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 (rear of the printer) to make the model as stable as possible.

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

It sounds complicated, but as a user, it is actually very easy. Let’s look at the three different methods that are used to slice files for a conveyor belt 3D printer.

IdeaMaker from Raise3D

IdeaMaker is slicing software developed by US 3D Printer company Raise3D. Raise3D added compatibility for angled conveyor belt 3D printers to their software in late 2020. As of Ideamaker 4.1, slicing for conveyor belt 3D printing is a standard feature they offer.

The software has a number of powerful features including modifier meshes, support material generation (yes specific to belt-slicing), and XY offset compensation. This makes it our #1 recommendation for anyone wanting to slice files for use on their conveyor belt 3D printer.

You can download IdeaMaker profiles for your Powerbelt3D Zero here.

Learn how to get started with IdeaMaker and your Powerbelt3D Zero following the instructions in the video below.

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.\

Zechyc expanded on Bill’s code, and made it a bit more user friendly. You can find in introduction on YouTube here. We haven’t quite gotten it to compile and functions perfectly, but if you have some coding knowledge and really want to use something like PrusaSlicer, then it is definitely worth looking in to. You can find the his code on GitHub.