Calibrate your 3D printer to print parts to fit

by whitemousegary Feb 26, 2013
Download All Files

Thing Apps Enabled

Please Login to Comment

I was unable to find a printable STL for my thin wall test, per your guide, so I made a customizer version. Unfortunately customizer is broken, so I've also uploaded several thicknesses as STLs as well. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2797478

Rounded wall for calibration - Parametric

i know in matter control the width can be set by the program so when i print the square. i get a width of .2 mm which is what the width is set to on my specs.

What is the calculation for xyzsteps? it's like 20/measured value * current motor steps?

Step per mm for X axis and Y axis should be set to their theoretical values initially. For most FDM 3D on the market, the usual setup would be 200 steps per revolution steppers , stepper drivers with 16 micro stepping and GT2 timing belt with 20 teeth gear. Putting all this information together, you would have ...
STEP_PER_MM = ( total number of steps per revolution ) / ( length per revolution )
= ( 200 x 16 ) / ( 2 x 20 )
= 80 (steps/mm)

Depending on the quality of your hardware installation and the tension of your timing belt, the actual step per mm will deviate from the theoretical value considerably. That's why some users would find that they couldn't even print a square right ( when the actual X step per mm and Y step per mm are not the same).

In this case, you can print a 20 mm square box, and adjust the step per mm values for X and Y axis accordingly, i.e.
new value = 20/measured value * current motor steps

However, this adjustment accounted also for the shrinkage of your materials (besides the quality of your hardware installation and the tension of your timing belt). So, when you switched your materials (say from PLA to ABS), you would, more than likely, need to scale X and Y axis to get the dimension right.

For Z axis, it wouldn't be affected by the material shrinkage in the way X and Y axis do. So, no material-wise adjustment is required. By the way, the theoretical value works just fine already in most cases.

( ^^", I'm not quite sure what you are asking. If you were actually saying that there are something wrong in my article, please be more specific, coz' I didn't mention any step_per_mm calibration in the article. I just simply assume that all step per mm values had set to their theoretical values initially. )

My thin wall calibration is 0.40 on the dot, my cubes are 20mm.. but my s plugs wont go together. What am I doing wrong?

Which slicer you are using? In some slicers, they implemented an ad-hoc solution to handle this problem, which is insetting the boundary a lot more than it should be (the inset should always be half the line width, e.g. 0.4mm line width, inset by 0.2mm). The ad-hco solution, though intuitive, doesn't work in general, and it could mess up your calibration.

I eventually realized that while XYZsteps calibrate the outermost dimensions, Esteps scales the actual inside parts of the model. My esteps got reduced by 20% before my parts fit but they fit quite well now.

Hi, when I try to print some of these objects, they either have zero layers and print nothing, or just one layer. What am I missing? Trying to use MatterControl for a Rostock Max v3. Thanks!

i have the same problem

try changing the slicer used in matter control you have three options if i have a real issue i use simplify 3d

During the line calibration section it references some variables to set, but i can't find where to set them in replicatorG

The bits under "Here is the list of necessary variables for this calibration to work,"

Any advice would be appreciated :)

In the ReplicatorG window menu, there is an item called "GCode". Under the menu item "GCode", there is an item "Edit slicing profiles...". Click on it, and you should see a list of profiles. Click on one of the profile in the list, and then click the button "Edit". Then, you should see the profile window.

There are many tabs in the profile window. Check the name of the taps carefully. The listed variables are presented with tap name followed by a slash followed by the variable name. For instance, "Carve/Extra Decimal Places" means the tap name "Carve" and the variable name "Extra Decimal Places".

However, please be reminded, some vendors will modify ReplicatorG, and remove the menu item "GCode" from the window menu. So, if you are using the ReplicatorG provided by your vendor, you might have the menu item "GCode" missing. In this case, just download the latest ReplicatorG from the official site. Don't worry. The vendors who do something stupid like this are unlikely making novel things. So, you don't really need their ReplicatorG in the first place.

Thank you I will try this!

One small hurdle I found that wasn't mentioned here, that's obvious in retrospect but may save some head-banging: when adjusting the Scale/XY Plane Scale options, you have to make sure to also set "Activate Scale" to "True" in order for it to actually take effect. My installation of ReplicatorG came with that "False" by default, so my scale wasn't having any effect.

Thanks for this guide, it really pulls a bunch of things together and explains well!

Any tips on getting the plug to fit the hole when everything else is measuring correct?

