Leveling a 3D printer’s bed is one of the most crucial steps in 3D printing; if it’s done right, you won’t encounter common warpage problems.
Bed leveling can be done either manually or automatically. Although Some 3D printers have automatic bed leveling options, upgrading your printer with a high precision sensor like BLtouch can be a cool idea, But:
Is the BLtouch worth it?
First of all, BLtouch is not necessary as long as you use a flatbed. A bed leveling sensor can eliminate warped beds’ negative effects and save your time. So if you have any problems with the leveling, BLtouch is absolutely worth it, especially if your bed is not conducive. If you want to choose bed leveling for your printer, BLtouch is the best option among different models.
Before we go into detail about whether the BLtouch is worth it or not, it’s a good idea to know what BLtouch is and how it works.
What is BLtouch, and how does it work?
BLtouch is an auto bed-leveling sensor, and it can improve the first layer prints by adjusting the tilt of a 3D printer’s bed surface. The sensor’s main components are a pushpin (which contacts the bed surface), a Hall Effect sensor, and a microcontroller. So it converts the pushpin’s movement into signals for a microcontroller.
It works like a switch on a servo arm, which is controlled by an electric motor. As the tool head moves to the reference home, The bed’s surface pushes the pin upwards and triggers the Hall effect sensor. So the switch sends a signal to the microcontroller, and it raises the tool head.
Now that you know what a BLtouch sensor is and how it works let’s look at its competitors.
What are the BLtouch alternatives?
1. Inductive Probes
BLtouch sensors physically touch the printer’s bed, but The inductive probes use magnetic fields and their induced current to find the nearby conductive materials. So, the probe should detect a conductive surface, and if you are using a non-conductive bed, you can’t use the inductive probes.
The two common types of inductive sensors are PNP and NPN types. Each class can have a normally closed or normally open switch output. You may know that NPN and PNP are the normal terminologies of transistors. Normally closed and normally open are also the two common terminologies of relay switch positions. However, no matter which sensor you use, slightly changing the firmware is necessary.
The critical point is to buy and use a sensor that can work with 5 volts. So that you can directly connect it to your 3D printer’s board, keep in mind that higher voltage usages can damage the board.
The inductive sensors are affected by humidity and temperature. So you need to calibrate them to use them in specific temperatures if you want to print with massive temperature shifts. Some 3D printer manufacturers use this sensor on their products by default. However, it’s not a good idea to attach one of them to your printer. They are cheaper but less precise, harder to calibrate, and only work with conductive materials.
2. Capacitive sensors
Another type of bed leveling sensor is the Capacitive sensor. They use a non-contact method to do the leveling. They also can work with conductive and non-conductive surfaces by measuring the capacitance when an object is near their face.
The main disadvantage of using capacitive sensors is their outputs changes due to temperature and bed type variations. So you won’t face any problems if you don’t change your bed or environment’s temperature by heating it or using an enclosure.
Why do we think BLtouch is worth it?
The best advantage of the BLtouch sensor is its versatility. Independent of temperature or bed type, this sensor always works for you. It is also the most accurate leveling sensor, and it has long durability.
So it’s your best choice if you want an automatic bed leveler. However, it’s more costly and somewhat slower because of its mechanical operation. You can check the price of the BLtouch Sensor on Amazon.
Is BLtouch hard to set up?
The BLtouch setup process includes mounting the probe, measuring the distance between the probe and the center of the nozzle, and slightly changing the firmware. So the process is straightforward, and there are useful resources on the internet and a lot of troubleshooting topics on forums to help you correctly do the work.
Still, we have a more fundamental question for you; The BLtouch sensor can do a perfect bed leveling for you. But:
Do you need auto bed leveling?
As we all know, manual bed leveling is always an option. However, it is time-consuming. The 3D printer’s bed should be leveled once in a while manually. In this case, you should devote some time to do it. However, the more you do the process, the more experience you get, and the less time you spend.
So if you want to print regularly and have no problem with it, manually leveling your bed can save you some money. However, Automatic leveling saves a lot of time and eliminates all of the afterward problems like warping, nozzle clogging, or weak adhesion problems.
Bed leveling can be done manually or automatically. If you want to do it automatically, we recommend using the BLtouch sensor. A 3D printer user may decide if the BLtouch is worth it or not, based on their demand, level of expertise, and time.