So you have a 3D printer and you think to yourself that it would be nice to be able to control everything remotely. To monitor your print live, including with a webcam that can also capture everything in a nice timelapse. To have direct control of many different features, and provide fail-safes for thermal runoff, filament runout, and other things that can ruin your print or your home (the list goes on). All of this can be done using Octoprint loaded onto a Raspberry Pi.
Then you run into a 2GB kit version of the Raspberry Pi and wonder “is that going to be enough?”. If you are familiar with computers, you likely haven’t seen a PC or Mac one limited to 2GB of RAM in over 10 years–and when it comes to modern computers today, 2GB won’t get you anything at all.
So will it work in this application? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that it depends on what you plan to use your Raspberry Pi for.
If you plan to turn that Pi into a full-blown PC of sorts, then no, 2GB is not going to work well for you (you will want a minimum of 4GB when playing with Windows). However, if you plan to load Linux onto it and use it for a singular mission like Octoprint, PiHole or any other server-like solution that doesn’t care so much about things like desktop environments, browsing the web, checking your email, playing on Youtube (etc), then it will work quite nicely.
We have multiple solutions using small mini Linux boxes for things like PiHole, but to test this solution out, we got our hands on a Canakit 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 kit with power supply and heat sinks. No active (fans) cooling as we wanted worst-case scenario. We 3D printed a case for it and got to work.
So we loaded Octoprint onto it (which gives you a web-based interface to control it with over your network). It doesn’t take long before it is up and running and you are already facing the fun act of loading plugins to customize it to your liking. Customize it we did, including with Themify to make sure that we really changed things up.
We hooked it to one of the 3D printers here to see how well it can keep up with everything. By the time we were ready to use it, we must have loaded around 10 plugins into it, attached a 1080p webcam for monitoring and timelapse captures, a filament runout sensor–we used the one from TriangleLab (available via AliExpress or Amazon). So by now, the Pi is doing a good amount of multitasking.
It is able to control the printer fine, sending prints to it, monitoring everything live, recording time-lapses automatically with every print, and more. So far, it performs quite well.
However, we did notice a few blips in the road. At times, after a print finishes and it is finalizing the timelapse file, things would bog down a bit, preventing us from getting into the settings immediately. It isn’t a showstopper or anything, but something to take note of. Then at times, we found the interface would bog down just a little, but usually, a refresh of the page cleared that up.
Working with a plugin for editing the gcode of files was far from efficient as it took forever to open the files within Octoprint (into the gcode viewer window). So it is recommended you do all your gcode edits on your PC before dragging the file into the window to send to Octoprint. Given, to be fair, editing a multi-megabyte text file within Windows can easily bog when trying to open it as well, so this isn’t much of a surprise. Trying to do it on a system with limited resources, you should expect it to be worse.
Beyond the few moments where the interface bogs down needing a refresh of the page, and the moments where you are waiting for the timelapse file to finalize, there wasn’t much to point out as it ran quite smoothly. We wouldn’t advise loading any more plugins than this since it will likely start to bog everything down, but this setup covers a vast majority of those looking to run Octoprint. So I’d say this is a success.
If you plan to go insane with your plugins and want an “always snappy interface”, despite that–then sure, go with the 4GB version of the Pi, as it will allow plenty more multi-tasking of chores. However, we’d say that around 80% or more of the Octoprint users out there will be quite satisfied with just a 2GB kit, an 8GB-16GB SD card inside, some delicious Wifi, and you’re ready to print.
So thus ends the test of the question on if 2GB is enough. The answer is yes (for most people).