Print Quality Troubleshooting Guide

It’s incredible what your 3D printer is capable of doing. However, we’ve all had those vexing moments when, despite our best efforts, a seemingly easy model simply refuses to print successfully. We’ve had our fair share of print disasters here.

With that, we’ve put together what we hope is the most detailed guide available to diagnose and repair common 3D printing issues, based on our 3D printer troubleshooting experience. And (as of this most recent update), we’re not only talking about FDM issues. 

If you want to improve the quality of your 3D printed pieces, this guide is a great place to start. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most popular 3D printing problems, as well as the software settings that can be used to solve them. Best of all, the guide employs a vast range of real-world images to help you recognise each problem while inspecting your own 3D printed pieces. Let’s get started!

 

Nothing is Printing

Despite your best efforts, your print simply will not take off. There is no filament extruding from your hot end; the causes of this form of 3D printing issue are various.

Out of Filament

Examine the filament reel to see if there is any remaining filament. If not, a new reel should be loaded. It’s easy.

Nozzle Too Close to Print Bed

Simply increasing the nozzle’s height will also help. Most 3D printers allow you to set a Z-axis offset in the device settings. To lift the nozzle away from the print bed, change the offset to a positive value. This also works in reverse, with a negative offset assisting in addressing the issue of prints sticking to your bed. However, if the offset is too big, it will not stick to the platform.

If your printer makes it, you can achieve the same effect by lowering the print bed. This is the more difficult remedy, as it necessitates re-calibration and leveling of the bed for even prints.

bed leveling ultimaker
Source: Ultimaker.com

3. Blocked Nozzle

Unblocking can be a fast and simple process if you’re lucky. Begin by unplugging the filament. Then, using your printer’s control panel (if one is available), pick the “heat up nozzle” setting and gradually increase to the melting point of the stuck filament.

Alternatively, attach your printer to a machine running compatible control software and use that to heat the nozzle. In the case of PLA Set the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius. If the nozzle has reached the proper temperature, clear the hole with a small screw (being careful not to burn your fingers). If your nozzle is 0.4mm, you’ll need a smaller pin; an airbrush cleaning kit works fine.

If the nozzle remains blocked, you will be able to force the filament through with another piece of filament.

Begin by removing the filament, followed by removing the feeder tube from the print head. Heat the hot end to 220 degrees Celsius for PLA and then push another piece of filament through from the top to try to force the stuck filament out of the nozzle.

If the new filament hasn’t succeeded in unblocking, the extra pressure you can apply by hand can just do the trick. However, don’t press too hard or the horizontal printer rods can bend.

Once the end is clear, use a needle to pass through the nozzle and a brush to remove any excess filament.

If the nozzle remains blocked, you’ll need to perform minor surgery and disassemble the hot end.

If you’ve never done this before, it’s a good idea to take notes and photos so you know where everything goes when you reassemble it.

Begin by removing the filament, then consult your printer’s manual to learn how to disassemble the hot end.

4.Print Head Misses the Bed

Before proceeding, ensure that the correct printer is selected in your printing program. Because every printer is unique, even if the print bed of two printers is identical, the other dimensions and settings are unlikely to fit exactly.

If you recently purchased the printer and this problem is occurring, make sure you have the most recent firmware update installed.

Once modified, go through the setup process again and double-check that all settings, particularly the print area size, are right.

This will necessitate a little further investigation. Keep an eye on how the print head moves.

Check that an end stop hasn’t separated if it wants to travel past the farthest point of one of its axes.

If all appears to be in order (and none of the preceding steps have resolved the problem), the next step should be to replace the end stops with new ones.

upgrade marlin firmware
Source: Thomas Sanladerer

5. Snapped Filament

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: REMOVE THE FILAMENT

 

The first step is to remove the filament from the printer as normal. In the case of the Ultimaker, choose Maintenance and Material Change. Since the filament has normally snapped inside the tube, you’ll need to remove it from both the extruder and the hotend. The filament should then be pulled out of the nozzle after it has been heated.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: TRY ANOTHER FILAMENT

 

If it occurs again after reloading the filament, try another filament to make sure it’s not only the same brittle filament that needs to be discarded.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LOOSEN THE IDLER TENSION

 

If the fresh filament snaps, make sure the idler tensioner isn’t too tight by loosening all the way. Tighten until there is no filament slippage when the print begins.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FLOW RATE AND TEMPERATURE

 

Make sure the nozzle isn’t clogged and clean it thoroughly. If the issue persists, ensure that the hot end is getting hot and reaching the proper temperature. Also, ensure that the filament’s flow rate is set to 100% and not higher.

 

6.Stripped Filament 

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: HELP FEED THE SYSTEM

 

If the filament has just begun to slip, you can normally tell by the noise and the presence of plastic shavings, and you can then apply some gentle pressure to support it through the device. This will often assist in getting the printer to print smoothly again.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADJUST THE IDLER TENSION

 

Begin by loosening the idler, then feed in the filament and tighten until it no longer slips. Filaments vary in diameter, and although the idler will absorb some of the difference, some filaments will require fine adjustment.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: REMOVE THE FILAMENT

 

In most cases, you’ll have to extract and repair the filament before feeding it back into the machine. After removing the filament, cut it below the region that shows signs of slipping and feed it back into the machine. If the filament has broken, it might have reached the end of its useful life. Try it again, and if it snaps again and the filament appears fragile, discard it and try 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.

 

7. Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK YOU HAVE ENOUGH FILAMENt

 

It may seem obvious, but even the best of us experience brief lapses of focus. Many slicers now have a material estimate for your prints, and comparing it to the weight of your spool of filament and how much is left on it will give you an idea of whether you have enough filament to finish your print.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FOR STRIPPED FILAMENT

 

Stripped filament may be the cause of a print failing in the middle, and it can be caused by a variety of issues. 

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FOR A CLOGGED NOZZLE

 

A nozzle caked in old burnt filament can trigger a variety of print issues, one of which is the inability to lay down new extrusions. Check out our 3D printing troubleshooting guide on how to deal with a clogged nozzle.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FOR SNAPPED FILAMENT

 

Snapped filament may trigger a disjoint between the extruder and hot end, which is primarily a problem with Bowden style extruder setups. Fortunately, it is simple to diagnose and repair, but it can indicate that your filament has reached the end of its useful life.

8. Print Doesn’t Stick to Print Bed

 

3D PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADD TEXTURE

 

To increase the likelihood that the filament can bind to the platform, another material with texture should be added. The most popular approach is to add a thin layer of stick glue to the print platform, which is easily removed with hot water. Another choice for PLA is to use decorators tape. For filaments requiring a heated platform of 40o or higher.

 

3D PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LEVEL THE PRINT BED

 

Every printer has a different method for leveling the print platform; some, like the new Prusa models, use an extremely reliable auto leveling system, while others, like the Ultimaker, have a helpful step-by-step approach that guides you through the adjustment process. To level your print bed, consult your printer’s manual.

 

3D PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADJUST THE NOZZLE HEIGHT

 

If the nozzle is too high then the filament won’t stick to the platform, too low and the nozzle will actually start to scrape the print off. Find the Z-axis offset option in your printer’s settings and make small adjustments — into the positive to raise the nozzle away from the bed, and negative to lower it closer.

 

3D PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CLEAN THE PRINT PLATFORM

 

If you’re printing on a material like glass, it’s a good idea to give it a good clean every now and then, particularly if you use glue a lot. The grease from your fingerprints, as well as an unhealthy buildup of glue deposits, may all contribute to the print platform’s non-stickiness.

 

3D PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: APPLY BUILD PLATE ADHESION

 

Some models will print without a brim, but smaller objects and those with a small footprint in contact with the platform will need Build Plate Adhesion. These can be applied to your slicer program by searching for “Brim” and “Raft.” Brim will add a single layer of a given number of perimeter lines radiating out from where your print makes contact with the print bed; it is the less wasteful of the two and, in our opinion, the better choice, if you don’t mind trimming the brim away from your print.

 

Raft does just that for your print. Depending on the parameters you choose, you will receive a shadow of your print’s footprint written in a thicker, more adherent sheet. Your print is then printed on top of this as normal. Rafts produce a rough, unpleasant surface when it comes into contact with your print and consume more content than a brim.

 

3D PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADD SUPPORTS

 

In addition to create plate adhesion, if your model has complex overhangs or extremities, add supports to keep the print together throughout the process.

 

8. Supports Fell Apart

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: SELECT THE CORRECT SUPPORTS

 

Take a look at the model you’re about to print. Try using lines or zig zag supports if there are wide overhangs connecting parts of the model and these have good contact with the platform. Using grid or triangle supports if the model has less bed contact or needs much stronger supports.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADD PLATFORM ADHESION

 

Assemble some sort of platform adhesion, such as a brim, so that the mounts have plenty of base to bond to.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: INCREASE THE SUPPORT DENSITY

 

As a last resort, try this. Increasing the support density gives the model a denser base to rest on and makes it less susceptible to model movement, but it is much more difficult to remove.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CREATE IN-MODEL SUPPORTS

 

Overly tall supports can be vulnerable to failure. By using a tall block in your print that ends just below where the supports are required, you can give the supports a strong foundation without having to print tall and weak.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHANGE FILAMENT

 

Filament can become brittle as it nears the end of its useful life, and this typically manifests itself in the consistency of the supports. Replace the filament with a new reel and see if the problem improves.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK EVERYTHING IS TIGHT

 

Printer shakes and wobbles can be a serious problem. Check your computer to ensure that everything is tight and re-calibrate if necessary.

support structure 3d printed model example
Source: amfg.ai
MY PRINT LOOKS BAD

 

It’s done, but the 3D printing gods frown on your sloppy print. Here are some of the potential causes of 3D printing issues.

 

1.First Layer is Messy

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LEVEL THE PRINT BED

 

Each printer has a unique method for leveling the print platform. The most recent Prusa models have an incredibly dependable auto leveling method, while others, such as the Ultimaker, have a helpful step-by-step approach that guides you through the adjustment process.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LOWER BED TEMPERATURE

 

Reduce the bed temperature in 5 degree increments until you reach the sweet spot of adhesion without losing detail.

 

2.Print Bows Out at Bottom (Elephant’s Foot)

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: BALANCE BED TEMP & COOLING

 

To prevent elephant foot from appearing in your 3D prints, the model’s base layers must be sufficiently cooled to support the structure above. Applying too much cooling, on the other hand, risks warping the base layers. To achieve the desired balance, begin by lowering the temperature of the print platform by 5 degree increments (to within +/- 20 degrees of the recommended temperature). If your Bottom / Top Thickness is set to 0.6mm, begin the fan at a lower height.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LEVEL PRINT BED

 

The majority of print issues can usually be traced back to the level of the print network. Each printer has a slightly different method for leveling the print platform. Begin by calibrating yours according to the instructions given by the manufacturer of your printer.Print a calibration cube and observe how the printer positions the filament on the bed. You should be able to tell whether your bed is level by how uniformly (or not) your layers are distributed on the bed after printing the cube.

 

Similarly, you’ll be able to see if the nozzle is too close to the print platform and scratching through the molten filament, or if it’s too far and causing filament buildup and blobbing.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: RAISE THE NOZZLE

 

Increasing the height of the nozzle slightly will also help, but be careful not to raise it too high or it may not stick to the platform.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHAMFER THE BASE

 

Another choice is to chamfer the model’s foundation. Of course, you can only do this if you built the model yourself or have access to the original file. Start with a 5mm and 45o chamfer, but experiment to achieve the best results.

 

3. Print Edges are Bending (Warping)

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: USE A HEATED PRINT PLATFORM

 

The simplest approach is to use a heated print platform and set the temperature to just below the melting point of the plastic. This is referred to as the “glass transition temperature.” If you get the temperature just right, the first layer will remain flat on the print platform. The slicer program often sets the temperature of the print platform. The suggested temperature for your filament is usually written on the side of the package or on the spool.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: APPLY AN ADHESIVE TO THE PRINT BED

 

If your print is still lifting at the edges, add a small amount of stick glue uniformly on the bed to improve adhesion.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: TRY A DIFFERENT PLATFORM TYPE

 

Replace your print bed with one that has stronger adhesion. Prusa, for example, uses a PEI (Polyetherimide) print surface that provides excellent adhesion without the use of glue. XYZPrinting has textured tape in the box of some of their printers, which is essentially a big sheet of masking tape, and again, this works excellently, but only with non heated print platforms. Zortrax 3D printers have a perforated print bed, and models weld themselves to this surface, completely removing the problem.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LEVEL THE PRINT PLATFORM

 

Another possible trigger is print platform calibration; run through the calibration process to ensure that the bed is level and the nozzle height is right.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: INCREASE CONTACT

 

Increasing the contact between the model and the bed is a simple solution, and most print software allows you to install rafts or platforms.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADJUST ADVANCED TEMPERATURE SETTINGS

 

If anything else fails, check your advanced print settings on both your printer and your print app. Increase the print bed temperature in 5-degree increments. Examine the fan cooling in the slicer software; it is normally set so that the cooling fans turn to full power at a height of about 0.5mm; consider extending this to 0.75mm.

 

4. Infill Looks Messy and Incomplete

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE FILL DENSITY

 

Check the infill density in your slicing tools. A value of about 20% is considered normal; anything less than this is likely to cause problems. You will want to increase this for larger prints 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 significant impact on the structure’s consistency. Reduce the infill print speed if the infill looks sloppy.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHANGE THE INFILL PATTERN

 

The internal configuration of most slicing software can be changed. You can have a grid pattern, a triangle pattern, a honeycomb pattern, and more. Attempt a different choice.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK YOUR NOZZLE

 

It’s possible that there’s a minor blockage in the nozzle. Although the blockage has no impact on the printing of the thicker exterior walls, the filament is becoming entangled because there is less flow for the internal framework.

 

5. Gaps Between Infill and Outer Wall

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE INFILL OVERLAP

 

This is by far the most common problem, and it is also the simplest to fix. Locate the ‘Infill Overlap’ choice in your slicing program and increase the value.

 

  • This is set to 15% by default in Cura. Increase the percentage to 30%.
  • The choice is located in ‘Edit Process Settings > Infill > Outline Overlap’ in Simplify3D. Increase the value once more. When changing this environment, always keep it below 50% or you’ll see the effects of the overlap in the print’s outer perimeters.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: PRINT INFILL BEFORE THE PERIMETER SHELL

 

The structure of the infill will show through if you print with a very thin outer wall. If this occurs, you can change the order in which the infill and perimeter layers are laid down by the printer. In Cura, for example, check to see if ‘Infill prints after perimeters’ is checked.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: INCREASE HOT END TEMPERATURE

 

Because of the carbon fibers that are part of their construction, some of the more recent advanced materials, such as XT-CF20, are less accommodating when it comes to spreading. When printing with these materials, a 5-10o increase in hot end temperature can make all the difference.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: LOWER PRINT SPEED

 

Okay, so you’re in a hurry to get the printout, but printing at higher speeds will cause a slew of problems if the printer isn’t perfectly tuned. If you need to print quickly, you can prevent gaps by slowing down the top layer.

 

6. Infill is Visible from the Outside

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE SHELL THICKNESS

 

Check that the value you’ve chosen for shell thickness is a multiple of the nozzle dimension.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: INCREASE THE SHELL THICKNESS

 

The most straightforward approach is to increase the shell thickness. By doubling the scale, any overlap created by the infill should be covered.

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: USE INFILL AFTER PERIMETERS

 

Infill prints can be enabled after perimeters in most slicing applications.

 

  • In Cura, go to the ‘Expert Settings’ tab and check the box next to ‘Infill prints after perimeters’.
  • In Simply3D, go to ‘Edit Process Settings,’ then ‘Layer,’ and under ‘Layer Settings,’ choose ‘Outside-in’ next to the ‘Outline Direction.’

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK PRINT PLATFORM

 

Examine the model to see if the effect is more prevalent on one side than the other. This may be due to calibration. If this is the case, proceed with the normal calibration procedure. 

 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: PRINT SHELLS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

 

Depending on the type of model you’re printing, you can take advantage of the internal and shell printing orders. When you want a high-quality print with a decent surface finish but don’t care about the model’s actual power, choose print from the Outside-in. If the print’s intensity is critical, choose Print from the Inside-Out menu and double the wall thickness. 

 

The disparity in strength is caused by the fact that printing from the outside-in eliminates the small amount of overlap that induces ghosting, but it also means that the actual structure can not produce the same strength of bond between the internal and external structure due to the lack of overlap.

 

7. Cracks Have Appeared in Tall Objects

layer splitting cracking
Source: simplify3d.com

 
3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: EXTRUDER TEMPERATURE

Begin by raising the extruder temperature; a reasonable starting point would be 10oC. The working hot end temperatures are mentioned on the side of your filament box; try to keep the temperature change within these limits.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: FAN DIRECTION AND SPEED

Check your fans to ensure that they are turned on and directed at the model. If they are, try slowing them down.

8. Layers Don’t Line Up Well

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE BELTS PART I

Begin by ensuring that all of the belts are snug but not too close. When you pinch the two belts together, you can feel some resistance. If the top part of the belt is thicker than the bottom, this is a sure sign that they need to be tweaked and tightened. Belt tensioners are integrated into some printers, such as the Original Prusa i3.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE BELTS PART II

Printer belts are usually made up of a single continuous loop that is wrapped around two pulleys. A common problem is that the belt will slip on one pulley and progressively tighten on the top compared to the bottom — or vice versa — resulting in misaligned layers.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE RODS ARE CLEAN AND OILED

Debris will accumulate on the rods over time, creating odd patches of higher friction, which can influence the free movement of the head and cause layer shifting. A quick wipe and re-oiling of the rods typically takes care of the problem.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FOR BENT OR MISALIGNED RODS PART I

If you see the print head swaying at some times, it’s possible that one of the rods has become slightly bent. You can normally tell by turning off the computer so that no power is going through the steppers and then moving the print head along the X and Y axes. If you encounter opposition, you may be certain that something is wrong. Begin by checking to see if the rods are properly aligned.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FOR BENT OR MISALIGNED RODS PART II

Many printers use threaded rods rather than lead screws, which, while efficient, have a tendency to bend over time. Don’t worry about disassembling your printer to check for straightness; instead, use control software such as ‘Printrun’ to switch the print head up or down. You’ll notice if one of the Z-axis rods is bent right away. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to reliably straighten a bent bolt, so it’s a nice reason to substitute the old threaded rods with lead screws.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE DRIVE PULLEYS

These are normally directly attached to a stepper motor or one of the key rods that drive the print head. You’ll notice a tiny grub screw if you carefully rotate the pulley. Holding both the rod and the attached belt, pull on the belt to make the pulley spin. There should be no slip between the pulley and the stepper or rod. Tighten the grub screw and try again if necessary.

9. Some Layers are Missing

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: MECHANICAL CHECK

It’s a good idea to give your 3D printer a once-over every now and then, and the presence of holes in your 3D print is always a good indication that it’s time to love and care for your 3D printer. Begin by inspecting the rods to ensure that they are all seated into bearings or clips and have not popped out, changed, or moved even slightly.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ROD ALIGNMENT CHECK

Check that all rods are still perfectly aligned and haven’t moved. Switching off the power (or disabling steppers) and softly pushing the print head along the X and Y axes is a good way to say. If there is some resistance to movement, something is wrong, and it is generally fairly simple to determine if this is due to misalignment, a slightly bent rod, or a fault with one of the bearings.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: WORN BEARING

When bearings fail, they normally let you know by making an audible din. You should also be able to feel uneven motion in the print head, and the unit should appear to be slightly vibrating when printing. If this is the case, unplug the power and pass the print head through the X and Y axes to locate the broken bearing field.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK FOR OIL

Lubricating the joints is easy to overlook, but keeping it well-oiled is critical to the machine’s smooth operation. Sewing machine oil is suitable and can be bought at almost any haberdashery for a reasonable price.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: UNDER-EXTRUSION

Under-extrusion may be the final problem. Here’s a dedicated 3D printing troubleshooting tip for under-extrusion.

10. Print Leans When it Shouldn’t

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK X- AND Y-AXIS

If your print is skewed to the left or right, you have an X-axis problem. Back to front, you have a Y-axis problem. If you’ve determined which one it is, you should inspect the belts and pulleys. If you have a printer like the Prusa i3, the operation is fairly simple because the steppers are directly attached to the main drive belt.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE BELTS AREN’T RUBBING

Look around each of the belts and ensure that they’re not rubbing against the side of the machine or any other components. Also, check to see that the alignment of the belts is correct. If one is at a slight angle then this can cause issues.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: TIGHTEN THE STEPPER MOTOR COUPLER GRUB SCREW

If you’ve determined which axis is causing the problem, use an Allen key to tighten the grub screw that connects the coupler to the stepper motor.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK ROD PULLEYS

Belts and pulleys are used in more advanced devices, such as the Ultimaker 23D printer. The key X and Y rods at the machine’s top are equipped with eight pulleys. Tighten the grub screws for each of these along the affected axis. These are unlikely to trigger any slip, but if one is loose, a belt can misalign.

11.Overhangs are Messy

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADD SUPPORTS

Adding supports is the fastest and easiest solution. The majority of slicing software will allow you to do this quickly. Click Edit Process Settings > Support > Generate support material in Simplify3D; you can then change the number, pattern, and settings. Simply pick the desired support type from the Basic settings in Cura.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CREATE IN-MODEL SUPPORTS

Supports created by software can be intrusive at times, resulting in support material being stuck in difficult-to-remove locations. A strong alternative is to create your own in your modeling application. It requires a little more talent, but the results can be spectacular.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CREATE A SUPPORT PLATFORM

Arms and other extrusions are the most common places that trigger issues when printing a figure. Using print bed supports may also cause problems because they often have to span very wide vertical distances; for structures that are supposed to be easily removed and weak, this distance is prime for causing problems.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ANGLE THE WALLS

If you have a shelf-style overhang, a simple alternative is to slope the wall at 45o, which allows the wall to support itself and eliminates the need for any other form of support.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: BREAK THE PART APART

Another way to look at the model is to disassemble it into individual prints. For certain versions, this allows you to flip what would normally be an overhang and transform it into a base. The only problem with this is that you then have to figure out how to reattach the two halves.

12. Surface Areas Beneath Supports are Rough

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK SUPPORT PLACEMENT

Most slicing software allows you to specify if your support structure should be touching the build plate or “everywhere.” “Touching the Build Plate” is appropriate for most versions. Choosing Everywhere will result in… yeah, helps… everywhere. In the sense of this 3D printing troubleshooting tip, this means a rough surface finish all over your print.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE CAPABILITY OF YOUR PRINTER

People also use supports without understanding that their printer can easily bridge gaps and print relatively steep angles. Most printers will bridge gaps of 50 mm and print at angles of 50o without error. Create or download a test print to become acquainted with your printer’s true capabilities.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ADJUST THE SUPPORT PATTERN

Depending on the model type, changing the support pattern might be all that is needed for a better support-model interface; try switching from “Grid” to “Zig Zag.”

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: REDUCE SUPPORT DENSITY

Change the view in your slicer program to “Layers” and examine the support system. Typically, default applications would use a dense support network. Reduce the density and the support will become weaker, but as long as your printer is finely balanced, this should not be a problem.

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 TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: DUAL EXTRUSION & SOLUBLE SUPPORT MATERIALS

A costly option, however if the majority of your prints need complex support systems, a dual extrusion printer like the Ultimaker 3 or the Cel RoboxDual is the only way to go. Water-soluble support materials, such as PVA, have come into their own and provide a simple way to achieve complex prints without losing surface finish.

13. Print is Exceptionally Weak/Appears Wrong

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: USE LATEST SLICER SOFTWARE

While the majority of the new slicer engines support the automated correction of non-manifold edges, it is still best practice to ensure that the models are correctly shaped and print ready.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: FIX USING STL FILE REPAIR SOFTWARE

If you’re still using the most recent slicer program, you might have seen a message informing you that your STL file contains non-manifold edges. Of course, some apps will fix this for you, and if your slicer can’t, there’s a decent range of STL file repair software available for both desktop and web use.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: FIX ‘NON-MANIFOLD’ IN SIMPLIFY3D

Click the ‘Advanced’ tab in edit ‘Process settings’ and pick ‘Heal’ next to ‘Non-manifold segments.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: USE THE LAYER VIEW

In your slicer software use the layer view to check through the model so you can see where the issues appear. A quick slide through the layers will often highlight an easy to fix problem.

14. Fine Detail Isn’t Printing Properly

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: INCREASE THE RESOLUTION

Increase the resolution — a tighter, lower layer height would result in a cleaner finish for successful prints.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: NOZZLE DIAMETER

The finer the detail you can print, the smaller the nozzle diameter. However, a small nozzle means lower tolerances, so the system must be fine-tuned.

15. Print Ripples and “Echoes”

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: REDUCE VIBRATIONS

Check that the surface on which your 3D printer is mounted is solid and that there are no visible movements as the printer prints.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE BEARINGS

Linear bearings deteriorate over time; when the printer is turned off, double-check that it is still running smoothly.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS TIGHT

It’s incredible how one loose bolt can impact print quality; make sure everything is bolted and secure as part of your maintenance routine.

  1. Diagonal Marks on Print

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: COMBING

Combing retains the print head over previously printed areas of the model, reducing the need for retractions. While this increases print speeds, it can result in scarring. Switch off combing and, in most situations, this will solve the problem, but expect longer print times.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: RETRACTION

If the problem persists after you have turned off combing, try increasing the retraction amount. If the issue continues, investigate over extrusion or nozzle temperature.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE EXTRUSION

Depending on your printer, you will need to change the flow rate of the filament in a different way. Cura and the Ultimaker series users can find the flow information on the computer in the material settings for the Ultimaker 2, and in the Custom settings in the Cura program for the Ultimaker 3.

  1. The print appears stringy and droopy (Over-Extrusion)

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: EXTRUSION MULTIPLIER

Check that you have the right Extrusion multiplier selected in your slicer program.

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: FLOW SETTING

If all appears to be in order, reduce the Flow setting in your printer’s program.

  1. Print layers appear to be uniformly thin/weak (Under-Extrusion)

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE FILAMENT DIAMETER

Begin with the most basic problem: have you set the correct filament diameter in the slicing software? If you are unsure of the diameter, the value, as well as the recommended temperature, is typically printed on the package.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: MEASURE THE FILAMENT

If you’re still not getting the results you want and filament flow is the issue, double-check the filament diameter with calipers. You should be able to precisely adjust the filament diameter parameters in the slicer software settings.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE HOT END FOR DEBRIS

Most printers can lift the printhead away from the print base after printing. Check the nozzle for a buildup of filament and dirt as soon as possible.

  1. The print appears to be melted and deformed

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE RECOMMENDED MATERIAL SETTINGS

This may seem obvious, but double-check that you’ve provided the printer with the correct material information. The most recent filament temperatures range from 180 to 260oC or so, so it’s shocking how quick it is to get this wrong.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: DECREASE HOT END TEMPERATURE

Reduce the hot end temperature in the printer or device settings. Reduce the temperature in 5oC increments depending on the intensity of the overheating.

  1. Pits and Hollows in Top Layer (Pillowing)

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: FILAMENT SIZE

Pillowing is a problem that can affect any 3D printer, but it is much more prevalent in those that use 1.75 mm filament. If none of the other suggestions below work, consider moving to 2.85mm filament if possible.

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: CHECK THE FAN POSITION

Pillowing may be caused by cooling. Typically, when the print begins, the printer’s fans will be set to low or off, and they should activate after the first few layers. Check that the fans around your hot end begin to spin, especially near the end of the print.

  1. Web-like Strings Cover the Print (Stringing)

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: ENABLE RETRACTION

Retraction is an essential factor in finish quality and can be allowed in most slicing apps. Its purpose is straightforward: it retracts the filament back into the nozzle until the head shifts. The idea is to keep molten filament from trailing behind the head and leaving thin strings in its wake.

