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Eliminating guesswork in 3D printer levelling

11 Apr 2014  | Michael Rigsby

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The following report is from the 3rd prize winner in the TI LDC1000 inductive sensor design contest.

One of the challenges to consumer 3D printing involves levelling the print platform. Current methods (insert a business card or piece of paper and adjust screws until it "just fits") lack precision. Many "air prints" and much frustration result from poorly adjusted print platforms.

I propose building a device that can be placed on the rails and used to measure the platform to print head height at each adjustment point. This would eliminate the guesswork in bed levelling.

This machine would have an adjustable sensor height so that the sensor could be matched to nozzle position. The levelling screws will still have to be turned by hand, but the extruder to bed distance can be set with high precision. The prototype would use the USB connection to a computer to monitor the sensor to metal bed distance. The device can be removed from the rails after the levelling process has been performed.

This opens the door for future 3D machine enhancements such as motorised levelling screws. Incorporating auto levelling into the design would make the machines more user friendly—a necessity for significant market penetration. In this scenario, the printer would move to each position and adjust the bed under processor control.

Current estimates indicate that 100,000 consumer printers are spread throughout the world, but that number could increase to 1 million or more within two to five years.

I think that kits (hardware parts and 3D print files) for such a levelling device would be welcomed now.

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