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3D Printing Troubleshooting: 34 Common 3D Printing Problems

Picture of Alastair Jennings
by Alastair Jennings
Oct 18, 2017

Got 3D printing issues? Read our 3D printing troubleshooting guide to the most common 3D printing problems and their solutions.

It’s amazing what your 3D printer can produce. But we’ve all had those infuriating moments when, despite everything, a seemingly simple model just refuses to print successfully.

We’ve had our fair share of print failures here at All3DP. And so, direct from our 3D printer troubleshooting experience, we’ve put together what we hope is the most comprehensive guide available to diagnose and fix common 3D printing problems.

For the sake of convenience, we’ve split the guide into relatable sections. You can jump directly to them using the links below.

Sections

Or for an item-by-item look at each 3D printing problem, check out the following list.

Nothing is Printing

Try as you might, your print just refuses to get off the ground. No filament extrudes from your hot end; the possible causes are numerous.

1

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Out of Filament

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Out of Filament

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Nothing is printing even though the model has been set and configured correctly in the slicing software. However, try as you might when repeatedly sending the print to the printer still nothing happens bar the odd spit of filament emerging from the nozzle.

Alternatively a model is part way through the print and the filament extrusion stops but the nozzle continues to print into air.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

It’s an obvious problem that’s unmissable in many printers such as the PRUSA i3, where the filament reel is in full view, but on other printers such as the XYZ DaVinci, Cel Robox and Ultimaker series the issue isn’t always immediately obvious.

These and many other printers either encase the filament within the design of the printer, or the filament is hidden round the back.

Of course, some printers feature smart spools that feed back data to the software and highlight if the filament reel is close to, or out of material. However we all like to tinker and use our own tweaked firmware or third party software, and these sometimes work around such failsafes. And then there are other printers that simply don’t feature any type of failsafe at all.

In all cases, especially with Bowden style extrusion systems, you’re going to have to extract some remaining filament and then feed in fresh material.

3D Printer Troubleshooting: Out of filament

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Filament Reel

Look at the filament reel and see if there’s any filament left. If not load a new reel. Easy.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Out of filament

  • Check the filament reel
2

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Nozzle Too Close to Print Bed

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Nozzle Too Close to Print Bed

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Inexplicably, despite loading the filament and the print head moving without a hitch, no filament is depositing on the print bed.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

Quite simply, your nozzle may be too close to the print bed. If you’ve somehow tuned your print bed to mere microns from your nozzle opening, it’s unlikely the melted filament has room to escape. At best your print will be missing its first layers, and have a higher chance of not sticking once the filament does extrude. At worst, you’ll cause a backup of melted filament in your hot end, possibly leading to a blockage.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Nozzle Too Close to Print Bed

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Z-Axis Offset

Just raising the height of the nozzle slightly can often help. Most 3D printers in their system settings will allow you to set a Z-axis offset. To raise your nozzle away from the print bed you’ll need to increase the offset into the positive value. This also works for the reverse, with a negative offset helping to address your prints not sticking to your bed.

Be careful though, too high of an offset and it won’t stick to the platform.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Lower the Print Bed

Alternatively if your printer allows for it, you can achieve the same effect by lowering your print bed. This is the more troublesome fix though, as it requires you to re-calibrate and level the bed for even prints.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Nozzle Too Close to Print Bed

  • Z-Axis Offset
  • Lower Print Bed
3

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Blocked Nozzle

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Blocked Nozzle

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

You initiate a print job but whatever you try, nothing comes out of the nozzle. Extracting the filament and reinserting doesn’t work.

What’s Causing the 3D Printing Problem?

A small piece of filament has been left behind in the nozzle after changing spools, often because the filament has snapped off at the end. When the new filament is loaded, the piece of old filament that is left in the nozzle doesn’t allow the new filament to be pushed through.

A little printer maintenance can go a long way to reducing the chance of problems like a blocked nozzle affecting your extrusions. In fact you’ll often find that before a clog even appears, there is old carbonized  filament sitting inside your nozzle. It can and will sit there for weeks or even months without you realising, but there will be small signs in the quality of your prints.

The effects are often overlooked; such as small nicks in the outer walls, small flecks of dark filament or small changes in print quality between models. These defects are often simply put down to the slight variants we come to expect from 3D printers, but really there could be something a little more sinister going on. A cleaning method known as the Atomic Pull or Cold Pull (which we detail below) can clear this up.

You’ll commonly see this if you frequently switch from a PLA to ABS, for example. A small amount of PLA is left in the nozzle, and it is heated beyond its normal melting point. That can mean it will carbonise and burn.

Likewise, switch between ABS and Nylon and again you’ll witness something similar. It’s not uncommon to see a wisp of smoke appear briefly as the new filament is fed through.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Blocked Nozzle

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Unblock with a Needle

If you’re lucky then unblocking can be a quick and easy process. Start by removing the filament. Then using your printer’s control panel (if it has one) select the “heat up nozzle” setting and increase to the melting point of the stuck filament. Alternatively, hook your printer up to a computer running compatible control software (such as Lulzbot, and their offshoot of Cura) and heat the nozzle using that. For PLA set the temperature to 220 C. Once the nozzle reaches the correct temperature, use a small pin to clear the hole (being careful not to burn your fingers). If your nozzle is 0.4mm then you need a pin that is smaller; an airbrush cleaning kit works perfectly.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Push Old Filament Through

If you find that the nozzle is still blocked then you may be able to push the filament through with another bit of filament. Start by removing the filament as before and then remove the feeder tube from the print head. Heat up the hot end to 220 C for PLA and then using another piece of filament push this through from the top to try to force the stuck filament in the nozzle out. Usually if new filament hasn’t succeeded in unblocking then the extra pressure you can exert by hand might just do the job. However don’t push to hard as you’ll risk bending the horizontal printer rods.

