The BLTouch sensor is the first product that comes to everyone’s minds whenever auto bed leveling is the topic, to the point where the words auto bed leveling and BLTouch are synonymous with how popular the BLTouch is.
On the other hand, the BLTouch isn’t the only auto bed leveling sensor available, and the methodology the BLTouch follows to perform the calculations isn’t the only way, with inductive ABL sensors also being a part of the auto bed leveling sensor market.
In today’s article, we will learn about the differences between the popular BLTouch ABL sensor that everyone knows about; and the less popular inductive ABL sensors that most aren’t familiar with; and try to decide which one is the better option between these two technologies.
So, what is the difference between BLTouch and inductive sensors?
While the BLTouch is a Hall sensor, meaning that it needs to make contact with the build surface for detection purposes, inductive sensors, such as the PINDA sensor, are non-contact sensors that detect the surface through inductance, meaning that they can only work with metallic surfaces.
Next up, we will dive deeper into the differences between the BLTouch and inductive sensors, look at the pros and cons of the BLTouch compared to inductive sensors, and discuss whether the BLTouch is better than or worth switching from inductive sensors or not.
What Is the Difference Between BLTouch and Inductive Sensors?
As the BLTouch and inductive sensors work in two entirely distinct ways to perform the process of auto bed leveling, understanding the differences between these technologies is the best way to make a decision between the two.
Before we move on to the differences between the BLTouch and inductive sensors, let’s begin by pointing out that the BLTouch belongs to the group of Hall sensors (3DTouch is another example), meaning that the actual comparison is between Hall sensors and inductive sensors.
Hall sensors, also known as Hall effect sensors or physical sensors, are contact sensors that contain a retractable pin they utilize to come into contact with the build surface to take the necessary readings for the auto bed leveling process.
On the other hand, inductive sensors (an example would be the PINDA sensor) use a phenomenon known as inductance, where the sensor creates a magnetic field that is disrupted once a metallic object comes into proximity to take the necessary readings without any contact.
It’s worth noting that Hall sensors and inductive sensors aren’t the only sensor types available for auto bed leveling, as capacitive sensors, such as the EZABL, also make up a considerable part of the auto bed leveling sensor market.
Pros and Cons of the BLTouch Compared to Inductive Sensors
Alongside having the knowledge of how these two technologies differ from one another, comparing the pros and cons that appear as a result of the difference can be pretty handy for understanding the optimal use cases of both sensor types in a better way.
The main advantage of Hall sensors, including the BLTouch, over inductive sensors is that they can operate with any building surface regardless of their type, giving them a great deal of flexibility that comes in extremely handy due to the usage of different build surfaces being widespread.
Adding to this, the fact that the readings of the inductive sensors are affected by changes in temperature and humidity, whereas the Hall sensors remain unaffected by such conditions, is another advantage worth mentioning.
On the other hand, the main advantage of inductive sensors compared to Hall sensors is that they are quicker due to their non-contact nature, which reduces the time spent on the auto bed leveling process by a considerable amount.
Aside from this, we can also consider Hall sensors having moving parts to be a slight drawback, as moving parts make the sensor more prone to mechanical faults, damage, and overall wear and tear, whereas inductive sensors with no moving parts are highly unlikely to be affected by such factors.
Is It Worth Switching to the BLTouch from an Inductive Sensor?
While choosing between a BLTouch and an inductive sensor is easier if you plan on buying an ABL sensor for the first time, the decision becomes slightly more challenging if you already own an inductive sensor and think of switching to the BLTouch.
We recommend switching to the BLTouch (or any other Hall sensor) from an inductive sensor if you are planning to use a non-metallic build surface frequently or if your inductive sensor isn’t providing accurate results due to temperature and humidity fluctuations.
On the other hand, if you plan on only printing on metal surfaces for the foreseeable future and don’t experience any temperature or humidity-related issues with the readings of your inductive sensor, there is not much of a reason to switch to the BLTouch from the inductive sensor.
Is the BLTouch Better than Inductive Sensors?
Now that we have a good understanding of the difference between these two technologies and the advantages and disadvantages they bring to the table – the question that comes naturally is whether one is better than the other or not.
Both Hall sensors, such as the BLTouch, and inductive sensors, have their strengths and weaknesses, meaning that it wouldn’t be right to say that one is better than the other as making the correct choice primarily comes down to the use case.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Hall sensors, such as the BLTouch, are preferred more commonly in the community due to their flexibility, as the flexibility seems to be a more desired trait compared to the strengths of inductive sensors for most enthusiasts.
While both the BLTouch and inductive sensors fulfill the same duty of automatically leveling the build plate of the 3D printer, the way they work is entirely distinct as they utilize technologies that perform the readings and calculations in different ways.
To quickly recap, BLTouch, which is a Hall sensor, can work with any surface type due to it detecting the surface through contact, whereas inductive sensors, such as PINDA, detect the surfaces with inductance, which is a principle that requires a metallic surface to operate.
Despite being slower than an inductive sensor, the BLTouch is usually the go-to choice for auto bed leveling due to it supporting all surface types, as switching between different print surfaces often becomes a necessity for enthusiasts who print with different kinds of filaments.