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Marlin vs. Repetier: Which Firmware Should You Choose?

Marlin vs. Repetier: Which Firmware Should You Choose? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


January 26, 2023

If you’re new to the world of 3D printing, you may have heard of both Marlin and Repetier firmware without knowing the difference between the two or even what firmware even has to do with 3D printing in the first place.

Both Marlin and Repetier have extensive printing features that can be useful in 3D printing. However, Marlin has more available tutorials and a more robust community to fall back on for support during 3D printing projects. This makes Marlin the better of the two technologies, especially for novice 3D printmakers.

Marlin and Repetier both have their advantages, but which one you choose will depend on what kind of features you’re looking for in your 3D printing projects. Keep reading to learn more about Marlin and Repetier firmware for 3D printers and which one is the better option for you.

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Table of Contents

Marlin Firmware vs. Repetier Firmware

Marlin firmware and Repetier firmware are both well respected in 3D printing, but some 3D printmakers prefer one or the other since the two types of firmware are quite different.

Here is how Marlin firmware sizes up against Repetier firmware:

Both Marlin and Repetier have comparable inputs for programming a 3D printer. Still, Repetier can handle many more extruders than Marlin, while Marlin has a wider movement range and comes standard on much more 3D printing equipment.

Marlin also has the benefit of being supported by a robust community support system, while the support behind Repetier is a bit more barebones. However, both pieces of firmware are open source, so there’s no major risk involved in experimenting with both, depending on your needs as a 3D printmaker.

Marlin is the easier firmware to work with because it comes standard on so much 3D printing equipment—you don’t have to flash your printer with new code if you already have Marlin to begin with. Below, you’ll find out more about Marlin and Repetier firmware and what these open-source programs can do.

What is Marlin Firmware, and What Are Its Features?

Marlin is a firmware that is open source and is designed for use on RepRap models of replicating rapid prototypers or 3D printers. (Source: Marlin) The computer code for Marlin was derived from the previous code developed in Sprinter and GRBL. Because of its reliability, Marlin firmware comes standard on several brands of 3D printer, including the following companies:

  • Ultimaker
  • Printrbot
  • AlephObjects
  • Prusa Research

Here are some of the advantages of using Marlin firmware:

  • Already comes standard on many 3D printers. Since swapping to a different firmware on a 3D printer can be tricky, it’s convenient that this firmware already comes available on many different models.
  • Marlin firmware is versatile. Not only can it run on several varieties of 3D printers, but this firmware type can also be used to drive laser engraving equipment and CNC drafting.
  • Runs on inexpensive micro-controllers. The 8-bit Atmel ATV micro-controllers used to control Marlin firmware are inexpensive computer chips and can help keep the cost of a 3D printer down compared to other types of firmware.
  • Marlin is adaptable. Because it is open-source firmware, Marlin has been designed to be useful to as many users as possible, with many extensions and add-ons that have been patched in to customize this firmware to individual machines and projects. Marlin can be used on the most barebones 3D printing setup up to one of the more advanced prototypes available.

Along with these benefits, Marlin firmware also offers the following features:

  • A comprehensive G-code with over 150 commands
  • All-inclusive G-code movement suite to allow for complex curves and models
  • Measure to prevent overheating such as a closed-loop PID heater control and a safety cutoff
  • Bed leveling compensation
  • Multiple extruder support (up to five)
  • Support for volumetric extrusion, multi-extruders, mixing extruders, and filament runout
  • Kinematics support for SCARA, Delta, Cartesian, and Core/H printing systems

Not only does Marlin have tons of useful features for 3D printing projects, but it also has one of the most dynamic support communities in the entire field of 3D printing. Chances are, if there’s a project out there you want to design on a 3D printer, there is a Marlin user who can help you figure out how to pull it off. This kind of robust support can be useful when you’re still learning the ropes with a fledgling technology like 3D printing.

What is Repetier Firmware, and What Are Its Features?

Repetier firmware is a 3D printing firmware designed to work in conjunction with most Arduino-driven circuit boards. While Marlin firmware might have many cool features, Repetier is known for its reliability and has been a staple on the 3D printing market for several years.

