- It is best to calibrate a 3D printer when you notice imperfections in your print’s first layer.
- X, Y, and Z calibrations of the nozzle are automatically done when printing begins.
- Main things that should cause you to consider calibrations are changing the filament, using a new filament brand, using a new filament color, using a new filament spool, and imperfections in the first layer.
- When you experience under-extrusion after changing the type of filament, turn up the temperature by some degrees or turn the extrusion multiplier up by some percentage points.
- If you realize that the prints you are getting are not as good as when the nozzle was new, replace the extruder.
- Leveling the 3D print bed should be done at least once every six months or when imperfections are present in your test print or on the first layer of your print.
As a beginner 3D printing enthusiast 5 years ago, I had to figure out how often I needed to calibrate my 3D printer. It was a daunting task, but fortunately, there were plenty of helpful articles and videos on the subject.
I started by calibrating the X, Y, and Z axes of the nozzle, which are automatically done when printing begins. However, if I changed the filament, used a new filament brand, or used a new filament color, I needed to recalibrate the printer.
I also calibrated the printer whenever I noticed imperfections in my print’s first layer or when my printer was moved or bumped.
Thankfully, it wasn’t difficult to calibrate my 3D printer and the results were worth the effort.
So, what do you need to do?
If you have had your 3D printer for quite some time now, you will surely have leveled its bed and played along with its slicer settings. However, to go the extra mile with your printer, you must know when and how to go around its settings.
You must learn how to get into its G-code and tweak it to your desired mode of movement of the motors. It would help if you only calibrated your 3D printer when you spot issues with the first print’s layer, but mostly it is after 2 or 3 months.
Every filament used in printing has a unique temperature at which the printer should be set when using them. They vary in color and brand since they are mostly made from different materials.
When you want to change the type of filament, a good test will involve having a test print that you can observe closely to see the quality of printing it is making.
How often to calibrate a 3D printer
Generally, it is best to make calibrations when you notice imperfections in your print’s first layer. This is a good strategy since you can note the flaws before you waste your filaments. As for the X, Y, and Z calibrations of the nozzle. They are automatically done when printing begins. Thus no need to look into it.
The main things that should cause you to consider calibrations are as outlined below:
- Changing the filament, in which case you should calibrate the speed and bridging settings.
- Using a new filament brand should cause you to calibrate the speed, temperature, and retraction.
- Using a new filament color, in which case you should calibrate the speed color and temperature.
- Using a new filament spool, which is a call to calibrate temperature and flow rate.
- Imperfections in the first layer, which will require calibration of either the speed, temperature, bridging, flow rate, retraction, and leveling of the bed.
- Using a new extruder nozzle, which mostly requires calibration of temperature, speed, bed leveling, and retraction.
As a general rule, failure to change settings after changing the filament’s type, color, or brand will lead to imperfections in your prints.
When you experience under-extrusion after changing the type of filament, the most probable cause is low temperature, in which case turning up the temperature by some degrees will bring you clarity.
When doing that does not lead to extrusion as expected, turning the extrusion multiplier up by some percentage points might be helpful. It is usually important that you change the flow rate and temperature for every filament type before it can print free of imperfections.
Using a new extruder nozzle or filament
The different types of extruders are usually made of brass, a very soft metal that slightly wears off when the filament moves through it.
When you realize that the prints you are getting are not as good as when the nozzle was new, which is mostly after three months to one year, you should replace the extruder.
This replacement is quite sensitive, which calls for caution not to damage any of the connected parts. Since the new nozzle will have slightly different dimensions, performing a test print before a serious task is vital.
Since a filament roll will last for some time depending on the amount of printing you are doing, it is not mandatory to calibrate the printer if you use the same filament type and if you might have some spools of the same type and brand.
It is, however normal that you will use different colors and types of filaments as experiments, which means that the art of changing will almost always involve an adjustment of your 3D printer, which is accompanied by calibration for the printing to proceed seamlessly.
Leveling the 3D print bed
If the filament runs in one direction, it might cause a print to fail. To prevent this, the 3D print bed is supposed to be perfectly level. Leveling is easy, but the main problem lies in how often that needs to be done.
It is helpful to look at it at least once every six months or when imperfections are present in your test print or on the first layer of your print. It would help if you also did so when your printer is moved or bumped.