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Beacon, the world’s first ultra-rapid surface scanner for 3D printers.

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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 of the Beacon sensor by Beacon3D that was mounted on the 3D printer. Seconds before your print, you generate 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 the perfect first layer.

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.

All of us have had to deal with filament not sticking to the surface, or the nozzle too close in some areas. Or a filament blob clogging up the nozzle. The best way to get a high-quality, successful print and avoid these issues is a level print bed. Yet, truly flat beds are a myth. First, it was done through rudimentary techniques such as manual bed leveling using paper and pencil. Then came the ABL (auto bed leveling) sensor, which replaced the paper with an inductive sensor (or capacitive, IR, piezo, etc.) that could create bed meshes.

While we replaced the paper with a sensor, we didn’t replace the grueling work that comes with bringing the nozzle down, taking a measurement, bringing it back up, moving it to another position, and repeating. And repeat. And repeat. Beacon3D created a scan mode sensor that takes bed mesh measurements without moving the z-axis at all. There’s no up and down; it’s that simple.

“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” explained 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 users have to do is mount it to their 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.

Bed meshing used to take 10 to 15 minutes. Beacon takes 15 seconds to do the same thing and gives results down to the sub-micron level. That’s because it’s capable of creating a bed mesh so quickly that you can scan before every print.

Beacon Specifications:

  • Meshes with 0.5um resolution — at up to 500mm/s with 1Khz bandwidth
  • Supports homing for first layer offset — with active temperature compensation
  • No z-axis movement necessary — meshes most surfaces in under 20s
  • Rated up to 110°C ambient – with low thermal drift
  • Weighs only 3.5g — a low profile and weight for easy mounting
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