These days, 3D printers are becoming an important tool across industries, with most users utilizing this tool to create prototypes, creating proofs of concepts, and for technology for production. However, if there are issues with your 3D printer and its ability to print out your models, then it won’t be as effective. There are several things that can take place, but a common issue is not having a level printer bed. This will take a look at everything that you need to know about getting your printer bed level.
So, how do you level a 3D printer bed?
How do you level a 3D printer bed manually?
One way that you can try leveling your 3D printer is by doing it manually. This approach is usually as simple as adjusting the screws at the different points of the printer bed. It’s important that you do this approach (and any approach to leveling the printer bed) in a manner that is even so that you don’t end up with a warped print.
Many printers have software that can level out the printer bed for you, but the problem with this approach is that you need to fix it manually to get the most accurate results. The manual approach is also beneficial because it allows you to determine why the printer bed became uneven to begin with, whether the issue is with the parts or if there was a setting issue in the software.
Here is a brief overview of the best approach for manually leveling a 3D printer:
- Give Yourself Some Work Space
In many printers, the beds are mounted with 3 or 4 screws in the corner of the bed that you can adjust. These can also be found along the build plate. You will want to adjust each of these screws evenly a few turns so that you can get the space that you need to work between the build plate and nozzle.
- Moving the Build Plate
After you have completed the first step, you can move onto the next step which involves moving the build plate and nozzle closer together. You can do this manually, or you can use the software to control the 3D printer and accomplish this.
- Make Your Measurements and Adjust as Needed
Next, you need to calibrate the bed so that it is as level as you can possibly get it. For this, it helps to have an index card. Moving the print head to the corner of the print bed and only adjusting one screw at first, use the index card between the nozzle and the print bed. If you notice that there isn’t any type of resistance dragging the index card, you will have to adjust the bed so that you narrow this gap.
You want to continue this process until you get a slight drag as the nozzle moves along the bed, but you want to be careful about putting too much pressure on the printer bed, as this could actually make a bigger gap than what’s actually there. After you get the right amount of drag when you do this, move onto another screw and keep this process going until you have fixed the bed.
- Do a Trial Run
Before you actually begin a project with the 3D printer, you will want to do a trial run where you just print the first few layers of a practice piece. If you did the process properly, the first few layers should look pretty even. If it doesn’t, you may need to make further adjustments.
How do you level a 3D printer bed with software?
It can be a difficult process to manually level the 3D printer bed manually, which is why some people prefer to take the easier route with automatic leveling. Some printers have the ability to automatically level due to proximity sensors. As you start the software to level the 3D printer bed, the sensors will start to probe the print bed with the nozzle to determine the distances between the different corners and the nozzle. The sensors acquire this data, which is then analyzed by the software to make adjustments as you print things out. The printer will make its own adjustments to ensure the print comes out as evenly as possible.
How do you prepare your printer bed for leveling?
Before you get started on leveling your printer bed, there are some steps that you should take which can help the process go as seamless as possible. This section will take a look at these steps to make sure that you take the proper steps before you get into leveling the printer bed.
- Clean the Print Nozzle
It’s essential that you start off the process with cleaning the print nozzle. If there are any residual plastic from previous prints left on the nozzle, leveling the printer bed and adjusting the nozzle won’t be as accurate as you need it to be. The nozzle is pretty easy to clean off, only requiring you to use a clean cloth. You clean the nozzle by heating it up to where it was when you printed your last project and then wiping away the residual plastic.
If that doesn’t work, you can carefully use a tool like a brass brush. If you don’t take proper care when using the brass brush, this can damage the nozzle. You also should be safe when working with the hot nozzle to clean it.
- Clean the Printer’s Build Surface
It’s also very important that you have a clean printer bed before you start leveling the printer. If your printer has a glass bed, you can use tools like a spatula or razor blade to get rid of any major debris or residue. However, if you have a surface made from a material like PEI coating then you want to avoid this approach and use something gentler.
When you have successfully removed the large debris and residue, you can start washing the print bed. It may be ideal to remove the bed and handwash it in your sink with a mild dish soap. If you can’t remove the build plate, you will want to use isopropyl alcohol that’s been put on a cloth or paper towel and then dry it off with a cloth. After cleaning the bed, you will want to avoid touching the surface as the oils from your hand can transfer to the plate and negatively impact your prints.
You can level the bed whether the nozzle and bed are hot or not. It may be recommended that you heat it up as this can make the leveling process more accurate, but it’s not necessarily that important to do this.
Why is having a level printer bed so important?
Your print is really only as good as the foundation it is printed on. That’s why having a level printer bed is so important for you. There are so many factors that can impact the quality of your print, especially having a level printer bed. A level print bed allows you to print evenly across the entire print bed surface. You need to be sure that you adjust the Z height after you level the print bed to ensure that everything is as even as possible.
It’s not only important for the print bed to be level, but you also need to make sure that you have the right nozzle gap as well. Combined, these things make it so that you have a solid foundation for your print, so that you don’t have to worry about some of the common issues that people have with 3D prints.
What are some signs that you need to level your 3D printer bed?