I have a Wanhao Duplicator i3 clone ( Cocoon Create ).
Initially prints looked fine, until I started making things that had to fit together. I am finding the sizing is slightly off meaning things like the plug and hole test do not work.
I ran through the calibration steps from this page as best I could but one thing I am finding is the line sizing doesn't appear to be right.
I tried to print the 0.4mm wall box as my print head is 0.4mm, but Cura won't allow me to print. It just says print time is 0 minutes. I exported the Gcode and hit print. It heated the bed, went to the home position, and then stopped saying it had finished.

So then I printed the 0.5mm wall box. The walls came out as being 0.78x0.93x0.62x0.72. This is either due to the print head size vs the wall size, or that it's extruding too much but inconsistently.


I have ran through all the Cura settings a number of times trying different profile recommendations, including the one from Cocoon Create themselves. All the prints have the same issues; plug and hole don't fit, 0.4 mm box won't print, 0.5mm box walls are inconsistent.

Does anyone have any ideas of what I can look into?

^^, please provide more information.

I managed to get the 0.4mm box printed. The closest I could get the 0.4mm box wall was 0.65mm but at this level the layers were not joining properly. This was adjusting the extrude rate. I also tried slic3r with various settings.
I found a profile for slic3r and cura for my machine. Those two profiles created created a ball of plastic stringing together.
I looked at the extruded amount also. I did this by measuring a mark on the filament, then extruded at amount. I marked 100mm, extruded 100mm, but I was still left with 10mm not extruded. This seems like it was not extruding enough and changing it would make the lines thicker. I adjusted this anyway so it matched perfectly but then like I expected, the 0.4mm box wall was 0.9mm.
Is anyone able to confirm that the 0.4mm box and the plug/hole design are able to be printed correctly on the Wanhao Duplicator/Cocoon Create?

Maybe sounds dumb but is it printing a single perimeter? Some slicers try to squeeze two perimeters, making double or close to double your nozzle diameter, did you ever fix this?

Wow, what a wall of text. Hard to read. Consider leaving some white space in ling texts

The text formatting of thingiverse.com (Markdown) changed quite a bit since my last editing. I updated a bit. This is what the article supposed to be. ^^

Comments deleted.

Make sure you either turn off Fill, or set the Extra Shells to 0! :) They were all set to 1 for me so the wall was coming out at .8mm instead of .4mm. Problem solved.

I have Sailfish on my Thing O Matic and no matter what I change the Filament Packing Density Ratio to the wall thickness is always .7mm. I'm sure that I'm saving the changes and regenerating the G Code. I'm really confused as to why it makes no difference. I've tried various values from .5 through to 2! Any ideas?

Are you using the profile you edited in the "Generate GCode" window?

Yes, at least it looks like it. It's called TOM Calibration profile so it stands out compared to the others. Maybe I'll try turning something else on or off to see if anything is working.

Fantastic instructions! This should be part of the skeinforge help section! (Like..."Getting started with SF"). Bookmarked, copied, backed up.
The only thing I found I needed to do after this was increase my top layer thickness (under Fill > Enable automatic solid surface thickness. (I used 0.8mm). Otherwise, at 15% fill, the top layer was sparsely filled. (I needed to do the same with Slic3r too)
This is will be one of my go to processes now. Thank you! (for the record, I am also a flashforge creator pro owner).

followed these directions on my flashforge creator pro and it worked out beautifully. S plug fit nice and snug. Thanks for the write up!

so what shell thickness should you have with a 0.5mm Head?
I have it set to 0.8mm

The optimal line width that your machine can do is the same as the nozzle diameter, so the optimal line width for 0.5mm nozzle would be 0.5mm.

While the line width cannot go smaller than the optimal one (See Section Calibrate line width), the line width can be bigger than the optimal one considerably. As long as you made sure the realized line width is the same as your expecting line width, using 0.8 mm line width will be just fine.

Line with of 0.8 is too big I get 2 parts that will not fit inside each other. I set all Perimeters Manually to 0.5mm and Ill let you know the Results of the Manual settings It was showing a thickness of 0.53mm the Model is always A little bit off I am using Pronterface and Slice3r so most perimeters are automated so I have to Edit the G-code and set them to 0.5mm

Slic3r is hopeless to be calibrated. Its just way too... "smArt".

Anyway, it is feasible calibrate your machine to print with snap fit precision, just, not with Slic3r. By the way, someone said he found a way to calibrate Slic3r (See http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:342198 ). You can give that a trial, though I am a bit skeptical for the reason that Slic3r is... "smaRt".

