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19 September 2012, 14:40

BotQueue: Distributed control of 3D printers on the net

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Zoom Hoeken's new distributed fabrication software project will let users control multiple 3D printers over the web
Source: Zach Hoeken

Zach Hoeken, the co-founder of MakerBot Industries, has announced the launch of a new project: BotQueue is an open source system for distributing print jobs to multiple 3D printers via the internet. It allows users to start print jobs and check their progress online. "I believe that low-cost 3D printing has the potential to revolutionise not just prototyping, but small-scale manufacturing", said Hoeken.

According to the developer, the software allows existing machines to be run as close to 100 per cent capacity as possible. However, despite the internet connection, someone must be present on site to remove the object from the 3D printer and confirm that the print job was handled correctly. The printer then retrieves the next model from the queue and resumes printing.

An instance of the software in alpha state is currently available at and can be tested there. However, users should install BotQueue on their own servers if the program is intended for production use. Although the current version 1.0 of the system's Bumblebee client software only supports RepRap machines that parse G-code in their firmware, the open driver architecture generally allows the integration of any machine. Source code for BotQueue is hosted on GitHub and licensed under the GPLv3.

In June 2012, Hoeken had left Makerbot, a company he founded together with Bre Pettis and Adam Mayer, and announced a new project: Hoektronics. Apparently, his old company is also about to make an announcement: the web site is currently displaying a counter that will reach zero at 8pm BST (19 September).

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