Monday, February 6, 2023 — Picture yourself walking away from your 3D printer as the first layer is being printed. There’s no babysitting your machine. Hoping the filament won’t peel off the surface or the nozzle doesn’t get too close to the bed. That’s because you mounted the Beacon sensor to your 3D printer. Seconds before your print, you generated a mesh of your bed surface that’s precise down to the sub-micron level. This is the same mesh that your printer software will use to make micro adjustments during your print; ensuring that perfect first layer.
As we all know, surfaces are inherently uneven, even under the naked eye. Metal surfaces, even the flattest ones, are prone to warping under extreme temperatures. This is especially problematic for 3D printing and is responsible for the majority of printing failures and lost productivity.
Mesh leveling is a process that compensates for the uneven shape of the bed. The bed is represented by a “mesh”, which can have hills and valleys according to real swells or dips in the build plate:
During a print, the mesh represents the micro changes the nozzle position must compensate against as it extrudes filament.
Before the advent of the Beacon, mesh bed leveling was a grueling 15-30 minute process because it was either done with a paper and pencil or using ABL (auto bed leveling) sensors. These options were time consuming and prone to errors with wild temperature disruptions.
“With the launch of Beacon, we can scan a bed surface quickly, which means we can do it right before a print starts and at the exact printing temperature” explains Matt Baker, creator of the Beacon. “This is a game changer for the accuracy of the first layer, because we’ve captured any variations in the bed surface due to time and temperature.”
Beacon is an eddy current sensor optimized for 3D printers. All you have to do is mount it to your printer head and install the software. Beacon uses a high frequency magnetic field to induce eddy currents in a metal target and measures their strength. Rapid and continuous measurement of distance makes high speed, high resolution meshing possible.
“Flawless meshing with such incredible speed we can finally run detailed meshes on our large format printers” says Luke Ashley, owner of Luke’s Laboratory. “Feels like the future came early”. Luke is one of many early adopters helping with the development and testing of the Beacon probe.
“Press print and leave. No watching first layer, it’s perfect every time.” Exclaims Theodor Lasenko of NorthPrint3D.ca. “Beacon is infinitely more reliable than the [ABL] probes I used to use. No pins to break or bend, no catching on whisps.”
All the facts about Beacon:
Beacon retails for $79.99 and is available for only $69.99 until March 7th. It is available at http://ec2-52-207-212-106.compute-1.amazonaws.com/store/. There are currently no plans for re-sellers or distributors.
Matt Baker and Laura Kassovic are the co-creators of the Beacon surface scanner. What started as an idea during COVID morphed into a full-time project for Matt. With the help of Annex Engineering, the Beacon probe finally came to life after multiple re-designs due to IC shortages. It’s a labor of love for the 3D printing community and the first of many more projects to come from the duo.