Advice on choosing Ramps vs RAMBo Vs Smoothie boards.

Hi, I am a newbie here.

I was wondering what is the advantage of a RAMBo board over using an arduino and a RAMPS board? I see a lot of older videos on YouTube of people using ramps and arduino but newer videos use the RAMBo, however the RAMB0 is very expensive ($150), there is a mini RAMBo version for less money. Also I see people using cheaper boards like the shoothie MKS boards etc. Which I am seriously thinking about purchasing. Any thoughts on this?

Thank you for all your responses, you guys have been of great help!!! :frowning:

Advantages of Rambo/mini-Rambo:

  1. Ultimachine is the original vendor (and the one Ryan uses) and provides great support. There are some clones coming out that don't work the same way, so buyer beware if you go that route - you can search the forum for examples of this.
  2. The boards have some integrated features to protect the user if the user does something dumb. For example, there are very few reports of failed drivers on the Rambo or mini-Rambo.
  3. A fair amount of the community here is using the Rambo or mini-Rambo, which makes collective setup and troubleshooting guidance a tad bit easier, though I've seen some recent setups using the Smoothieboard and MKS boards, too.
  4. Buying from Ryan actually gets you a pretty good price break on the Rambo/mini-Rambo compared to other sellers and you know that when you get the board, Ryan has already flashed the firmware on it and tested it. The shop has the Rambo for $127.
On a related note, support on the site is good and generally positive. A response will be forthcoming, but a Saturday afternoon/evening is probably not the time to expect a quick response. I had chores yesterday and a Mother's Day dinner followed by glorious sleeping. You did get my first forum post of the day.

I bought a used anet a8 for $50 to gut for my mpcnc, so I ended with a ramps board. I haven’t had any major problems with it so far. I did also pick up 2 more ramps/megas with drv8825’s for $10 to use in another project.


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We’ve had a metric shit-ton of crappy ramps/arduino clones. So much so that Ryan gave up on them. He gets the rambos directly from ultimachine in TN, so we know they’re going to work 99.99% of the time. Starting to see crappy rambo clones out of china now, so you get what you pay for.

First of all thanks for all your responses (for real this time). The reason why I am leaning towards a MKS or a RAMPs/ Arduino combo is that (correct me if I am wrong). The purpose of the MPCNC is for anybody to build an really affordable CNC machine and learn in the process and, while the RAMBo board is without a doubt the best choice, it seems too me that it does not fit into the purpose of the project.

To me, choosing a RAMBo board is like putting a Ferrari motor into a Honda Civic. Why would I pay $127 or $150 when I can pay $50 for an MKS board and have the same capability. Sure, it is a cheaply made substandard product but it fits much better into the purpose of the project in my opinion.

Now if you tell me that the RAMBo board is going to give me “must have” features that the MKS or RAMPS won’t offer then, that is a different story, but so far that is not what I am hearing.

I’m using a SainSmart 2-in-1, which is designed to be equivalent to ramps + mega 2560, but because it’s branded I am less concerned about cutting corners to shave every tenth of a cent. No-name RAMPS vendors do not have to worry about dings to their reputation; it just makes RAMPS look bad in general, not their product in particular. SainSmart 2-in-1 will still be very aggressive about cutting costs, but they still have a product to sell and (my hope is) they won’t cut so far as to generate product returns or support requests.

This is just theory, but it is nonetheless part of the reasoning behind my choice.

As for real data, I can’t offer anything useful. 100% of my boards, that is, 1 out of 1, has worked fine.

It seems you decided to not use Rambo.

I’m use ramps with drv8825. No issues so far. Whenever i search something on aliexpress i sorting list by amount of sales. Very simple rule. Goods with ± normal quality have biggest sales.

Again thanks for your responses. I am an engineer with a really strong background in IT. But I am somewhat ignorant about this. Do these board work with Marlin? Will they take the Marlin version provided in this site? or only drv8825? or are they two different things?

I think your last questions illustrate why I chose to carry and recommend the Ultimachine boards over the imports even though they have a higher cost. (plus digipots)

I make CNC based machines. Printers, sand tables, Routers, they are all tools that have a learning curve. All your questions are electronics based. If I felt those boards were easier or better I would recommend them. For the price difference do you want to tweak settings and diagnose issues or would your rather use and learn your machine. We spent the better part of two years diagnosing crappy board issues that were ever changing, components got worse and worse. Since switching to high quality boards we have leapfrogged in machine performance because we are not spending 80% of our time trying to figure out why things are not working. We went from wood to steel milling. With your money you need to choose where you want to spend your time, whatever you chose has no effect on our opinion of you.

All that said, you could buy a $5 board and have it actually work, it is very much like a lottery. I really do understand your side, I hate spending this kind of money unless it is justified, I would love to lower the overall cost of my machines, I would sell more and that in turn leads to more profit. I am now quality over quantity, because I enjoy working with my tools not trying to fix them So I make a bundle that I believe is the easiest/best path to a successful and fun build. For the super DIY type, they can use my parts list and make changes as they see fit.

Some people here love testing out new products and boards and problem solving, other people just want to make stuff. Both are welcome (I go back and forth every few months) but you would be best to choose what you prefer to do.


Sainsmart 2-in-1 has a motherboard definition in Marlin, or if you tell it you have RAMPS 1.4 (or if you forget, like I did) it will still work. I don’t know exactly what the difference is, but it seems it’s unimportant for normal operation.

You will need to supply your own motor drivers like you would with RAMPS. If you use DRV8825 motor drivers then the firmware will work as-is, or you can choose A4988 motor drivers and change steps per mm to reflect 1/16th microstepping. I had to do this to use the A4988 drivers I had on hand. My full configuration is outlined here:

I think this reinforces what Ryan said – if you have familiarity from the RepRap world or if you enjoy digging in the details, you can pick whichever, maybe gamble on hardware if that’s your style. But for the simplest setup you trade some money for time.

Thank you Jamie you have answered most of my questions. when I heard “drivers” I pictured in my mind the same meaning as computer peripheral drivers and not an actual physical device that controls each motor. What did you do for the control screen? did you buy it separate? did it work well with the SAINSMART card?

I rather gamble. Anything can be resolved with “more money” but what fun is that? If I really wanted to make things easy I would buy a shapeoko or an x-carve, or with more money I would have somebody manufacturing things for me, and then, I would not have to deal with PLA plastic breaking because of the heat in my garage (I live in Florida) , or PETG parts no having the exact dimensions or having to limit the machine size because of rigidity issues with electrical conduit, no having to learn about stepper motors, controller boards and drivers etc.

I love this project and my purpose here is to learn and to have fun. Not to have super reliable tool which my work is going to depend on.

I don’t have an LCD. I control it over USB from a laptop with pronterface. It think I will eventually switch to OctoPi or Jeffe’s V1Pi. I already have OctoPi on both of my printers.

It sounds like I’m in the same situation, where I am less interested in getting “real work” done, and more interested in experimenting with the machine itself. It is only fair that nonstandard or not-recommended configurations get less support, so between that and your appetite for fixing your own problems you can stray as far as you feel comfortable.

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Thank you I think that is the route I will be taking.