3d print layers

How to Orient & Slice Models for a Conveyor Belt 3D Printer

Conveyor belt 3D printers are unique, and it can be hard to wrap one’s head around how g-code can be created when the X, Y, and Z axiis aren’t aligned conventionally. Today, 3D printer slicers create g-code as they would for a normal 3D printer, and use a post-processing script to offset each layer.

One key to success when using any 3D printer is how you orient your parts. Here, you can find all the tips and tricks to get the best prints possible off of your conveyor belt 3D printer. We will keep this page updated with as much knowledge as we can gather.

Position a flat edge as the first layer

The first layer of any 3D print is very important, and this is still true with conveyor belt 3D printers. If the very first layer is too short, the print may not adhere well to the conveyor belt. Not only will this create a poor-looking model, but could cause the model to get knocked off the conveyor belt, causing a print failure. For best results, the first extrusion should be a flat edge, that is as long as possible.

flat edge as first layer
This model has a flat edge facing the conveyor belt exit. This creates a long first layer.

Position long ‘bridges’ along the belt axis

A bridge area strings plastic in mid-air. On conventional 3D printers, this can be done anywhere in the X-Y plane. However, on a conveyor belt 3D printer, short bridges should be positioned on the x-axis. Long bridges should be positioned along the y-axis.

cage box oriented incorrectly
While this model is printable as-is, this is not the best orientation for a 3D printer with a conveyor belt.
cage box correct orientation
The longest overhangs should be positioned along the conveyor belt axis.

Adjust overhang areas

Overhangs become more directional on a 3D printer that uses a conveyor belt. While conventional 3D printers are typically able to support overhangs up to 45 degrees, these machines can support any overhang angle, as long as it is in the y-axis direction.

overhang angles on a traditional 3D printer
Traditional 3D printers can print at an angle up to 45 degrees
conveyor belt 3d printer overhang angle
Conveyor belt 3D printers can print at any angle in the direction of the belt

Position the longest feature of your part along the belt axis

This is a little up to personal preference, but generally speaking, the longest dimension of your part should be aligned with the conveyor belt axis. This will make the part the most stable and give the best surface finish.

Position largest/tallest feature last

In general, the shortest part of the print should be printed – and leave the conveyor belt – first. This helps keep the print stable during printing.

position the tallest feature last
The tallest feature should be positioned towards the start of the conveyor belt to make the model as stable as possible.

2 Ways to Slice Parts for a Conveyor Belt 3D Printer

Blackbelt Cura

Blackbelt Cura is a special edition of Ultimaker’s popular Cura software, created to be used with conveyor belt 3D printers. It allows users to define a custom-built 3D printer of this type, slice files, and add support material or rafts when needed.

Use any slicer and post-process

Bill Steele wrote a script that post-processes g-code so that it can be used with conveyor belt 3D printers. The script is shared for anyone to use on Thingiverse. After slicing in Slic3r, Cura, or any other slicer, this plugin can shift the g-code instructions for a 3D printer at any angle. If you aren’t a fan of Blackbelt Cura, and do not mind a little bit of coding, this can be a great option.

It sounds complicated, but as a user, it is actually very easy. Let’s look at the two main methods that are used to slice files for a conveyor belt 3D printer. After that, we will look at best practices when orienting models for 3D printing on a conveyor belt.