While it’s something we usually take for granted and do not think about often when starting the 3D printing process, ensuring that the 3D printer is correctly calibrated is the very first step toward a successful print, as every other part of the process relies on it.
On the other hand, since 3D printer calibration consists of many different and unrelated processes, ranging from extruder calibration, which ensures that the correct amount of plastic is being extruded, to bed leveling, which is responsible for the print bed to be perfectly straight, it can be challenging to keep up with everything.
Today, our topic will be related to nozzle height calibration, where we will talk about the signs that tell us whether the nozzle is too far from or too close to the bed, in particular, with either scenario having adverse effects on the printing process that can potentially cause the prints to fail due to the negative impact they have on the correct extrusion of the filament.
So, what are the signs that indicate whether the nozzle is too close or too far from the print bed?
In cases where the nozzle of your 3D printer is way too close to the print bed, you will most likely observe some of the signs below:
- Nozzle scratching the print bed
- No plastic being extruded during the first layer
- Lines on the first layer becoming way too thin
- Inconsistencies on the first layer
- Extruder motor skipping and making clicking sounds
On the other hand, when the nozzle is positioned too far from the bed, you may notice signs such as:
- Poor bed adhesion
- Weak connection between lines on the first layer
- The appearance of gaps and holes between lines on the first layer
- Plastic looking rounded on the first layer
- Filament curling around the nozzle
In the upcoming sections of the article, we will dive deeper into the signs that indicate your 3D printer is too close or too far to the bed, discuss how far the nozzle should be from the bed in an optimal scenario, and finally, go through the process of calibrating the nozzle gap optimally for a successful 3D printing process.
Signs That Your 3D Printer’s Nozzle Is Too Close to the Bed
Between the issues of the nozzle being too close to the bed and the nozzle being too far from the bed, we can consider the nozzle being too close to the bed to be the worse one, as, on top of ruining the prints, it can also cause damage to the 3D printer.
Below, we have listed the common signs that indicate your 3D printer’s nozzle is way too close to the print bed, along with detailed explanations:
- The nozzle scratches the print bed during print. In the most extreme cases of the nozzle being too close to the print bed, the nozzle will end up diving into the print bed and scratching it as it moves, potentially causing permanent damage to both of the components in the process.
- The 3D printer does not extrude plastic while printing the first layer. When the nozzle is not close enough to actually come into contact with the print bed but still close enough to leave no gap in between, the 3D printer won’t be able to extrude any plastic as there won’t be any space for the plastic to fit in.
- The lines of the first layer end up becoming way too thin. In cases where there is some space between the nozzle and the print bed, but the space is insufficient for the entirety of the plastic to fit in, the lines of the first layer will end up becoming thin, as only some of the plastic will make its way through.
- There are inconsistencies in extrusion on the first layer. If the nozzle is not way too close to the bed to disrupt the flow of filament but still closer than optimal, the plastic can end up squeezing out from the sides of the nozzle, creating a scenario where the excess plastic makes its way to the surrounding lines and introduces inconsistencies.
- The extruder motor skips and makes clicking sounds. As the nozzle being too close to the print bed means that the plastic will face some resistance when getting out of the nozzle, the extruder motor can end up skipping steps due to not being able to push more filament out, making clicking sounds in the process.
Signs That Your 3D Printer’s Nozzle Is Too Far from the Bed
While the nozzle being too far from the bed won’t cause any damage to your 3D printer like a nozzle that is too close to the bed can, it will still most likely cause your prints to fail and create a situation where you have wasted time and material for no reason.
Below, you can find the most common signs that point toward your 3D printer’s nozzle being way too far from the print bed, along with detailed explanations belonging to each sign:
- The bed adhesion is extremely weak. As the nozzle being too far from the bed will essentially cause the 3D printer to print in the air, the plastic won’t have enough pressure pushing it towards the print bed for a strong force of adhesion.
- The print lines on the first layer do not connect. When the filament is extruded from a point that is too far from the bed, the layer lines won’t be able to connect to each other due to them not being correctly pressed into the print bed.
- There are noticeable gaps and holes on the first layer. The larger the distance between the nozzle and the print bed gets, the connection between the layer lines will worsen and come to a point where visually noticeable gaps and holes start appearing between them.
- Parts of the extrusion on the first layer have a rounded shape. When the plastic is not sufficiently squished into the print bed as it comes out, it will retain the rounded shape of the nozzle instead of having sharp edges.
- The filament is curling around the nozzle while the first layer is printed. In severe cases of the nozzle being too far from the print bed, the filament may not even be able to stick to the bed at all due to the lack of squish, which will cause it to curl around the nozzle instead.
How Far Away (How Close) Should the Nozzle Be From the Bed?
Having a clear understanding of how close to the print bed the nozzle should be positioned in an optimal scenario is the first step in correctly configuring the nozzle gap, as it wouldn’t be possible to perform the configuration without this information.
As a rule of thumb, a length that equals the thickness of a standard piece of paper is considered to be the optimal distance between the nozzle and the bed of a 3D printer, which is roughly 0.1 millimeters.
While this figure is not set in stone by any means, meaning that you can feel free to apply modifications based on your observations, it should allow you to conduct the 3D printing process without any issues related to the distance between the print bed and the nozzle in a standard scenario.
How to Modify the Nozzle Gap as Effortlessly as Possible?
Modifying the nozzle gap as effortlessly as possible is a process that every 3D printing enthusiast should get familiar with, as it’s one of the essentials of 3D printer calibration that you will come across quite frequently.
Adjusting the Z home offset value is the most straightforward way to configure and correct the nozzle gap value as effortlessly as possible, as it only requires you to perform changes on the software side without needing any hardware rearrangements such as manually re-positioning the endstops.
While the exact way to do so can show slight differences across different firmware, each firmware does come with a dedicated G-code command that allows you to adjust the Z home offset value, which you should also be able to invoke through the LCD controller in most cases.
For instance, on a 3D printer that runs Marlin firmware, such as the Ender 3, you can utilize either the M206 (Set Home Offsets) or the M428 (Home Offsets Here) G-code command for the task, which will allow you to modify the Z home offset value with a single input.
On the LCD panel of your Ender 3, you can also find an entry that corresponds to the M428 G-code command, labeled as “Set Home Offsets”, which can make the process more user-friendly for enthusiasts who don’t have an interface set up to invoke G-code commands directly.
While it may seem like there are no issues with the positioning of the nozzle to the naked eye due to the nozzle gap being in the millimetric scale, even a minor misconfiguration can end up with print failure or even permanent damage to the 3D printer, making it vital to watch out for the signs that may indicate there is something wrong.
To quickly recap, the nozzle scratching the bed due to direct contact, no plastic coming out, lines being printed thinner than optimal, inconsistencies in extrusion or even extruder skipping while the first layer is being printed due to the filament not having enough space to come out can all indicate that the nozzle of your 3D printer is too close to the print bed.
On the other hand, if you’re observing signs such as poor bed adhesion, a loss of connection between lines, the appearance of visible gaps and holes between the lines, the plastic ending up looking rounded instead of sharp, and filament curling around the nozzle, the nozzle is most likely too far away from the print bed.
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.