Steel Conveyor Belt for ABP (raftless)

by Tunell, published

Steel Conveyor Belt for ABP (raftless) by Tunell Jun 8, 2011


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This is a semi-permanent belt for the ABP. It is a derivative of http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:7460 by tmartin. Tmartin uses titanium, which would be preferable, but is not widely available in the dimensions needed.
Use steel foil measuring 12" width by .002" thick, you'll need to cut the roll at the final belt width.
I used some steel foil from the local electronics store (Elliots in tucson) where they charged me $1/ft, but this stuff is available from many locations:


Apparently this foil is used for "tool-wrapping" whatever that is...

Steel is a great belt medium because: (borrowed from tmartin)
1) Unlike aluminum foil and paper, it does not normally crinkle and maintains a smooth flat shiny surface unless deliberately creased. It it actually somewhat springy.
2) It is flexible like a sheet of paper and rolls smoothly through the mechanism
3) The coefficient of thermal expansion is much lower than plastic over the temperature ranges used, therefore although the plastic will adhere nicely when hot, when both are cooled the plastic shrinks more than the surface beneath it and pops right off.
4) It is physically extremely tough and will survive a lot of abuse.
5) Not damaged by build platform temperatures.
6) Inexpensive.
7) Great for raftless printing
8) Excellent thermal conductivity, gets hot all over.

1) It is NOT chemically inert and will not withstand solvent attack.
2) There will be a seam on the belt which will occasionally leave a (small) line on the bottom of a print
3) Poor adhesion to ABS, must be coated with Kapton tape. Sanding doesn't help.
4) Steel may crease if you are not careful when making the belt.
5) Cannot run the ABP conveyor backwards (as if you would want to)
6) Steel may swell when heated causing a loss of belt tension.

Note: I noticed that the belt works even better and stays even flatter when I added the new countersunk plate to my ABP. This provides just a bit of an edge that the belt must wrap over on the front and back. Plus no more bolt interference. See the pic!


1) Remove your previous belt and cut it open to form a single, flat strip.
2) Build your belt tool which can be used to create more belts of perfect size.
a. Find a stiff cardboard tube (Dougc314 recommends 3" PVC)
b. Wrap 3 strips of duct tape around cardboard tube until you approach correct belt circumference.
c. Finish wrapping with clear packing tape until the plastic belt fits tightly around the tape and edges line up
d. Tool is done (see photo)
3) Using a straight edge and razor blade (on an ugly wood surface) cut a strip of foil from top to bottom. Make the strip slightly narrower than the plastic belt in order to avoid interfering with the bolt heads on the ABP. I first used scissors to cut the strip, but found that it left my edge rippled, which may interfere with prints later on. A razor will leave a flat edge. Your strip should be about 4" x 12"
4) Wrap the strip carefully around the belt tool. Make sure the outer edges line up perfectly and that you have about 1/2" of seam overlap.
5) Tape the seam so the belt is nice and tight on the tool.
6) Wrap Kapton over the metal at a sharp diagonal angle (wider kapton won't require a diagonal.) Make sure to overlap onto the bare packing tape on the sides, this will be trimmed in the next step. When wrapping the Kapton, try to reduce the seams by lining the kapton up carefully with the previous wrap. The tape should be sprialing around your tool leaving small seams between each wrap. Better seams = better prints.
7) With a razor, cut through the tape along the edges of the new belt and pull off the excess Kapton.
8) Slide your belt off the tool. This may be tricky if you made the belt too tight.
9) The new belt should look much like the stock belt. The main difference is the loose flap on the inside of the belt. DO NOT TAPE THIS DOWN. Leaving it loose will allow the belt to slide over the rollers more easily.
10) When mounting on the ABP, make sure this flap is on the top side and pointing towards the rear of the machine. This will keep it from getting caught under the drive rollers. Never run the ABP backwards or this flap may slide behind a roller and ruin the belt.

I've had some success cutting off the inside flap of the belt. If you cut it off completely so that the two edges of the foil are flush, you can kapton-tape over it and have a flap-free belt.
Also, some users have noted that they would like the belt to be tighter. If you want your belt tighter, just use less tape layers on the belt tool. Be careful though, if you go too tight, you will crease the new belt on the drive support nubs when installing it. (this happened to me)

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Well, I've tried twice :(

I have .002 stainless, I've cut what seems to me to be a decent belt .. but the drive motor won't move it! This time around I cut the belt long and printed http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:13896http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... so I could tension it manually, but still no joy. It seems like the gearmotor just doesn't have the bal
ls to pull this stuff through! Maybe tool wrapping is more flexible than stainless?

ToM APB Belt Tensioner
by gaerisl

.0015 shim stock is the trick! Now to get it tight enough so it's really flat. I also added an aluminum plate ...

this is a great idea!

tool wrapping steel is used for heat treating tool steel. When steel is heat treated it will scale on the surface when air reaches it, so they wrap it in a thin sheet of steel and put some talc in with it to eliminate scaling of the part being heat reated.

This is also available in stainless ste
el. I have this readily available in several thicknesses. I am going to start experimenting with thicknesses of .0005 .001 .0015 .002 .003 and .004 to see what will give the best results.

Well, so far anything over .002 thick is too stiff and won't go around the driveing shafts. .002 is nice, I get the best results with .0015. .001 just wrinkles too much and easily. So it looks like .0015 or .002 are best choices.

I got a scrap of 3" ABS pipe from the hardware store, wrapped in 3 layers of duct tape and 1 layer of clear packing tape, and the fit is just about perfect.

This is great. Best belt I've made thus far. But just a little loose. I need to remove a layer or two of duct tape on my tool.

I built this using stainless steel foil, from Mcmaster Carr, .002 inch. I wrapped it with 1 inch Kapton tape, at an angle. I found that 3 inch PVC pipe, which is 3.5 inches OD is almost the right diameter, just a bit small. I wrapped the with about 12-15 layers packing tape untill the spare plastic belt was tight, then made the steel belt. In hindsight I think using standard letter size sheets of paper would make a better diameter increaser. Also I would leave it a little loose on the plastic belt, so as to make the steel belt tighter. Mine is a bit too loose, it's usable but would be better tighter (it lifts off the platform too much). The printed ABS sticks very well to the Kapton. In the photo, you can see a small part I printed. I could use that part as a handle and move the build platform in X and Y (motors off of course). You can also see I didn't do such a great job wrapping it at an angle, wide tape would certainly make tha wrapping job easier.

Say, get a small drill bit and counter sink the bolt holes. Install flat head screws. Enjoy going headless on the build platform. I did. It is a lot safer - for the Hot End.

glad to hear it worked out for you.

I'm noticing from your photo that you wrapped the kapton the hard way. If you follow the steel around the tube it may be easier next time. If you look at the photo of my version, you'll be able to see how I wrapped it.

tool wrapping is used to prevent oxidation during heat treating of tool steels, afaik

I'm also in Tucson btw, ToM party?

cool, i'd be curious to see your bot

Dang it all! McMaster doesn't ship to Canada. Anyone got any leads on this foil for Canucks?


What thickness foil are you using?

updated the description to answer this excellent question.