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Ever since the Creality Ender 3 and the Ender 3 Pro first appeared on the world 3D printing scene, they have taken the market by storm. This has a lot to do with the fact that they offer awesome value for money.
It would not be wrong to assert that the Ender 3 family is not just budget-friendly but also packed with value-added features, which are only available with 3D printers worth a whole lot more.
Albeit, having said that, there is one issue that the Ender 3 has; the lack of an auto-leveling feature on the stock 3D printer as it is shipped from the factory.
It is certainly true that there are plenty of off the shelf auto-leveling options available on Amazon that can solve the whole problem.
However, they still can’t take the place of learning the art and science of manual bed leveling. For the true purist, there is nothing like manually adjusting the machine until it performs to their exacting specifications.
For this purpose, it is absolutely essential to search for, and learn how to manually level the bed of your Ender 3 or Ender 3 Pro. Let us see how you can go about doing precisely that in the least amount of time, to get the best results from your printer:
Ender 3 Bed Leveling: Why is leveling important?
The term “bed leveling” might be considered to be a misnomer. This is because you are not leveling the bed with the surface. But rather placing it in such a matter that the tip will always hover at the same, perfectly correct distance all over the surface of the enter build area; for the time required to print an object.
This is very important since the first layer in your 3D build is the primary support for the whole of the print. If you really want to achieve a rock-solid base, the bed of your printer must be properly oriented. This will provide both the right amount of adhesion as well as the delivery of the printing material.
Getting the Build Plate and Nozzle Ready for the Procedure
Before starting the leveling procedure you should prep up the machine beforehand. This is what you should do:
- First and foremost, you have to make sure that everything is clean and free from dust and grime or packing grease. It is a good idea to remove the build plate on the Ender 3 to clean it properly.
- You should methodically clean and remove anything sticking to the surface of the plate. If necessary, you should use a dull edge spatula to break and scrape off any loose material.
- Now wash the plate with lukewarm, soapy water. After that, you should dry it with a clean cloth. You have to be extra careful to ensure that no lint or clothe particles remain.
- Now you should proceed to reattach the plate to its heated bed. You should very carefully check to make sure that the whole of the build plate is completely flat and that there are no ripples or high spots whatsoever.
- Next, you have to ensure that the nozzle tip is totally clean and completely free of any foreign material. Remove any excess plastic protruding from the nozzle’s tip. You can do the needful by heating the nozzle and gently wipe off its tip with a soft flannel cloth. Be very careful when doing this since the tip will be very hot. It is a good idea to always wear gloves when tinkering with heated appliances.
Starting the Bed Leveling Process
In order to prepare for leveling the bed, you will have to position the nozzle and the bed until they are in their ideal positions. The Ender 3 has very user-friendly controls that can help you along.
- You will have to turn on the printer and press the control button. Then you should scroll down to the PREPARE options menu.
- After that, you have to scroll further down to the AUTO HOME icon and press the button. The hot end will move of its own accord to the left front side of the unit’s bed and stop there.
- Once again you should go back to the PREPARE menu.
- Scroll over to the DISABLE STEPPERS option and click the control. Doing this will make it easier to move the machine’s bed back and forth until it reaches its desired position.
- Next, you will have to individually rotate each and every one of the four leveling wheels in a counter-clockwise direction in order to slowly lower the bed. As a general rule, even one or two turns each, would be deemed sufficient for this task. The main purpose of the exercise is to basically make sure that the machine’s bed is lower than the tip of the nozzle.
Leveling the Bed
The bed leveling process does not require any complex tool except for a piece of printer paper. If you have one around, you are good to go.
- You should consider moving the nozzle so that is well-positioned on the upper left corner of the unit’s bed. As a general rule, around half an inch or so, from both sides is usually recommended to be a good location.
- You should start by sliding the paper in between the nozzle of the machine and the bed. It won’t fit initially, so you should drop the corner little by little until it does.
- Once you can see that the paper slides without any hindrance under the nozzle, you should raise the corner very slowly, with the help of the adjuster.
- It is important to remember that clockwise movements move the bed upwards. As you continue to do this, gently slide the piece of paper back and forth over the bed. Stop turning the knob of the adjuster the moment you feel the slightest resistance to the movement of the paper. That corner is successfully leveled.
- Now repeat the exercise for all the other corners of the Ender 3’s build plate. Here, it is important to advance the hot end to the new corner very slowly. This is the best way to prevent any damage to the build plate of the machine, should the hot nozzle tip start to drag on the plate.
- You may use the available thumbwheels for the task. It is very important to remember that the paper must have very gentle contact with the tip of the nozzle. Ergo, it should slide but not very easily. Once you have adjusted the corners on an individual basis, you should go back once again and thoroughly check all four corners once again. A bit of further adjustments might be required to get all four of them on the same plane.
When Should You Level Your Printer’s Bed Again?
As a general rule, many experts think that it is necessary to level the printer bed again, after every 8 or 10 prints. However, if you do it often enough, you will learn to do it in less time than before.
Apart from that, if you change the temperature of the bed or for that matter, even if you move the hot end in any way, you might want to consider leveling the bed all over again.
The calibration of the bed is a very delicate operation and if you move the printer around, or if you accidentally bump the bed, you might have to level it all over again.
An uneven bed can easily lead to under-extrusion or over-extrusion problems. In either of these issues, the nozzle will either print too low or too high.
This means that the 3D object being printed will be very uneven and there would be more or less material on the build, depending on the position of the nozzle, the extruder, and the object being printed. In order to get the perfect print, you will have to adjust the bed level until the right amount of filament will come out of the tip.
Now that your printer bed is perfectly leveled, you can start printing. Good luck.