3D printing relies on extruder calibration to create the computer generated design by pushing a precise amount of filament through the printers hot tip. This is how your 3D machine is able to create any shape, figure, or design with such ease.
However if your calibration is off… things can go wrong. Too little filament and gaps will appear between layers, or the layers themselves will be weak just missing completely. Adhesion will suffer, and prints can be subject to layers warping or delaminating. Leaving a sad mess where your project once stood.
On the flip side, too much filament and your project will have unsightly blobs, strings, or drooping details. In extreme cases, over-extrusion can also contribute to clogs or jams in the hot end- which can be a costly mistake.
Luckily we are here to help! Calibrating your extruder can sound a little intimidating, perhaps even a job best left to professionals. Yet this 6 step guide is easy enough that you’ll feel like a tech pro by the end- Let’s hop to it!
To calibrate your extruder, you’ll need the following:
- Your 3D printer
- A computer with slicer software installed
- Any non-flexible filament
- A permanent marker
1. First things First- Load your Filament
In order to calibrate your extruder, you’re going to need to preheat your 3D printer’s nozzle to the temperature meant for your filament . If the non-flexible filament is loaded, Nice job! Heat that up and we can get moving
When the printer is correctly preheated and ready. Load your filament like usual, taking care to remove any old material.
2. Connect to Your Computer
Link your printer to the computer, with USB or WiFi if your printer is able. Then connect a slicer software that allows you to send a single-line g-code command to the printer.
e.g. Simplify 3D, Pronterface, Repetier Host, and OctoPrint.
You’ll need to find the section of your slicer dedicated to tethered printing,
e.g. In Simplify 3D, you need to go to the machine control panel window. With most RAMPS and Atmega-based printers, you should also be able to use the Serial Monitor in the Arduino IDE.
Enable Relative Mode on the extruder by sending the command M83 to the printer.
3. Mark the Filament and Start Extruding
Use your calipers and mark the filament 120 mm before the entrance to the extruder. To calibrate the extruder, we’ll be sending 100 mm of filament through the hot end.
Now, send the command G1 E100 F100 to the printer. This will slowly run 100 mm of filament through the extruder. This is done over the course of a minute to avoid any problems with filament tension or pressure in the hot end, which can end up muddling the results.
4. Measure Again
Now, the printer should have extruded exactly 100 mm of filament. To check this, measure from the extruder to the original mark you made on the filament.
If the measurement is 20 mm, your extruder is properly calibrated. Stop following these instructions. You are done calibrating.
If your measurement is more than 20 mm, your printer is likely suffering from under-extrusion, and your steps/mm setting needs to be increased.
If your measurement is less than 20 mm, your printer is over-extruding. You will need to turn down the steps/mm setting.
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5. Calculate the Correct Steps per Millimeter Value
In order to accurately tune the extruder, we need to determine the printer’s current, incorrect step/mm value and calculate the physical, correct value.
To begin, send the command M503 to your printer. This will return a string of values to your monitor.
Find the line that starts with echo: M92, then find the E-value (usually at the end of this line). This is the current steps/mm value.
Now for the physical steps/mm value. First, we need to know how much filament was actually extruded. We can find this by measuring the distance from the extruder to the mark on the filament, then subtracting that value from 120:
- 120 – [length from extruder to mark] = [actual length extruded]
Next, we need to know how many steps the extruder took to extrude that much filament. We can determine this value by multiplying the steps/mm value by the length we should have extruded, in this case 100 mm:
- [steps/mm value] x 100 = [steps taken]
Using this, we can obtain the physical, correct steps/mm value by dividing by the length extruded:
- [steps taken] / [actual length extruded] = [accurate steps/mm value]
Now all we have to do is set this as the printer’s steps/mm value (It’s step 6!), and you should be good to go!
6. Set New Steps per Millimeter Value
To set a new steps/mm value, first send the command M92 E###.#, replacing the hashes (#) with the accurate steps/mm value you just obtained from Step 5. Save this to your printer’s memory by sending the command M500.
Now, turn your printer off and on again. Then resend the command M503 to your printer again, checking to make sure that the E-value matches the new steps/mm value that you just entered. If not, repeat the first part of this step.
To check that your extruder is now properly calibrated, you can repeat Steps 1 to 4. This time, you should get a value of exactly 20 mm between the extruder and the mark. If not, recalculate the value and save it again.
Now you should have a perfectly calibrated extruder!
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