Feb 6, 2018 | By Benedict

RepRap 3D printing engineers Michael Simpson and Simon Khoury have carried out a scientific study into the use of cheap piezoelectric elements for bed leveling and nozzle contact detection in FDM/FFF 3D printers. The study found the elements effective even at high temperatures.

RepRap 3D printers and other low-cost FDM 3D printers are the heart and soul of the maker community and one of the biggest reasons for the consumer 3D printing boom of recent years. But these 3D printers have their limitations: technology made from cheap components and 3D printed parts means some of the more luxurious features of factory-produced 3D printers are sometimes missing or at least limited in their functionality.

Bed leveling can be one of those features. While automatic build platform leveling is now commonplace amongst even lower-end FDM 3D printers, building your own bed leveling system remains a challenge for many RepRap users.

There are different technologies out there for bed leveling. The Ultimaker 3, for example, uses a capacitive detection method, while certain Lulzbot 3D printers use an electrical contact method. The Prusa i3, one of the most recognizable RepRaps, uses an inductive probe.

Another solution to the problem of bed leveling is the use of inexpensive piezoelectric diaphragms, which can be used as sensors for both this task and for adjusting nozzle height. But do they work? Are they reliable enough for complex 3D prints?

Michael Simpson and Simon Khoury, two RepRap specialists from the UK, seem to think so. They’ve just carried out a scientific study into the use of these diaphragms on FDM/FFF 3D printers, and the results they’ve found are promising.

During their experiments, Simpson and Khoury mechanically stressed samples over 100,000 cycles at both 20°C and 80°C, discovering little loss of output from the elements even in the higher temp range.

According to the 3D printing duo, the tests demonstrated that “a useful level of reliability, sensitivity, and repeatability of piezoelectric diaphragms can be expected,” and that a “long service life” can be expected from such elements.

The study, “Inexpensive Piezoelectric Elements for Nozzle Contact Detection and Build Platform Leveling in FFF 3D Printers,” can be found here.

Watch Thomas Sanladerer’s (unrelated) guide to bed leveling below:



Posted in 3D Printer Accessories



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Nick wrote at 9/6/2018 2:13:58 PM:

Great study! But the article has two useful lines...

Simon Khoury. wrote at 2/7/2018 9:41:51 AM:

We really enjoyed this and it spawned an offshoot. Precision Piezo.

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