Updating firmware on Monoprice Architect printer
I just received this printer and while it seems to talk to Makerbot Desktop software I'm not sure if I should be trying to update the firmware.
The printer comes with firmware v7.2 and while Makerbot Desktop offers an upgrade to v7.5 I'm not sure if it's a good idea with this non-Makerbot branded printer.
I've also seen information on upgrading this printer to Sailfish v7.5, is this the same thing as Makerbot firmware v7.5?
The Monoprice Architect is is a bare-bones FlashForge Creator that has been re-badged for Monoprice. The Creator line is a very popular set of printers, so there is lots of good advice out there. The FlashForge Google Group is a good community to join: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/flashforge
The entire FF Creator line, in turn, is cloned from the original Makerbot Replicator 1. So you can use Makerbot slicing profiles for the Replicator 1. Just keep in mind that Makerbot does not generally test new software revs with their older printers, and DEFINITELY does not test new software revs with competitor knock-offs. Sometimes they appear to break functionality for non-Makerbot machines on purpose. So recent versions of Makerbot Desktop may not "play nice" with your FlashForge. The most recent "known good" free slicer you should use with this printer is Makerware 2.4.x. You can find links by searching the FF Google Group.
On that note, you may have received instructions to use ReplicatorG with your printer. But RepG is abandonware: development stopped years ago. It should only be used for firmware updates, not as a slicer. You should also only use the most recent version posted on the Sailfish page on Thingiverse:
Using older versions of RepG with newer firmware revs will corrupt your EEPROM! Only use the version downloaded from the link above.
The firmware that comes with the printer is FlashForge's slightly-customized build of either Sailfish or Makerbot's Replicator 1/2/2x firmware. But here's the trick: Makerbot's Rep1/2/2x firmware is just an old, out-of-date, slightly customized version of Sailfish. Makerbot stopped keeping up with bug-fixes and feature additions a long time ago. Everything is Sailfish: just different versions. You should use the most recent official release version listed at:
Follow the instructions in the Sailfish manual from the link above, and RepG will automatically pull the right builds from the official mirror and populate a list of printer options to choose. The trick here is which build to download. As of 1-21-16, there is not an official Monoprice Architect build yet. Which would mean editing a machine xml profile to avoid the firmware throwing warnings. I STRONGLY recommend getting used to the printer using factory firmware before trying to fight with custom machine profiles... But here is the basic process to pick a Sailfish firmware build when you're ready:
First: which Atmega processor version do you have? The large chip in the middle of the control board will either say 1280 or 2560. You need to know which version you have. Bad things happen if you load the wrong version.
Second: What is the tooth count on the X and Y drivetrain pulleys? To my knowledge, FF always uses 17-tooth pulleys, which matches the Replicator 1 and FF Creator profiles. The Rep2 and 2x use 18t pulleys, so only use those builds if you have those pulleys. People often mess this up and their prints end up with dimensions ~5% off in X and Y.
Third: The Architect has one extruder and no heatbed, so firmware builds that expect those to be connected (Rep 1 Dual, Creator, etc) will throw errors if loaded. You can fix this from the LCD screen or RepG, but that's a whole separate question. Do some printing and learn about the printer before attempting any firmware update so you'll know what to do if you pick a build with the wrong parts.
Fourth: This one is just for the sake of completeness. Some FF models were shipped with off-spec heatbeds that require special firmware builds to prevent drawing too much current and overheating / overloading the power supply. The Architect doesn't have that, but firmware builds for those printer models (eg I believe the FF Creator 2560) will under-power regular heatbeds. This is just something you need to know with the Architect if you decide to install a heatbed later. But it's a really critical safety warning for people with those off-spec heatbeds.
If this all seems complicated, that's because FlashForge (and in turn Monoprice) relies heavily on the open source Sailfish project to maintain the software ecosystem behind this line of printers. FlashForge has some internal builds that they use for flashing new bots, but these are not kept particularly up-to-date. Nor does FlashForge release the source files, so it's quite opaque where exactly the stock firmware differs from mainstream Sailfish. In the long run, you should install mainline Sailfish. But it's ok to stick with the factory firmware until you get used to the printer.
To summarize: Because there is not an existing Sailfish build, you're going to need to do some investigating and some experimenting to figure out which build will work. Don't try that until you're familiar with the printer. Post on the FlashForge Google Group when you're ready for help.
I've just recently used the MakerBot Desktop (v 3.8?) on my Replicator 1 and worked out fine. It's nice because it provides a more user friendly interface for changing various settings (better than opening and deciphering a JSON file). I wouldn't recommend anything between MakerWare 2.4.? to this new Beta of MakerBot Desktop though