A UPS Can Save You From 3D Printer Build Failure Anger
Have you ever had that sinking feeling as your 3D Printer cuts out right in the middle of an important printing job?
It’s the most frustrating experience! You have to start your build right from the beginning again. What a waste of time and materials!
Oftentimes you don’t even know you’ve had a power outage. You go to check on your build and find it’s stopped for seemingly no reason.
You may blame the printer or your computer. But very often you have just suffered a very short power failure that has caused the printer to stop.
Quality of Power
Build failures are often caused by the shortest power outage of just a few milliseconds or a slight voltage fluctuation in your mains power. You’re at greater risk if you live in a building with old wiring or in a rural area where poor weather may affect power lines.
But all buildings are at risk. You may have noticed the lights flicker when someone starts the tumble dryer. Or you may hear a crackle through your speakers when the light’s switched on in the next room.
These are both good indicators that your wiring isn’t 100% and may be more susceptible to voltage fluctuations. These subtle fluctuations can play havoc with the sensitive electronics on a 3D Printer.
Why Are 3D Printers Vulnerable to Power Failure?
The problem with 3D Printers is when they experience even just a subtle voltage fluctuation for a fraction of a second it is often enough to completely stop the build.
There are two ways a power failure will affect your 3D Printer. The most common is that the printer will simply stop building the part and not be able to recommence when the power is restored.
This is how most 3D Printers are affected by power outages because it is simply too difficult to ensure the printer restarts at exactly the right point in the build.
The second way a 3D Printer may fail is by guessing where it should be restarting. As your 3D Printer is building a part, it needs to know exactly where it is in the build process. Because power failures aren’t usually an instant on-off-on, they are more often a fluctuation in voltage, it’s very easy for the printer to lose its position.
When the power returns, the printer starts building again but in slightly the wrong place. At best this will put an unsightly step in your part. At worst it will lead to a printer full of spaghetti.
How Will a UPS Protect My 3D Printer?
A UPS uses a few technologies to protect your 3D Printer. A backup battery supplies power when there is an outage. A surge protector protects against high voltages. And voltage conditioning protects against poor quality power supply.
Ultimately a UPS will protect you from several types of power outage or failure:
Blackouts or Power Outages are the most known about power failure because they are the kind you notice. California averages over 400 such blackouts per year! And most other states suffer 100-200.
Blackouts are usually caused by severe storms. Or accidents such as construction workers accidentally hitting a power line, or even animal damage.
The power line infrastructure is advanced enough that blackouts rarely last longer than a few minutes to an hour but they do happen surprisingly frequently.
When you notice your microwave clock flashing at “12:00” you know you’ve probably suffered a power surge.
External Power Surges are caused by problems outside of your home. Lightning is the most common, But they can also be caused by the sudden return of power after an outage, or transformer problems.
Internal Power Surges are most often caused by electrical equipment within your own home. Items such as refrigerators, air-conditioning or power tools that draw a large current can create a power surge when they are switched on and off. You may notice lights flicker when the air-conditioning switches on for example.
A Brownout is when the voltage supplied to your home is reduced. This can be done by the power supply company when there is a fault with the network, as it may help prevent a full on Blackout. This is very damaging to electronic equipment that requires very accurate voltages to work properly.
What Should I Look For in a UPS for a 3D Printer?
There are lots of specifications to check when choosing a suitable UPS to protect your 3D Printer. The models I recommend in this article meet all the following criteria making them ideal for the majority of consumer 3D Printers.
Enough Power to Keep You Printing
The most important criteria your UPS must meet is that it can supply enough power to your 3D Printer for as long as possible.
Fortunately, consumer 3D Printers use surprisingly little electrical power. The motors that drive the build plate and nozzle positions are very efficient, as are the cooling fans. Together these will total little more than 50 watts.
The heating of the filament and build plate will use the most power. But still only around 50W to 200W, intermittently, mostly when the printer is first started and the hotbed and nozzle are cold, and then as and when necessary to bring it all back up to operating temperature.
In fact, the average consumer 3D Printer uses only around 100W of power per hour or 0.1 kWh.
A smaller 3D Printer, like the Monoprice Select Mini with its fairly low-temperature hotbed, will use a lower amount with an average of around 60W total power or 0.06kWh.
A larger 3D Printer such as the Flashforge Creator Pro will use closer to 200W.
Enough Time to React
Most UPS will be able to protect you from very short power outages that last a few seconds. But if you are hit by something a little longer like a storm taking a power line down, you’ll need something that keeps your 3D printing running. And it will need to give you enough time to pause it or manually stop the build.
So, for example, a more power hungry 3D Printer, like the Creator Pro a UPS such as the Cyberpower AV1500 with 1500VA and 900w capacity would give you at least 53 minutes of continued printing time.
In the event of a longer power cut, say in a thunderstorm, it would give you plenty of time to pause the build and make note of the z-axis position. This would allow you to be ready to resume the build when the mains power comes back.
If you used the same CyberPower AV1500 UPS to protect a Monoprice Mini Select, you’d get over 4 hours of backup time if you lost mains power! That’s more than enough to cope with all but the rarest of long-term power outages.
Line Interactive Technology
To protect your 3D Printer from Brownouts and voltage fluctuations you should make sure you get a UPS that uses Line Interactive Technology.
This means the UPS has a special type of transformer that is able to compensate for low or high input voltage without resorting to using the backup battery. This puts a lot less strain on the battery so it lasts significantly longer.