Part Fitting Calibration
by MEH4d

I would like to make you aware of a discussion started in another Thing, meant to do calibrate printers too: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:342198/#commentshttp://www.thingiverse.com/thi...
I am convinced that calibrating extrusion by measuring single-walls is misleading because some softwares (Slic3r) assume the threads are rectangular, but that happens only when they are surrounded by other threads and not in single-walls: the thread of single walls is rounded on the sides. If you calibrate your way, you may incur in a suboptimal thread bonding (on the sides) and weaker prints than they could be. It seems you can compensate in other ways with skeinforge, but it is still good to know.

Part Fitting Calibration
by MEH4d

I am getting a strange space in my prints.
What might be causing this? I tried messing with

For some reason i can not delete or edit this comment so please ignore this one. The one below has more information

I am getting a strange space in my prints.
What might be causing this? I tried messing with Infill Width over Thickness but that does not seem to help.

I had to change the URL slightly to get to the image, but after going to http://imgur.com/V1P3lZW an image of what I'm seeing shows up. I could actually peel the outer layer off the 20mm calibration "cube" as it wasn't attached much at all to the inner layer. I saw a comment below suggesting to reduce the infill, but I reduced to 10% and it still has the same issue. I'm printing the S-plug now, but I'm thinking I need to either increase the line width or somehow increase the overlap between lines everywhere.

I'm not quite sure what you are asking. I guess... its about the gap issue, right? If that so, can you tell me which slicer you are using? and which 3D printer?

I saw a comment below suggesting to reduce the infill, but I reduced to 10% and it still has the same issue.

No. Not related at all.

I'm printing the S-plug now, but I'm thinking I need to either increase the line width or somehow increase the overlap between lines everywhere.

Yes, you can have some more overlapped lines by deliberately fooling the slicer with a wrong line width. Unfortunately, any of those extra line width for fooling will go outside the boundary, and defeating the very first purpose of why you are here.

Did you also have the scale right? If not, it can be the reason to your problem.

Yes, it's the gap issue. The S-plug came out pretty good, but also had the gap all the way around the edges: around the outside circle, around the male S and the female S. The fit was also what I think is considered loose, it fit together without any effort and wiggled just slightly.

By the way, I have a Flashforge Creator X and am using the Skeinforge (50) slicer with the Print-O-Matic off, and the Thing-O-Matic slicing defaults, all within ReplicatorG-0040.

I just changed the Inset/Infill Width Over Thickness from 2.0 to 1.75 and printed the 20mm calibration box. The gap around the perimeter of the box is still there, but the top does look better with smaller holes between lines on the top surface. I think I will try reducing this parameter a bit further tomorrow. Do you think this is the right thing to adjust?

I believe the scale is correct, the first box I printed was 19.67mm, but the one after I adjusted the scale was 20.02mm, and this last one that I changed the Infill Width Over Thickness was 20.04mm.

Thank you for putting this description together and for helping me further, this is an excellent description and very helpful.

... The fit was also what I think is considered loose, it fit together without any effort and wiggled just slightly.

In this case, you really have a problem in the mere calibration steps. I guess your line width calibration is way off. Please recalibrate line width. When the amount of extruded plastics is too small, you will still get a thin wall with wall thickness roughly the same as the nozzle diameter.

Try to recalibrate your line width, and this time, adjust the Filament Packing Density Ratio to an arbitrarily smaller value before the calibration. The arbitrarily smaller value should be small enough, such that the wall thickness of thin wall is comfortably bigger than your expecting line width.

By the way, are you sure your caliper is working properly?

I think my caliper is working properly. When I first got the 3D printer, I measured the thickness of a piece of paper and it was as expected, then when measuring the diameter of the filament it was 1.78mm, so I am confident it's correct.

I tried to recalibrate the line width starting with 0.5 for the Filament Packing Density Ratio, and the first print came out 1.21mm thick, resulting in a new setting of 1.5125, which was larger than what I was using prior to this recalibration. So, I went back and am trying the 20mm box with 1.472625 for the ratio, which was the setting just before I achieved the 0.4mm line width during the first calibration. By the way, I measured the outer layer of the first box that I peeled off the first box I printed and it was only 0.37mm. It seems like the box printed with a thinner line width than the hollow box.

It finished, no luck. The outer layer still peels off. I'm going to try increasing the overlap. I'll post shortly with a status.

I'm not quite sure what causes the gap issue. I'm don't have this issue with my printer. Could it be a hardware problem?

