Bed leveling, in 3D printing terms, refers to a consistent distance from the bed and the print nozzle at any point. It’s for this reason that all the other moving parts of the printer can put the bed and nozzle out of alignment.
I’ve put some of the most common bed leveling issues together here to help you identify what the problem could be when struggling to level the print bed.
With any luck, all you’ll need to do is some tightening up or fine adjustments here and there.
Here are some of the most common bed leveling issues, along with how to solve them.
Sometimes you can level an Ender 3 print bed perfectly but still have the print nozzle crash into the bed when the print starts. There are a few things to look at if this is happening to you. The first thing I suggest, before we move on to the more complicated fixes, is to heat the bed before leveling.
There are a few other things that could be happening, but this is a good place to start. If leveling the print bed while it’s hot doesn’t work, you might need to tighten belts, screws, bolts, or adjust sensors as we’ll go over in the next suggestions.
If it feels like the print bed is a bit loose when moving it with your fingers, you may need to tighten it against the rail at the bottom of the printer. The print bed is secured to a plate that rides on a rail. There are four rollers that assist the plate in moving up and down on the Y axis. You’ll need to tighten the bolts behind two of the rollers. I’ll explain how.
- Carefully position the printer on its back so that the bottom of the print bed is exposed.
- Use the wrench you got in the packaging to tighten the two hex keys behind the rollers on the right side.
- Feel the print bed for wobble as you tighten the bolts. (The wobble should decrease as you tighten)
- Tighten each bolt incrementally going back and forth between the two. This will help them stay aligned.
As soon as you feel the print bed stiffen up against the plate, you can put the printer back up and proceed with the normal bed leveling procedure.
You might run into a problem where one corner is higher than the rest, but the adjustment knob is turned all the way to maximum. In this case, you should adjust the rollers at the bottom of the printer.
This is similar to the previous instructions about eliminating bed wobble, but this time you should loosen the screws that hold the rollers in place and align everything up so that the left and right side rollers are uniform on the rail. Then tighten them all up a little each time, working your way around the four screws.
The z-stopper on the side of the printer might be too high for the nozzle to reach the bed plate properly in all areas. To lower the z-stopper, follow these steps.
- First, turn the adjustment knob back down to halfway or lower so that you can make adjustments after lowering the z-stopper.
- Loosen the screws on the side of the printer where the z-stopper is located.
- Move the stopper/sensor down to lower its position until the print nozzle is around 1mm from the print bed.
- Now lift the limiter a little for it to click into position.
- Tighten the screws again and use the bed adjustment knob to adjust the bed level according to the new nozzle height.
Loose printer belts can cause you to believe that the bed isn’t level because of how both issues cause layer shifts in the model. Layer shifts are when the layers of a part don’t match up with each other. You might get parts with wavy lines that make it seem like the bed isn’t leveled properly. Here’s the easiest way to tighten the belts on your Ender 3.
- Use the hex keys that are included with the printer to loosen the bolts on the tensioner.
- Now slide the longest hex key down between the tensioner and the rail.
- Use the long key as a lever to push the tensioner away from the rail and increase the belt tension.
- Use the other smaller hex key to tighten the screws while holding the tension.
- Repeat the procedure for the other axes.
Belt tensioners make the process a lot easier. Once installed, all you’ll need to do is turn a knob to tighten the belts next time. Here’s how they look on amazon.com.
To install belt tensioners, simply unscrew the default tension plates and replace them with these upgraded ones.
The bed springs that come with the Ender 3 by default are weak and flimsy. They can last a fair amount of time, but if one or more of them are weaker than the rest, it can definitely cause issues with your bed leveling.
Printer bed springs are easy to replace. Just unscrew the four big knobs at the bottom of the bed to release the bed from the printer. Remove the old springs and replace them with fresh, longer lasting springs like these on amazon.com. Some options include upgraded leveling nuts that are made of premium aluminium alloy, making them stronger and more resistant to corrosion.
Screw the knobs back into the bed from the bottom and you’re good to go.
The most common cause of the bed becoming unbalanced after a single print is loose parts.
You’ll need to tighten up the bolts that hold the bed to the plate at the bottom of the printer. Make sure the rollers at the bottom are aligned properly and tighten up the printer belts, as mentioned above.
It’s possible that the workbench you’re using isn’t 100% level, which could be throwing everything off. Level out the workbench with a spirit level and make sure the table is very stable even if you try to wobble it.
Test the printer on the floor if you’re certain the floor is perfectly flat to see if it solves the leveling issue.
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The main causes for bed leveling issues are related to the printer not being assembled perfectly. If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with some minor adjustments to the bolts, rails, tensioning belts, and other basic settings to get your print bed level.
However, you may need to disassemble most of the machine and start from scratch if things are really out of alignment. Here’s a detailed video on how to put your Ender 3 together along with some pro-tips to make things as easy as possible.
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