The most common type of power outages are brownouts and voltage fluctuations. So it really doesn’t make sense to get a UPS that doesn’t protect against these types of power outage.
Large surges in voltage can be caused by lightning, or when the power comes back on after an outage. Small surges can be caused by local industrial machinery or transformer malfunctions.
What’s you might not know about all surge protection devices, is that because of the way surge protection works, they don’t work forever.
Whether you have a simple power strip with surge protection or a UPS, the protection is provided by devices called MOVs (metal oxide varistors) which are gradually sacrificed as they take each voltage surge.
For this reason, you should buy a UPS that has the highest rating of surge protection you can. It’s called the Surge Energy Rating and is measured in Joules. Say you have UPS ‘A’ that has an SRE of 1000 and UPS ‘B’ with an SRE of 2000. That means UPS ‘A’ could take ten 100J hits whilst UPS ‘B’ could take twenty 100J hits.
Chances are your 3D Printer is permanently connected to your PC with an ethernet cable. If you suffer a large voltage surge like a lightning strike, it will travel down all connected cables in your house including network and TV coax. When your 3D Printer’s power is plugged into your UPS but its ethernet is still connected directly to your PC it can still be at risk of damage.
If you connect your 3D Printer’s power to your UPS but leave the ethernet still connected directly to your PC then it can still be at risk of damage. Connecting via Ethernet in/out ports on a UPS will ensure it’s fully protected.
If your UPS is doing its job you may not even notice when the power is out! Good UPS software will warn you when the UPS has kicked in so you can check over your 3D Printer and pause it if necessary. When there is a power outage good software will also show you how much power you’re currently using and how long the backup battery will last.
Recommended UPS for 3D Printers
The Cyberpower CP1500 AVR is one of the best UPS on the market and it’s astonishing value for money.
It meets all the criteria necessary to make it suitable for protecting your 3D Printer including a large 1500VA/900W capacity that will keep a small 60W printer running for 4 hours or a large 200W printer running for fifty minutes from one of its five battery-backed outlets.
Intelligent Automatic Voltage Regulation stabilizes the incoming mains power to output a constant voltage to your 3D Printer, protecting it from often small but frequently damaging voltage fluctuations. This Line Interactive Technology is used to ensure your 3D Printer is protected from brownouts and voltage fluctuations without compromising the battery life of the UPS.
To protect against lightning and other large increases in voltage surge protection is included on all ten outlets up to a very high Surge Energy Rating of 1500J. Protection is also provided for Ethernet, USB and cable connections.
The tower-shaped unit looks pretty fancy. It looks good if you wanted to have it on display on your desk. I think it looks quite nice!
On the front panel, there’s a clear, bright LCD display that shows every statistic you could need to see including battery life, current voltage draw, and input voltage.
If you connect your PC to the CP1500 UPS via USB you can set the UPS to turn your PC off in the event of a power outage. This is quite a useful feature as you can use the UPS to protect your PC whilst reserving the battery capacity to keep your 3D Printer running.
For your peace of mind, the Cyberpower 1500AVR UPS comes with a 3 Year warranty and a $500,000 connected equipment guarantee for anything that gets damaged whilst being protected by the UPS.
For almost all 3D Printers this is the perfect choice of UPS.
The Cyberpower CP1500 PFC model is identical in specification to the AVR model except its output voltage is a pure sine wave. This is important if you want to use the UPS with any device that has an active PFC (power factor correction) power supply.
Active PFC Compatible
I don’t know of any consumer grade 3D Printers that use an active PFC power supply, but it is possible you may have one if your 3D Printer was a DIY kit that made use of a PC power supply.
The main reason you should upgrade to a PFC compatible UPS is that new PCs are using active PFC power supplies and the chances are if you have a UPS for your 3D Printer, you’ll want to use if to protect your PC too. In time, it’s possible 3D Printers may start to use more advanced power supplies too, so you could be future proofing your setup.
The Surge Energy Rating is 1030J, a little lower than the AVR model but still much more than APC manage.
If you’re likely to be running the latest in desktop PC technology through your UPS then this should be your first choice.
APC are the biggest name in UPS equipment with a worldwide reputation. The Back-UPS Pro 1500VA / 865W model is a perfect partner to protect your 3D Printer.
Its specifications meet all the same standards as the Cyberpower AVR 1500, although the 865W output is slightly lower. Surge protection on APS models is also a little lower than Cyberpower manage. The APS has a max surge energy rating of 354 joules, about one-third that of the Cyberpower models.
Surge protection on APS models is also a little lower than Cyberpower manage. The APS has a max surge energy rating of 354 joules, about one-third that of the Cyberpower models. Because of the way surge protections works, that means the APS model will stop protecting your 3D Printer against voltage surges quicker than the Cyberpower models.
So, why am I including the APC Pro 1500 if on paper it doesn’t seem to be quite as good as the Cyberpower 1500?
It has one big advantage, which is the ability to add an additional battery pack! In fact, the supplementary battery adds four cells to the built in two. This gives you up to five times more running time once mains power is lost. In many cases, this would be enough to complete a 3D Printer build before the power outage ends.
If you suffer frequent long power outages or you rely on being able to complete your 3D Prints the APC Back-UPS Pro 1500VA is your best choice.
Best UPS for your 3D Printer
My recommendation is to get the Cyberpower CP1500 AVR. It will work with almost all consumer grade 3D Printers. And it provides excellent standards of protection for all likely power supply problems.
I hope you found this article useful!