3D printer bed leveling is crucial for accurate print quality, and in this guide let’s talk about what you need to know to make sure your setup is correct every time when you print.
What Is Bed Leveling?
Bed leveling is important for the first layer of every 3D print to start on.
It’s simply how leveled the build platform is and some 3D printers need proper calibration for the best chance of a successful print.
Leveling the bed is an important step and it can be tricky, so let’s take a look.
What Is Manual Bed Leveling?
Leveling the bed is a precise distance between the nozzle and the entire surface of the build plate.
A manually leveled bed is very common on low-cost 3D printers where the user has to manually adjust the bed until all 4 corners are leveled without any complex calculation or extra hardware.
A manually leveled bed has the build plate float above the bed carriage and the build plate is installed to the carriage.
How To Manually Level The Bed
Many 3D printers use 4 screws to level the bed on each corner, and the difficult part is to balance the entire build plate and here are the steps to follow:
- Tighten screws on each corner but leave enough wiggle room for adjustment later
- Zero the Z axis
- Insert a piece of paper between the nozzle and the bed, and then adjust the screw until there’s a very slight resistance when you pull the paper out
- Repeat the same process for all screws across the build plate
- Check all screws to ensure the adjustment didn’t throw off the previous adjustments before that
What’s The Tricky Part?
Trying to balance multiple points across a build plate form can be time-consuming. Tiny adjustments from just one corner can throw off the previous adjustment, and then it becomes this nonstop chase to get it right.
You can only get it close to perfect but never 100%, and many beds can warp due to temperature changes and other irregularities.
- Great learning for beginners
- Time consuming
- Very time consuming
- Having to level the whole plate from multiple points
- Misalignment is always a possibility after several hours of use
Automatic bed leveling usually comes with high-priced 3D printers, and its main focus is to make your life easier.
A typical 3D printer auto-leveling system has a switch or sensor near the tip of the probe (Print head) on the build platform when the bed leveling process starts.
The sensor measures the distance between the print bed and the nozzle at different locations across the plate, and this process is so much easier and saves time than manual bed leveling.
The adjustment is made after the printer has calculated the orientation of the build platform relative to the nozzle’s XY axis movement.
The auto-leveling feature is by far the best feature to have on a 3D printer when you’re ready to move from the beginner stage to the immediate and professional stage.
It saves time and it does better than figuring out the optimum nozzle to plate distance throughout the printing process.
- Much easier to setup and change build surface
- Huge time saver
- Anyone can set it up correctly
- No time wasted fiddling with 3 axises to get it right
- Invest more time on other tasks
- Sensor adds weight to the print head
- Putting together auto leveling can be difficult