Once the end clears use a needle to push through the nozzle and a brush to clean any filament excess.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Dismantle and Rebuild the Hotend

In extreme cases when the nozzle remains blocked, you’ll need to do a little surgery and dismantle the hot end. If you’ve never done this before then it’s a good idea to make notes and take photographs so you know where everything fits when you reassemble. Start by removing the filament, then check your printer’s manual to see exactly how to dismantle the hot end.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Atomic Pull Part I – Choose a Material

You can use ABS or Nylon for this, but over time we’ve found that the most consistent results come from Nylon due to its higher melting point. The filament also holds its shape far better. ABS is more common however, so we’ll use it here.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Atomic Pull Part II – Remove Filament

Start by removing the filament that’s already in the print head in the usual way for your printer. Then remove the Bowden tube or release the direct drive, so that when the time comes you can manually feed the filament through.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Atomic Pull Part III – Increase the Nozzle Temperature

Increase the nozzle temperature to 240 degrees. We’re using ABS, but if using Nylon check the melting point temperature on the packaging. Leave it at this temperature for 5 minutes without pushing the filament through.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Atomic Pull Part IV – Push the Filament Through

Slowly apply pressure to the filament until it starts to come out of the nozzle. Pull it back slightly and push it back through again until it starts to flow from the nozzle.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Atomic Pull Part V – Reduce the Nozzle Temperature

Reduce the temperature to 180 degrees for ABS or 140 degrees for Nylon (you’ll need to experiment a little for your filament). Leave the printer at this temperature for 5 minutes.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Atomic Pull Part VI – Extract the Filament

Pull out the filament from the head. When you look at the end you should see some black carbonized material at the end. Repeat the process until clean. If the filament won’t pull from the nozzle, increase the hot end slightly.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Blocked Nozzle

  • Heat the nozzle and clean with a needle
  • Remove the feeder tube and try pushing the filament through with another piece of filament
  • Dismantle the hot end and see if you can extract the filament blockage
  • Try an Atomic Pull (Cold Pull)
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3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Snapped Filament

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Snapped Filament

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

The filament spool still looks full, and when you check there appears to be filament in the feed tube, but nothing’s coming out of the nozzle. This is more of an issue with Bowden feed printers than direct feed as the filament is hidden so breakages aren’t always immediately obvious.

What’s Causing the 3D Printing Problem?

Caused by a number of issues but primarily old or cheap filament. Although the majority of filaments such as PLA and ABS do last a long time, if they’re kept in the wrong conditions such as in direct sun light then they can become brittle. Then once fed into the printer no amount of adjustment is going to help.

Another issue is filament diameter, and this can vary through manufacturer and batch. Sometimes if the idler tensioner is too tight then some filament that still has a good amount of life left in it can snap under the pressure.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Snapped Filament

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Remove the Filament

The first thing to do is to remove the filament from the printer in the usual way. In the case of the Ultimaker select Maintenance and Change Material. As the filament will usually have snapped inside the tube you’ll need to remove the tube from both the extruder and hotend. Then heat the nozzle and pull out the filament.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Try Another Filament

If after reloading the filament it happens again, use another filament to check to see if it’s not just the old brittle filament that should be disposed off.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Loosen the Idler Tension

If the new filament snaps check that the idler tensioner isn’t too tight by loosening all the way. As the print starts tighten until there is no slippage of the filament.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Nozzle

Check the nozzle isn’t blocked and give it a good clean.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check Flow Rate and Temperature

If the problem continues check that the hot end is getting hot and to the correct temperature. Also check that the flow rate of the filament is at 100% and not higher.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Snapped Filament

  • Check the filament isn’t past its best
  • Check the filament diameter
  • Adjust the idler tension
  • Check that the hot end is clear and reaches the correct temperature
  • Set the flow rate to 100%
6

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Stripped Filament

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Stripped Filament

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Stripped or slipping filament can happen at any point of the print process, and with any filament. The result is that no filament is extruded from the hot end bringing your print to an abrupt end.

What’s Causing the 3D Printing Problem?

Blockage, loose idler tensioner, wrong hot end temperature, these are just a few of the common causes, but all are usually easy to correct. The result of the problem is that the knurled nut or toothed gear in the extruder is unable to pull or push the filament through the printer. As the motor spins the small teeth on the gear that would usually grip and feed the filament through the system, instead wear it away until there is no longer any grip, and the gear and filament slip.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Stripped Filament

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Help Feed the System

If the filament has just started to slip, you can usually tell by the noise and the appearance of plastic shavings, then apply some gentle pressure to the filament to help it through the system. This will often help to get the machine printing smoothly again.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Adjust the Idler Tension

Start by loosing the idler, feed in the filament and tighten until it stops slipping. Filaments vary in diameter so although the idler will absorb some difference in diameter some filaments will require fine adjustment.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Remove the Filament

In most cases you’ll need to remove and replace the filament and then feed it back through the system. Once the filament has been removed cut the filament below the area that shows signs of slipping and then feed back into the system. If the filament has snapped it may be passed its usable best. Try it again and if it snaps again and you find the filament appears brittle discard and use another filament.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Hot End Temperature

If you have just inserted a new filament as the issue started, double check that you have the right temperature.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Stripped Filament

  • Help feed the system
  • Adjust the idler tension
  • Remove the filament
  • Check the hot end temperature

My Print Failed

Things were looking great, but for some inexplicable reason the print has failed. It didn’t stick to the bed, or the filament just stopped extruding — regardless, it could be one of many things.

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3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Sometimes, for any of a number of reasons, the hot end will stop extruding molten filament.

What Causes this 3D Printing Problem?

Typically this 3D printing problem is attributable to two parts of the printing process — either something is wrong with your filament supply, or there’s a problem with the hot end/nozzle itself. It could be as simple a case as your filament has run out. Some printers obscure the spool, so you never know! Or it could be too tight of an idler on your extruder resulting in stripped filament that isn’t being fed into the hot end.

Alternatively, you could have a blockage in your hot end, preventing any further filament from being extruded.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check You Have Enough Filament

A little obvious, but even the best of us have momentary lapses in concentration. Many slicers now give a material estimation for your prints, and judging that against the weight of your spool of filament and how much is left on it can give you a feeling for if there’s enough filament to complete your print.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check for Stripped Filament

Stripped filament can be responsible for a print stopping mid-way through, and can be caused by a myriad of issues. Check out our dedicated 3D printing troubleshooting tip on how to deal with stripped filment.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check for a Clogged Nozzle

A nozzle caked in old burnt filament can cause a few different print issues, one of which is blocking any new extrusions from being laid down. Check out our dedicated 3D printing troubleshooting tip on how to deal with a clogged nozzle.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check for Snapped Filament

An issue that mainly affects Bowden style extruder setups, snapped filament can cause a disjoin between the extruder and hot end. Thankfully, it’s easy to diagnose and fix, but it may be a sign that your filament is past its best. Check out our dedicated 3D printing troubleshooting tip on how to deal with snapped filament.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

  • Check You Have Enough Filament
  • Check for Stripped Filament
  • Check for Clogged Nozzle
  • Check for Snapped Filament
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3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Supports Fell Apart

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Supports Fell Apart

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Printing complex models will require a support or two, and whilst supports can be pain to remove, they’re unfortunately an essential part of modelling.

