8 bit vs 32 bit control boards, what's the advantage?

I have noticed this question pops up a lot so I thought I would put up a forum post about it and let the community provide their input on it.

“I have heard a lot of 32-bit board print faster, they can process instructions much faster and run quieter”.

I wanted to dig into this a little bit and provide my opinions on the matter.

There are some truths and some not so truths to the above statement. 32 Bit Processors are in fact faster than 8 bit, this is not in debate, however along with the faster processor also includes additional upgrades in the board itself, Traces and optimizations of the board are improved over time and this will reflect in the newer version releases.

Along with this, there is also usually an increase in ram size on the board which will allow for more options to enable on your 3D printers such as filament runout sensors, UBL bed levelling and power loss recovery.

If you have been printing on 8-bit boards you will know that not all of these features were ever available on the older Enders or other machines using the 8-bit boards. Not because they couldn’t do it, because there was not enough room in the EPROM on the board to support these features. When early manufacturers tried to introduce some of these features they had to remove other things like Boot loaders from the boards to make room.

The advent of 32 Bit boards, also allowed the advancement of newer (and quieter) stepper drivers. Because it’s rare to port newer technology to older boards as you may notice almost all of the newer 2208 and 2209 stepper drivers are included on 32bit boards. It’s a side effect 32-bit boards are generally quieter, it’s not because they are 32 bit, it’s because they are taking advantage of the newer stepper driver technology.

If you are doing large prints that require a lot of lines of Gcode (the .gcode file is large) then the 32-bit board is an advantage mostly for 2 reasons, 1. more code can be read from the SD card and loaded into memory to be put into the Que to be processed by the processor and converted into stepper motor commands and heat monitoring. 2. The 3D printer can get more Gcode ready to be processed so that your printer will never have to “pause” waiting for the processor to catch up.

I found a good summary of the advantages of 32-bit boards below, I have also included a couple of links for further information.

The advantages of a 32-bit controller can be summed up as follows:

  • Speed – 8-bit controllers slow down the hot end dramatically when calculating curves and arcs.
  • Resolution – slicers will compensate for slow and complex calculations by reducing resolution, so as not to introduce over extrusion and zits.
  • Acceleration – appropriate centripetal/radial acceleration cannot be appropriately calculated, introducing a multitude of issues on curves and small segments, including a “lowest common denominator” default speed of 40mm/s or less on complex perimeters.
  • Print Quality – better motion planning on a higher-speed processor can produce better quality prints, faster.
  • Reduced noise – the stepper interrupt on 8 bit processors can bottleneck the processor, so firmware will often compensate with step doubling, which causes louder and rougher motor motion.
  • Avoiding firmware problems – Many software-based hacks have been created to compensate for the lack of hardware floating-point in 8 bit processors. Firmware updates can completely bog down an 8 bit processor if they have not been tested under a variety of conditions.

This is a very good video from Michael at Teching Tech on just this topic

Hope this helps to answer some questions and perhaps gather your thoughts on the topic
Jason H

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Thanks for the thorough review.

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Thanks!! That’s the first thing I done when I got the Ender 3 Pro before I even used it is to put in a 32 Bit board and touch screen right from the start. I finds it very quiet as I have to be near it to know its still printing.
Great Post!! Jason

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I’ve been watching a LOT of Ender 3/3Pro upgrade videos and one of the realizations I’ve come to is that going forward most of these will assume a 32-bit motherboard. I bought my E3Pro from 3DPC in Nov 2019, so its got the older 8-bit board. I’m not interested in modding my E3Pro so much it becomes glitchy (“fix” it till its broke), I just want some freedom to choose future upgrades, as well as get 32-bit board features like built-in socket for my ABL, and firmware with already included / enabled bootloader and thermal runaway monitoring.

I see both “Official Creality” and 3rd party 32-bit replacements for my original board. My inherent conservative nature is to stick with Creality’s product to limit off-brand surprises. But am I going to regret that decision going forward (are the 3rd party boards more featured with few or no compromises in reliability and maintenance)?

Or am I asking for headaches, and should just consider picking up an E3 V2? Are there many significant diff’s between the original E3/3Pro and the E3 V2? I still get a LOT of value out of the 2019 E3Pro for my printing needs, so this isn’t about replacing it 'cause its worn out or broken.

Is it a big deal to swap out the boards? I’m comfortable managing electronics and wrenching, as well as software/firmware issues.

Any input here from someone who’s BTDT would be a great help and appreciated!

HI F11

It’s actually more of a personal pref if you get a factory 32-bit board or aftermarket. You are correct, Factory 32 bit boards are pretty basic, “get it in, make it work” nothing fancy just make it quiet and more efficient. for example, if you want to add a common addon like a BLtouch to either board it’s easily achieved.

