I had always thought that the Espressif ESP32 MCU would make an interesting controller for a 3D printer and when I ran across an ad for the PandaZHU board it seemed like it was worth a try. The board sports a ESP32 WROOM-32 mcu module with built-in Wifi and BLE connectivity. Additionally it has an I/O expander to provide enough I/O's for up to 8 TMC2209 stepper driver's. Generally speaking it is a good design with all the features that a high end 3D printer controller should have. I ordered the PandaZHU board with 5 TMC2209 stepper drivers and the 3D Touch (BL Touch knockoff) bed level sensor.
Upon receiving the board I found that only 4 heatsinks were provided for the 5 stepper drivers. Additionally I noticed that jumpers on the X stepper driver were damaged. As an aside, the limited documentation available for this board does not describe the TMC2209 jumper functionality and one is left to study the schematic and TMC2209 datasheets. Next I found that the board had an internal short on the E0 stepper driver connector so obviously the board had never been tested beyond a possible power up.
The documentation also ignores any mention of the wiring for the 3D Touch sensor. This is not a huge issue but is telling about the quality of the documentation.
The Marlin source code for this board is based on release 2.0.8 but I couldn't find any documentation that discussed migration to future releases. This is significant because the PandaZHU control of stepper drivers is proprietary and is not directly supported by Marlin firmware so moving to another release would be a real challenge without any instruction. Maybe the maker of this board will supply future source code bundles but it doesn't seem likely given the lack of attention for detail.
Also worthy of note, the ESP32 module's built-in antenna is located next to one of the boards mounting screws which reduces the antenna performance if using metal screws. Best to use nylon screws for mounting. I emailed the maker of these boards with my list of issues but received no response.
Summary: Design is OK and general build quality is average but the lack of product testing, lack of customer support, and very poor documentation is a serious detractor. I gave it 2 stars but I was in a good mood.
Response from Mark | Nov. 27, 2021
Hi John, Thanks for those feedback! help me to improve. the esp32 as the printer controller is very convenience that I like to print with it normally. and sorry for that issues about the hardware,but I have not received your email maybe there is some problem in my this personal email.We have a facebook group and forum in www.pandapi3d.com there too, every board have done a simply test by me with wiring to my 3D printer,including heating, auto Home,but not test other E motors, so that the reason of not found the E motor short problem. if there is hardware problem which customer can not fix I will send one more new board or refund the money back to customer. The marlin now have support those PandaZHU and PandaM4 boards that I have pull them 2 months ago. https://github.com/MarlinFirmware/Marlin/pull/22644
and thanks again for those feedback and this is the first review in Tindie for PandaZHU which I am waiting for a long time that let me know how people like this esp32 and where I need to improve.
July 29, 2020
Half cooked, Not reliable. Needs lot of improvement
I purchased this board and tested on my printer. Updating and flashing firmware is a never-ending process, no proper documentation, We don't know whether updates and printer necessary settings have flashed to the board or not, it may be working for designers printer but not with all. Not recommended, stick to Octoprint if required you better upgrade you printers motherboard to make it usable with Octoprint.
Jan. 13, 2020
No documentation but it seems to work as advertised.
The only documentation provided was in Chinese, and even Google couldn’t help me translate that. So I had no idea how it was all supposed to work. However, the two pieces (detector and outlet) appeared to have already have been paired. When I test the smoke detector, it does shut off the outlet, so it seems to work OK. I found a comment online from the seller (on Thingiverse.com, which is where I first heard of the device) saying how one could re-pair the system if needed. It wouldn’t have taken much to provide either some English documentation in print, or at least a link to a .PDF file online. But the bottom line is that it seems to do what it’s supposed to do. So I guess that’s what matters.
Response from Mark | Jan. 13, 2020
Hi Ronald, thank you for your comment, this made me decide to do better and write a manual file in the package.