3D printer designs have evolved a lot since their inception in the 1980s. Cartesian, CoreXY, and Delta 3D printers are the standard norm in the hobby 3D printing space. Recently, we have seen the introduction of conveyor belt 3D printers.
These 3D printers have the belt embedded into the build platform, essentially creating a printer with an infinite Z-axis. This is an interesting design and raises the question: is a belt 3D printer viable for your 3D printing needs?
Read on to learn more about continuous printing and see the best belt 3D printers that are currently available on the market.
|Belt 3D Printer||Build Volume||Inclination||Price (~)||Best Offer|
|Creality CR-30 3DPrintMill||200 x 170 x ∞ mm||45°||$1049|
|Blackbelt 3D Printer||340 x 340 x ∞ mm||15°/25°/35°/45°||$10450|
|IdeaFormer IR3||250 x 250 x ∞ mm||45°||$499|
|SainSmart INFI-20||200 x 180 x ∞ mm||45°||$849|
|White Knight Belt Printer||400 x 430 x ∞ mm||45°||$2000|
What is a Belt 3D printer?
Originally invented by the Dutch company Blackbelt in 2017, rolling conveyor belt 3D printers are a radical take on the existing 3D printer designs. Belt 3D printers consist of a moving belt that lets you print long objects in the Z-axis without any limits (infinite Z printing).
You can use a belt 3D printer to carry out bulk printing and print continuously without the need to stop the 3D printing process.
The original Blackbelt 3D printer had a price tag of over $9000, limiting its user base to professional users. Subsequently, Creality’s CR-30 3DPrintMill brought continuous printing technology to the masses. Several other conveyor belt printers have appeared on the market after that.
How do belt 3D printers work?
A conveyor belt 3D printer is a drastic modification over your typical Cartesian or CoreXY 3D printer. Its stand-out feature is a continuously moving belt instead of a fixed print bed.
On a belt 3D printer, a Core XY motion gantry is positioned inclined to the belt, usually at a 45° angle. The belt is used as the Z-axis for your 3D prints, whereas the inclined print head constitutes the X and Y axes.
The print head prints the objects in an inclined plane. While doing so, the belt moves ahead or backward, depending on your object’s design. The printing process is pretty much like that of a standard CoreXY 3D printer, albeit on an inclined plane.
3D prints fall off the belt’s far end once they’re done printing. Because of this, you can use belt 3D printers to print large production runs of your designs without any intervention.
Technically, there’s no restriction on the object’s height that you can print on belt 3D printers. Here is an example of a CR-30 3D printer printing a 6-meter extended model on the conveyor belt.
Why use a belt 3D printer?
One of the biggest advantages of a conveyor belt 3D printer is that it lets you 3D print long objects. As the 3D printer has no actual limit in the Z direction, you can 3D print swords, large model buildings, and other prints that would not fit the print volume of traditional FDM printers.
As long as you can support your parts beyond the belt’s length, you can print models as long as you want. For that reason, some belt 3D printers come with a removable extension bracket accessory.
Alternatively, you can use belt 3D printers to automate your printing process. If your work consists of 3D printing numerous parts, you might not want to go through the effort of removing them from the print bed, cleaning the bed, and starting a new 3D print each time.
- Infinite z-axis offers infinite length 3D prints
- Cost-efficient bulk 3D printing
- No belt 3D printers with enclosure
- Rougher surface finish than glass print beds
- Limited slicer options
- Requires additional support structures
The Best Conveyor Belt 3D Printers in 2023
Creality’s CR-30 3DPrintMill is probably the best-known conveyor belt 3D printer at the moment of writing. It carries a similar design to the Blackbelt 3D printer, but comes at a considerably more attractive price. At a price tag of $1049, it provides a great set of features and easy accessibility to spare parts.
The CR-30 comes with a CoreXY gantry inclined at 45°. This lets the 3D printer have a rigid triangular frame that aids in print quality. The design is similar to other Creality 3D printers with V-slot extrusions, a dual gear Bowden extruder, and a spring adjustable bed platform.
The wear-resistant nylon belt surface and partially heated print area both promote print adhesion. The printer’s belt can be easily removed for cleaning or replacement.
Keep in mind that you will need to spend time fine-tuning it to get the best quality results. Nonetheless, the CR-30 Print mill opens up many avenues for cosplay 3D printing and is one of the best belt 3D printers for hobbyists looking for an endless printing solution.
- Nylon conveyor belt
- Dual metal gear extruder
- Silent stepper drivers
|Build volume||200 x 170 x ∞ mm|
|Max hot end temperature||240°C|
|Overall dimensions||535 x 656 x 410 mm|
What We Like
- Easy to assemble
- Add-on rollers and replacement belts available
- Great community support
Could Be Better
- Sub-par print quality out of the box
- Poor quality control
The Blackbelt 3D printer was the first commercial solution to realize infinite Z-axis 3D printing. Its revolutionary design and high-end components brought belt 3D printing to industrial applications.