The job of a support is simple, it supports, but on occasion they fail leaving your model unsupported.

You’ll notice that as your print is extruded parts of the support structure will look uneven, cracks may appear or they’ll just start to look stingy.

Not only are the supports failing but the additional filament is ruining your model rather than ensuring it prints correctly.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

Support structures are complex things and most slicer applications will provide you with several options. It’s all too easy to stick with the default settings, but this doesn’t guarantee success with your 3D printed overhangs. An important consideration is the  type of support that will keep your model steady and supported throughout the print.

Lines and zig zags are generally easy to remove after the print has finished, but offer less rigidity during the print process. Triangles and grids offer more support but can be a pain to remove.

Take a simple bridge structure with thin uprights and then think about the supports. They will have a great deal of work to do keeping the model rigid, if you’ve opted for lines or zig zags then the likelihood is the model will move during the print process, breaking the delicate supports as it goes.

A rigid structure like a grid would be a better option.

Some slicing software enables you to print supports without platform adhesion. If this is the case then the small footprint of the support will struggle to bond directly with the print platform.

Often with tall models the length of the supports can be excessive and the thin structure is simply pushed to the limit. In these cases it’s important that you look at creating a physical support such as block. Under large overhangs, these can add robust support.

Supports can be a real hassle to remove so there is a tendency to reduce the density to as low as it will go. This can of course cause issues, if supports are load bearing you will need to increase the Support Density.

Old or cheap filament can be another issue, if the filament is past it’s best then when it’s extruded you may find that the filament may not sufficiently bond layer on layer, or the extrusion is untidy and cracked, leading to broken supports.

Finally watch your printer print. If the printer is moving or vibrating more than it normally does then check the nuts and bolts and just ensure that everything is tight. Once you’ve run through all the usual checks make sure to rerun the calibration process.

3D Printer Troubleshooting: Supports Fall Apart

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Select the Correct Supports

Look at the type of model you’re about to print — if there are large overhangs that connect sections of the model and these have good contact with the platform, try using lines or zig zag supports. If the model has less bed contact or needs much stronger supports, use grid or triangle. supports.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Add Platform Adhesion

Make sure you have added some type of platform adhesion, such as a brim, so that the mounts have plenty of foundation to bond to.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Increase the Support Density

Try this as a last resort. Increasing the support density will offer your model a denser structure to rest on and will be less affected by any model movement, but will be much tougher to remove.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Create In-Model Supports

Supports that are overly tall can be susceptible to  weakness. By adding a tall block as part of your print that ends just below where the supports are required, this can give the supports a solid base without the need to print tall and weak.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Change Filament

Filament can become brittle as it reaches the end of its usable life span, and this usually shows in the quality of the supports. Swap the filament for a fresh reel and see if the problem improves

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check Everything is Tight

Printer shakes and wobble can be a real issue. Give your machine the once over and make sure that everything is tight and re-calibrate if needed.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Supports Fall Apart

  • Use Correct Support Type
  • Add Platform Adhesion
  • Increase Support Density
  • Create In-Model supports
  • Use New Filament
  • Check everything is tight

My Print Looks Bad

It’s successfully finished, but the 3D printing gods frown upon your ugly print. Here’s why…

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3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems First Layer is Messy

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: First Layer is Messy

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

The first layers of a print can often prove problematic. It could be that the print simply does not stick (which  we covered with a different 3D printing troubleshooting tip, up top), or you’re finding unwanted lines that cause the bottom shell  to have an unexpected look. Additionally, it’s entirely possible for any fine detail on the bottom  of your print to congeal into a blur with little semblance of any surface design.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

These 3D printing problems are typical signs that the print bed hasn’t been leveled properly. If the nozzle is too far away from the bed, the bottom surface often shows unwanted lines, and/or the first layer does not stick. If the nozzle is too close, blobs may be the result.

Where you find detail is becoming undefined and blurry, the chances are your print bed temperature is a little too high.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: First Layer is Messy

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Level the Print Bed

Every printer has a different process for print platform leveling, some like the latest Lulzbots utilize an extremely reliable auto leveling system, others such as the Ultimaker have a handy step-by-step approach that guide you through the adjustment process.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Lower Bed Temperature

Try knocking the bed temperature down by 5 degree increments, until you hit that sweet spot of adhesion, without loss of detail.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: First Layer is Messy

  • Level the print platform
  • Lower bed temperature
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3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Infill Looks Messy and Incomplete

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Infill Looks Messy and Incomplete

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

The internal structure of your print is missing or broken.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

There are a number of reasons for the misprinting of the internal structure. The most common is incorrect settings within the slicing software, but it can also be due to a slightly blocked nozzle.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Broken Infill

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Fill Density

In your slicing software check the infill density. A value of around 20% is normal; any less than this and you’re likely to have issues. For larger prints you may want to increase this to ensure that the model has enough support.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Decrease Infill Speed

The speed at which the infill is printed can have a major effect on the quality of the structure. If the infill is looking week then decrease the infill print speed.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Change the Infill Pattern

Most slicing software enables you to change the internal structure. You can have a grid pattern, or triangle, honeycomb, and more. Try selecting a different option.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check Your Nozzle

It might be that there is a slight blockage in the nozzle. While the blockage doesn’t effect the printing of the thicker exterior walls, because there is less flow for the internal structure the filament is getting caught.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Broken Infill

  • Check and adjust the fill density
  • Decrease the infill speed
  • Try a different infill pattern
  • Check your nozzle for blockages
14

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Gaps Between Infill and Outer Wall

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Gaps Between Infill and Outer Wall

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

When you look at the top or bottom of the print, you can see a slight gap between the infill and the outer perimeter walls.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

Gaps between the perimeter and top layers used to be a common problem, but as printer accuracy has improved and the support for different materials extends, it’s now less of an issue than it was.

