While starting a 3D printing process is as simple as it comes, the chance of achieving success without performing the necessary configuration is pretty low, as the 3D printer can only create a final product that is as good as the parameters you provide it.
Fortunately, with today’s software, there are plenty of ways to configure your 3D printer and even distinct ways to configure the same parameter, such as using your computer or directly using the 3D printer’s panel, which makes things more accessible and more user-friendly.
Today, we will talk about the babystep Z feature in Ender 3, one of the lesser-known features you can find in your printer’s interface, offering a great deal of flexibility in print configuration to the point where it can save an already running printing process from failure.
So, what is the babystep Z feature in Ender 3?
The babystep Z feature in Ender 3, which technically is a feature of the Marlin firmware, gives you the option to fine-tune the Z-axis offset value through the LCD panel of your Ender 3 in real-time while the printing process is taking place, allowing you to find the most optimal Z offset value.
Moving forward, we will analyze the babystep Z feature of Ender 3 in more detail, find out how to activate and use it, discuss the cases where it’s appropriate to use this feature, and finally, take a look at how to make the changes performed with this feature permanent.
What Is the Babystep Z Feature in Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
The babystep Z feature in Ender 3 is one of the lesser-known features of the 3D printer despite the significant advantage it brings to configuring one of the critical print settings that can make or break the printing process.
Babystep Z is a feature that comes from the Marlin firmware to your Ender 3, which makes it possible to calibrate the Z-axis offset value in real-time after you start the print and while the printing process is still ongoing, giving you complete control over the parameter at any given point.
The primary purpose of the feature is to fix small incorrections of the Z offset value that you may not have noticed before the printing process, rather than acting as the primary tool to set the Z offset of your 3D printer, which you can perform with the probe offset wizard instead.
While the most common way of utilizing the babystepping feature is to adjust the Z-axis, it’s also worth noting that it’s possible to use this feature to adjust the X and Y axes whenever necessary as well, which makes it a flexible tool that can save the 3D printing process when used correctly.
How to Use the Babystep Z Feature in Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
While activating and utilizing the babystep Z feature is pretty straightforward, it’s vital to be careful during its usage as it’s a feature that allows you to modify the Z offset value in real-time during the printing process.
To use the babystep Z feature in your Ender 3, all you need to do is to start the printing process first, navigate to the Tune section through the LCD panel, and then activate the babystep Z option.
Following these steps will take you to the babystep Z menu, where you will be able to adjust the Z-axis offset value in real-time by turning the knob and see the changes you have made on the LCD panel, similar to how you would configure the Z offset value regularly with the probe offset wizard.
A vital point to keep in mind is that the Z-offset changes you have performed through the babystep Z feature will be temporary, meaning that they will only apply to the current print and will be saved to neither the volatile memory nor the EEPROM.
When to Use the Babystep Z Feature in Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
Even though the babystep Z feature is pretty handy, it’s not always necessary to use it, and as using it when it’s not required can create problems for the printing process, it’s essential to identify the scenarios where it’s suitable to use it.
We recommend using the babystep Z feature whenever you suspect that the Z offset value could be wrong after the printing process starts, which usually becomes apparent once your Ender 3 starts printing the first layer of the print.
As your best chance to observe whether there is a problem with the Z offset is during the printing of the first layer, we highly recommend closely monitoring your 3D printer in this period if you think that the Z offset value might not be correctly adjusted.
On the other hand, since misusing the babystep Z feature can be harmful to the printing process, we would recommend refraining from using it unless you are sure that there is indeed a problem with the Z-offset value that requires immediate fixing for a successful 3D printing process.
How to Save Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Babystep Z Changes Permanently?
Since the modifications performed through the babystep Z feature are not saved to the Z probe offset by default, even if you manually save the settings to the EEPROM, you will need to use different methods to make your changes permanent.
You have two options to permanently save the changes you have made to the Z-axis offset value with the babystep Z feature, with one being an automatic solution and the other requiring a more manual approach.
The automatic solution is to enable the BABYSTEP_ZPROBE_OFFSET configuration directly in Marlin firmware, which will prompt your Ender 3 to automatically modify the Z probe offset value by adding the value you have set through the babystep Z feature.
The primary downside of this approach is that it will require you to re-flash your Ender 3 with the modified version of the firmware, as there is no other way to activate this feature.
On the other hand, the manual solution is to make a note of the value you have set through the babystep Z feature and then add the value manually to the standard Z probe offset after the printing process is over, which is pretty straightforward.
The downside of this particular approach is that it requires extra work whenever you would like to save the configuration you have performed through the babystep Z feature, which can get tedious over time.
While we recommend going with the more permanent option of modifying the firmware to make things easier down the road and save yourself the hassle of copying the value every time you utilize babystepping, the manual method is perfectly suitable if you don’t find yourself using the babystep Z feature frequently.
The babystep Z feature in Ender 3 is definitely a useful one with the flexibility it provides for configuring one of the most vital parameters that the printing process requires to create successful results, especially considering the sensitivity of the parameter and the effects it can cause in the case of a misconfiguration.
To quickly recap, using the babystep Z feature in Ender 3 (which comes with Marlin firmware) allows you to modify the current Z-axis offset while the printing process is already underway, meaning that you can perform live adjustments to configure the Z offset value to be as precise as possible.
On the other hand, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s vital to be careful with the babystep Z feature, as a misconfiguration can immediately worsen the situation and, in the worst-case scenario, cause the printhead to bump into the build plate, potentially causing damage to both of the components.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.