Confused about levelling dials? Here's something you won't forget (probably)!

Some quick background, see TL;DR for the details

I have three different 3D printers with those little dials that need to be turned a little to adjust the distance between the head and the build plate. Now some people just seem able to remember WHICH way to turn to achieve the adjustment we need but I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I didn’t remember until I came up with a little aide-memoire that’s easier to remember than the unrepeatable BBROYGBVGW colour code widely used for resistors and some capacitors. (If you need to ask about that, you’re lucky - I suggest you don’t because it was racist when I heard it over 50 years back.)

If you’re like me, you’re going to kick yourself, if not, give yourself a good pat on the back and bask in your own genius. :wink:

Looking down at the build plate you might know that you tighten the springs by rotating the clockwise and loosen them by rotating anti-clockwise. Easy right?

Not so fast - people like me with a memory that resembles Swiss cheese (without the cheese). You have to make a quick adjustment because … reasons… and suddenly you realise your mind’s blank.


Here’s what you do - and unless the threads are reversed it should work without fail, looking from above turn the wheels

Anti-clockwise to move the bed Away from the head
Clockwise to move the bed Closer to the head.

All you have to remember is the A = Away and C = Closer

I’ve been using this to level the bed on my Ender 5 which is utter nightmare because the eye-line is effectively blocked by the cage and especially given that the plate is only supported at the rear of the cage, even feeler gauges can be quite challenging. I hope this helps someone else.

Nice contribution to the forum @marcdraco.

ps. R U actually an ostrich? cause that would be most impressive :smiley:

Thank you (and if you see my post about using a Titan with Klipper – you’ll see I have a brain of one.)

Always good to see you sir.

Heh, I always visualize the screws for a moment to decide the direction. This is brilliant, but it fails for my general Z offset knob as depending on my printer the direction is the opposite. :smiley:

This is where a stepper motor to make such adjustments would be handy as that electronic control but then there’s the extra cost. Can’t win them all I guess. ?

Angus @ Makers Muse recently posted an interesting video about bed leveling: [U]3D Printing Myths I used to believe... - YouTube

@Ender5r A couple of comments. First I do not completely agree with Angus as I still think the paper distance approach is the best approach for most people leveling their 3d printer beds. In fact, if you think that the goal is to have the nozzle the same distance at every point from the print surface then the use of the term leveling is not bad.

As far as the dials, I think it becomes clear if you understand the principle. When you tighten the bolt, shortening the distance between the bed and the dial/nut, this compresses the spring and pulls the bed away from the nozzle. This increases the distance between the bed and the nozzle. Then I fall back on the old saying righty tighty lefty loosey So turn it right, make it tighter, pull the bed down. Turn it left, make it looser, the bed goes up, and the distance to the nozzle is reduced.

@irvshapiro1, I was most interested by Angus’ statement that the nozzle’s Z Offset should be set to compensate for the thickness of the paper. I’m still not sure I completely understand what he’s getting at, but it kind of made sense at 1st viewing.

Although I understand what bed leveling is, I did have to “educate” a poster in this forum who was confused because his prints were awful, even though he used a level & got it as horizontal as he could make it. So, perhaps the industry should have adopted the term tramming from the get-go. Most people would, on 1st getting into FFM, not know the term, but would quickly learn about it.

As far as the leveling nuts are concerned, I’ve learned to picture myself looking at the printbed from beneath (like I was working under a car). That way, I’m picturing the nuts as I would normally see them on most devices.

It would be wonderful if ALL 3d printers had the ability to adjust your Z offset even when they do not have an ABL system. Marlin 2.X systems have this capability. Angus is correct that the leveling knobs in fact adjust your Z offset. If you have a Z offset adjustment you can position the nozzle right on the print bed with the leveling knobs and then back off the nozzle to the appropriate height for your layer height. For example, if you have a .20mm layer height you may want to have the nozzle .15mm above the bed. This is close enough to press the filament into the bed so it will stick but not so close that it will create elephant feet.

Since many people use the paper leveling approach, your nozzle is starting at the thickness of the paper above the bed. In this case, a Z offset of 0, will in fact be above the bed by the thickness of the paper. If the paper is too thick you may end up with a positive Z offset (I think I have the directions correct.) If you want to move the nozzle further away you will have a negative Z offset.

At the end of the day learning about Z offset, bed leveling, etc. is part of learning the art of 3d printing.

@irvshapiro1, in the past 1+ year, I think I’ve learned a little bit about 3D printing, enough that I now have mental list of things I would want in a printer if I designed it.

Regarding leveling in particular, I’ve been thinking that, maybe, I should approach it differently. Why not have the nozzle actually touch the bed, consider that to be zero, then use the slicer to determine how much above the bed I want the nozzle to be? If I want to print something @ 0.2mm layer height then, like you say, I would set the Z Offset to 0.15mm. If I want to print at 0.12mm layer height, I would set the Z Offset to something like 0.08mm. Of course, I could also use something as a spacer, a feeler guage for example. For ease of calculation why not use a 1mm spacer? A 0.2mm layer height would then use a Z Offset of 0.15mm - 1mm = -0.85mm, and a 0.12mm layer height would use 0.12mm - 1mm - -0.88mm. In this way, I could compensate for different layer heights without having to touch the printer at all. Am I crazy?

You are making me wonder about myself. I am going to have to read that a few times so I can follow you. I haven’t been printing for a long time so I have to dial in.