6 Simple Steps to 3D Printer Bed Leveling

6 Simple Steps to 3D Printer Bed Leveling

Bed levelling is an essential part of ensuring a successful print.  It’s one of the first things you do when you buy a 3D printer and one of the first things you should look at if you are having trouble with your prints. You may need to level your print bed several times throughout the course of your printer’s life so don’t get discouraged or frustrated if you feel like you’re doing it over and over again. It’s normal. Even the most experienced makers do spend a lot of time levelling the bed on a new printer so it’s best to think of it as regular required maintenance. 

 

3 Signs That You Need to Level Your Bed

1. Print isn’t sticking to the bed: To get a good print, it’s really important to have a great first layer. For a great first layer, you will need good bed adhesion. If the gap between the nozzle and the bed is too big, the filament will have trouble sticking to the bed and will start to pull up. Even if the first layer does stick but your the bed isn’t level, you will run into issues later in the print (which is even more frustrating!) and your whole print will detach from the bed.

Print-Not-Sticking-To-Bed                                                            Photo source: Simplify3D Troubleshooting Guide 

2. Gaps in your initial layer or the layers are too thin: Uneven extrusion and problems with your first layer consistency can be caused by a number of different things, including an uneven bed.  When your printer is running smoothly, filament is being extruded at an even rate because of pressure from the filament behind pushing it forward. The resistance to this plastic being pushed is referred to as “back pressure”. When the space between the nozzle and print bed vary from different places, the space the filament has to flow into changes which varies the resistance of filament flow.  This variance in pressure can cause extruder jams, inconsistent extrusion, and gaps in your layers.

slime_counter_failPhoto Source: Zheng3!

3. Plastic gathers around the head when printing the first layers: If the gap between the nozzle and bed is too small, you will get blobs or filament build up on the surface. This can cause the print to come off the bed later in the print or completely misalign the print. 
 

gallery_11711_93_364568 (1)

 

6 Simple Steps to a Level Print Bed

For beginners who are levelling their bed for the first time, the purpose of this is to make sure that your nozzle is equal distance from your build plate at all points.  This ensures that your print comes out evenly without fail. Most plug and play printers will have a step-by-step guide built into the printer to walk you through manually levelling your build plate. If you have a printer that you build yourself or one that doesn’t come with a built in tutorial, you will have to go through a few steps yourself before you begin printing. Every printer will be built slightly differently so these instructions may vary slightly, but the general technique of bed levelling is the same for most printers.  

**Pro Tip**: Before levelling your bed, heat your bed up to the same temperature that you are going to print at. If you are printing with ABS, set your settings for ABS. Also make sure that your surface will be the same as what you will print on. If you’re printing with tape or buildtak, make sure you put it on before you level the bed. Beds that are made of aluminum will expand and contract when they are heated and cooled so if you want your bed to be accurately level, it’s best practice to do it when the bed is in the same state that it will be when you print – JAT.MN 

Step 1: Find an index card or piece of paper that is as thick as a regular 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 10.44.04 AM

Photo Source: video by 3Dprintedlife

Step 2: Every printer will have bolts or knobs with springs that controls the movement of the glass plate. With an allan key (or by hand if your printer has knobs that allow you to do so), tighten these bolts in the corners of your printer. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 10.16.13 AMPhoto Source: Tom’s Guide on Bed Levelling 

Step 3: The main sensor used to position the hot-end correctly away from the build-bed is the Z-axis end-stop. For new printers, make sure your end stop cables are secure and remove any tape from the end stops. Move your print head to the centre of the plate and place your index card under the nozzle. Adjust the end stop of the Z-azis until you feel a slight resistance when you try to move the card underneath the nozzle. This means you can still move the paper front and back, but the nozzle is causing some resistance. If you can move the paper too easily and there isn’t any resistance then the nozzle is too far away from the build plate. If the paper isn’t moving at all, then the nozzle is too close and you should adjust the build plate slightly lower.

Step 4: Move your paper and nozzle head to all corners of your printer and make sure that there is no resistance underneath. 

Step 5: Now you can start micro-adjustments in the corners of your printer by adjusting the bed height with the screws on the corners of the bed.  Start in one corner and get your print head as close as possible to the bolt and put the paper underneath the nozzle. Use an allen key to adjust the bed until there is slight resistance on the paper from the nozzle. Repeat this step in all the corners of your bed. 

Img3334Photo source: Ultimaker 

Step 6: Once you’ve levelled all the corners with bolts, repeat this process again and maybe even a third time.  You’ll see that when you make the adjustments in the corners, it also affects the other corners so it may take a few times to get it just right. Each time you re-do this process your adjustments should get smaller and smaller. When you are barely adjusting it, you’ll know that you’ve done the best you can! 

If you’d like to see a video tutorial, this one is very clearly broken down: 

Now that you know the symptoms of an uneven bed, you can fix the problem early before any time or filament is wasted! Sometimes after you’ve printed something and you have to use a little force to remove the print from the bed, it can mess with the bed alignment and you’ll have to re-level it for the next print.  That’s okay! Just follow the steps above and your bed will be levelled out again. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. 

 

Now that your bed is level, you’re ready to print!
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  • You wrote “1” twice when numbering signs you need to level your bed.

  • Thanks for the catch! 🙂 Sometimes the number formatting goes all wonky when there’s pictures in between. Fixed it up now

  • suds

    Some 3d printers have automatic bed levelling, therefore no knobs bolts or springs to adjust. eg Robox has 9 point probing which builds a map of the bed surface and uses it’s 2 Z motors to alter the distance from that mapped surface while printing. I guess this article is aimed at old tech printers, not the 3 click and walk away type which allow us to spend time designing, less time hoping the print works.

  • Ninerballin

    Some people don’t have $1500 to drop on a printer. There’s plenty of new printers in the 200-400 range that aren’t going to have auto bed level, but they aren’t “old tech.” I just bought a MP select mini for $170 and it’s a fine printer for the price. I can manage to turn a few allen screws in order to save $1k.

  • suds

    I agree that there are some printers which will do a fine job for a low price and there aren’t many of us with time AND money. I get paid for completed design work, not for the process of designing. So the 3D printed items are useful for this process but if I also have to spend time fiddling with screws and hoping a calibration is correct I would be spending more time to get my money, sometimes without any benefit due to a failed print. I tried a couple of kit printers and found them very frustrating, we still have several of them in bits in the office and the money and time spent on them was wasted due to the lack of support. 2 Robox units have worked from the start and any questions we have get a very sure and positive response from the Robox support team. I stand by the old tech part, there aren’t many 3D printers with technology from this decade, or the previous one in fact. BTW Formlabs owns this website, $4,400 for that setup 🙂

  • sayan2dto3d

    I recently backed this product in Kickstarter called ultrasonic alignment tool for 3d printers and CNC- Following is my impression :
    faster, easier, noncontact, multipoint (optional) bed leveling on any printers, and zeroing of stage and even filament condition monitoring all at a very affordable price… ,
    these guys could have done their video much better to my girl friend it seemed boring but to me the technology and opportunity seemed very impressive – what you all think .. Here is the link
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gatabi/alingg-a-precision-alignment-tool-for-3d-printers

  • Carl Madson

    Thank you for the great article! It helped get me up and running again!