Korea-based ANTCLABS has released a very inexpensive sensor that could enable your 3D printer to include auto-leveling.
The product is called the BLTouch, and it’s an accessory you should be able to easily install on many RepRap-style 3D printers.
Essentially it’s an electronic sensor made from a plunger that precisely measure the tilt of your print surface. The idea is that before print commences, your tool head takes the BLTouch to several key locations above the print surface, where it precisely measure the distance. In this video you can see how it works:
I particularly like the red detection light and very satisfying “click” when it strikes the build plate.
That’s just the start, of course. The BLTouch doesn’t actually tilt your print bed; it merely measures its tilt. But knowing that, the print sequence can take that into account and adjust the height accordingly as the hot end moves around during printing.
The ability to auto level should be included on every 3D printer, but sadly is not. While it used to be found only on premium machines, it is slowly becoming more popular. But for now, odds are the 3D printer you purchased does not have the feature.
But it might be able to, using a BLTouch.
Installation of the BLTouch is said to be easy, taking about an hour of work. However, you’ll have to be reasonably familiar with the hardware and software of your machine to do the installation. As an example, Here’s how to hookup the BLTouch to a standard RAMPS1.4 control board, found in many desktop 3D printers.
What’s very interesting about this 3D printing accessory is the price. You can order a BLTouch right now for only USD$28. Solving your leveling issues for that price is clearly a great deal.
The company recently completed a successful crowdfunding raise through Indiegogo, selling over USD$11,000 of the small sensors. This was apparently over 1,000% higher than their target goal, suggesting the company is going to continue producing the units.