Do you need to level your 3D printer bed? While this is something that you may want to do regularly, there are some signs that you need to level your 3D printer bed. These are some signs to look for:
- Your Print Doesn’t Stick to the Bed
One of the most common issues with an uneven print bed is that the print doesn’t stick as well as it should to the print bed. As already mentioned, the first layers of your print are crucial to providing a solid foundation for your print. If your print isn’t properly sticking to the bed, you won’t get the adhesion that you need to create that solid foundation. This typically happens as a result of the nozzle being positioned too far away from the print bed. The filament will end up having struggles sticking to the bed or the print will start to pull up. Often times this means that the nozzle is too high.
- You Notice Little Gaps Between The Print’s Layers/Thin Layers/Uneven Extrusion
There are a lot of reasons why you may see uneven extrusion in your prints, but the most common reason for this issue is an uneven or improperly leveled print bed. When the bed is uneven, the nozzle will have issues that cause over-extrusion and under-extrusion. Depending on the size of the print bed, in this situation the nozzle will print either more or less. If the nozzle is too close to the print bed, you will end up with an under-extrusion problem. If there is a gap that is too big, this will lead to an over-extrusion.
The over-extrusion means that the filament is getting more pushed out of the nozzle than it should be. You can tell that this is the problem because you will notice some blogs on the print or the filament won’t stick properly to the bed. While an uneven print bed isn’t the only reason for this issue, it can be a big part of this problem.
Under-extrusion occurs when the nozzle pushes out less filament than it’s supposed to. You can tell that this is the problem because the layers often look too thin or that there are missing layers.
- Notice a Bad First Layer
You may not need to adjust the print bed just because the first layers are bad, but this could mean it’s time to level the print bed. This could be because you have the wrong settings as well. If you notice the settings are correct, the problem is likely an uneven print bed. If you check the print bed and it’s level, then the problem can be found in your slicer problems.
- Filament Width and Height will Vary Along the Print Bed Surface
- There is a Noticeable Variation in the Gap between the Filament Lines as it Moves Across the Bed
- Prints Warp Upwards and There’s No Other Reason They Should
How often should you level the 3D Printer Bed?
You shouldn’t wait until a problem happens to level your printer bed. After leveling the printer bed initially, you will just need to make slight adjustments between 5 and 10 prints. Print leveling can be a complex and often annoying process, but it’s a process that can cause a significant improvement in the quality of prints that you make. There are other situations that you may find where you need to adjust the printer bed, including if the nozzle is too close to the printer bed.
- If Your Nozzle is Too Close to the Printer Bed
Sometimes the nozzle ends up too close to the printer bed, so if you notice that the filament isn’t even coming out this is your problem. If this problem doesn’t get remedied properly, this could actually cause damage to your 3D printer. As the nozzle scrapes against the print bed, this can cause the extruder tip to come off. This is particularly problematic if the nozzle is hot when this happens. The bed itself can also be damaged, since this can cause scratching on glass surface. If while leveling the print bed you hear a scraping noise, you should stop as soon as possible to avoid damaging anything.
A nozzle that is too close to the printer bed can cause the printer to tear the print off of the printer bed. It can get caught on the printer, dislodging the print. The foundation can come off very easily in this situation, which results in a bad print and bad overhangs on the printer.
- After You Change Filaments
When you change your filament, you will also need to level the print bed again. Many times, just the act of changing filaments can reverse your previous leveling jobs. The problem with 3D printers is that the level bed can be lost very easily. Another issue with the filament that you should watch out for is that the filament can come out and build up against your printer bed, which causes it to harden and potentially clog up. You may be able to prevent this by slightly moving the Z-axis.
- Any Maintenance to the Printer
Anytime that you do some type of maintenance work on your printer, you will need to relevel your printer bed. As you move the printer to work on it, the Z-axis can move around or the corners of the bed could slightly slip. This is especially true if you change out the nozzle or anytime that you move the Z-axis. After you work on your printer, you should instinctively level the print bed to avoid any problems in the future.
- When You Change the Temperature
As you go from the different filament materials, you will need to make adjustments to the nozzle temperature or print bed. When the temperature changes, it can cause an expansion or contraction. It may not be good to level it while it’s cold since as you heat it up, it causes an expansion that will make the bed uneven again.
What else do you need to know about leveling the printer bed?
There are some other tips that can help you make sure that your printer bed is level for when you need to use it. The best tip is learning how to reduce how many times you need to level the printer bed. This has been mentioned before but leveling the printer can be an annoyance and overly complicated. It may be ideal to find ways to level the printer bed less often so that you don’t have to keep going through this process. There are a few approaches to leveling the printer less often, such as:
- Invest in a Printer with Auto-Leveling
This is an expensive option, but one that can save you a bit of time. The problem is that you may still need to level it manually since sometimes auto-leveling isn’t the most accurate.
- Ensuring Everything is Tight
The belts and screws can be loose on the printer, which can cause problems with how level your printer bed is. Just taking everything apart and tightening everything can make your prints look much better.
- Buy Better Parts
You may want to invest in sturdier parts for your printer, like tougher couplers. Whether or not you need to go this route depends on the type of printer that you have and how much you have to level the printer bed.