Here are some of the circuit boards that are supported by Repetier firmware (Source: Repetier):

  • Arduino Mega/RAMPS combination
  • Gen 6
  • Printrboard
  • /Gen7 1.1 and above with 16 or 20MHz
  • Teensylu
  • Sanguinololu
  • Foltyn 3D Master
  • MegaTronics
  • RADDS Shield for Arduino Due
  • Rambo

Here are some of the advantages of using Repetier firmware over other 3D printing firmware like Marlin:

  • Repetier is reliable. Repetier has a reputation for reliability in 3D printing, so if you’re looking for a firmware that can produce consistent results, this is a good firmware to choose. Repetier also uses checksums to verify data integrity so that there is no data loss due to connectivity issues between the software and the firmware.
  • Printing on Repetier firmware is fast. Repetier contains several features, including buffered movements and linear ramps for acceleration and deceleration, to reduce the number of pauses or breaks in communication that can lead to inconsistent 3D printing results. This also ensures that the 3D printing job is completed as quickly as possible.
  • Repetier is compatible with a graphical user interface. Repetier firmware allows for the connection of a graphical user interface such as an LCD monitor that allows the 3D printmaker to see a breakdown of parameters important to the print.
  • Repetier can 3D print off an SD card. 3D printing off an SD card is convenient because it means that you aren’t dependent on maintaining a connection between your main computer and your 3D printer to maintain your print integrity. All the necessary data for the 3D printer can be transferred to the SD card and then printed directly.

Here are some of the features of Repetier Firmware:

  • Smooth and consistent 3D printing and printer movement
  • Superior firmware when it comes to running Deltas (resource efficiency)
  • Fast, with a 160000 Hz stepper frequency
  • Results in a smoother finish on 3D products using a Delta 3D printer
    (Source: Samuel Pinches)

Which Is Better—Marlin or Repetier?

While both Martin and Repetier have good reputations in the 3D printing community, if you ask 3D printmakers, most of them are likely to go with Marlin over Repetier.

Here are a few reasons that Marlin is often chosen over Repetier:

  • Features: Marlin has more features than Repetier does and is compatible with more kinds of builds, making it a lot more flexible than Repetier.
  • Standardization: Marlin already comes as the in-house firmware on several major brands of 3D printing machinery, so those 3D printmakers who go with Marlin are already going to be ahead of the game since they likely won’t have to flash their printer with new firmware.
  • Community support: Marlin has a much stronger community when it comes to configuring add-ons, patches, and other quality-of-life fixes that can make it a more versatile tool overall, and it’s constantly improving. Over 141 programmers have contributed to the advancement of Marlin. In comparison, Repetier is programmed by one guy (Roland Littwin). Repetier would bill this firmware development as stable, but Marlin would probably call it stagnant.
  • Complex calculations: Marlin can understand nuanced mathematical equations that include movements on the X, Y, and Z axes. That’s one of the reasons it’s popularly used on so many 3D printer brands.
  • Constant improvements: Because Marlin is an open-source firmware, it is constantly being improved by the community that makes it simpler and more effective to use.
  • Smooth operation: While Repetier has a reputation for smooth operation, Marlin’s reputation for smoothness is just as good.  

There are many reasons why Marlin wins out over Repetier when it comes to choosing the better firmware. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Marlin is more flexible and can be used effectively by a larger pool of 3D printers.

How to Identify the Firmware in Your 3D Printer?

So, you want to know what firmware your 3D printer is running, but you’re not sure which it is. What are some ways you can use to identify the firmware in your 3D printer? (Source: Quora)

  • Check the info screen. Often on a 3D printer, the Info screen in the menu will blatantly spell out what firmware (and the version) your 3D printer is running.
  • Check your user manual. Most 3D printers will come with a user manual or paperwork that should tell you what firmware is being used.
  • Check the code. Open a console in controller software and input the following command: M115. This should bring back a string of code that includes your firmware name and source code.

Once you know what firmware your 3D printer is running, this can give you several options. Knowing what firmware your printer is running can help give you access to community support. Through the community, you may be able to figure out how to refine the firmware to work even more efficiently on your printer.

Can You Change the Firmware in Your 3D Printer?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to swap to a different firmware in your 3D printer if you’d like to switch to Marlin from Repetier or vice-versa, but there are a few caveats. Reconfiguring the firmware on a 3D printer is not easy and is a task that should be left to seasoned professionals who are used to dealing with the computer code on a 3D printer. Otherwise, you might accidentally render the entire 3D printer unusable.

It’s also possible that changing the firmware in the 3D printer is not necessary. If you’ve decided to change the firmware in your 3D printer due to printing quality issues and issues with printing consistency, these problems can usually be addressed by re-calibrating the printer rather than re-programming it entirely.

Here are some good reasons why you might want to swap out your firmware (Source: All 3DP):

  • You have an issue with the printer stuttering or crashing at high speeds. This is an especially common issue in CoreXY and Delta printers. If this is the case on your 3D printer, you may need to upgrade your firmware to resolve the problem.
  • You are looking to use the specific features of a firmware that your printer currently doesn’t use. Every 3D printing project is different, and all 3D printing firmware contains different G-code movement suites or features that could be useful.
  • You’re swapping to a controller board that isn’t compatible with your current firmware. Both Marlin and Repetier are only compatible with certain kinds of controller boards, so if you’re swapping from a compatible type to a non-compatible type, you’re going to have to swap out your firmware, too.

Can You Swap a Proprietary Controller Board on a 3D Printer?

3D printers that contain a proprietary controller board can’t just get the controller board swapped out for another type. So, with this advanced type of industrial 3D printer, you’re not going to be able to transplant the original controller board without risking damage to your 3D printer.

If you need a replacement controller board for a 3D printer, it’s a good idea to check with the original manufacturer. In a case like this, the manufacturer is likely the only good source of the control board you need to get the 3D printer operational.

Tips for Swapping Firmware in Your 3D Printer

If you’ve decided to swap out the firmware in your 3D printer, here are a few tips to help you avoid running into trouble while working on your printer:

  • Make sure you download the most stable version of the firmware. This is especially true if you’re using open-source firmware since older versions may have bugs or glitches, and newer ones will have likely ironed these problems out.
  • Check the warranty on your 3D printer. In some cases, messing with the controller board or your 3D printer’s firmware can void your warranty. So, if you break the firmware to the point that you can’t get the printer to work, good luck getting the company to step up and make it right for you. Don’t start trying to rig or amend your 3D printer unless you are sure you know what you’re doing.
  • Make a backup of the firmware. It’s always a good idea to make a backup of the firmware and keep it on an external hard drive in case you need to do a clean reinstallation later, or the firmware becomes corrupted somehow during installation due to connectivity issues or other problems.
  • Do your research. Every 3D printer is slightly different, and you should do some thorough research into exactly how a firmware swap works on your 3D printer model before attempting to do it yourself. Thankfully, many 3D printing communities support 3D printmakers in troubleshooting their technical issues and guiding 3D printing projects. If you run into trouble, you’ll likely be able to find some seasoned veterans to help out.
  • Before swapping firmware, do a full calibration. If you’re choosing to swap firmware on account of quality issues, it’s important to thoroughly re-calibrate the 3D printer before swapping to confirm that any problems aren’t arising from poor calibration rather than an issue with the firmware operation.
  • Make sure that any new controllers you get are compatible with your current firmware. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of swapping your firmware, it’s a good idea only to buy controller upgrades you know are compatible with your current firmware type.
  • Check the paperwork. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what firmware your 3D printer uses or how to properly calibrate it, be sure to look over the paperwork that came with your 3D printer carefully. Remember that 3D printers are complex machines, and it’s important that you read all operating instructions carefully to get the most out of it.  

Swapping out the firmware on your 3D printer is doable in most cases, and there are many tutorials available online to help you pull it off.

Marlin Is a More Versatile Firmware for 3D Printing Than Repetier

Both Marlin and Repetier have features that could recommend them to 3D printmakers. Still, in the last several years, Marlin has stepped up in its ability to support its firmware. The quality of the coding is endorsed by this firmware’s use in several major 3D printing manufacturers.

Marlin is good for novice and advanced 3D printmakers alike. For the beginners, it is a standard tool with a helpful community and knowledge pool. For veterans, it offers complex features that aren’t available in any other firmware.

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Marlin vs. Repetier: Which Firmware Should You Choose?


William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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