Snap-on Dial Indicator Holder for Replicator 2

by whpthomas, published

Snap-on Dial Indicator Holder for Replicator 2 by whpthomas Jan 9, 2013
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Yes this is another Dial Indicator Holder, but this one is different! I tried one of the others, and found the whole approach rather silly - why sit the indicator holder on the gantry rails when you can clip it onto the extruder and use the jog controls in ReplicatorG to position it?

With this clip-on dial indicator holder you will get repeatable results, because you are relying on the extruder rail bushes to position the dial indicator over the levelling screws on the build plate.

UPDATE (13 Feb 2013)
There are two new STEP files which can be imported into other CAD programs. The first can be customised with your own hole size to suit different types of indicators. The other is a blank holder that can be used to design your own attachments.

There is also a new script that automates the process so you don't even have to use ReplicatorG any more to control the process. The gcode has been exported as an x3g file - ready to download to your printer's SD card.

Version 2 of my Clip-on Indicator Holder is compatible with my Replicator 2 Extruder Upgrade http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:42250

This indicator holder was designed using an ACIS solid in Shark FX (sfx file included) so will behave well with Makerware, ReplicatorG and skeinforge.

Because a few of you have asked - Paypal donations graciously accepted - whpthomas at yahoo dot com


I purchased a cheap dial indicator from Hong Kong for $10 on eBay - which is plenty good enough for the tolerances we are dealing with.


I used my 200 micron ReplicatorG profile http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:39050

Infill 30%
Layer Height 0.2mm
Number of shells 2

Once you have finished the print, push the dial indicator into the mounting hole. My indicator's mounting shaft pokes out about 2mm from the bottom.


First time, run your usual bed levelling procedure. For best results, use a 0.1 mm feeler gauge, or the support card if that is all you have, then run my interactive build platform levelling aid http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:39430 to make sure the nozzle offset is just right. This procedure takes a bit of extra time and wastes some filament, but once you have the base layer printing evenly, you can use this nozzle offset to calibrate the dial indicator, so any time in future if you want to re-level your build platform all you need is your clip-on dial indicator to get the same result.


Download the x3g automatic script file and install it on your printer's SD card. DO NOT clip on the holder onto extruder before running the script! Select Build From SD on the printer's menu and run the levelling script. The script will home, then centre and ask you to clip-on dial indicator holder. It will then position over each successive thumbscrew prompting you to make adjustments, and then over the centre. The dial indicator is positioned 0.2mm off the build surface to make sure it clears any residue left on the tip of the nozzle. Finally the script lowers the build plate and asks you to unclip the dial indicator holder - Make sure you do!

I recommend you keep this script on an SD card with all your levelling and calibration objects.


Open ReplicatorG and select Machine->Control Panel from the menu, and set the Jog Mode to 20mm.

Note: If at any time your Replicator 2 starts acting strange, like is has a mind of its own - like you try to drop the z axis and it just keeps going with other axes firing up - Don't Panic - hit the STOP button in the control panel. Exit the control panel, and click Reset, Disconnect and then Connect. This should clear out any gremlins. Not sure why it happens but it does every now and then.

Then do the following:

1) Home all axes (from the menu).

2) Using the jog buttons in the control panel dialog, drop the Z axis and move the extruder along the x axis so its roughly in the middle.

3) Clip on the dial indicator holder by aligning it on the bottom edge and pivoting the top over so the tab clips it into place (see photo). The edge of the tab should rub up against the filament feed tube.

4) Now using the jog buttons in the control panel dialog, position extruder on the x and y axis so the dial indicator is above the rear levelling screw. Then move the Z axis back up until it hits the end stop switch.

5) If this is your first time doing this, zero your indicator - or adjust how far into the holder the indicator is inserted so the zero position is where you want it. On my indicator, I wanted the zero to be at the top, so I adjusted the indicator by wiggling it back and forth while supporting the holder it with my other hand to adjust how far it was inserted. I did this until the needle lined up to the zero marker.

Once you have already done this, you can ignore this step - but leave your indicator alone, so next time you want to level your build plate, your dial indicator holder will be ready to go. This works because this snap-on holder registers against the bottom of the extruder where it clips on, enabling repeatable results. If you need your indicator for other projects, maybe its time to spring for a cheap second one on ebay. I like the mechanical ones better because they provide repeatability, responsive feedback, and the batteries never run out.

6) Use the jog buttons to move the extruder and position the dial indicator over each of the remaining level screws and adjust them to move the build plate up or down until the indicator needle is on zero.

7) Move the nozzle back to the centre and double check the nozzle distance with your feeler gauge.

8) Drop the z axis and unclip the dial indicator holder at the top by lifting the tab and pivoting away to remove.

All up, this procedure takes just a few minutes to level the Replicator 2 build platform, and the results appear to be accurate and repeatable.


