If you are here, you probably have bought your new 3D printer and are eager to start your colorful 3D printing journey. But remember, do not be in a hurry. Proper calibration of a 3D printer is necessary to get optimum results. A question will pop into your mind: why do we need to calibrate our 3D printer? The answer is simple: calibration helps ensure that each print coming out from a 3D printer should be the same, regardless of the equipment used.
Actually, Proper 3D printer calibration is necessary to help the machine perform as expected and support your industry or business to grow and achieve the optimum investment worth. One of the most important tips is: Besides going through the tips and recommendations, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your 3D printer setup.
So in this article, we will share essential calibration tips for 3D printers with you. You will get the most by going through these tips. So without any further delay, let’s dive deep into the topic.
What is a 3D Printer?
3D printers are devices that create three-dimensional objects by depositing material layer by layer, according to a digital file. Free CAD software or paid one is used to create the digital file, which is then sent to the 3D printer. The 3D printer reads the file and extrudes a thin stream of melted material, building up the object layer by layer.
3D printers can use a variety of materials, including plastics, metals, and even living cells. Whether you are using large format 3D printers or just 3D printers under $300, they can help you create interesting designs. The technology has been used to create everything from prosthetic limbs to pizza. 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing and design, and its applications are only limited by the imagination.
3D printer calibration
First layer dialing
Creation of red 3D sandals in a MakerBot 3D printer. Image source: All3DP
Having a good first layer is necessary to get an attractive final print via a 3D printer. If you set up a nozzle too close to the bed, then your first layer will be distorted and may be destroyed. That means it will not be suitable for your 3D design. If you set up your nozzle too far from the bed, 3D printing would be less adhesive and let your plan fall into the pit of failure.
If you want to improve your first layer, you should tune the Z offset. It is a valuable program that tells your 3D printer how to and how far the z-axis is to be moved from the z end-stops or the bed. The ultimate goal of setting up your z offset is to make the first layer stick ideally to the bed. However, if your first layer is getting away from the bed, you need to lower the Z offset.
Often most beginners face the extruder problem. Although this is not a significant thing, it is also not considered a subject to avoid. Two critical issues that extruders can have are over-extrusion and slow extrusion.
Over extrusion occurs due to too much filament in the extrusion, whereas in under filament, too little filament is used; therefore, the proper thickness of filament is necessary. There is no need to worry because it is quite easy to maintain filament thickness if it is wrong.
To examine your 3D printer for over and under extrusion, all you need is measuring tape or a set of calipers. Make two marks on the filament 100mm apart and align the bottom mark with the top of the extruder. Set the extrude length in your software value to “100” and extrude!
Calibration of the base plate
In case you are planning to level your base plates, you probably should. If you notice that your layers are thin or a filament of a 3D printer is gathering around the nozzle, by following the given steps, you can ensure your perfect nozzle distance from the base at any time.
When you bring your colorful 3D printer, it will be provided with an index card, so all you need to do is place this index card between the print head(by centering the print head) and the base plate. Then by fixing the Z-axis end stop variable, you can easily set your base plate.
Steps to calibrate stepper motor
Image of a stepper motor. Image source: Amazon
To move or rotate axes or extruders in a demand direction, stepper motors are used in 3D printers. Stepper motors are those motors that rotate with exact small steps followed by G-Codes.
Let’s understand by an example: one rotation equals 50 steps, then the motor will rotate 25 steps in one direction and another 25 in the exact opposite direction. All these require an accurate rotational control that can be achieved by G-Codes.
So when you calibrate your stepper motor in a 3D printer, all you need to understand is the relationship between steps and distance. To calibrate the extruder perfectly, you must realize that the 3D printer is extruding in the right amount. This is done by sending a few G code commands to your 3D printer.
Identify the proper moment of inertia
As we mentioned, the 3D printer uses stepper motors that rotate in a specific direction to turn the extruder or axes in a fixed order or distance. All of the crucial games of the moment of inertia(MOI). In case you do not like physics terms, let us explain what actually moment of inertia does.
The moment of inertia regulates or determines whether the axis motor will maintain maximum torque when it runs at your desired speed. Greater the mass of the moment of inertia, the greater the requirement of torque to achieve the particular angular acceleration.
So it’s a typical 3D printer problem where the stepper motor vibrates but does not turn. So calculating the right moment of inertia can be a wise and beneficial decision before installing the new 3D printer. It happens when the inertia required by the 3D printer motor to turn would be the same as its moment of inertia.
How to calculate the moment of inertia:
For simple objects, you can calculate the moment of inertia by finding their point mass.
- For simple objects, multiply the square of the distance between the rotational axis and the mass by the mass at the given point.
- For complex objects, take a summation of the point mass of pieces.
Identify the proper current and connection
Probing the proper current and connection is necessary before installing a new 3D printer. It can also be a good step in resolving matters, especially in the case of motor vibration. Motor vibration occurs when there is no proper availability of current to move the extruder.
One of the most common problems is failing to install the new 3D printer motors properly or due to a false moment of inertia calculation. Although you would not like to experience this with your new 3D printer, this is one of the most likely problems you will face after installation or a component upgrade.
Adjusting the fan speed
Adjusting the proper fan speed is necessary to mitigate undesirable outcomes such as oozing. Cooling fans play a vital role in the streamlined flow of 3D printers. But an efficient cooling fan setup is necessary. For example, a higher cooling fan provides more cooling, but on the contrary, it also increases material shrinkage.
Speed changes can lead users to experience different 3D printing problems, so it is crucial to take proper troubleshooting steps. For example, a new 3D printer’s first layer never sticks to the bed because the fan speed is high enough to maintain proper cooling.
Adjusting fan speed is not a difficult task; you can do this by slicer software settings. It is also noted in the user manual to take this step when dealing with warping. When you get through the first layers of the 3D printer, you can choose the option to keep the fan speed low, especially when the material remains hot for a longer time.
Check the calibration cube test
Calibration is a geometric shape instrument that helps in 3D printer settings. To tune the 3D printer, you can use this calibration tube test. The calibration cube guides the printer’s motor to turn in the proper specific direction by one millimeter.
Before taking the calibration cube test, you have to ensure that you have calibrated your extruder. Otherwise, it would be tough to differentiate the mechanical problems caused by the poorly calibrated extruder. So it is advisable to perform a proper calibration cube test.