FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printing is a technology that builds parts layer by layer through melting and depositing material. 3D printers require many moving parts to make a 3D print, among which the printer's belts are one of the most crucial components. We can find some innovative conveyor belt 3D printers in the market, they introduce a novel concept, allowing printers to create models of infinite length. As a result, the importance of these components cannot be overstated. Let's learn about how belts drive 3D printers and how to properly tighten them.
How Do Belts Drive a 3D Printer to Work?
Belts, typically installed around the X and Y axes, are essential components for the operation of a 3D printer, as they enable the movement of the print head and the hotbed. 3D printer belts are flat and flexible, featuring a toothed pattern that allows them to match pulley wheels. These wheels are connected to motor shafts. When powered, the motors rotate, driving the pulleys, which in turn move the belts, thus controlling the print head and the bed to move.
Why Should You Tighten 3D Printer Belts?
3D printing belt tension significantly impacts 3D print accuracy and quality. Incorrect belt tension can lead to surface defects in 3D printed objects and negatively affect the machine's lifespan. When belts are too loose or slack, they can cause excessive vibrations and wobbling in the machine, and issues may happen like 3D print layer shifting, ghosting and ringing. On the contrary, belts that are overly tight can become firm and rigid, resulting in wear or even breakage. What's worse, you should note that belts have elasticity, and once they snap, they can pose a safety risk. Therefore, we should not underestimate the importance of maintaining these belts.
How to Tighten Belts on a 3D Printer
Step 1: Locate the belt tensioners for your printer; they are typically situated at one end of the X and Y axes.
Step 2: Prepare the tool you need, usually an Allen key, for adjusting the nuts. If your printer has built-in knobs for tension adjustment, you can adjust them directly by hand.
Step 3: To increase belt tension, turn the belt tensioner clockwise; conversely, turning it counterclockwise will release the tension. Be cautious not to over-tighten, as the belt may break, and this is irreversible.
Tightening your printer belts can be achieved in these 3 simple steps. Using adjustable knobs is the easiest way to tighten loose belts, and you won't need any tools other than your hands. Currently, some printers do have this feature. For example, Anycubic Kobra 2 Neo comes equipped with turnable adjusters for the X and Y axes, and you can tighten up your belts directly. It is an affordable and user-friendly high-speed printer for most beginners. If your machine doesn't have this feature, you can try DIY 3D printed belt tensioners to upgrade your printer.
How Tight Should Belts Be on a 3D Printer?
We now know how to adjust the 3D printer belt tension, but another question arises: how tight should the belts be on a 3D printer? There is no absolute numerical value to prove the optimal belt tension, but simply touch the belt to check the tension. When you gently press or push on the belt, you will feel its elasticity, and it should go back to its original place when you release it. Another way to verify the tension is: when you move the print head back and forth, the motion is smooth, and you should feel a slight resistance, indicating that the tension is appropriate.
If your current printer is from Anycubic Kobra 2 Series, it's recommended to turn the knob clockwise to the maximum tightness and then loosen it by one turn. In most cases, this will provide the right belt tension. Finally, you can use a small model like a calibration cube to test whether the belt tension is suitable.
3D Printer Belts Maintenance Tips
1. After printing 3-5 times, it is important to check the belt tension and tighten it if necessary, as belts tend to loosen with prolonged use.
2. Keep the belt clean, free from dust and material debris to ensure stable printer operation.
3. Inspect the condition of the belts for signs of wear and cracks. If needed, replace them with new ones to extend the printer's lifespan. Maintenance costs for belts are much lower compared to other printer components.