However the new wave of advanced materials are far less forgiving than the likes of PLA and ABS, and we’re starting to see a slight resurgence of the problem.

Gaps are caused by the filament used for the infill and outer walls not quite meeting and bonding. Handily, it’s one of the easiest things on this list to fix.

The most obvious cause of the problem is that the infill overlap is not set, or it’s set to zero. This means that the slicing software is actually telling the printer not to allow the two parts of the print to meet.

Another issue could be the order in which you have set the infill and outer walls to be printed. If you’re printing the perimeter first, then there is generally little or no overlap which can again cause the problem.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Gaps between Infill and Outer Wall

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Infill Overlap

This is by far the most common issue and is really easy to resolve. In your slicing software locate the ‘Infill Overlap’ option and increase the value.

  • In Cura this is set to 15% by default. Raise it to 30%.
  • In Simplify3D you’ll find the option in ‘Edit Process Settings > Infill > Outline Overlap’. Again increase the value. This setting is directly linked to the extrusion width, so the % value will be a % of whatever you’re extrusion width is. When adjusting this setting always keep it below 50% or you’ll start to see the effects of the overlap in the outer perimeters of your print.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Print Infill Before the Perimeter Shell

If you’re printing with a relatively thin outer wall the structure of the infill can show through. If this happens then you can switch the order by which the printer lays down the infill and perimeter layers. For example, in Cura check to see if you have ‘Infill prints after perimeters’ ticked.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Increase Hot End Temperature

Some of the latest advanced materials such as XT-CF20 are a little less forgiving when it comes to spreading due to the carbon fibers that make up part of their structure. When printing with these materials you may find that a slight 5-10º increase in hot end temperature makes all the difference.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Lower Print Speed

Okay, so you may be in a rush to get the printout, but printing at higher speeds can cause all sorts of issues if the printer isn’t perfectly calibrated. If you need to print quickly you can still avoid gaps by decreasing the speed of the top layer.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Gaps Between Infill and Outer Wall

  • Check the infill overlap
  • Printing infill before the perimeter
  • Increase hot end temperature
  • Lower print speed
15

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Infill is Visible from the Outside

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Infill is Visible from the Outside

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

The final print looks fine but an outline of the internal support structure can be seen through the walls of the print.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

The issue with ghosting happens due to the infill encroaching into the path of the perimeter. This effect is most visible when your print has thin walls. The problem is caused by the infill structure overlapping with the perimeter line as it’s being laid down. Although this ghosting is an issue it’s actually an important part of the printing process, as it helps the internal structure bond effectively to the external walls. Luckily it’s very easy to overcome.

Another cause of ghosting can be that you have set an incorrect wall thickness in relation to the size of nozzle that you’re using. In normal print conditions wall thickness should be directly related to the nozzle size, so if you have a 0.4mm nozzle the wall thickness should be a multiple of this: 0.4, 0.8, 0.12 and so forth.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Infill is Visible from the Outside

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Shell Thickness

Make sure that the value you have selected for the shell thickness is a multiple of the nozzle size.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Increase the Shell Thickness

The easiest solution is to increase the shell thickness. By doubling the size it should cover any overlap caused by the infill.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Use Infill After Perimeters

Most slicing software will enable you to activate Infill prints after perimeters.

  • In Cura open up the ‘Expert Settings’ and under the Infill section tick the box next to ‘Infill prints after perimeters’
  • In Simply3D Click ‘Edit Process Settings’ then select ‘Layer’ and under ‘Layer Settings’ select ‘Outside-in’ next to the ‘Outline Direction’.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check Print Platform

Check around the model and if you see that the effect is more prevalent on one side than the other, the effect could be due to calibration. If so run through the usual calibration process.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Print Shells to Your Advantage

Depending on the type of model that you’re printing you can use the internal and shell printing order to your advantage. When you want a high-quality print with a good surface finish where the actual strength of the model isn’t important, select print from the Outside-in. If however the strength of the print is paramount then select Print from in Inside-Out and double the wall thickness.

The reason for the difference in strength is that when you print from the Outside-in you eliminate the small amount of overlap that causes the ghosting issue, but this also means that the actual structure won’t create the same strength of bond between the internal and external structure due to the lack of overlap.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Infill Visible from the Outside

  • Check the shell thickness
  • Increase the wall thickness
  • Use infill after perimeters
  • Check print platform and re-calibrate if necessary
  • Print shells to your advantage
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3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Cracks Have Appeared in Tall Objects

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Cracks Have Appeared in Tall Objects

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

There are cracks on the sides, especially on taller models. This can be one of the most surprizing issues in 3D printing as it tends to manifest itself in larger prints, and usually while you’re not looking.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

In a print’s higher layers, the material cools faster. The heat from the heated print bed doesn’t reach that high, and because of this, adhesion in the upper layers is lower.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Cracks In Tall Objects

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Extruder Temperature

Start by increasing the extruder temperature; a good start would be to increase it by 10ºC. On the side of your filament box you’ll see the working hot end temperatures, try to keep the temperature adjustment within these values.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Fan Direction and Speed

Double check your fans, make sure that they’re on and aimed at the model. If they are, try reducing their speed.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Cracks In Tall Objects

  • Check the hot end temperature and raise it in 10-degree intervals
  • Check the position and speed of the cooling fans
17

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Layers Don't Line Up Well

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Layers Don't Line Up Well

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

As the print is forming, there appear to be a few issues with the quality. Look closer and you see that the layers aren’t aligning quite as they should. Look at the internal support structure and again the pattern looks slightly out. The outer wall, rather than being smooth, features slight misalignments that cause an uneven face. It’s highly likely that the issue only affects the print in one direction; front to back or left to right.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

Over time the parts of your 3D printer — such as nuts, bolts and belts — will become loose and require a tighten. The effect of misaligned layers is similar to the cause of the more pronounced effects of shifting layers and there is no doubt that there is a crossover. If left unchecked, this problem will eventually result in shifting layers, but as the issue starts the visual effect on the prints is far less pronounced and can look very different. The cause is usually linked directly to a loose belt.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Layer Misalignment

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Belts Part I

Start by checking each of the belts are tight but not over tight. You should feel a little resistance from the two belts as you pinch them together. If you find that the top section of the belt is tighter than the bottom then this is a sure-fire sign that they need a tweak and tighten. Some printers, such as the Original Prusa i3, come with belt tensioners built into them. Others can be retrofitted with 3D printed ones. If neither of these is an option for you, you may have to get your hands dirty and manually tighten the belt.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Belts Part II

The printer belts are normally just one continuous loop hooked around two pulleys. A common issue is that over time the belt can slip on one pulley and gradually gets tighter on the top compared to the bottom — or visa versa — and again this can cause misaligned layers.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Rods are Clean and Oiled

Over time debris can build up on the rods, causing odd patches of higher friction which in turn can affect the free movement of the head and again cause layer shifting. A quick wipe and re-oil of the rods usually solves the issue.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check for Bent or Misaligned Rods Part I

If you see the print head falter at certain points then it could be that one of the rods has become slightly bent. You can usually tell by switching off the machine so there’s no power going through the steppers and then move the print head through the X- and Y-axis. If you feel resistance then you know something is amiss. Start by seeing if the rods are aligned. If they are, remove them and roll them on a flat surface. If any are bent then it will be quite obvious.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check for Bent or Misaligned Rods Part II

Many printers use threaded rods rather than lead screws and although these do the job, they do have a tendency to bend over time. Don’t worry about dismantling your printer to see if they’re straight, simply use control software such as ‘Printrun’ to move the print head up or down. If one of the Z-axis rods is bent you’ll instantly see. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to accurately straighten a rod once it’s bent, but on the upside, it’s a good excuse to replace the old threaded rods for lead screws.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Drive Pulleys

These are the usually connected directly to a stepper motor or to one of the main rods that drive the print head. If you carefully rotate the pulley you’ll see a small grub screw. Holding both the rod and the attached belt, give the belt a tug to force the pulley to turn. You should find that there is no slip between the pulley and stepper or rod. If there is tighten the grub screw and try again.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Layer Misalignment

  • Check the tension in the belts
  • Check for skipped belts
  • Check the rods are clean and sufficiently lubricated
  • Check for bent or misaligned rods
  • Check the drive pulleys
18

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Some Layers are Missing

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Some Layers are Missing

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

There are gaps in the model because some layers have been skipped (in part or completely).

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

The printer failed to provide the amount of plastic required for printing the skipped layers. For infrequent skipped layers, this can be referred to as temporary under-extrusion. There may have been a problem with the filament (e.g. diameter variation), the filament spool, the feeder wheel or a clogged nozzle.

Alternatively, friction has caused the bed to temporarily get stuck. The cause may be that the vertical rods are not perfectly aligned with the linear bearings.

It’s also possible that there is a problem with one of the Z axis rods or bearings. The rod could be distorted, dirty or suffering from excessive oil.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Missing Layers

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Mechanical Check

It’s good practice to give your 3D Printer the once-over every now and again and the appearance of gaps in your 3D print is always a good sign that now is the time to give your 3D printer some love and attention. Start off by checking the rods and make sure that they’re all seated into either bearings or clips and haven’t popped out, shifted or moved even slightly.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Rod Alignment Check

Make sure that all rods are still in perfect alignment and haven’t shifted. You can often tell by switching off the power (or disabling steppers) and then gently moving the print head through the X and Y-axis. If there is any resistance to the movement then something is wrong and it’s usually pretty easy to tell if this is due to misalignment, a slightly bent rod or problem with one of the bearings.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Worn Bearing

When bearings go they usually let you know about it by creating an audible din. You should also be able to feel uneven motion in the print head and when printing the machine looks like it’s vibrating slightly. If this is the case unplug the power and move the print head through the X and Y to locate the region of the broken bearing.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check for Oil

Lubricating the joints is easy to forget, but keeping everything well-oiled is essential to the smooth running of the machine. Sewing machine oil is ideal and can be purchased from almost any haberdashery at a relatively inexpensive price. Before you go applying liberally just check that the rods are clean and free of dirt and printing debris — a quick wipe of the rods before applying a fresh coat of oil is always a good idea. When all rods look clean just dab on a little, but not too much. Then use printer control software such as Printrun to move the head through the X and Y axis to make sure that the rods are evenly covered and moving smoothly. If you add a little too much oil don’t worry just wipe some off with a lint-free cloth.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Under-Extrusion

The final issue could be under-extrusion. Check out our dedicated 3D printing troubleshooting tip for under-extrusion here.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Missing Layers

  • Check over the mechanics and make sure everything is tight
  • Double-check the printer’s construction and alignment
  • Listen out for worn bearings and bent rods
  • Add a little oil to keep things running smooth
20

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Overhangs are Messy

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Overhangs are Messy

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

You load your print into your slicing software and everything looks good. Hit print and you find that some parts of the model print absolutely fine, whilst other parts end up as a stringy mess. OK this might seem obvious and the issue of overhangs is often seen as a 3D printing rookie mistake. But it’s surprising just how often even experienced 3D printers are hit with an overhang issue.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

The process of FFF requires that each layer is built upon another. It therefore should be obvious that if your model has a section of the print that has nothing below, then the filament will be extruded into thin air and will just end up as a stringy mess rather than an integral part of the print.

Really the slicer software should highlight that this will happen. But most slicer software will just let us go ahead and print without highlighting that the model requires some type of support structure.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Overhangs are Messy

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Add Supports

The quickest and simplest solution is to add supports. Most slicing software will enable you to do this quickly.

In Simplify3D click Edit Process Settings > Support > Generate support material; you can the adjust the amount, pattern and settings. In Cura just select the desired support type from the Basic settings.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Create In-model Supports

Supports generated by software can sometimes be intrusive and result in support material getting stuck in impossible to remove places. Creating your own in your modeling application is a good alternative. It takes a bit more skill but can enable some fantastic results.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Create a Support Platform

When printing a figure, arms and other extrusions are the most common areas that cause problems. Using supports from the print bed can also cause issues as they often have to span quite large vertical distances; for structures that are supposed to be easily removed and fragile, this distance is prime for causing problems.

Creating a solid block or wall under arms etc and then creating a smaller support between the arm and block can be a great solution.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Angle the Walls

If you have a shelf style overhang then an easy solution is to slope the wall at 45º so that the wall actually supports itself and removes the need for any other type of support.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Break the Part Apart

Another way to look at the model is to break it apart into separate prints. With some models this enables you to flip what would be an overhang and instead make it a base. The only issue with this is that you then have to find a way of sticking the two parts back together.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Overhangs are Messy

  • Add supports
  • Create in model supports
  • Create a support platform
  • Angle the walls
  • Separate the model into smaller prints
21

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Surface Areas Beneath Supports are Rough

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Surface Areas Beneath Supports are Rough

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

You’ve printed a complex model with supports created with your chosen software. But when it comes to removing the structure, small remnants of material are left on the surface. When you try to sand or remove the remaining material, it ruins the overall effect of the model.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

Supports are an essential part of 3D modelling and a subject that can divide opinion. Many models can actually avoid the need for supports completely with a little adjustment of the model to angle verticals, or with the addition of design integral support structures to the model. You may also be surprised by the full capabilities of your printer, with most being able to bridge 50 mm gaps and print angles of 50º without any support at all.

Software solutions such as Cura and Simplify3D are capable of producing outstanding support structures, and for the most part these automatically generated supports will far exceed the quality of any home grown solution. But although auto-generated supports do the job, they can be difficult to remove. Applying your own support structures is a neater solution, but you’ll need to delve into the settings of your software to tailor the supports to your models.

Depending on your slicing software, enabling supports will require the activation of a checkbox. There are plenty of associated options that enable you to fine tune the support structure, and minimize the effect that the structures will have on the surface of your models. However, as careful as you are with the support settings, the supports themselves will be bonded to your model, so will always leave some sort of trace mark.

The issue of surface finish when supports are used is a big one and the severity of the effect will change depending on the material types you use. A more brittle filament such as PLA is often harder to work and finish than a decent ABS.

3D Printer Troubleshooting: Surface Areas Beneath Supports Are Rough

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Dual Extrusion & Soluble Support Materials

An expensive solution, but if the majority of your prints use complex support structures then a dual extrusion printer such as the Ultimaker 3 or the Cel RoboxDual is really the only way to go. Water soluble support materials such as PVA have come into their own, and provide a convenient way to achieve complex prints without completely sacrificing surface finish.

Best of all,  you can add supports to cavities that previously would have been impossible to remove standard print material supports from, meaning

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check Support Placement

Most slicing software will allow you choose whether your support structure is touching the build plate or “everywhere”. For most models “Touching the Build Plate” is sufficient. Choosing Everywhere will result in supports… well, everywhere. Which then means, in the context of this 3D printing troubleshooting tip, a rough surface finish all over your print.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Capability of Your Printer

Quite often people use supports without realizing that their printer can bridge gaps and print relatively steep angles with ease. Most printers are capable of bridging gaps of 50 mm and printing angles of 50º without error. Create or download a test print to familiarize yourself with the true capability of your printer.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Adjust the Support Pattern

Depending on the model type, a change in the support pattern could be all it takes for a better support-model interface; try switching from “Grid” to “Zig Zag”.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Reduce Support Density

In your slicer software switch the view to “Layers” and take a look through the support structure. Default software will usually apply a dense support structure. If you reduce this density the support will become weaker, but as long as your printer is finely tuned this shouldn’t be an issue. In Cura a support density of 5 can be used successfully and vastly reduces the effect of the structure on the model’s surface.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Reduce Print Temperature

Double check the filament temperature range and adjust the hot end temperature to the minimum for the material. This may result in a weaker bond between the layers, but will also make it easier to remove the support structure.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Surface Areas Beneath Supports Are Rough

  • Dual Extrusion
  • Check support placement
  • Check the capability of the printer
  • Adjust the support pattern
  • Reduce Support Density
  • Use the lower end of the filament temperature
23

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Fine Detail Not Printing Correctly

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Fine Detail Not Printing Correctly

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Your 3D printer is a finely tuned workhorse able to churn out prints one after another without issue. But then when it comes to a print with fine detail, your printer isn’t producing the results you expect.

Edges and corners that are supposed to be pin sharp and crisp have a defined curve and softness, and intricate details are far from perfect.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

There are a number of issues that can affect the quality of printing when it comes to fine detail.

The most common cause of low detail prints is, of course, the layer height. If you have a low resolution (high layer height) set for your printer then you’re not going to be able to  get silky smooth prints, regardless of how good your printer is.

Nozzle size is another obvious issue. There’s a very delicate balance between nozzle size and fine print quality. In a production environment t, a 0.5mm nozzle is ideal. For general purpose a 0.4mm, and fine detail 0.4mm or smaller.

The smaller nozzle will also mean that your machine will need to be finely tuned as any issues will be amplified.

Nozzle temperature is all important, as your printer needs to be able to extrude the plastic smoothly. When it comes to detail make sure your nozzle is clean prior to starting, even the slightest build up of filament or a small blockage will highlight in the print.

Print speed will also have a huge effect on the detail; for detailed prints go as slow as you dare. You may have to adjust the fan speed to accommodate the increase in extrusion time. Some printers even benefit from the extruder fan being switched to its lowest setting (or even off).

Filament brands spend a fortune fine tuning their formulas to create a smooth flowing and setting filament. Although cheaper brands might look the same, the tolerances of diameter chemical composition can vary and this inconsistency will again be highlighted in the final print.

Finally check that the print platform is level. Even the slightest error in the level will have repercussions throughout the print when printing at high resolutions. Finding a good calibration print is an easy way of checking just how well your printer is tuned.

