While the 3D printer itself and a spool of filament are all you need to dive right into the world of 3D printing and manufacture almost anything that crosses your imagination, we can’t deny that creating high-quality models will most likely take some time and experience due to the complexity of the 3D printing process.
Fortunately, many extra tools that aren’t necessities but are definitely helpful are available to make the process of 3D printing a much smoother one regardless of your level of experience, meaning that familiarizing yourself with such tools can make a vital difference in your 3D printing journey to obtaining the best final product possible.
Today, we will be talking about such a helper tool, called the feeler gauge, and while it is by no means a necessity for conducting a successful 3D printing process, as we have mentioned, it is a tool that you will hear about often in the 3D community due to the benefits it brings to the table in terms of reliability and convenience.
So, what is the purpose of a 3D printer feeler gauge?
The purpose of a 3D printer feeler gauge is to act as a spacer of known thickness between the nozzle and the build plate of your 3D printer during the bed leveling process, which allows the manual bed leveling process to be much more consistent and straightforward to conduct.
Moving forward, we will examine the purpose of a 3D printer feeler gauge in more detail, discuss how to use the feeler gauge correctly, and finally, compare utilizing a feeler gauge with the commonly used methods of automatic bed leveling and manual leveling with a paper to find out which one works the best.
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What Is the Purpose of a 3D Printer Feeler Gauge?
A feeler gauge is a very straightforward but effective tool that can make your 3D printing journey a lot less challenging, especially if you are recently starting with 3D printing and don’t have much experience setting the 3D printer up correctly.
A feeler gauge is a measuring tool that contains steel leaves of varying thicknesses, used in many areas of engineering to measure gaps between two parts quickly and easily.
In 3D printing, the purpose of a feeler gauge is to measure the distance between the nozzle and the build plate during the process of manual bed leveling, which allows a consistent and precise way to level the bed with the thickness of the feeler gauge being a known value.
As a feeler gauge isn’t a 3D printing-specific tool, you should be able to find it in most hardware stores without issues, and invest in one if you feel that it would be a valuable tool to improve your bed leveling experience.
How to Use a 3D Printer Feeler Gauge?
While the feeler gauge is a tool that is as simple as they come, finding out how to use it may not come across as way too evident at first look, especially considering that feeler gauges don’t really come with instructions that explain the process.
To use the feeler gauge during the bed leveling process, all you need to do is to pick out the leaf with the thickness of your choice and follow the same procedure as you would while leveling with the paper method, with the only difference being the usage of the feeler gauge instead of paper.
For convenience, we would highly recommend going for a feeler gauge with metric units, especially if you haven’t picked up a feeler gauge yet, as millimeters are the standard unit for length in 3D printing.
How Does Using a Feeler Gauge Compare to the Paper Method?
Due to it being an acceptable way of leveling the bed of a 3D printer without the need for any extra tools, as opposed to using a feeler gauge or an automatic bed leveling sensor that requires additional purchases, the paper method has been the go-to method for bed leveling in 3D printing for a while.
While it’s entirely possible to level your bed correctly with both the paper method and by using a feeler gauge, there is no denying that utilizing a feeler gauge will yield a lot more consistent results while allowing you to have an easier time during the bed leveling process.
The two reasons that make the feeler gauge a better option are that it allows you to use different thicknesses, which can come in handy for different layer heights, and that the thickness is always consistent and known, which is vital in a sensitive operation such as bed leveling.
Even though a feeler gauge is less accessible than a piece of paper, considering that it’s possible to find paper almost everywhere, we highly recommend investing in one to improve your bed leveling experience by a considerable amount.
How Does Using a Feeler Gauge Compare to Automatic Bed Leveling?
The automatic bed leveling process has been accepted as the best way to level a 3D printer bed for a while now, thanks to the consistency it offers without the need to spend any effort or time on the bed leveling process.
While using a feeler gauge will provide the best manual bed leveling experience, there is no doubt that automatic bed leveling is superior to all forms of manual bed leveling in terms of precision, consistency, and ease of use as long as you use a high-quality bed leveling probe and set it up correctly.
Especially considering that incorrect bed leveling is one of the more common problems in 3D printing that can cause critical problems for the final product, being able to set the automatic bed leveling probe and not having to think about leveling the bed again creates a great 3D printing experience.
Considering its ease of use and low cost, we would highly recommend keeping a 3D printer feeler gauge handy to take your 3D printed models to the next level while reducing the effort and time that goes into setting the 3D printer up correctly.
To quickly recap, the feeler gauge is a tool that makes the process of manually leveling the bed much more consistent and flexible compared to the popular method of using a paper, as it’s possible to find spacers of distinct sizes that you can use based on the layer height.
Considering it’s a pretty budget-friendly tool that you will only need to buy once, we highly recommend picking a feeler gauge up if you find yourself manually leveling the bed of your 3D printer frequently, as it will undoubtedly improve your 3D printing experience.
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.