As technology has advanced, 3D printers are becoming more and more popular. It is important to ensure that the build plate on your printer is level in order to print effectively.
So, what is a 3D printer with auto bed leveling, and should you get one? You need to have a level build plate in order to successfully 3D print. A printer with an auto bed leveling system will do this leveling for you. As a result, it’s a great idea to have a 3D printer with auto bed leveling.
If you need to, you can add an auto bed leveling feature to an existing 3D printer if supported. However, it is always easier if your printer already has that feature. Read on to learn more about 3D Printers with auto bed leveling, and if purchasing one, what would be right for you!
What exactly is a 3D Printer with Auto Bed Leveling?
A 3D Printer prints objects in 3D, exactly like it sounds. Instead of printing on a piece of paper, you can make a physical object. 3D printers continue to improve, and a lot of them now have a feature for auto bed leveling.
It is really important to print on a level surface, or you will not create a good product. An auto bed leveler takes care of that for you.
A 3D printer with automatic level is going to have a system already built in place to ensure that you are printing correctly. There will be sensors that automatically detect height to make sure you are producing a level and even product. An auto level is essentially figuring out the distance between the print bed and the nozzle of the machine, and the sensors on an auto bed leveler will level the height for you.
What makes Auto Bed Leveling a worthwhile feature for a 3D Printer?
While it is possible to continue to manually adjust your bed plate on a 3D printer, there are reasons an auto bed leveler is a better option:
- Performing manual adjustments can be time-consuming and take away from the task at hand of printing your objects.
- If you get it wrong, you are going to have build plate adhesion issues and possibly an uneven product, and need to redo your efforts. This will waste time and resources.
- It makes the process more laborious, which means less enjoyable, and you might stop using your 3D printer after you get fed up with the constant maintenance involved with trying to level it.
How high should the build plate be on your 3D Printer?
Height matters because it can affect how level your printer is, which affects the success of your final product. So, what is the ideal height for a 3D printer’s build plate?
The best distance between the nozzle and the build plate should be around 0.1mm. You can tighten or loosen the screws by up to 0.1mm at a time in order to affect the height in the direction you need it.
While 0.1mm does not seem like much, if you are seeing some inconsistencies in your printing, you can lower or raise that height incrementally. The height should be one of the first things you look to adjust if you are troubleshooting.
How does Auto Bed Leveling work on your 3D Printer?
The sensors are the most important part of an auto bed leveler. The sensors are going to do your job for you, and automatically gauge the height and distance of your build plate.
The firmware in your printer is going to take the information the sensors provides it, and adjust the Z-axis of your machine accordingly. This way your machine will always be level.
What is the Z-Axis and why is it important to be level?
The Z-Axis is the vertical axis, and essentially what makes your 3D printer a 3D printer. Without the Z-Axis you would just be printing flat, 2D pieces of paper with an X and a Y-axis.
It is important to make sure this is level because it is what controls the accuracy of the depth of your print job. If you are trying to print something to the right scale and make it the right size, you need a level and accurate Z-Axis.
Since it is so important to the success of your printing, if your machine is not printing correctly the Z-axis is one of the first things you should look to perform maintenance on.
How to Calibrate your 3D Printer Auto Bed Leveler
Calibration is important. After all, if you have a tool set up to perform a task, like leveling, automatically, you want to make sure it is doing so correctly. This is mostly a computer and software process, which you can complete by taking the following steps:
- Connect your 3D Printer to your computer. Typically, this will be done via a USB.
- Follow your user’s manual to select a software. Use that software to connect to the machine.
- The focus of your calibration efforts should be on the Z-offset. Take a few steps to make sure your Z-offset function is correct:
- Clear the Z-offset so it reads 0.00. The software or previous configurations might have had it set differently, so reset it to zero.
- Trigger the auto bed level sensor, which is going to raise the nozzle up. The firmware in the machine should raise this up automatically.
- Insert a piece of paper under the nozzle, which is going to allow you to actually calibrate the Z-offset. You want to lower the nozzle in 0.1mm increments until the paper will move under it but with some friction. This is a sign everything is calibrated correctly.
- After the Z-offset is calibrated correctly, you can run the script on your computer. There will be a “start script” in the software, and that is what you need to run.
One thing that having a properly calibrated auto bed leveler will do for you, it will also adjust itself in the event you try to print on an uneven bedplate. The sensors will correct themselves, in most cases without you even knowing. And, you will be able to print perfectly every time without performing regular maintenance on your machine.
How do you manually level a 3D printer?
If you are still on the fence on if you should invest in an auto bed leveler, and are curious about how to manually level the build plate, remember that the main goal of leveling is to adjust all the screws to be the same height.
- If this is the first time you are leveling the build plate, first thing you should do is account for all of the screws on the build plate and then tighten them all. By tightening them all first, you have a good baseline. Then, as needed, you can loosen them to make adjustments.
- Adjust each screw individually.
- Adjust the Z-axis of your printer by homing it. If you find that it homes to a position of Z max, then you should send it manually to Z 0.
- Start the manual bed leveling process from the control box.
- Once the extruder is at the first position, you will want to put a piece of card stock in between the nozzle and the bed plate, then you can tinker with the height of the screw. The screw is probably too tight right now, so you should loosen it until the paper feels a little bit tight. You should be able to move the paper around, but not too easily.
- Once the first point is done hit “next point” on the control box. Repeat this for each and every screw until your bed plate is level.
