Calibrate Your IDEX 3D Printer with Ease: The Camera Assisted XY Calibration Tool

By on April 6th, 2023 in Hardware, news

Tags: , , , ,

Camera-assisted XY IDEX calibration tool [Source: Ember Prototypes]

Calibration is a big issue with FFF and MSLA desktop 3D printers, but here’s a new tool that can help.

The tool is the “Camera Assisted XY Calibration Tool” from Ember Prototypes. It’s designed to simplify the calibration of IDEX FFF 3D printers.

Ember Prototypes is a “small, rapid prototyping, consulting and product design company” that is based in Vancouver. With their experience in preparing prototypes for customers, they have learned a great deal about operating 3D printers.

One of the problems they’ve encountered frequently is the issue of calibration.

When you say “calibration” to most desktop FFF 3D printer operators, they will immediately think of two specific calibration operations: bed leveling and setting the Z-offset. For single-extrusion systems, that’s basically what you need to do to the machine to make it ready for use.

Of course, you also should also calibrate the flow, temperature and retraction settings for specific filaments on the machine, but that’s a story for another day.

In the case of IDEX (independent extrusion) 3D printers, there is more calibration to be done.

IDEX machines have two printheads that move independently of each other. They “collaborate” to finish a print job. This could mean they print two copies of an object, or mirrored copies of an object. However, the most popular use case for IDEX equipment is for multiple materials.

For this the two print heads must move in a coordinated manner to deposit material on a single object. While it’s possible to, say, print two different colors in an object, the more common case is to use soluble support material.

This type of support material is used to print highly complex objects where tons of support is required, and particularly geometries where the support structures end up deep inside where they would be impossible to remove if not soluble. If soluble, you simply dunk the print into water (or whichever solvent works) and wait for them to dissolve automatically.

This only works if the two printheads are truly calibrated. What’s happening is that each printhead is basically printing its own 3D model independently, and it just so happens that the two models overlap perfectly.

Except that doesn’t happen unless the printheads themselves are calibrated to each other. If printhead A is to move to a specific location in 3D space, then printhead B would also move to the same point if instructed to do so. If they are misaligned, then you get unfortunate overlaps and gaps in the resulting combined print.

Each IDEX machine manufacturer has procedures to calibrate the printheads to each other, but they tend to be tedious and sometimes not particularly accurate.

Camera-assisted XY IDEX calibration tool [Source: Ember Prototypes]

However, Ember Prototype’s new Camera Assisted XY Calibration Tool should overcome such difficulties.

At its heart, the “CXC” is a camera system with some software. The software, which runs on Windows OS only, connects to the camera to provide an underside view of the printhead with crosshairs. The camera is focused on the printhead and provides a precise view of its location.

The operator can then tweak the X and Y axes to ensure that the printhead is precisely in the same XY location as its counterpart.

Ember Prototypes wrote:

“Ember’s new Camera-Assisted XY Calibration Tool (CXC) is a small device that easily performs XY offset calibration on dual extruder, IDEX, and tool changing 3D printers, without the need for printing line patterns. Calibrating your printer used to be a painstaking and time-consuming process that left room for human error. The CXC solves this problem for 3D printing operators by introducing a camera assisted calibration process.”

They say the calibration process takes less than five minutes to complete and provides a precise calibration result, with apparently less than 0.1mm error.

This looks like a near-essential accessory for those with IDEX 3D printers, and it’s available for only US$49. No brainer!

Via Ember Prototypes

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *