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Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – 3 Tips & Tricks to Solve It

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by Hironori Kondo
Mar 6, 2019

Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – 3 Tips & Tricks to Solve It

Layer shifting isn't the most commonly discussed mode of print failure, but it certainly is among the most frustrating. Here's how you can cure your layer shifting ailments.

Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – Straighten Out Your Prints What's the Problem?

A Benchy with shifted layers.
A Benchy with shifted layers. Source: All3DP

Layer shifting is when the layers of your 3D print don’t properly align, leaving behind a staggered, “staircase” look. This often happens only in a few locations but usually renders the entire print useless. And the frustrating part is that the rest of the model might turn out perfect.

When minor, layer shifts will lead to “glitched”, offset layers, as with the Benchy above. When major, it can lead to your printer extruding in mid-air, leaving behind a bird’s nest of plastic.

To prevent this, let’s take a look at three quick tips to fix your layer shifting!

A bad case of the staircase.
A bad case of the staircase. Source: Prusa Research

Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – Straighten Out Your Prints Tip #1: Check the Belts and Pulleys

Loose belts and pulleys can cause layer shifts.
Loose belts and pulleys can cause layer shifts. Source: Ultimaker

Most likely, layer shifting is just a sign that your 3D printer needs a little maintenance. Over time, your printer’s pulleys and belts can loosen, resulting in slippage that manifests itself in shifted layers. 

To fix this, check the following items:

  1. The belts in your printer’s motion system can stretch out over time, so make sure that they’re still maintaining their tension, with a slight twang when plucked. If they’re too loose, check if your printer has built-in belt tensioners that you can use. If not, consider printing your own tensioner or replacing the belts
  2. The pulleys connected to your printer’s motors are the metal, toothed pieces that come into contact with the belts. They’re held in place by set screws, so check that the screws are tight. This ensures that the pulleys don’t slip.

For most cases, this should be enough to solve your layer shifting issues. If not, we have a couple more tips. 

Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – Straighten Out Your Prints Tip #2: Avoid Collisions

Avoid collisions to prevent layer shifts.
Avoid collisions to prevent layer shifts. Source: ExplainingComputers / YouTube

Another common cause of layer shifts is the 3D printer’s print head colliding with the model being printed. Most printers can’t detect collisions, so they’ll continue printing despite the print head having been blocked. If you notice that your printer suffers from this, try these fixes:

  1. Lower your travel speeds. This will prevent the print head from recklessly ramming into your prints after travel moves.
  2. Add Z-hop. This is a setting in your slicing software that makes the printer lift the print head before traveling (moving from one part of the print to another without extruding). This will ensure that your printer’s nozzle is always clear printed parts, avoiding mishaps. 

With that, we’ve covered the most common causes of layer shifting. If your problems persist, however, we have one more tip for you. 

Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – Straighten Out Your Prints Tip #3: Cool the Electronics

Cool your electronics to prevent overheating.
Cool your electronics to prevent overheating. Source: Ultimaker

In the unlikely case that Tips #1 and #2 don’t work, it may be that your 3D printer’s electronics are overheating. Specifically, overheating stepper drivers, which control the motors, may cause hiccups in the printer’s movements.

To fix this, make sure that all the ventilation grills for your printer’s motherboard are unobstructed. If necessary, place a desktop fan by the printer’s electronics to provide sufficient cooling. 

Now, you should be free from layer shifting!

Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – Straighten Out Your Prints Smooth not Staggered

With layer shifting solved, you can cut downtime and keep on printing!
With layer shifting solved, you can cut downtime and keep on printing! Source: Cetus3D / Kickstarter

Hopefully, we’ve helped you diagnose and fix your 3D printing layer shifts. While certainly frustrating to encounter, we hope that they no longer pose a significant hindrance to your 3D printing workflow.

For more troubleshooting tips and tricks, refer to our thorough troubleshooting guide. For more on slicers, check out our breakdown of eight essential slicer settings.

Happy printing!

Feature image source: zheng3.com

License: The text of "Layer Shifting (3D Printing) – 3 Tips & Tricks to Solve It" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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