3D Printer Troubleshooting: Fine Detail Not Printing Correctly

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Increase the Resolution

Increase the resolution — a tghter, lower layer height will give successful prints a smoother finish.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Nozzle Diameter

The smaller the nozzle diameter the higher detail you can print. But a small nozzle also means lower tolerances so your machine needs to be highly tuned.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Maintain Your Printer

Any additional friction from slightly misaligned rods or loose belts will be instantly apparent in your print. Ensure everything is tight and aligned.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Clean Your Nozzle

Before starting a detailed print make sure that your nozzle is clean.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Slow it Down

Reduce your print speed — a nice slow extrusion is less prone to error.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Use Quality Filament

Selecting the right material from a quality filament manufacturer is a key to good quality prints.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check Platform Level

Run through your printers calibration procedure to check that the platform is level.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Fine Detail Not Printing Correctly

  • Low resolution
  • Nozzle diameter
  • Make sure everything is serviced
  • Clean your nozzle
  • Slow it down
  • Use quality filament
  • Check platform level
24

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Ripples and "Echoes" in Print (Ringing)

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Ripples and

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

The effect of visual waves or rippling on the print surface is one of those minor and annoying problems that many of us simply overlook. It has a habit of coming and going, and there really does seem to be no consistant reason for the issue.

The effect is normally very subtle and appears as a wave or ripple through the surface of the print, it’s position and severity can also change.

Most people will simply overlook the problem. Other than a slight visual effect on the surface the effect of these ripples has little other effect on the quality of the final 3D print, except of course in the most severe of cases.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

The issue of waves in your 3D prints is usually down to one of two things, and more commonly a combination of the two.

Vibrations and speed. 3D print manufacturers do an awful lot to their machines to make sure that the small vibrations created by the motors are kept to an absolute minimum. Lift up a printer like the Ultimaker 3 and you’ll see exactly what I mean, even the small Cel Robox Dual packs in some significant weight.

This weight helps to minimise vibrations through the machine but doesn’t completely eliminate it. Those small vibrations can travel through the furniture, floor boards or any surface you’ve seen fit to adorn with your printer.

The next time you start your 3D printer up take a look at the surface that it’s on, then as the printer prints check to see if the table is sturdy enough to properly support the machine.

Vibrations can also be amplified by poor maintenance and worn linear bearings. Regularly check that your printer is clean, free of fluff, grit and dirt, and remember to keep the rails oiled.

When the printer’s off check the quality of the linear bearings and make sure that the movement of the print head is smooth, you can do this by moving the head with your fingers. Make sure everything is cool before you start.

As you’re checking the maintenance make sure that all the bolts and bits within the machine are good and tight, especially if you built the machine yourself.

Waves will also be an issue if you try to print too fast, the simple solution here is to simply drop the print speed, this will solve the problem in the majority of cases.

If you still need to print fast then try increasing the flow and extrusion temperature.

Finally, and this is one for the more advanced users, and that’s firmware acceleration. This adjusts the speed of the head as it prints and changes direction, it’s function is to help prevent ringing. Here there are two functions that you should look at and this will change depending on the machine.

Look for acceleration and jerk, there are several values listed, start by lowering the jerk and then the acceleration during printing.

3D Printer Troubleshooting: Ripples and “Echoes” in Print (Ringing)

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Reduce Vibrations

Make sure that the surface you use for your 3D printer is solid and as the printer prints there are no visual vibrations.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Bearings

Linear bearings wear over time, with the printer off check that all are still running smooth.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Make Sure Everything is Tight

It’s amazing how one loose bolt can affect print quality, as part of your maintenance routine make sure everything is bolted and tight.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Add Oil

Check all the rods are clear of dust and dirt and then add a drop of oil to ensure everything is well lubricated.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Slow Down the Print

Reduce the print speed.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Adjust the Firmware Acceleration

One for advanced users only, check the printer’s firmware and adjust the values in the code for the acceleration and jerk, you’ll then need to upload the firmware back to your machine.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Ripples and “Echoes” in Print (Ringing)

  • Reduce vibrations
  • Check the bearings
  • Make sure everything is tight
  • Add oil
  • Slow down the print
  • Adjust the firmware acceleration
25

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Diagonal Scars on Print

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Diagonal Scars on Print

What’s the 3D print problem?

Horizontal lines appear across the top layer of your print, usually diagonally from one side to another.

What’s causing this 3D print problem?

A 3D print is created by laying down successive layers, one after the other. As each layer is set the print head moves through the X and Y axis. Once the layer is complete the head lifts through the Z axis and returns to the start point to set down the next layer.

It is at this point that visible lines or scaring can occur. These can be caused by a number of printer settings, but in essence the problem is due to oozing of filament or the nozzle physically scratching the surface.

Combing is one of the major offenders. Combing confines the print head to the printed area of the model. If there is any excess filament, it oozes across the rest of the print. Alternatively, the head doesn’t lift high enough and the hot nozzle drags across the surface, leaving a scar.

Over extrusion is another less common cause, as the head lifts excess drags across the surface leaving a trace of filament. On larger flat surfaces you may see the diagonal line fade across the surface.

Too high a temperature is a less likely cause but with some cheaper or older filaments the residual heat of the nozzle can lead to filament oozing from the nozzle, again leaving a trail as the nozzle shifts.

3D Printer troubleshooting: Diagonal Scars on Print

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Combing

Combing keeps the print head over the already printed areas of the model and therefore reduces the need for retractions. Whilst this increases print speeds it can cause the scaring. Switch combing off and in most cases this will clear the problem but expect longer print times.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Retraction

If you’ve switched off combing and the issue remains, try increasing the retraction amount. If the problem still persists then take a look at over extrusion or the nozzle temperature.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Extrusion

How you adjust the flow rate of the filament will vary depending on your printer. Using Cura and the Ultimaker series you’ll find the flow details on the machine in the material settings for the Ultimaker 2, on the Ultimaker 3 you’ll find them in the Custom settings in the Cura software.

Reduce the flow rate by 5% and print a calibration cube to check that the filament is extruding correctly and eliminates the issue.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Nozzle Temperature

The tolerance of good quality filaments should negate the issue in principle, but if your filament has been sat around for a while, exposed to moisture or sunlight you may find that the filaments tolerances to temperature have reduced. Decrease the hot end temperature by 5º and try again.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Z-Lift

Filament isn’t the only issue; if the head doesn’t lift high enough from the surface of the print then the nozzle itself can cause the scaring as it travels from one layer to another. On older printers you’ll need to re-calibrate if there are no Z-lift or Z-hop settings, otherwise increase Z-Hop or Z-Lift in 0.25mm increments.