I think I finally figured it out. It looks like the layer thickness was set to 0.27mm, but I've been calculating everything for a 0.2mm height. I changed the Carve/Layer Height to 0.2 and am redoing all the calibrations.

That did it! I'm not sure why mine was set to 0.27mm for the layer height, but that fixed it. The last 20mm box came out virtually perfect, I just need to scale it down slightly now. Thank you! This will increase the usefulness of my printer immensely.

I am wondering if I'll need to go through all this calibration again when I print something with a different layer thickness, of if I can just scale things appropriately. Now my next step will be to eliminate the blob of plastic when the first layer of the object begins (not the blob in the front-left corner of the print bed, the one in the object itself); I think I read somewhere how to change the start gcode to eliminate that blob.

morfittron, did you ever find out how to remove that blob in the object? I'd like to know myself, can you post the link?

By the way, not just layer height can be changed without redo-calibration, line width can also be changed without redo-calibration.

... I am wondering if I'll need to go through all this calibration again when I print something with a different layer thickness ...

No need to "go through all this calibration again" for changing layer thickness.

Change "Carve/Layer Height", and adjust "Carve/Edge Width over Height (ratio)" and "Inset/Infill Width over Thickness (ratio)" accordingly. This would be good enough already.

Thanks so much for this guide. It increases my satisfaction with my thing-o-matic by at least 50%. I come back here every once in a while to re-calibrate.

Thanks a lot. By the way, please tell me something about my writing. Is it good enough to you? ( Part of the reason for me to write is to improve my writing. )

The writing was good. I found it very easy to follow.

I have noticed that on my test cubes the sides then to bow inwards a bit, and the corners stick out a little bit. So if I measure the corners the size might be 0.2 mm larger than if I can avoid touching the corners with my calipers. I know this wasn't covered, but maybe you had an idea how to fix this?

I have noticed that since the very first time I tried to do calibration. The simplest way to get around this problem for the measurement is to measure the central part of the cube only.

However , the real solution is to add a fan for printing. With a fan for printing, the problem you described will be no longer visible. Your caliper might still able to pick it up though.

You have to take into account the thickness of the bead layed down by the printer eg nozzle size would calculate how big the bead of plastic layed down is or.. google it :)

Arr... please read thoroughly, it just takes you ten minutes to read... I have made myself clear enough in the article concerning the issue you said. If you think I didn't address your problem, please be more specific.

Hello, i am uploading to simplify3d the test 4mm, but somehow it shows just one wall , this is very strange...
thanks you in advance

hmm... ive found that is an issue with 4mm object that is in the limit of the nozzle, i scaled the object by 1.0001 and now it shows , is this ok to calibrate like this ?

Update it dose not fit to the Wanhao printer, i guess neither to the flashforge

Shame on Wanhao. Manufacturing an open source product for sell is fine. Taking the open source product and claiming its invention?! WTF!!! Shame on Wanhao!!! ( Note: The Wanhao printer is just a direct copy of Makerbot Replicator.)

Hi there, i am a new user and i am trying to do my best to calibrate my printer (wanhao 4x),
I also use simplify3d, can this method be used also with simplify3D ?

"wanhao 4x" looks like a Makerbot Replicator (^^" I should say it is.). This method should works fine on most extrusion based 3D printer, so Replicator is okay. "simplify3D" looks like a forked Slic3r. If it indeed is originated from Slic3r, look for a parameter called "extrusion multiplier". However, to Slic3r, there is no obvious way to adjust "infill width" like Skeinforge does, so you can either have accurate but fragile parts or inaccurate but strong parts.

yes there is the "extrusion multiplier"

Anyone ever had their line width vary by as much as .1mm on each side? I'm trying to get a .4 line width but one side will have .45 and the parallel side will have .55mm

Mmm... I guess you have a terribly extruder. Say... a long long metal tube connecting to the hot end with no fan, a driver gear with its hole far far from center, a printed extruder with long thin moving parts, ... (^^ I can go on for quite a while)

One more piece of information would be useful for beginners--where does one find these parameters? It's easy to find the Generate GCode ones, but the others must be hiding in some file somewhere...

^^", Skeinforge is full of parameters. If the user is using Skeinforge directly, he must have overwhelmed by parameters already. In case of ReplicatorG, user can locate a profile by MENU/GCode/Edit Slicing profiles... .

Thank you my friend! This worked flawlessly and am now printing extremely functioning parts.

