Monday, December 29, 2014

Taming Leveling with a Level Dial Tool

Compared with previous printers I've used, the Print Pad Leveling, using Auto Level is a fantastic improvement.

But, there is always room for improvement in processes.  And, Auto Leveling is no exception.

Improvement #1:  Apply a small Sharpie Dot on the magnetic pads

It's easier to see how far you have turned a wheel if it has a mark on it that you can track.  And, being highly skilled in the use of Sharpies, that is the first thing that was done to improve the process.  The trick is to first take the cap off the Sharpie. (My expertise.)  And, the next step, with which I have a little more is to point the tip to a specif place and plant the tip right on the object to be marked.  If you are going to be putting the Sharpie away, it's a good idea to replace the cap, particularly if storing in a pocket.  (Don't ask me how I know that.)

Improvement #2:  Create a Leveling pad dial.

A dot on the leveling pads is useful.  But, trying to turn the pad EXACTLY 35/16 of a turn... and YES, it can specify something like that... is not so easy without some help.  Namely a DIAL to track the turns.  Here is the one I created.

Level Dial Tool

The Dial simply sits on the Print Table magnet mount and the dials line up with the magnet pads that need to be turned to bring the print Table into proper Level.  There are two types of dial indicators.  The long, wide engraving represents 1/8 increment turns.  Together with the 1/8th engravings, there are two-stage indicators that allow us to measure turns in 1/16th increments.  Along with the engravings there are large and small extruded features that also aid in counting and measuring turns.

3D View of the Level Dial Tool

The object just sits freely on the frame of the Print Pad mount.  A simple pole allows us to add or remove the Level Dial Tool very easily.  The reason for both engraved and extruded features to measure turn distance is to allow it to be printed either as a 1 color print or 2 color print while maintaining the usefulness.  The shadows created by engraving and extruding should make the dial's increments easy to use with ANY color.  Here is a closeup of a single dial showing the shadow effects.

Single Color Dial Features on Close-Up

But, there is another reason for using embossed grooves, rather than raised bars.  It makes two color printing smoother and less time consuming.  Here is the same dial in 2 colors.  The 2nd color peeks is revealed by the grooves.  The 2nd color is only briefly used and then the piece is finished, without pause, in the primary color.

Two Color Dial Features on Close-Up

The 2nd color is a single joined piece to make it easier to select feature in the Cubify Client.  While most of the 2nd color layer goes unseen, here is what looks like.  If the color layer had not been connected as a single object, we would have to carefully select each object and that would be a nightmare.  All we have to do is hone in on a single part of the group and all the reveal is done in one selection.

2nd Color Network for Single Click Selection

Here is the view in the Cubify Client 

Cubify Client Print Window - 2 Color Selected

Using the Leveling Dial Tool

After my Print Jet housing was adjusted, I ran CALIBRATE and was surprised to learn that my Print Table was no longer passing the Auto Level test.  Since this was the first time it failed, it dawned on me that my ROLL adjustment, which was based on the Print Table, might be off.  So, I decided to go back to square one.
  • Mark all the pads with a single black dot.
  • Loosen the Hex nuts
  • Turn all the Pads on which the Print Table sits, to their lowest position.
  • Turn the Back Left pad two turns to provide some up and down room
  • Turn the other pads up two turns
  • Run Auto Level.
Interestingly, Auto Level told me that I needed to turn the back right pad 35/16ths of a turn.  That is when I realized that simply marking the pads with a dot was NOT enough.  I needed a better reference.  Though my Cube 3 was down until leveling was completed, I had a Cube 2 and printed the design in a single color.  In fact, I "HID" the 2nd color fill so that the groves would be deeper.

That first pass of the design measured down to 1/32 of a turn.  Too much detail.  So, going back to 1/16 increments made the process easier.

I had to remove and replace the dial to be able to get enough grip to turn the pads.  But, that was easy and did not confuse the process.  Here is an image of the 1st crude version being tested.  The newer design has wider rings with more prominent grooves and protruded outer markers.

1st Trial Version being Tested

It May Require Multiple Auto Level Passes

Auto Leveling, when starting W-A-Y out of level is a multi-step proposition.  That is because the left front and right back adjustments interact with each other.  Raising the front left corner, lowers the back right corner, etc.  So, it can take several Auto Level passes to accomplish perfect leveling.  This is normal for the 3 point pad system used in the Cube 3D printers.  But, it is a LOT easier in the Cube 3!

Will Be Making it Available on Cubify

Since I do not have enough filament until I unclog some early cartridges, I cannot be sure how the two color version prints.  As soon as it has been tested on a Cube 3, I will make it available on Cubify for a very small amount ($3) to help support this blog. Both single color and 2 color will be included.  While one could print the 2 color version in a single color, it's best keep the deepest grooves and not have them filled unless it is with a 2nd color.

It DEFINITELY makes the operation a lot faster by being a whole lot more precise.


  1. Tom,
    I could not find the Leveling Dial Tool on Cubify.


    1. I can't find it either. So, I will reload it. :)

  2. Tom, since the store is gone, can you upload the file for this to some other location? Thanks!