We have just released a new firmware version 6.0.0 for the XL printers, where we introduce a new unique feature called Phase Stepping! This can reduce motor vibrations of your XL by more than 96%, resulting in the silencing of the whole printer and also improved print quality! The noise reduction is so noticeable that you probably won’t believe your ears after it’s finished! Overall, it’s a very handy feature that many XL users already praise. 🙂

​​In this article, we’ll explain how Phase Stepping works (not to be confused with Phase Shifting from Star Trek), how it differs from Input Shaper, and how we achieved such a major change with just a firmware update.

Phase Stepping

How it works?

The Phase Stepping process thoroughly analyzes each motor on your XL printer, measures its specific deviation, and calibrates it to respond correctly to the signal from the motor driver. If the motor is controlled by an original, unmodified signal, vibrations can occur, which then subsequently spread through the entire structure of the printer, causing an unpleasant noise and also minor imperfections on the print. These can appear as continuous, non-disappearing formations of small waves. Phase Stepping can prevent all of this from happening, solving three problems with a single calibration!

You can check the video, where we Jo explains and demonstrates the Phase Stepping feature with the noise level measurement, before and after the calibration, and the difference is very significant. Needless to say, for the purpose of the video, we picked the noisiest XL we could find. 🙂

Why is it needed?

The question is: why do motors resonate in the first place? Motors are one of the most important parts of a 3D printer, and their flawless operation with precise steps is the basic point that determines the final print quality. However, they are also some of the most complex ones, and although we use a long-term proven supplier with high-quality parts, due to the manufacturing tolerances and other influences, the production quality of some of them can slightly deviate.

These deviations can be very small, so the motor is not defective in any way, but in the end, they can have quite a big impact on its performance. Such a motor may have some minor imperfections like an inaccurate tooth shape or slightly different coil winding, causing it to respond incorrectly to the standard signal from the motor driver. This can then cause vibrations and noise at certain speeds.

Let’s try it!

We’re pretty sure you’ll want to try this new feature for yourself right away! No problem, all you need is your XL printer with the latest 6.0.0 firmware. Phase Stepping also does not require any special environmental conditions, so the printer can remain on a shelf, desk, or other location where the printer is placed, with no extra steps necessary.

The only thing that is not recommended is to have an uncalibrated printer running next to one that is currently being calibrated, or even to have two printers calibrating next to each other at the same time. This would risk the printers interfering with each other, which would significantly degrade the overall calibration result.

Print comparison before and after Phase Stepping

Print artifacts eliminated by Phase Stepping

You can then proceed to the calibration, which can be run from the printer menu -> Control -> Calibrations & Tests -> Phase Stepping Calibration. Once you start the process, your printer will perform the homing procedure and then start the calibration. Each motor will be calibrated separately and the calibration will take around one minute per axis to be completed. During the process, you can listen to the motor gradually becoming quieter, which is quite satisfying. 🙂

Once the calibration is successfully completed, the results of the vibration reduction will be shown on the printer screen. Here you can see by how many percent the vibration amplitude has been decreased for each axis. And the results can exceed more than 96%. However, remember that this value represents the reduction of the vibrations, not the noise itself. The noise is significantly reduced by successful calibration, but obviously not by such a high percentage. Either way, the result will certainly pleasantly surprise you!

Phase Stepping Calibration result screen

Phase Stepping Calibration result screen – as you can see, the reduction of the vibration amplitude is very significant

Another great thing is that the calibration is a one-time process and will last pretty much forever, even if you move the printer to another location or place it on a different desk – unless, of course, some major changes are made to the printer, such as replacing motors – then the recalibration is necessary. If you change the belts or modify their tension, the calibration is not necessarily needed, but it’s highly recommended, because although we primarily calibrate the motors that have the highest impact on the overall noise level, the calibration also partially compensates for the interaction of the motor with the rest of the printer construction, including the belts.

Apart from these changes, the calibration should remain stable under all conditions. One potential problem that could cause the need for recalibration would be the exposure of the printer to high-temperature changes. However, this would require moving the printer from, for example, a hot location in the sunlight to a freezing place. So, if you don’t plan to move your printer from Arrakis to Hoth, you should be ok. 😀However, for the sake of completeness, we wanted to mention this point as well.

Phase Stepping is only available on the XL. We understand that you’re likely curious about the availability on our other printers. However, it’s too soon to say whether it would have a noticeable effect due to differences in the printer’s construction.

Stealth mode vs Phase Stepping vs Input Shaper

Reducing the printer noise is one of our long-term efforts. As you probably already know, our MK3 printer has an integrated Stealth mode that uses Trinamic’s StealthChop technology, which reduces the “whine” of the motors. In firmware version 6.0.0 we’ve implemented the so-called Stealth mode in the XL printer as well, although it works differently. Here it limits certain maximum motor speeds at which the “whine” on the XL motors occurs. It affects the travel movements only, so although the overall print time will be slightly increased, the speed of the print movements will remain the same. In combination with Phase Stepping, the Stealth mode really makes the difference.

Phase Stepping noise comparison

Demonstration of the noise level reduction, check the video and hear it yourselves!

Also, it’s worth discussing the difference between Phase Stepping and Input Shaper – both of these technologies focus on vibration suppression, however, each of them solves different kinds of vibrations. Input Shaper suppresses the vibrations that occur when the printer accelerates and decelerates. This can lead to ringing/waves in the print’s corners. The waves occur and gradually disappear. These vibrations are affected by the printer construction (its toughness, printhead weight, tension of the belts, and so on) or the speed, and the “roughness” of the accelerations. This means that you need the Input Shaper to be able to print fast and with high quality at the same time.

Phase Stepping on the other hand focuses specifically on the vibrations, that are caused by the motors themselves, although they spread throughout the whole printer construction. These vibrations occur when the printer is moving at a constant speed (here the Input Shaper has no influence), and the vibration suppression leads to a reduction of the waves, that do not disappear gradually, and which have a wavelength below 0.8-1mm (the exact number depends on the movement direction).

Our developers continue to work on each printer model even years after their release – and the XL is no exception.

Happy (and quiet) printing!