3D printing generally takes place in some sort of confined volume. The print volume applies size limitations to prints that are a single piece. This can be countered somewhat by breaking down particularly large models into multiple pieces. This approach, however, can result in other issues when reassembling the piece. for example, you may be left with visible seams and may struggle to align the parts perfectly. The only other way around this is a belt printer.
A belt printer is a somewhat modified CoreXY style printer where the print bed is a conveyor belt. This allows prints to extend beyond the confines of the printer and even the belt itself. Another potential use is for the continuous printing of smaller models.
How does it work?
Belt printers use a CoreXY style printer print head gantry, placed at a 45-degree angle to print onto the belt. This angle results in angled layer lines which can cause some interesting layer line artifacts especially when printing with large layer heights. The movement of the belt pulls the prints away from the print head and technically gives the printer an infinite Z-axis.
While some may claim that this type of printer can print indefinitely, that’s not quite true. Hot-swapping a new spool of filament into the printer is possible but could lead to a small amount of under extrusion if you don’t nail the swap. The main issue though is that eventually, the print will overbalance and fall off the end of the conveyor belt. While you can try to support it, eventually friction and mass will become a problem too. Even though you technically can’t print indefinitely, you can certainly make much longer prints than normal.
One issue, however, can be support in slicing software. Belt printers are relatively new – having only been invented in 2017 – and very niche. Cura is one example slicer that does support belt printing, but other slicing software packages may not.
If you got a belt printer, what would you print with it? Let us know down below.