Common 3D Printing Problems and Solutions

Unfortunately, 3D Printing isn’t always as magical as it is advertised to be. Most printers will require calibration, and lots of tweaking to print perfectly. Sometimes even the slightest error (like improper adhesion) can result in a print like the photo above. That is why I have created this blog post. In this post, I will list 5 of the most common problems, and then I will list how to solve them! Hopefully this will take some of the “guess and check” out of your printing.

Problem #1 Warping

What is Warping? 

Warping happens at the base of the model, when one or more corners lift up so they are no longer sticking to the build platform. This can also result in horizontal cracks in upper parts. Warping is most common in ABS, but it can happen in other printing materials too. See the picture below for an example.

hollow_box_warp

How do you fix Warping? 

Warping has many possible problems, and many possible solutions. That is what makes Warping such a difficult problem to fix. Warping is also what keeps some users (like me) from using ABS.

The first possible solution to Warping would be a heated build platform. You should heat this platform to keep the plastic at a temperature just below the point where it becomes solid. This should help your print adhere to the bed nicely.

You could also try adding a thin layer of glue or hairspray to your build platform. Some people use rafts, which give the print a larger surface area at the base.

Problem #2 Shifted Layers and Leaning

What are Shifted Layers?

Shifted layers are when the upper part of a print starts to lean sideways. See the picture below for more info.

file-dksjcoft6s
This is an example of layers shifting on an Ultimaker Robot

How do you fix Shifted Layers?

Like Warping, shifting layers are also hard to fix.

The first thing I would recommend would be tightening all your belts and pulleys.

If this doesn’t work, try moving the head to the left and the right side of the printer. Now, check that the distance between the sliding blocks and the pulleys are equal on both sides. Then, do the same thing for the front and back of your printer. (Note: This may not apply to you if your printer moves the extruder and bed separately.)

Problem #3 Under Extrusion

What is Under Extrusion? 

Under Extrusion means that the printer cannot supply the material needed (or as fast as needed). This usually results in thin layers, and an overall thin part.

How do you fix Under Extrusion?

Unfortunately, there are many possible solutions in Under Extrusion. This is because there are so many possible problems!

The first thing I would try would be to check your filament diameter. In most Slicers, you put in your printer type, and the software does the rest. However, just because your printer uses 3mm filament, that doesn’t mean it ACTUALLY uses 3mm filament. This is why I recommend taking a Digital Caliper and measuring the actual diameter of your filament. Measure this at multiple points, and take the average diameter to put into your Slicer.

If this doesn’t fix the problem try changing your Flow Rate (or extrusion multiplier). If you are having Under Extrusion, try setting the Flow Rate to 105% instead of 100. Or if you had it set at something else, try increasing that number by 5%.

The final thing I would try would be checking your nozzle. Many times bits and pieces of filament can get stuck in your nozzle, and you won’t even notice! Try taking a paper clip, or an old piece of filament, and shoving it through your nozzle a couple of times. Often times a partially clogged nozzle can be the culprit of many failed prints. If you had the same problem but with over extrusion, try doing the opposite of what I told you to do 🙂 For example, try decreasing your Flow Rate by 5% instead of increasing it.

Problem #4 Cracks in Large Objects

What’s the Problem?

There are some cracks and gaps in the sides of your model. These cracks can be especially apparent on tall, thin models. See the picture below for an example.

warp_crack

How do you fix these cracks?

This problem is pretty simple to fix.

First, I would try increasing your extruder temperature in 10 degree increments. (10 Degrees Celsius)

If this doesn’t work, try increasing your bed temperature by 5-15 degrees (also in Celsius).

Problem #5 Stringing

What is Stringing?

Stringing is the tiny little hairs between the gaps of your print. Stringing can also be referred to as “hairy prints”. This is because Stringing just makes your print hairy! Stringing is usually pretty easy to clean, but it is still an EXTREMELY common problem. In fact, I would say Stringing and Warping are the two most common problems on this list. See the picture below for an example of Stringing.

stringing

How do you fix Stringing?

Despite common belief, Stringing is actually fairly difficult to fix.

The first thing I would try would be enabling retraction (if you haven’t already). Retraction is usually a checkbox in most Slicer’s and I would definitely recommend checking this box! All retraction does is retract the filament when the printer is moving, so you don’t get many strings.

Unfortunately, this still isn’t enough for some prints. If you are still getting “hairs” on your print, try increasing your retraction distance. However, don’t increase this distance to0 far, or you may get thin parts and under extrusion (see problem #3). This is what makes this problem so difficult, you need to find a nice balance between retraction distance and under extrusion. This setting also varies from extruder to extruder, which makes this problem even more difficult to fix.

Conclusion

As you can see, 3D Printing can be a little more difficult than it seems at first. There are still many settings YOU have to fiddle with to get the perfect print. Luckily, these printers are getting better every day, and these problems are starting to go away! However, because these problems are still here, I created this “guide” for you. I really hope I fixed one of your problems, and that you can continue making Epic 3D Stuff!

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