Most applications, like Cura, have a one-click activation feature. This uses a set of default parameters and is perfectly adequate for the most part, but for fine tuning, there are customizable options that provide greater power. For example, adjusting the minimum travel of the head before retraction is activated.

  1. Print Has Lost Dimensional Accuracy

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: CHECK THE WORKING UNIT OF MEASUREMENT

Check that the right real-world dimensions are selected in your 3D printing application.

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: CHECK THE MEASUREMENTS TWICE

When designing a component that must attach to other items, double-check the measurements and use a digital caliper.

  1. Print Offset in Some Places

TIP FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: MAKE SURE THE PRINTER HAS A STABLE BASE.

Place the printer on a secure base in a location where it will not be knocked, poked, or otherwise tampered with. Even a minor nudge of the printer may cause the print base to move and cause problems.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: CHECK THE PRINT BED IS SECURE

Many 3D printers have a detachable print bed. While this is useful for removing prints and avoiding printer damage, it also means that clips and screws can become loose over time. When reinstalling the print base, ensure that it is clipped or bolted firmly in place to prevent any slip or movement.

  1. Bridges are Messy

TIP #1 FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: CHECK THE BRIDGING CAPABILITIES

To see how far your printer can go, print a test print with columns and bridges of varying distances; start with a 5cm gap and gradually increase; something between 5 and 10 is acceptable, and 15 will be exceptional.

TIP #2 FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: ADD SUPPORTS

Simply adding supports underneath the framework is a simple and easy repair.

TIP #3 FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: INCREASE FAN SPEEDS

Increase the speed of the extrusion fan to ensure that the filament cools quickly; the quicker the filament sets, the greater the bridge it will build.

TIP #4 FOR 3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING: DECREASE EXTRUSION SPEED

When it comes to bridging, fast extrusion is a no-no; you need slow and steady because the filament requires time to set.

SOMETHING ELSE

You successfully printed, and the print looks fantastic, but there is still a problem. Here are the 3D printing issues that do not fit into any of the categories mentioned above.

  1. Print is Stuck to the Print Bed

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: HAVE A LITTLE PATIENCE

You’ve already waited hours for the document, so it won’t hurt to wait a little longer for it to completely cool down. It can release on its own after some cooling time. The filament solidifies as it cools, losing the tackiness needed for the layers to bond.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: USE A PALETTE KNIFE

Many 3D printers have them, but you can probably find one at any good hardware store. If after an hour, the print remains firm, remove the build plate from the printer and position it on a desk with something to support the print base from behind. Ideally, it should be a wall. Then, carefully work the knife around the edge to free the print.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: GIVE THE PRINT PLATFORM A CLEAN

It might not help with the current print, but if your print platform is clogged with glue, it’s probably time to clean it. Future prints may or may not have the same unbreakable bond. If the print is still attached, run it under hot (not boiling) water and gently scrape off any surface glue with a palette knife.

Allowing it to soak in hot water will normally release the print as well, but only on removable print bed surfaces. After the prints have been published, ensure that the platform has been cleaned and that there are no pits in the glass. If so, turn the bottle over and use the smooth side. Purchase a new one if both sides display signs of pitting.

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: STICK IT IN THE OVEN

When hot water just won’t budge a print, put it in the oven. If you have a glass or other heat resistant platform with no plastic or electronics attached and it’s possible to remove it from the printer, put it in the oven. Set the temperature to 100º and see if you can shift the print with a pallet knife. If not, raise the temperature to 120o, wait five minutes, and then try again. Increase the temperature before the print has been removed or the print has melted and can be scraped away (ensure you wear heat proof gloves). The latter extreme would almost certainly result in the loss of your print. 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: DON’T USE CHEAP FILAMENT

Cheap filament is a waste of money in so many ways. It will bind to your print platform in ways that no other material can, and once cooled, it is ideal for welding printheads and extruders together. The only possible way to prevent the problem is to avoid all cheap filaments. 

3D PRINTING TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: MAKE SOME HOLES

This takes some planning, but by including a few holes in the design of the print frame, you can prevent some sticking caused by excessive surface contact and suction.

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