Semi-Automatic Bed Leveling Your 3D Printer

Two of the most important prerequisites for successful 3D printing is making sure the bed is level and correctly setting the Z=0 height. Getting both of these right almost guarantees great adhesion since the first print layer is not only at the right distance from the build platform but also at a consistent distance for the entire bottom surface of the part.

Manual bed leveling is tedious, requiring the user to move the print nozzle to different points around the build platform, adjust some screws and make sure the nozzle is a piece-of-paper’s thickness higher than the platform. If you want to get complicated, there is an automatic option that probes the build platform and makes height corrections in the software. The probes come in several flavors, two common methods being a deployed mechanical switch (usually mounted to a servo) or force sensors under the build platform that sense when the nozzle touches the build platform. This method also requires some fancy firmware finesse to get working correctly.

[Jonas] posted a video showing the semi-automatic bed leveling capability of his printer. The build platform is held a bit high by springs that surround each of the 3 screws that support the bed assembly. The nozzle is moved directly over one of the 3 screws and then moved down until it noticeably presses on the build platform, compressing the support spring. A thumb wheel is then tightened at that location, locking the bed in place. The same process is performed for the other 2 support points. The result is a perfectly level build surface. Check the video out after the break to see just how quick this procedure is!

We’ve seen a somewhat similar concept that uses a clever gimbal and lock system under the bed.

22 thoughts on “Semi-Automatic Bed Leveling Your 3D Printer

    1. My guess is that either:
      A. You don’t own a 3d printer
      B. You have nema 23s on your z, your smooth rods are 1 inch thick, your printer contains no plastic parts and is kept in a temperature controlled room to prevent differential thermal expansion
      C. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      Bed levelling is part of owning a 3d printer, from commercial fdm to reprap. If you think your bed is permanently level then you are just wrong.

      1. Yea. You’ll think twice about moving your 3D printer once you realize you’ll have to re-level it again. Well, I’m speaking on *my* 3D printer – a Prusa i3 – that is prone to flexing when moved.

        1. I also own the Prusa i3 wood and have installed auto bed leveling using a servo controlled probe. It’s simple yet effective. The software will figure out the angle of the bed by probing 9 times before every print. It’s fully automatic too so it can print well even if you move the printer :)
          I’ve fixed the build plate and heated bed to the wooden carriage without springs. It’s very solid and without any play in it. I’ve leveled it as best I could using washers and the auto bed leveling does the rest.

        1. Even a $100,000 CNC mill, made all out of cast iron and high-tensile steel, needs to be checked for level and alignment on a regular basis. This is the reality of machinery. You can massively overdesign your machine and increase the maintenance intervals to a very large number (but never eliminate them!), or you can design the machine appropriately for the use case and also conduct appropriate maintenance.

          No one would say that a jet airliner has “poor build quality”, but they still need a minimum of one hour of maintenance for every 5 hours of flight. For high-performance fighter jets it can be 10+ hours of maintenance for an hour in the air.

          1. you are comparing a mansion to cardboard box, most 3d printers makes LEGO look like heavy duty industrial equipment which would be ok if it was $100 toy but it’s not.

          2. Fonz, his comparison perfectly dismantled your previous comment…. so you seem to have shifted gears to the “poor value for money” argument. That’s entirely relative to the owner’s expectations. Addressing your second point, some 3D printers are very flimsy, but the way to compensate is to slow the print way down to keep it from flexing and shaking. Have you designed a 3D printer? Have you used one? Or are your comments based on failures you’ve seen?

        2. I’d like to echo macw’s comments… I’m a mechanical engineer, and years ago I worked for a sugar refinery. We melted 4 million pounds of raw sugar a day and packaged the refined product. The high speed packaging machines were made by Bosch and they were amazing. The problem was that the people running them never cleaned them or maintained them. Failures followed. When they brought out the technician from Bosch, he was nearly in tears… he’d never seen machines so poorly maintained (by idiots who would think that if you buy a Ferrari you shouldn’t have to change the oil). Nearly every mechanical component needed to be replaced, because wear and tear increases as the machines get further and further out of whack.

          The first time I saw a 3D printer was in the late 90’s. It was a Stratasys being used in an R&D department. It was also a verrrry fiddly sumbitch. The guys operating it were patient and intelligent, and they were able to not just coax prints out of it, but they were able to produce LARGE high quality prints that went to the foundry for casting in steel and eventual machining and installation in mechanical prototypes. They realized the importance of maintenance and adjustment of a high quality machine to produce high quality results.

          Since then, I’ve worked on projects to design commercial grade 3D printers, bought a couple of hobby units, and have seen that although there are shortcuts and easy ways of maintaining and adjusting your printers, its something you HAVE to stay on top of, or you WILL have failures.

    2. I use this printer at work, this is vital to its operation and given is uses a PEI bed to get excellent bed adhesion with ABS(but making induction based auto bed leveling harder to implement), I would suggest you don’t know what you are on about. This also allows me to use other surfaces such as glass without having to change epprom or firmware settings, just need to do a quick bed leveling.

    3. Build it “right” and it will cost in excess of $10,000, require reinforcements to your home’s foundation in the area you want to place it, and a forklift should you ever want to move it.

  1. His name is Jonas.
    He’s carrying the wheel.

    Thanks for all you’ve shown us
    But this is how we feel.

    Come sit next to me.
    Pour yourself some tea.
    Just like grandma made
    When we couldn’t find sleep.

    Things were better then
    Once but never again.
    We’ve all left the den
    Let me tell you ’bout it.

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