Don't run the levelling procedure or home the extruder with the indicator attached, or you will crash your indicator into the side of the gantry. So make sure you remember to unclip and remove it when you are done ;)

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First of all - really appreciate all your efforts.

Has anyone seen a version of this that works with the original Makerbot Replicator 2X? It has the feed plunger on the top. (ordered the parts for the upgraded extruder feed mod - not sure when it will arrive).

Hi! Just want to say that we have a dial indicator in our web-shop that perhaps can interest some of you guys. :)

What dial indicator is this? Thanks in advance

I purchased the AccuRemote on Amazon.com!

Hello! I was inspired by your snap on dial indicator so I decided to create my own (not that I don't like your design, I am teaching myself 3D modelling). I have noted a major problem when I use my dial bed leveller, when the pointy end of the dial indicator touches the bed, it actually deflects the build plate down a little bit, maybe a millimetre or so. If I try to level the build plate on the extreme left, the extreme right seesaws up, and vice versa. I guess you can see the problem here, I can't accurately level my build plate with the dial indicator because I am never going to be sure I have the proper distance. Did you encounter this issue? If you did, how did you correct it?

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Either your build plate is a bit floppy - see: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:43050http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... or the sprint in your dial indicator is too stiff - which is unlikely.

Rock-solid build plate pad upgrade for Replicator 2

I checked the movement of my build plate. It is actually the entire Z arm that moves ever so slightly. I'm talking about really small movements, but enough to make the bed move. I actually bought a second dial indicator just to see if it was the spring in my dial indicator. It turned out the new one deflected the bed even more. I purchased bottlework's aluminium Z arm upgrade, I hope that's going to make my build plate stiffer. Really looking forward to it. Oh, by the way, I'm in Queensland too. Sooooo hoooooot.

The bottleworks aluminium arms will definitely resolve deflection issues. I just purchased a cheep dial indicator on ebay, which has a pretty soft touch.

Yeah, that was my original dial indicator, cheap ebay indicator. I bought a more expensive digital indicator and it turned out the have a stiffer spring.


First of all: thanks for this brilliant idea and all the files! :)

I have a beginners issue though.

When I download the stl file of the Holder_V2 and print it via Makerware I can't get the size right. By looking at the model I see that the hole for the indicator is 8 mm which would be perfect for mine, but my print is only like 7.8 mm. Also the entire piece snaps very tight and I have a hard time getting it off, and thus I assume that the entire piece gets printed slightly smaller than it should.

How do I solve this problem? I understand that I can re-scale the model a little, but since it works for everyone else there must be something I'm doing wrong?

Hi again,

I scaled the indicator holder up, so that my indicator fits perfectly in the hole, but now the thing is too big and just hangs loosely unfortunately.

Would be very glad for some input! Is it necessary to re-scale only parts of the model for making it fit?

So happy i found your video and the link to this, my frustration levels had been increasing for awhile. Figured if the machine says it prints at 100 microns it should do just that. The build plate seems such a weak link on my Replicator 2. Have to admit, I am an electronic engineer by trade, i envision three worm drive leveling motors, and a conductive build plate attached to a limit switch. Do a home procedure, back off the leveling motors a pre-defined amount. Move Z to the first leveling point after the home, down -0.01 mm and have the leveling motor below move the tray up until it touches. Now when Z is at zero you have the gap needed. Hell that way its all in the homing script. Just me, i suppose Makerbot would have already thought of that. A bonus, is the ability to auto level, if i decide to hack the thing to isolation route circuit boards. Using a piece of paper as suggest, always seemed the "for dummies" suggestion that created more frustration then explaining to people how to use a dial or feeler gauge.

Im finding my results with this are never consistent.
I have glued my gauge in to prevent any movement at all.
From my experiments, it seems that the whole extrudeassembly has so much flex in it, that depending on where it is sitting, the dial reads quite a lot differently. All the screws are tight. It looks like there is a little flex in the plastic that holds the bearings, the rods have a little flex, and the bearings have a little 'slop'. It's all pretty small, but throws the gauge way out for levelling purposes.
Does your Rep2 have this movement? If so, what technique do you use to get the dial to read consistently?

Where can I buy the gauge?

Do you have a link to the model you use? Or a reference?

What is the leveling script .x3g?

You stick it on your SD card and run it form your printer, and it automates the levelling process - see the heading "Automatic levelling" under the instructions.

Works great. I'm a measuring fool now :) Sent you a little Paypal Love. thanks for everything your doing here!!!

Thanks man, saw that in my inbox this morning - time to buy some new roll of filament I thing =)

Hi whpthomas, thank you for the customizable model. I was able to print it out successfully for my dial indicator. Also, your detailed instructions helped me greatly. I just did a revision 3 print of my robot part and I've never seen the first layer printed out so nice, the first layer of filament was very evenly distributed across the print bed, and the extruded plastic was of a "squashed" shape, so I now have very high confidence in my print...

