The facts of uninterruptable power supply (UPS) system in 3D printers

Article by Pavle Paunovic updated April 14, 2020

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Some of the main concerns our technical support team hears from our customers:

“Why did my 3D printer stop in the middle of the print job?”

“I must restart my print job wasting valuable time and materials?”

“My 3D printer doesn’t even start now.  Can you please help me?”

All the above are related to power supply issues!

The primary task of the uninterruptable power supply (UPS) system is to provide uninterrupted power to 3D printers.

What each of us have experienced in a point in time, is the intermittent loss of electrical power network supply or complete power outage.  There are also invisible issues to the power network supply, in which our equipment is very “sensitive” to.  These are voltage and frequency fluctuations (disturbances).

What are those voltage and frequency fluctuations?

The UPS delivers protection from these typical power problems that threaten your 3D printer:

  • Power failures
  • High voltages spikes
  • Power sags
  • Frequency variations
  • Power surges
  • Switching transients
  • Brownouts
  • Harmonic distortion
  • Line noise

The most common problems are power outages, surges, spikes and sags.

  • Power outage is a complete loss of electrical power network which could be detrimental for your 3D printer
  • Surge has a significantly higher voltage than what would be dedicated to the printer for optimal operation. It is usually short lived (about a few milliseconds) but can be dangerous to your 3D printer.
  • High voltage spikes is a large increase in the voltage supply that occurs upon the return of power during a thunderstorm.
  • Undervoltage (Sag) is commonly found in our suburbs and less populated areas.

Here are some features and specifications of a typical UPS system:

So, based on your needs and type of the 3D printer, you can determine which type of UPS is right for you.

Small UPS systems will provide battery backup power for a few minutes, just enough to safely power down the printer in an orderly manner, while larger system would have extended battery power for several hours.

But that is not all you need to know before making your selection, you must also consider the power of the printer that will be powered through the UPS.  One should consider the power factor (PF) as it represents the ratio of actual energy consumed (W) and the apparent power supplied to the circuit (VA).  The range should be between 0-1 PF in decimal point or a percentage; i.e. 0.9 PF = 90%.  Higher PF number means the electricity is more useful and power is consumed more efficiently.

In case of voltage fluctuations which include, surge, spike, sag, noise etc., UPS compensates these disturbances so the 3D printer can successfully operate and complete the print job.

In case of a power failure, the primary role of the UPS is to provide enough time for the 3D printer to properly stop the printing process and safely shut down the system.

Printing material that remains in the print block (Polyjet Printer) during a power failure can polymerize. This might cause serious damage to the print heads.  A UPS can prevent this if it is configured to execute a “graceful shutdown” after a power failure.  The “graceful shutdown” process removes resin from the print head and turns off the built in PC and the printer.

In summary, UPS is important in keeping your 3D printer safe during unexpected power changes. The type of 3D printer and power factor can help you determine the right UPS for your needs.

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Pavle Paunovic