such as a Raspberry Pi. This necessitates these extra, more expensive computer boards, where firmware such as Marlin only requires lower-level, lower-cost controllers.

Can Klipper Firmware Be Installed on a Wide Range of 3D Printer Hardware?

Yes, Klipper firmware can be installed on a wide range of 3D printer hardware. Klipper is designed to be flexible and compatible with a wide range of hardware and FDM 3D printer types. The installation process has been made easier with the introduction of the Klipper Installation And Update Helper (KIAUH), an application that helps with installing Klipper. There is also the option of using third-party Klipper pads with a 3D printer. These pads contain controllers that have Klipper installed and typically come with a touchscreen so they simply need to be connected to the printer to use Klipper.

What Is Marlin Firmware?

Marlin is an open-source 3D printing firmware program that was first developed in 2011. Since then, it has grown in popularity to become the most popular 3D printing firmware for FDM printers. Nowadays, the majority of printers run Marlin firmware or some derivative of it.

Marlin was designed to work on 8-bit microcontrollers, specifically Arduino controllers. At the time of development, this helped lower the barrier of entry for 3D printing, as 8-bit microcontrollers were widely available and affordable, lowering the overall cost of 3D printers. Marlin is known for its reliability, accuracy, ease of use, and compatibility with most FDM printers available today.

What Is the Purpose of Marlin Firmware?

The purpose of Marlin firmware is to convert G-code into machine instructions and use those instructions to control the 3D printer’s hardware to produce a 3D printed object.

How Does Marlin Firmware Work?

Marlin firmware works by converting G-code into machine instructions on a controller board. These instructions are then sent to the various pieces of hardware on the printer to facilitate the printing process. This includes the stepper motors, extruders, and heaters.

When To Use Marlin Firmware?

Marlin firmware can be used for any 3D printer and any 3D printing job. It is a good firmware to use if you are just starting with 3D printing, especially since a lot of printers run on Marlin-based firmware. Marlin is easy to use and reliable and is a great firmware to use while learning the basics of 3D printing.

What Are the Features of Marlin Firmware?

The following are some of the features of Marlin firmware:

  1. Wide Compatibility: Marlin is compatible with most consumer 3D printers that are available today.
  2. Runs on 8-Bit Controllers: Marlin can run on 8-bit controllers, reducing costs and making it compatible with a wider range of printers.
  3. Configurability: Marlin has a rich set of configuration options to help fine-tune printer behavior.
  4. Ease-of-Use: Marlin is very beginner-friendly, with many guides available to help with understanding basic functionality.
  5. Extensive Plugin and Add-On Support: A wide range of add-ons and plugins are available for Marlin. These enable features such as the use of bed leveling probes and filament sensors.

How Does Marlin Handle Processing Tasks Compared to Klipper?

Marlin has a design philosophy that is distinctly different from Klipper's. Klipper splits processing tasks between the printer’s 8-bit controllers and more powerful 32-bit controller boards. The 32-bit controller handles computationally expensive operations such as G-code conversion and advanced features. The 8-bit controllers only handle interfacing with the 3D printer hardware.

With Marlin, G-code conversion is performed directly on the controller that interfaces with the 3D printer hardware. Marlin was written to run on 8-bit controller boards, which help keep costs down, although this can sacrifice performance compared to Klipper. As of 2019, Marlin can also run on 32-bit boards, and use the improved processing capabilities to support some key features, as well as improve the overall processing speed of the firmware.

Can Marlin Be Installed on a Wide Variety of 3D Printer Hardware?

Yes, Marlin can be installed on a wide variety of 3D printer hardware. Marlin is still the de facto firmware standard for consumer-grade 3D printers. It can be installed on any 8-bit Atmel AVR or 32-bit ARM controllers.

What Is the Advantage of Marlin Firmware?

There are several advantages to using Marlin firmware including:

  1. Customizability: Marlin has good customization options, with a large list of add-ons and configuration options.
  2. Community Support: Marlin has a large and active community, which can provide support for users.
  3. Simple Setup: Marlin is fairly easy to install and configure. There are numerous guides and tutorials available to help beginners with the process.
  4. Reliability: Marlin has been around since 2011, and is incredibly stable, reliable, and consistent.

What Is the Disadvantage of Marlin Firmware?

Marlin firmware has some disadvantages, including:

  1. Processing Speed: Marlin has limited processing speed because it uses the printer’s main controller board to handle processing. This limits the speeds that the firmware can support and also limits certain features which require more processing power.
  2. Cumbersome Update Process: Any updates to the printer’s firmware or configuration require the controller board to be reflashed, which can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process.

Is Marlin Firmware Suitable for 3D Printing?

Yes, Marlin firmware is suitable for 3D printing. Marlin was first developed in 2011. Since then, it has become the preferred 3D printing firmware program, with a large user base. There is a wide variety of Marlin-based 3D printers. The firmware is open-source and is still being actively worked on, with regular updates and new features.

Summary

This article presented Kipper and Marlin 3D printer software, explained each of them, and discussed how they compare to each other To learn more about 3D printing software, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

Disclaimer

The content appearing on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Xometry makes no representation or warranty of any kind, be it expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information. Any performance parameters, geometric tolerances, specific design features, quality and types of materials, or processes should not be inferred to represent what will be delivered by third-party suppliers or manufacturers through Xometry’s network. Buyers seeking quotes for parts are responsible for defining the specific requirements for those parts. Please refer to our terms and conditions for more information.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.

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