Is this the future of 3D Printer Bed Levelling?

3 Mins read
Beacon Surface Scanner for 3D printer bed levelling
Beacon Surface Scanner for 3D printer bed levelling/Source: Beacon3D

As an avid desktop 3D printer user, I am always looking for new ways to improve the quality of 3D prints. A good first layer is one of the most important factors in achieving a successful print. Mesh bed levelling is a common technique among modern 3D printers, but I recently discovered, probably, the future of 3D printer bed levelling.

The new Beacon Surface Scanner takes bed levelling to the next level and will possibly eliminate the tedious process of levelling the bed. I think this might be a game-changer and we must keep an eye out for this one and see how it performs in real world and in the hands of actual end-users.

I’ll explain why this sensor shows promise and how it solves a crucial hurdle using an upgraded approach to look at bed levelling.

3D Printer Bed Levelling Woes, might be history!

Every 3D printer user is well aware and can attest to the fact that the first layer is the most crucial layer of any and every print. The quality of the first layer often determines the success or failure of the entire print. It’s imperative to have a flat and level bed to achieve a perfect first layer. For this, you have to level the bed first every time you start a print. So, you either manually level the bed of use automatic systems that do the levelling for you.

Typically, mesh bed levelling probes will collect data from five points on the bed, sometimes sixteen points or more in some cases, to offset the unevenness of the bed with the printhead while printing. A mesh levelling technique basically creates a virtual mesh of the bed which the firmware understands. The firmware then uses this mesh to compensate for the tilt in the bed surface and adjusts the Z-offset while printing a layer.

The newly launched, Beacon Surface Scanner claims to scan a mind-boggling 10,000 points on the print bed to, obviously, deliver a supremely accurate and reliable assessment of the bed topography. Using this topography or a height map, the printer is then able to print a great first layer.

It is a given that a 25-point probe does a better job than a 5-point probe in determining the ups and downs of a bed. So, the huge number of additional data points, about 10,000 to be exact, will cover the entire bed and will help in determining the bed’s true flatness.. And the distance between two probed points will be minuscule and thus will not have an impact on the first layer.

So, if this system of 10000 points is to be the norm, then it would be safe to assume that 3D printer bed levelling woes may be a thing of the past. I know, even the thought of it will make you smile from ear to ear.

Beacon Surface Scanner

Mesh of the print bed with beacon surface scanner
Mesh of the print bed with beacon surface scanner/Source: Beacon3D

Beacon3D, a provider of precision 3D printing equipment, has now released the world’s first 3D printer surface scanner for a sub-micron bed mesh in seconds. Beacon3D calls it as an eddy current surface scanner and it goes by the name “Beacon Surface Scanner”. This scanner is said to collect data from 10,000 points on the print bed to create a high-resolution height map of the bed, allowing the printer to accurately compensate for variations. The scanner moves at a rapid pace of upto 500mm/s for rapid mesh construction.

It does not track individual points, but rather the entire area of the bed. While traditional probes take a long time to collect data for a few points, the beacon scanner emits a magnetic field and detects the magnetic eddies that form as a result. The eddies will differ depending on the distance between the nozzle and the bed, which is useful in creating the height map of the bed (that looks like a heat map).

The Beacon Surface Scanner costs $79.99, which is certainly a premium price, but when the benefits are considered, it appears reasonable. Consider how much material you’ll save by eliminating first layer failures, not to mention the time you’ll save. An additional contingency for this scanner is that it wants the printer to run on Klipper firmware as it requires you to install the Klipper beacon module.

In conclusion, I believe the Beacon Surface Scanner is a game changer (I have not tested it but only commenting based on the company’s introductory video and the technique it uses), and while it is still relatively new with few actual users, the fact that it scans 10,000 points is reason enough to try it out. It certainly seems to be a scanner that will quickly become the default bed levelling tool in the majority of premium 3D printers.

Under the Radar: Through this new “Under the Radar” series, we embark on a journey to uncover the often overlooked, underreported and less obvious trends, patterns, and signs within the additive manufacturing (AM) industry, to provide you with a fresh perspective, that can reshape the AM landscape. This commentary will present the views of the author and will be his/her own perspective and may not always represent the collective views of the industry.

In our Opinion section, Manufactur3D shares thought, opinions and insights from additive manufacturing industry leaders from across the globe. The thoughts published under this series are the authors own thoughts and they may or may not be endorsed by Manufactur3D. To publish your thought leadership articles in our opinion section, mail us your article along with your credentials.

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About author
Abhimanyu Chavan is the founder of Manufactur3D Magazine. He writes on Additive Manufacturing technology, interviews industry leaders, shares industry insights, and expresses his thoughts on the latest developments in the industry. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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