The belt is made up of a durable carbon fiber composite material and holds your prints firmly in place. It features a modular design letting you quickly change the printhead assembly to print flexible filaments. Additionally, the Blackbelt team can customize the printer to fully suit your 3D printing workflow.
The industrial linear guides on the printer facilitate a smooth motion, and you get the option to adjust the inclination angle of the printer frame as well. It certainly has a premium design and a rugged build quality and is developed with industrial applications in mind.
If you have the budget for a >$10,000 conveyor belt 3D printer, the Blackbelt will be the best choice for you.
- Modular design
- Carbon-fiber composite belt
- Adjustable print angles
|Build volume||340 x 340 x ∞ mm|
|Max hot end temperature||N/A|
What We Like
- Industrial build quality
- Customizable to your needs
- Large build volume
Could Be Better
- Outdated user interface
The IdeaFormer IR3 is a desktop-sized conveyor belt 3D printer catered to budget 3D printer users. It has a simple design and comes with typical features of a budget 3D printer but in a belt printer package.
The printer features a CoreXY structure with a PU polyester belt as the print surface. You get linear guides on the XY axes for smooth and precise movement. The hot end on the printer is exclusive to it and has the addition of a dual gear extruder and a filament breakage detector. These key features are designed to provide reliable 3D printing over long periods of time.
As the printer is focused on novice users, it is easy to assemble, You will be able to put it together within half an hour.
The lack of a heated bed makes it most suitable for 3D printing low-temperature filaments like PLA. Similarly, its non-triangular frame is less rigid than the one you can find on the CR 30.
If you can handle its limitations and want to experience printing with a budget belt 3D printer, the IdeaFormer I3 is an excellent option.
- Easy to assemble
- Linear rail guides on X and Y axes
- Exclusively designed hot end
|Build volume||250 x 250 x ∞ mm|
|Max hot end temperature||250 °C|
|Overall dimensions||575 x 436 x 506 mm|
What We Like
- Beginner-friendly design
- Good printing volume
Could Be Better
- Separate control unit takes up extra space
- Limited community support
The Sainsmart INFI-20 is one of the most compact and modern-looking conveyor belt 3D printers. Its spec sheet is comparable with that of the CR-30. At a slightly lower cost, the Sainsmart still delivers a decent printing experience and is an excellent alternative to the CR-30.
The INFI-20 comes with TMC 2208 stepper drivers for silent 3D printing. You also get a textured nylon belt surface designed for durability and good print adhesion. To help with setup, the included layer test model lets you quickly level your print bed.
The sleek brush metal finish display with a rotary knob on the control panel adds a touch of modernity to the printer. And with the inbuilt Wi-Fi capabilities, you can print wirelessly through the Octoprint app.
Reviews of the INFI-20 aren’t as positive as those of the CR-30. While it comes packed with nice features in a small form factor, you can expect to do a lot of tinkering before you get good results.
That said, if you get it dialed in correctly, the SainSmart INFI-20 conveyor belt 3D printer can be a decent belt printer for beginners, and hobbyists to print multiple models at once.
- Compact form factor
- Modern user interface
- Wi-Fi printing
|Build volume||200 x 180 x ∞ mm|
|Max hot end temperature||240 °C|
|Overall dimensions||630 x 530 x 290 mm|
What We Like
- Easy to set up
- Silent 3D printing experience
- Integrated Octoprint support
Could Be Better
- Requires considerable fine-tuning
- Inconsistent Z-axis homing
If you’re looking for a DIY belt 3D printer, the White Knight Belt 3D Printer is certainly worth looking at. Built by NAK 3D Designs, it is an entirely open-source conveyor belt 3D printer. It uses premium components but costs considerably less than its ready-to-buy counterparts.
The White Knight has a 400 mm x 430 mm print area with its CoreXY structure. It is designed to use a Duet WiFi 3D printer controller board along with an all-metal hot end. The Bondtech Extruder and the BuildTak printing surface are additional aids in delivering excellent 3D printing quality.
You can find all the files and instructions to build the 3D printer on its GitHub page. It is definitely not for beginners, and it will be helpful to have prior knowledge about assembling a 3D printer. Yet, the White Knight is a testament to the open-source and 3D printing community and is a great addition to your 3D printing setup if you’re up for building it.
- Large build area
- Duet WiFi motherboard
- BuildTak print surface
|Build volume||400 x 430 x ∞ mm|
|Max hot end temperature||450 °C|
What We Like
- Excellent features
- Open-source design
- Customizable to your specifications
Could Be Better
- Long Bowden tube may lead to issues
- Needs considerable 3D printing expertise
Key Factors When Buying a Belt 3D Printer
Conveyor belt 3D printers have a unique design. Their inclined printing angle makes traditional slicer software setups unusable for slicing models. As these printers are relatively new, slicing support for belt 3D printers is very limited in popular slicers.
