Calibrating a 3d printer

· seth's blog

I like many new hobbyists in the 3D printing space, I acquired a Creality Ender 3 for cheap as my first printer. It is kind of a pain to setup, but it does teach you ALOT about how 3D printers work, and all of the nuances to watch out for.

Things like temperature, bed adhesion/calibration, and material type all come into play.

# What settings do I usually run?

Temperature

I will usually do 220C for the nozzle with 60C for the bed. I am using the stock magnetic assembly (since I got an "Pro" model). The adhesion works pretty well. I did buy a metal plate to replace the stock material, but it didn't really do as well. Your mileage may vary.

Bed calibration

There is a piece of paper that is kind sorta like construction paper that I use for calibration. The steps to do this include:

  1. Moving the piece of paper between the bed and the nozzle toward the bottom left of the bed.
  2. Moving the paper around to see how much it "catches" on the nozzle.
  3. If I don't feel any resistance from the paper catching on the nozzle, I will raise the bed in that spot until I do.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 for all spots on the bed.

Conventional wisdom (read: Reddit) says that you should be doing this after EVERY print. That hasn't been my experience (at least since I upgraded the springs, more on that later), I think it's whenever the ambient temperature changes in the room the printer is in, that you will have to do that. For example: during the summer, my adjustments all stayed correct for all of my prints. But come winter time, I have had to make some adjustments to make sure it is printing properly.

# Experiences with the Creality Ender 3 (Pro)

Once the bed is calibrated and you find a filament that you like (and that your printer likes), it can be an enjoyable hobby. What they don't tell you for this specific printer however, is all of the enhancements you will need to add.

Some things I've had to do in order to improve my experience:

What this means though, is that a "cheap" 3D printer ends up being a little bit more money. I thought I had all of the parts and things I needed to get started on prints, which I guess is technically true. But every print turns into a test of patience as you will likely have to account for the nuances of your particular machine. My modifications are actually pretty modest too.

There are many more mods that you can do. But honestly, I think what I have is enough for the frequency that I print anyways.

# What I've learned

However, I think if I were to do it over again...I would either find a library that has a maker space to make my meager prints, or I would find a friend with a printer already. Barring that, I would maybe opt for an online print service instead of buying and maintaining my own printer. I think the optimum strategy is probably finding a maker space that would let you do rapid prototyping, and then buying your print from a service if you want some sort of exotic material.

3D printing is an expensive hobby. There is a cost of filament that people don't account for, the cost of electricity, and really your time to get everything just the way that you want. I think this is definitely a case of "you get what you pay for", and I could see a case to be made for buying a Prusa Mk 3 instead. from what I know, those are more turnkey solutions that don't require as much prepwork to get a decent print right away. If I felt really compelled to have a printer available at all times anymore, I'd probably go that route.