The aftermarket boards are more for the tinkerers, Let me give you an example of Neo Lighting. On a factory 32 bit board, you will not be able to run NEO lighting because I do not believe there is an ability to hook it up, however, the BTT boards have a socket and a good tutorial on how to operate it on their GitHub. you will get exactly the same functionality out of both boards print-wise, just not the ability to add out-of-the-box options.

Mostly I would suggest do your research of things you may want to add on. If just a working machine is what you are looking for the factory replacement boards are just fine.

Thanks for the input, Jason. I bought the E3Pro to be a tool to allow me to make things, not as a hobby in its own right to tinker with and mod and make unique. NEO lighting and similar mods are of no interest to me. [The exception to my no-mods approach is the bed leveller add-on, which in my opinion should be part of every printer, or at least be a plug-in option.] So as long as the Creality 32-bit board doesn’t significantly limit future functionality in hardware or firmware, I’m staying with Creality parts.

Too often in the past I’ve allowed myself to get sucked into modifying and “tweaking” simple gadgets I bought for the purpose of helping me get something done, only to find the tweaks and mods made the gadget complicated, unstable and a few times even unusable. I end up constantly working on, or fighting with, the tool instead of making things. I’m not going there with this printer.

Appreciate your thoughts. Love my E3Pro!

My all-time favourite 3D Printing quote came from a user on these forums (I think). I’d love to give proper attribution, but I can’t find it now. It was posted relatively early after the forums founding and as a then new 3D printer user, it summarised it nicely for me.

In effect they said: ‘a 3D printer is a project, not a tool’.

It changed my attitude toward it completely.

I think it was me. [quote=“kitedemon, post:4, topic:1828”]
I bought it with the wrong attitude, it is a project not a tool
Although I do feel it is either a hobby or a tool although I think it is a choice of printer now.

That’s the one. As I said, it summed it up perfectly. I’ve actually quoted that on Facebook a few times for people who complain their printer isn’t working perfectly.

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I stand by my statement.

I’m glad to hear there’s many out there who have time and inclination to tinker and play around with their printers, treating the printer itself as a hobby - more power to you, you’re the users who will come up with new feature and improvement suggestions!

But I bought my E3Pro printer (and subsequently my large-volume CR10 Max) to help me get things done, and advance my real hobbies.

One thing getting older teaches you is that, if you can’t distinguish between your hobbies/interests and your tools, you’re never going to get your chores and hobby projects finished.

Back in 2003, I modded my 1999 Mazda MX5 by supercharging it, which involved not only adding the compressor and intercooler to the intake path, replacing the exhaust manifold with a tuned header, and replacing injectors with higher-volume models, but replacing the car’s OEM ECU with a custom computer including new tuned timing and fuel maps. Eventually I took the 4-cyl 2400 lbs car from stock 106 HP to 208 HP (dyno ratings) and it was wicked fast. But I found I was spending all my time tweaking the settings and fixing things, and not enjoying driving the car. At one point the car was so tweaked, it was only drivable when driving aggressively - it wouldn’t idle in regular stop-and-go driving. In 2005, I ripped out all the mods and returned the car to its stock condition - and enjoyed just driving it again. An expensive lesson in identifying my REAL interests.

Similarly, I build things with my 3D printers I intend to put into use, like:

  • props for my Christmas or Halloween LED displays
  • wall-mount brackets for various home network components
  • caddy for my growing collection of portable USB backup drives
  • cases for electronic circuit boards (RPi or LED controllers, for example)
  • front door desktop organizer for keys, phone, fast-food coupons, etc
  • replacement plastic parts for broken things like my laser printer tray
  • storage organizer for my observatory telescope components
  • and on and on

I have a list of projects as long as my arm, and I need my tools to be functional, when I need them, to help me get things done. I ain’t getting any younger, so fixing my tools is just a frustrating delay.

Long story short, to those who turned their printers into a hobby, great, have a blast! But that’s not me. :slightly_smiling_face:

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This is why I have (more or less) 2 printers. One is stock, works well and doesn’t get touched. The other is for experimentation.

Prusa. They way the test and re design is rock solid. They run 100s of pre release models 24/7 they find and solve the issues before the consumer gets them. Then as improvements they release upgrade kits with the finest instructions I have ever seen and real full tech support, 24/7. the parts are all name brand high quality parts so the need to mod and replace junk parts are eliminated. Mine is 100% reliable. I never wait for a print to start I just command it to print and let it do its thing. My X1 needs to be baby sat for the first few layers.

I don’t know if this has been mentioned before but if you are swapping out a motherboard IE: replacing an 8 bit with a newer 32 bit, connect the lines going into the power strip before you put it into the housing because doing it afterwards can be a real PITA. Not a lot of room available to get your fingers in.

you are very correct, I usually mention to customers when they are swapping boards to unbolt the old one, switch screw in terminal wiring to the new board. Bolt in the new board and change everything else.

This way no wire gets “forgotten” where it goes. and the old board is there for a ref. As always, Take a picture before you start!!! JIC