CR Touch vs BLTouch
Today, most budget 3D printers require manual bed leveling in their stock form. This process entails rotating the bed knobs to adjust the print bed’s height, so the nozzle stays an equal distance above the print surface during printing. With a tuned Z offset, a level bed helps ensure excellent first layer adhesion so your prints stick down and don’t fail.
Automatic bed leveling, or ABL, is a 3D printing feature growing in popularity that, as the name indicates, automates the bed leveling process so you don’t have to do as much work to achieve a decent first layer. This process uses an ABL sensor to measure the distance between the nozzle and the build plate at different points across the build area. These measurements are then used by your printer’s motherboard to adjust the printhead’s height during printing in order to compensate for differences in the heights.
Adding automatic bed leveling to an existing 3D printer is a popular upgrade, and there are a few different ABL sensors you can choose from. In this article, we’ll introduce you to two popular ABL sensors: the BLTouch and the CR Touch. We’ll go over all of the main details about both sensors, including what sets them apart.
First up, the BLTouch is the most popular ABL sensor on the market. Developed by Antclabs, the BLTouch is well-known for its wide compatibility with different 3D printers, even across different brands. It attaches to the printhead and uses a Hall effect sensor with a retractable probe to measure the distance from near the nozzle to the build surface.
Released in early 2021, the CR Touch is a more recent ABL sensor option that was developed by Creality, a popular manufacturer of budget 3D printers. The device’s similarities with the BLTouch don’t stop at its name: The CR Touch also uses a probe mechanism and is housed in a similar T-shaped frame. And both sensors use a 5-pin connector to connect to the printer’s mainboard and function properly.
The main difference between the two devices is that the CR Touch uses an optical sensor (rather than a Hall effect sensor) to detect when the probe hits the build plate.
Nevertheless, both the BLTouch and the CR Touch are excellent ABL sensors, and installing either one doesn’t take too long. However, the two devices have some differences, and knowing them can help you decide which one is right for you and your printer. In the following sections, we’ll talk about a few main differences between the devices, namely their hardware, compatibility with different 3D printers, and installation considerations.
Perhaps most obviously, the CR Touch’s opaque casing is noticeably larger than the BLTouch’s case, which holds and protects all of the sensor’s electronics. While this won’t affect performance, the increased size could reduce space for other hardware you might want to add to your machine’s printhead.
With the larger space, the CR Touch also uses a 6-mm extendable pin, 2 mm longer than the BLTouch’s 4-mm pin. This extra distance provides more wiggle room when it comes to the height you have to place the CR Touch on the printhead. Conversely, the BLTouch needs to be lower (close to the nozzle) on the printhead to ensure the 4-mm pin can extend farther than the bottom of the nozzle.
A handful of users have noted that the BLTouch’s plastic pin can easily be broken if the printer malfunctions, requiring you to replace the pin to continue using the sensor. On the other hand, the CR Touch uses a more durable metal pin, which, as Creality points out, extends the lifetime of the sensor.
As much of the hardware on the CR Touch and BLTouch is almost the same, it should be no surprise that their accuracy and precision are very similar, too. YouTuber Dr. Igor Gaspar from My Tech Fun performed a few tests to compare the sensors and found that the CR Touch was only slightly more accurate than the BLTouch, likely due to the fact that optical sensors tend to yield more accurate results than Hall effect sensors. That said, don’t confuse this small gap in accuracy for more than it is; both the BLTouch and the CR Touch are highly accurate and will yield basically the same results every time.
The sensors’ compatibility with various 3D printers is also very important to consider. There are two different types of compatibility when it comes to ABL sensors and 3D printers: hardware and firmware.
For hardware, we’re really talking about mounting the sensor to your 3D printer’s printhead assembly. The BLTouch product comes with one mount, which fits many printheads with a basic two-screw mounting system. There are also many different 3D printable BLTouch mounts online that you can use to fit the sensor to your specific 3D printer.
The Creality CR Touch comes with two mounts: one that’s an almost exact replica of the mount that comes with the BLTouch and another meant to fit their Ender 3 V2 printer. The former fits many Creality 3D printers, like the original Ender 3, Ender 5, and CR-10. If you’re not able to mount the CR Touch to your machine with one of the provided mounts, you can also 3D print one. There are fewer options online, as the CR Touch isn’t as popular as the BLTouch, so this could be a good opportunity to model a custom design.
As we previously mentioned, both sensors use the same 5-pin connector to plug into the mainboard. This 5-pin port is becoming the new standard on newer 3D printer motherboards, like the Creality V4.2.2 and V4.2.7 boards. On older motherboards, like the first-generation Creality boards, you have to use an expansion board (e.g. pin-27 board) and the Z endstop ports to come up with five headers for the connector.
Once the hardware is installed, you’ll have to configure the motherboard’s firmware to work with the sensor. Due to its popularity, the BLTouch is supported by many firmware flavors like Marlin, Klipper, and Repetier. While it isn’t directly supported by as many firmware programs, you can use BLTouch-compatible firmware with the CR Touch according to some users, as both devices use the same ports and work similarly.
Although the CR Touch should work with firmware meant for the BLTouch, it’s always a good idea to pick a program that’s meant for your exact setup and not just similar options. Marlin, the most popular firmware for FDM 3D printers, now has integrated support specifically for the CR Touch. The main difference between the two Marlin configurations is that the CR Touch version has slightly different options on the interface for controlling the sensor.
Lastly, the installation process of a device is also worth considering, as it dictates how difficult an upgrade is to add to a 3D printer. While the BLTouch might work on a wider range of 3D printers than the CR Touch, if you have a Creality 3D printer, the CR Touch is probably easier to install. Moreover, the Creality website offers readily available pre-compiled firmware packages that support the CR Touch.
Of course, there are many pre-compiled firmware packages that support the BLTouch on different 3D printers (including Creality options). Still, it’s just easier to use a firmware program directly from the manufacturer of your printer. And other than the differences in firmware options, the rest of the installation process for the two sensors is pretty much the same, requiring you to remove your Z-axis endstop, plug in the sensor, and load a new firmware program.
Which One Is for You:
So, now that you know the differences between the CR Touch and BLTouch, which one is right for you?
Due to its lower price, the BLTouch is probably best for those looking for the least expensive option. As the BLTouch also isn’t brand-specific when it comes to compatible 3D printers, it’s also a great choice for those who don’t have a Creality 3D printer.
On the other hand, the CR Touch is the better option for those who have a Creality 3D printer, want a super easy installation process, and don’t mind paying a few extra bucks to get this. The CR Touch also has a durable metal pin rather than a plastic option, making this product the right choice for those worried about breaking the sensor.