When choosing a conveyor belt 3D printer, you need to consider its slicer compatibility. It is a crucial aspect of all the belt printers and will dictate your software experience with the printer. You need to ensure that you have alternative slicer options available if one of them doesn’t work out for you.
The Blackbelt 3D printer comes with its Blackbelt slicer based on an older version of Cura. The Creality CR-30 works on the Creality Belt slicer, another old version of the Cura Slicer. But it has extensive support and profiles available with the Ideamaker Slicer software.
Build quality is often neglected in budget 3D printers. However, in the case of belt 3D printers, solid build quality is absolutely essential. A stable structure will help provide good support to the prints and is helpful in long-duration 3D prints.
Belt 3D printers have an inclined printing angle, and even a slightly wobbly structure can lead to disastrous results. In the best-case scenario, only print quality is affected. In the worst-case scenario, a large print can come loose and ruin hours of work.
A sturdy frame will help avoid these issues. A triangular frame typically creates the best support structure for the 3D printer.
The Creality CR-30 and the BlackBelt 3D printer come out on top in terms of build quality. The White Knight belt 3D printer, too, has some high-end components and an all-metal frame to keep up with the extended demands of long 3D printing objects.
The filament sensor is an integral part of any belt 3D printer. Its function is to inform you about your filament feed to the printer. If your filament spool empties or the filament breaks in the middle of a 3D print, the sensor will notify the printer and stop the printing process.
This can save your current model from failing due to a lack of filament. You can quickly load up a new filament spool and resume printing your model. Considering a belt printer’s objective of printing long-duration prints, a filament sensor becomes almost a necessity to avoid any print failures.
Almost all the 3D printers mentioned in the list have a smart sensor for filament embedded in their hardware. Even if the conveyor belt 3D printer you are looking at does not have a filament sensor, it is typically fairly easy to add one.
Unlike typical FDM printers, which can use a glass bed, PEI-coated spring steel, BuildTak surfaces, and more, belt 3D printers come with limited build platform options. There simply aren’t many options available to swap out the belt with. This is why choosing a belt 3D printer with a high-quality belt surface is vital.
You’ll find the Creality CR-30 and the SainSmart INFI-20 have Nylon as their belt surface material. The Nylon belt material is used for long-term durability and offers excellent print adhesion. It also helps to keep the overall cost of the 3D printer down.
The top-end BlackBelt 3D printer comes with a special infinite Z belt made up of carbon fiber composite. It has a low coefficient of friction and high stiffness. This reduces expansion during the heating process and ensures maximum print adhesion. Additionally, the material adds to the aesthetic of the 3D printer and gives it a premium feel.
While carbon fiber will give you the best printing performance, you need to consider the cost aspect of the belt too. In that aspect, a Nylon surface delivers the best balance between cost and bed adhesion.
It is important that the belt 3D printer you buy can print with all filament materials you need it to. The type of 3D printer extruder you need and the belt surface you choose will heavily depend on the kind of filaments you want to use.
The most popular 3D printing filament is PLA. It is easy to print with and does not require a heated bed. As a result, it is ideal for belt 3D printers that don’t have a heated belt.
The ability to print with different materials gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing the right belt 3D printer for your needs. It is always better to have more options rather than be limited by the printer you choose.
The belt 3D printer you choose should be easy to repair and maintain. This is important because, with extended use, things are bound to break down. When they do, you want to be able to quickly fix them. If you want to make money with your 3D printer, reducing downtime is key.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can 3D printing be automated?
Yes, 3D printing can be automated with a conveyor belt 3D printer. These can print objects continuously without the need for the user to manually remove 3D prints. This type of printer is perfect for mass production because it can print large quantities of objects quickly and efficiently.
Can you run a 3D printer continuously?
Yes, you can run a 3D printer continuously, but it will depend on the type of printer you have. If you have a belt 3D printer, then you should be able to run it continuously without any issues.
However, if you have a traditional 3D printer, then you will need to remove finished prints by hand.
Regardless of the type of 3D printer, it is important that it is properly designed and components don’t get too hot when used for longer periods of time. This helps prevent any potential issues with overheating or jamming.
Belt 3D printers are still relatively new to the 3D printing world. While they don’t provide the most extraordinary printing experience, their unique design opens up a new approach to printing long objects. Infinite length printing is an excellent solution for printing long swords, knives, and cosplay items.
Printing many smaller objects non-stop is also a great way of using belt 3D printers. Combined with large spools of filament, belt 3D printers can run for days unattended.
Within the limited available options, we found that the Creality CR-30 is the overall best belt 3D printer that you can buy right now. It has a rugged build quality and a compact form factor with a slightly modern design. Once you configure it correctly, you should have no issues printing the swords in your wishlist in a single piece.
The White Knight belt 3D printer is an excellent alternative. While you need to source the components and assemble them yourself, this belt 3D printer DIY project offers a lot of potential. If you are an experienced user, then the challenge of building and configuring this machine might be an excellent option for you.
What are your thoughts on the belt 3D printers? What would be the first object you’d 3D print if you were to use one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.