Thank you so much...

What's the reason for recommending Feedrate 40 mm/s and Travel Feedrate 80 mm/s? These are about half of the default. What does the slower feedrate do?

No idea - I think it must have been a typo - I normally print at 80/150 for high quality prints.

I'm probably just being blind (it is 3pm on a Friday, after all), but I can't find the STEP file for the customizable version. I see step files for the extruder upgrade, but not for the indicator holder. Did I miss it?

My bad - I uploaded the wrong zip archive - all fixed now.

Hi there i am in happy expectation of my rep2x and already collect upgrades.. i definitely want to level right... but i Might have to adapt it to the rep2x. the step filles here are the same like the mk8 upgrade. could you poste the clip steps plz.
THX from Germany

Can you give me the McMaster-Carr part number for the dial indicator?

Also, to prevent this from crashing into the side if it was accidentally homed, you could add something that would contact the home switch.

Dooh - should have thought of that - that is an easy fix.

Will this dial indicator from McMaster work- 20715A74

I'm having a minor issue. I'm a complete newb. I've been following you here and in the google groups. First of all thank you for all your efforts in making the MakerBot better! I've used a few of your enhancements and they have made using the Rep2 immensely easier.

I have a harbor freight digital gauge and wanted to use your snap on dial indicator, however the hole that the gauge sits in is just a tad too small. The diameter of the harbor freight gauge is 9.5mm, while the hole on your holder v2 is 7.5-8mm. Would it possible for you to enlarge the hole to 9mm? I have no software to modify sfx files.

Would you mind modifying the object or saving it in a format that I can modify in Sketchup or Blender? Thank you so much!

I have posted a customisable STEP file which can take any hole up to about 12mm - if you need any other format let me know.

Shall do!

You rock! Thank you so much.

how much tolerance is acceptable for the building plate in your opinion? i am experiencing that, when setting the same level above each of the three screws, in the middle of the plate the distance plate to extruder is somewhat 50-100 microns less than above the screws.

i just printed one. perfectly designed for printing without supports. are you actually using the piece in conjunction with the levelling tool on your replicator or are you just moving the extruder manually?

Its all covered in the instructions above - click on 'read more' to see it.

Thanks. I somehow missed that.

Very clever. Now to adapt it to fit on a Replicator 1. :-)

Done. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:43453http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... . I started with a clip that fit the Replicator, then added a way to mount the gauge to it.

The gauge has a mounting lug (hoop) on the back. I made a bracket for the mounting lug, because (IMO) it makes more sense to mount using the mounting lug than to press the shaft.

On the Replicator 1, the Sailfish firmware has a really nice 'leveling' script. It brings the print bed up, then releases the X and Y stepper motors so you can slide the carriage around freely, which makes leveling a piece of cake. I think they're working on Sailfish for the Replicator 2.

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration.

Laird's Clip-On Tramming Gauge for Replicator
by laird

Is there any chance you could make a clip on to the bottom of this so that you can calibrate the gauge?
I see this solving 2 problems - a) if you bump/drop etc the gauge, all your hard work setting it needs to be redone
b) saves me buying another gauge :)
You could make a little flat spot to write the correct measurement for your gauge too

Would be happy to oblige, but could you please provide a bit more detail / better description of what your after as I am having trouble visualising from your description. The impression I am getting is that you want something like a ruler tab sticking out the bottom that you can so yo can mark with a pen how far in your indicator needs to be inserted. Given that we are talking about 0.01mm accuracy on the dial indicator, I do not think you could re-insert the indicator to the same place by eye and get repeatable results.

If on the other hand you want a physical stop - I don't think this will work because there will be differences between indicator shaft lengths from different manufacturers. I guess I figured that $10 on ebay was not a huge expense so spring for a dedicated indicator for this purpose.

Finally, I have been using mine for a several weeks now - it just sits on the shelf in the holder - and has been clipped on and off my Replicator many times and hasn't budged one bit.

Yes, a physical stop.
You would set it up as per your instructions, THEN you would click on the stop, and measure the exact reading on your own individual dial indicator.
At a later date, you can snap on the stop and set your dial indicator to that same distance, which means that its in the same spot as it was last time you used it.

Does this make sense?

Am I correct in thinking that you MUST NOT TOUCH the position of your dial indicator in the holder once you have set it the first time? If you want to do it again in a weeks time, and get the same position, the dial meter must be in an identical position?

Yes I have updated the description to make that point clearer - its supposed to be a set and forget arrangement - once you have your dial indicator installed and the zero position set for a level build plate, you should be able to snap it in again and get the same result next time.

Thats a great update to the description. Works perfectly!