3D printers have come a long way over the past several years, but the process of bed leveling remains a pain point. Let’s take a look at the different ways the problem has been tackled, and whether recent developments have succeeded in automating away the hassle.
Bed leveling and first layer calibration tends to trip up novices because getting it right requires experience and judgment calls, and getting it wrong means failed prints. These are things 3D printer operators learn to handle with time and experience, but they are still largely manual processes that are often discussed in ways that sound more like an art than anything else. Little wonder that there have been plenty of attempts to simplify the whole process.
Some consumer 3D printers are taking a new approach to bed leveling and first layer calibration, and one of those printers is the Anycubic Vyper, which offers a one-touch solution for novices and experienced users alike. We accepted Anycubic’s offer of a sample printer specifically to examine this new leveling approach, so let’s take a look at the latest in trying to automate away the sometimes stubborn task of 3D printer bed leveling.
In 3D printing, we often talk about leveling the print bed, although that’s not an accurate term. A bed that is level in our terms presents a flat surface that is parallel to the path of the print head, but within reason we care little about that. Instead we care more about it being parallel to the path of the head than it being perfectly flat. If we had a perfectly flat bed — say a sheet of glass — you’d think it might be pretty easy, but for some other materials it could be convex or concave or even have ripples all over the place. [Teaching Tech] shows you how to manually “level” the bed using a mesh but without using an automatic sensor. You can see the technique in the video below.
When you use adjustments to level the bed, you are tramming it, but only the very pedantic use that term for fine adjustment. But no amount of adjusting bed springs will get rid of bulges and ripples. A common solution is to use a sensor to measure the distance to the bed and form a mesh correction. Then, as the printer head moves in the XY plane, the software will adjust the Z-axis to rise over bumps and go down if there is a concave portion of the bed. What [Teaching Tech] is doing, however, is a manual mapping. You won’t need to add a sensor to your printer to take advantage of the method.