- I recommend that you go through the process at least three times to make sure everything stays level. Large adjustments at one point can impact a point that you already leveled.
It can be a bit cumbersome leveling each screw one at a time, but it is still important to take this approach, else your machine will not be leveled. The most important thing is to get the screws adjusted to the right height. You need to get them just right, or your printer will not print levelly, and you will need to redo your work starting at step 1.
You can avoid trying to do all of that manually if you purchase a 3D printer that has an auto bed leveler.
How often should you manually adjust the bed level on a 3D Printer?
If you are manually adjusting the build plate on your 3D printer, you will need to adjust it fairly frequently. Every 3-5 times you print you are going to want to check it over and make sure it is still level. It might not require an adjustment every time, but staying on top of it and regularly monitoring it will ensure nothing becomes out of hand or unleveled.
Can you Upgrade an existing 3D Printer and add the Auto Bed Leveling Feature?
While it is going to be easier for you if your 3D printer already has the auto bed leveling feature, it is still possible for you to upgrade your existing printer in most cases. If you do not want to manually adjust your printer’s build plate anymore, follow these steps:
- You will want to use firmware like Marlin, so ensure that it is installed on your 3D printer before you get ready to do the upgrade. Most kits will come with the required firmware.
- Replace the Z end-stop with a new sensor. The goal here is to retrain your printer into thinking it has reached its maximum height. This new sensor is going to be strapped to the extruder.
- The new sensor on the extruder is going to allow the extruder to move around while sensing different locations. It is getting feel for the depth, so it can accurately level the bed plate accordingly.
- The Marlin firmware will remember the level spots because it knows the height of the build plate, and it will make adjustments and act as an auto-leveling build plate.
Here is the best auto-leveling upgrade kit I have come across for the money.
Some Great 3D Printers with Auto Bed Leveling available for purchase on Amazon
If you are ready to pull the plug and make a purchase, here are some solid options that you should consider, all of which are available for purchase on Amazon:
- This is a good 3D Printer option, as it is compact and yet very productive. This printer will connect wirelessly to your network at home, so you can quickly and easily print.
- This 3D printer is really easy to set up, and you can be printing in no time at all. A very sturdy and reliable printer, you should be able to set this up the first time and let it run for a long time with infrequent adjustments, since it auto levels. There is also a built-in touch screen, making things even easier.
- With the touch of your finger to a touch screen, you can auto-level this 3D printer making this a good option for a home 3D printer. Touch screens are some of the most advanced 3D printers, and you cannot go wrong with a technologically savvy choice like this one.
Like other technology, 3D printers have come a long way in the past few years, and any of these products would be an excellent choice. Many of them are now being designed to last a long time, by sending owners software upgrades and patches along the way. Instead of replacing your 3D printer, you will be able to just upgrade it and troubleshoot it as required.
How to Troubleshoot your 3D Printer Auto Bed Leveler
What steps should you take if your 3D printer is not printing correctly and you have an auto bed leveler? Where do you start? It is still easier to fix a printer that has an auto bed leveler than one that does not. Here are a few things that could be wrong and you might be able to fix:
- Is the filament leaking? If you can visually see anything leaking from the nozzle, this is a dead giveaway that your machine needs some maintenance. Nothing should ever be leaking. Don’t worry it could simply be a result of overuse and overheating. Try giving your machine a break for a couple of hours, let things cool off, recalibrate the machine, and try again.
- It might be a software issue. 3D printers are run by software and firmware. It is possible you need to hook it back up to your computer and reset the computer side of things. Like computers, cell phones, tablets, etc., sometimes a 3D printer will act up because it needs a computer refresh. Also, check to see if the software itself has a new version. Similar to when your IPhone needs an update, that could be the case here as well.
- If you need a little extra help, check out this video that offers novice troubleshooting tips. Do not underestimate that a 3D printer is a complicated piece of machinery, and there could be a few different things needed to troubleshoot it successfully. A lot of basic problems are explained in this video.
What if you do not have a level build plate when you 3D print?
Whether you do it manually or have an auto bed leveler, printing while leveling is imperative to the success of your print job. Watch this video (Embedded above) to get an idea of how difficult it is to print on an uneven build plate.
Unless you are incredibly skilled and can overcompensate for a machine that is faulty, here are a few things that can happen if you do not have a level foundation when you are printing:
- Your product will not come out how you want it. It is going to be uneven and you will not be happy with the shape or look of what is printed.
- You could injure yourself. 3D printers are not designed to be used if they are not level. If you are not careful, you could injure your hands or wrists as you struggle with the machine to attempt to level it.
- You might waste materials, leading to your project costing you both more time and more money. You will find that printing on an uneven build plate might cause you to waste material, as you will have to throw some away and redo your efforts.
Whether you are manually or automatically leveling your build plate, the success of your printing job depends on it indeed being level.
Videos Showcasing 3D Printers with Auto Bed Leveling
While YouTube is great for just about everything, there are some videos that you can watch about 3D printers. Take a look and see some cool items that people have printed with their 3D printers while using auto bed leveling:
- Here’s a great introductory video that will get you started with your research on 3D printers with auto bed leveling. Take a look at this video and you can see first-hand how these printers function.
- Here is a video review of a particular printer, and it explains the pros and cons of printers with auto bed leveling. If you are looking for some more pros and cons with a synopsis of manual vs. auto-leveling, you can find that breakdown here.
- One user explains his personal experiences with 3D printers with auto bed leveling, and you might be able to learn some tips and tricks from this video.
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