Build plate leveling jig for use with digital calipers

by kurt6string, published

Build plate leveling jig for use with digital calipers by kurt6string Mar 20, 2013
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Useful if you have calipers instead of a dial gauge. The .stl file is setup for a replicator 2 and mine fit just fine.


Just print it (but flip it upside down so the flat part is on the build plate) and clean out the slots for the calipers depth gauge if needed. The caliper MUST slide smoothly for this to work.

To take measurements, start by doing a standard leveling procedure. Then, drop the jig over the rails (to the outside where possible), slide it up against the extruder. Extend the depth gauge on the calipers about 24mm then insert it into the slot on the jig and allow the base of the caliper to rest in the slot. You then gently, smoothly grasp the digital readout on the calipers and move it down (smoothly) until the depth gauge touches the build plate. At that point you can zero the calipers and allow the cal script to move the extruder around while you see how far off the plate is. May the force be with you.

This really helped on my replicator 2. This is a much better way of leveling than just using the thin business card. My failed print count has gone WAY down.

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All things considered, the best alignment method I've come up with is to use a piece of yellow legal pad paper as my thickness gauge. My calipers say it's about .07mm - I run the leveling script, and use the leveling screws to set the height such that I can just barely feel the clean nozzle touching the paper. If I cant finess the paper under the nozzle without bending the paper I'm too close. If I can't feel the nozzle barely touching the paper then I'm too far away. Set in this way I can get coral red @232C printing off to a good start when I print to the center of the plate. I closely monitor the first couple of layers and refine the leveling while those first couple of layers are printing. I use those stereoscopic head googles in order to magnify and really see what the nozzle is doing. You can see where it's not level. You have to be really gentle tuning the leveling while running. The slightest bump things will probably come unstuck. So, under that one set of conditions I've learned to make good prints. Printing 4 things that take 15 minutes each is about as long as the leveling will hold. I can see some drift by the 2'nd print, more pronounced by #3, and #4 is on the margins and thus I unload, wipe nozzle down while still hot, let her cool off then re-level it and I can do 4 more.

This proves to me that 99.5% of the machine works just fine, and I'd like the build plate more stable, I acknowledge that the tolerances are subject to any little thing. With this stable configuration I've at least got a nice reference point. I suggest you find yours. I want to scad a few leveling cal scripts when I have a chance. I want to print a few small shapes that are only 1 or two layers high at the four corners, center, and a few along the diagonals. If I make'em different sizes I might build up a library of 'If I can print this first' then my print has a much greater chance of becoming viable.

Bottom line? Human senses, the feel of yellow notepad paper under the nozzle (or not) is a better caliper than the digital kind I have that is precise to .03mm or so. Don't let the fancy tools woo 'ya - human senses can still detect more in some ways. My little adapter is helping verify I'm not crazy and that I really can feel it better than it can for the purposes of leveling.

The build plate is a moving target as far as I can tell. In my case I don't think it's ambient temperature. Where I live the temperature is fairly stable right now and I'm still seeing a lot of change in the build plate.

This is awesome. I had this idea exactly but just hadn't got around to modeling a part to make it happen. When printing small parts, it's pretty easy to level the build plate. I find it really hard to level the plate well for a part that takes up the entire print area, especially if it has a lot of contact with the build plate. Hopefully this will make it easier to get a good consistent leveling. Also, I'm wondering if I'm the only one who sees a good level go bad with an ambient temperature swing of 10 degrees or so. My home has no heat or air conditioning so my ambient temp is really all over the place. I think it affects my leveling.

thanks for this, if you want to further improve your build experience, consider cutting a build plate from glass: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:57411http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...

I only had to level it once so far.

A Replicator 2 build plate
by kwalus

FYI, on my replicator and when using radio shack digital calipers (2 decimal places), and smoothly gently performing the measurements - with those caveats my distance to build plate for good printing at medium quality is about 31.91mm.

When taking measurements I can get repeatability of around +-.04mm ('ya gotta be smooth when taking the measurements, I mentioned that right?) and I may run the leveling script 4 times or so until all three points are within .06mm (roughly). It takes several passes but the results are worth it.

Also note that being level does not equal 'the right distance'. I use the business card to gauge the 'feel' of the point at which I zero the calipers. In my case I want the card to have some friction but not have the nozzle so close that inserting the card pushes the build plate down (yes, it does that). Then, I measure that point (usually at the back of the carriage, first cal point in the script) to get an 'idea' of what 'right' feels like. Then, using the calipers I can at least level all three points to around .06mm.

So, you're fairly level, at that 'feels right' height. And that 'feels right' height changes depending on the quality level you choose for the print. If you want thin layers then the platform has to be a bit closer than for thick layers yes?

Thanks for including the scad file. I've got an MG PM. You just made my week.