This is the most comprehensive calibration procedure I've ever seen. I'm not even done with the full calibration and I can already see a significant difference in print quality. Thanks!

Glad to hear that. Please tell me how's your machine doing after you did the full calibration. It would be excellent for me if you can report flaws in the article.

Just finished 4 Wall-Blocks on my RepRapPro.
In Slic3r i adjusted the extrusion multiplier to change the flow ratio.

0,5mm Nozzle
Test1: Flow Ratio 1 Wall 0,79mm with standart settings (callibrated the Steps/mm of extrusion material before)
Test2: Flow Ratio 0,9 Wall 0,7mm
Test3: Flow Ratio 0,8 Wall 0,63mm
Test4: Flow Ratio 0,6 Wall 0,48mm

I'll have to check tomorrow in the sunlight how smoothe the surfaces came out. the biggest difference yet is the teh stability when squeezing

is that file just for ABS? i am using pla and i print the wall veryvery thick, it is around 1.2-1.3mm thick, my nozzle is 0.4 mm, i dont know what's wrong,

and it seems that no matter what speed i input, theedge width is still that thick

it's not feed rate alone causing the different. The ratio between feed and flow rate does. The Print-O-Matic UI explicitly makes the ratio to be 1. Therefore, with that UI, you cannot change the ratio, which is why all speed s give you the same line width.

I did what you suggested, and things are much better now, but both my pegs and holes are a tad small when measured. However, the larger dimensions are perfect. Also, if I have 2 perimeters, there tends to be a slight gap and poor adhesion between them. Thoughts?

if you can get S Plug to fit, you almost get the most out of you printer already. Scaling is an issue. The brutal truth is we need a way more intensive geometry analysis to enforce extremely demanding precision requirement. There is no way a simple implementation like skeinforge can fulfill it. Switch to PLA will ease a bit the problem.

I have the same problem with Slic3r. I'm going to try to follow the idea of this, but does anyone know what exactly to change for the same effect in Slic3r?

slic3r will decide line width on its own upon different circumstances, with good intentions. However, it also make it extremely difficult to have a simple plan to do calibration. I think the best you can do is to follow the calibration process suggested by slic3r. If it doen't work, switch to skeinforge.

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I have switched to Skeinforge. Your guide is thus far very helpful for calibration.

i got replicator 2x, i use makerware makerbot slicer and i have the same problem as jad91. for the 20 mm box i must scale x:1.005 y:1.015 z:1.01 to get the good dimension +/- 0.03. i try to edit a new setup in skeinforge slicer in makerware but if i activate chamber to heat my bed, the print fail but if is not activated, it print but don't stick. aaaaaaaaaaaaah!

I'm sorry. I don't have replicator2X, and therefore, no idea about the usage of makerware. If you bought a replicator2X, you should request helps from customer services. You paid A LOT for that.

yes i know...but i can use another slicer too. i look for another printer specialy for nylon. you have suggestion?

Success! My TOM is now making parts that can interface with real world objects. Thank you I can now print useful things instead of just trinkets to clutter my desk.

where you got this green pad from? thx

It's worked well for me. I am having some slight trouble though; when I print the wall model, there's a difference in the thickness between the x and the y directions. In reality, the discrepancy is so minute that it shouldn't matter overall for the prints I do. It is just a curious situation, and my OCD is nagging.

Both walls that run from +X to -X (right/left of printer) are perfectly 0.40mm, while both walls in the +Y to -Y (forward/backward) are at 0.43mm. It prints like this consistently, and I've measured it like that consistently.
Since it was so small, of a difference, I tried moving onto the next model, 20mm cube.

The +X to -X directions are 20.10mm and the +Y to -Y directions are 19.90mm.

Like I said, in the overall scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter much, but it'd be awesome to get it to work perfectly.

Any thoughts on what could be causing this before I move on to try to calibrate skeinforge for holes?

Printer: Replicator
Software: ReplicatorG
Slicer: Skeinforge 50
Nozzle Diameter: 0.40mm
Layer height: 0.10mm

xy dimensions are designed to have the same gear ratio, so the same step per mm theoretically. However, nothing is perfect in real world. For whatever reason they didn't match, you can always adjust one of the step per mm to enforce them to match. If you are using ReplicatorG, there is a folder, called machines) under ReplicatoraG folder storing all machine profiles. You can do your adjustment there. You can try increasing "y step per mm" to 1.01 times the original (i.e. 20.1/19.9). It should do fix your problem.

Please leave me some comments. I really want to know how's the other 3D printers doing.