Dec 3, 2018

3D Printer Calibration Cube – Best Models & How to Use Them

Machines don't come perfect off the production line. Just like computer monitors and factory machinery, 3D printers should be calibrated for maximum accuracy and precision. Here's how to use calibration cubes to get the most out of your 3D printer.

What Are Calibration Cubes?

Dezign's cat-themed calibration cube. Source: Listartu / Thingiverse

Calibration cubes are simple geometric shapes (usually cubes, hence the name) that help you fine-tune your 3D printer’s settings. They enable you to achieve maximum precision and accuracy in your prints.

These cubes are particularly important for assembly-required kits and lower-end machines that have not been factory-tuned. With these cubes, you can adjust your printer’s settings to produce precise, mechanical parts.

Using Calibration Cubes

Tuning material flow with calibration cubes Source: 3DMN / YouTube

There are many ways to use calibration cubes. Before we get started, however, be sure to calibrate your 3D printer’s extruder. This will ensure that any defects will be strictly mechanical and not caused by extrusion inaccuracies.

Once your extruder is calibrated, there are several things you can do with calibration cubes:

  1. Tune your steps/mm settings. These tell your 3D printer how much to turn each motor to complete a millimeter of travel. If you are unfamiliar with your 3D printer’s motion system, calibration cubes will help you lock down on these settings. Our calibration guide takes you through the steps.
  2. Tune your material settings. If you understand how your printer’s motion system works, you can use Prusa Research’s steps/mm calculator to find the exact steps/mm settings you need. This will leave only the print material as a source of error. Bulging layers or gaps in prints are all indicators of poor extruder calibration, indicating that you should re-calibrate your extruder. Consistently undersized prints indicate material shrinkage, so you should adjust your slicing software’s “shrinkage percent” setting. The deviation you experience divided by your desired dimension will be a good starting value.
  3. Fix 3D printer ringingThe sharp corners of calibration cubes will easily reveal ringing (or “ghosting”) artifacts, which can translate to poor surface finishes. Learn how to fix this problem in our ringing guide.
  4. Test for tolerances. Calibration cubes can be used to test for and improve your printer’s precision. This will allow for tighter clearances when 3D printing mechanical parts.

Now that you know how to use calibration cubes, we present a list of the best designs for the job.

1. Classic Calibration Cube

Impossible to be confused. Source: TinC33 / YouTube

What is it? The simple, classic, 20-mm cube, with its faces labeled X, Y, and Z. Also the most popular, due to its simplicity and ease of use. You should aim for each dimension (easily identified with the large letters) to be 20 mm.

Who made it? iDig3Dprinting

Where to find it: Thingiverse

2. Dimensional Accuracy Test

Four cubes in one. Source: Make / YouTube

What is it? An amped-up version of the classic calibration cube. It features 4 layers, at 25 mm, 20 mm, 15 mm, and 10 mm, with a notch at the front to indicate orientation. This is especially useful for identifying material shrinkage; if dimensions deviate at different amounts for each layer, you should correct your slicing software’s material shrinkage settings as described earlier.

Who made it? Make Magazine

Where to find it: YouMagine

3. Calibration Cat

The "Cali Cat". Source: Dezign / Thingiverse

What is it? A calibration cube made cuter. Unlike the other tests on this list, the “Cali Cat” is one that you’ll enjoy keeping after you’re done calibrating. The head and tail are different sizes, so like the dimensional accuracy test, you can use this cat to identify material shrinkage.

Who made it? Dezign

Where to find it: Thingiverse

Going Further

You're now ready to start producing dimensionally accurate prints! Source: All3DP

Hopefully, this guide was helpful in familiarizing you with calibration cubes and how they can be used to tune your 3D printer’s settings. You’re now one step closer to producing precise, mechanical prints!

From here, you can test and improve your printer’s tolerances to create interlocking components.

If you encounter any problems along the way, you can turn to our 2018 troubleshooting guide.

Happy printing!

License: The text of "3D Printer Calibration Cube – Best Models & How to Use Them" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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