3D Printing problem checklist: Diagonal Scars on Print

  • Combing
  • Retraction
  • Check the extrusion
  • Nozzle temperature
  • Z lift
29

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Pits and Hollows in Top Layer (Pillowing)

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Pits and Hollows in Top Layer (Pillowing)

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

The top surface of the print shows unsightly bumps or even holes.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

The two most common causes are improper cooling of the top layer and that the top surface isn’t thick enough.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Pits and Hollows in Top Layer (Pillowing)

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Filament Size

Pillowing is an issue that can affect all 3D printers, however, it’s far more common on those using 1.75 mm filament. If none of the other tips below help, try switching to 2.85mm filament if you can.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Check the Fan Position

Cooling can be a cause of pillowing. Typically, as the print starts your printer’s fans will be set to low or off, and after the first few layers they should kick into action. Check that the fans around your hot end start spin, especially toward the end of the print. If they appear to be functioning fine, then the issue could be that they are not directing sufficient airflow over your print. There are a variety of 3D printable mods to alter your print airflow.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Set Fan Speed in G-Code

Another cooling issue happens when each successive top layer of molten plastic is applied. As it covers the inner support structure it needs to be cooled quickly to avoid falling into the holes between the supports. The speed of the fans can be adjusted in the G-Code.

A common G-Code for Fan On is M106 and is M107 Fan Off. By those control lines, you just need to set the Fan speed to maximum for those top layers.

For example, looking at the G-Code (generated in Cura for printing on a Prusa i3) for a 1cm x 1cm cube printed at 0.1mm layer height, we can see that there are 97 layers. Knowing that we have a ‘Bottom / Top Thickness setting’ of 0.6mm we can look back to ;LAYER:91 then in the line after add M106 S255. M106 sets the fan going and S255 sets it to full blast.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Increase Top Layer Thickness

The easiest solution is to increase the top layer thickness. Most applications will enable you to do this in the advanced section, under the ‘Bottom / Top Thickness setting’. You’re aiming for at least 6 layers of material normally and up to 8 for smaller nozzles and filament. If your layer height is therefore set to 0.1mm then set the ‘Bottom / Top Thickness setting’ to 0.6mm. If the effect of pillowing still exists then bump it up to 0.8mm.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Pits and Hollows in Top Layer (Pillowing)

  • Go large and increase the filament size
  • Make sure the fans are up to speed and positioned
  • Manually set the fan speed
  • Increase the top layer thickness
30

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Web-like Strings Cover the Print (Stringing)

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Web-like Strings Cover the Print (Stringing)

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

There are unsightly strings of plastic between parts of the model.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

When the print head moves over an open area (otherwise known as travel move), some filament has dripped from the nozzle.

3D Printing Troubleshooting: Stringing

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Enable Retraction

Retraction is an important factor when it comes to quality of finish and can be enabled through most slicing software. Its function is pretty simple and works by retracting the filament back into the nozzle before the head moves. The idea is that it avoids molten filament from trailing behind the head creating thin strings in its wake.

Most applications such as Cura offer a one click activation option. This uses a set of default parameters and for the most part is perfectly adequate, but for fine tuning there are customizable options that give greater control. Adjusting the minimum travel of the head before retraction is activated, for example.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Minimum Travel (mm)

Reducing the minimum travel is usually the quickest fix for stringing if the standard retraction isn’t doing the job. Drop the value in 0.5mm increments until the stringing has stopped.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip: Just Cut Them Off

This isn’t the most elegant of solutions but simply taking a scalpel to the strings is quite often the quickest and easiest solution.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Web-like Strings Cover the Print (Stringing)

  • Enable retraction
  • Adjust the minimum travel before retracting starts
  • Just clean the print with a scalpel
33

3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems Bridges are Messy

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting of Common 3D Printing Problems: Bridges are Messy

What’s the 3D Printing Problem?

Bridges are essentially a stretch of plastic that is extruded between two raised points. If you have two columns with a 5 cm gap, then the beam that sits on top between those two points with nothing below is the bridge.

Most filament is surprisingly resilient to bridging, and with a finely tuned printer the distance  achievable when bridging can be surprising. However you know something isn’t quite right when your printer starts to fail to bridge even the smallest gap.

The most obvious sign is when the printer fails to successfully bridge gaps between 1 and 3cm. The extrusion may be too thin, filament sags, or simply flows down the height of the bridge rather than across.

What’s Causing this 3D Printing Problem?

Getting to the bottom of bridging issues is usually pretty easy and much of the diagnosis comes through the look of the failed bridge.

It’s also worth noting that the way that different slicer applications handle bridging is very different, with applications such as Simplify3D having a special Bridge option that will adjust extrusion and cooling for the best results.

The most common related issue is that the gap you’re trying to bridge is just too big, this distance will vary with each printer and material. You can usually tell if the gap is too great as the filament will start to sag in the middle or collapse.

Cooling is another major issue, the filament needs to be cooled quickly in order for it to be able to support itself between the two columns.

Extrusion speed is equally important, if the print head moves to quickly then the speed and vibrations will inevitably cause instability before the filament has set.

Too high extrusion temperature will often highlight in bridging, again showing sagging of the filament. If the extruded filament is of different thicknesses then you know this is the issue.

3D Printer Troubleshooting: Bridges are messy

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip #1: Check the bridging capabilities

You can make a test print with columns and bridges of different distances to check how far your printer will go, start with a 5cm gap and then increase, anything between 5 and 10 is good, 15 would be exceptional.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip #2: Add supports

A quick and easy fix is to simply add supports below the structure

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip #3: Increase fan speeds

Boost the extrusion fan speed to ensure that the filament cools quickly, the faster the filament sets the larger the bridge it will be able to create.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip #4: Decrease extrusion speed

Fast extrusion is an absolute no when it comes to bridging, you need slow and steady as the filament needs to have time to set as the distance is bridged.

3D Printing Troubleshooting Tip #5: Use Simplify3D

This dedicated 3D print software features a bridging option and will automatically recognize any areas of your print that require greater cooling and slower extrusion speeds.

3D Printing Problem Checklist: Bridges are messy

  • Check the bridging capabilities
  • Add supports
  • Increase fan speeds
  • Decrease extrusion speed
  • Use Simplify3D

Something Else

You printed successfully and the print looks great, but there’s still a problem…

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