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Guide to Fixing the Most Common 3D Printing Issues

Just like computers and mobile phones, 3d printers can run into problems from time to time.  After all, they are pumping out plastic, nylon, flexible and other materials via a hot nozzle.  
The good news is there are easy solutions to all the potential problems you'll run into and we've compiled a list of the most common ones here.
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Extruder Moves During the Printing Process, Leaving Markings on the Print Bed but No Material is Extruding

3d printer not extruding filament

This is one of the most common issues you can face if you're new to the technology.  The extruder is moving once you start the print but no material is coming out and the bed surface is being visibly scratched.

Solutions:

1) Heat up your extruder to the desired temperature before hitting "Print" in your software.  There's an option in the software or application that you're using to send prints from to pre-heat your extruder before actually hitting the "print" button.  Just pre-heat the extruder to the same temperature you want to print at, and once that temperature has been reached, click "Print".

2) Adjust the layer height of your filament in your printing software.  The filament that is laid down on the print bed has a height and a width, both of which are controllable by you via the printing software and affect how the filament comes out of the extruder.  As a rule of thumb, optimal results are obtained when the filament's layer height is <80% of the nozzle diameter on your printer, and extrusion width is >= the nozzle diameter.  You'll need to check the nozzle diameter of your printer.  Commons ones include 0.4mm, 0.35mm and 0.25mm.

Easy example: with an 0.35 nozzle, your maximum layer height is 0.35*0.8= 0.28mm and your extrusion width should be 0.4mm or greater.

3) Adjust your nozzle height as it may not be the proper distance from the print bed and therefore material cannot extrude properly.  Each 3d printer type has a different way to accomplish this, so refer to your hardware manual or ask customer support what the best way is to adjust your nozzle height to the proper distance.

3D Prints Are Not Sticking to the Bed Properly During Printing

3d print not sticking to the bed

This is one of the most common issues you can face when trying to print and if your material is not sticking to the print bed properly, you're guaranteed to get a bad print.

Solutions:

1) Take some blue painters tape, kapton tape or a glue stick and lay down the adhesive on your print bed.  This will give the filament material something extra to hold onto during printing and is perfectly safe for your 3d printer.  

  2) Level the bed platform on your 3d printer because it may not be even and therefore the material is not laid down properly throughout the surface area of the print.  Many 3d printers have a function that allows you to automatically level the bed on your 3d printer while others ask you do it manually.  As a rule of thumb, you should do this as much as possible after a few successive prints.

3) Depending on the material you're using, you may need to increase the temperature of the print bed.  ABS and Nylons need a heated print bed for the material to stick properly and each material you have has an optimal temperature recommendation.  If it asks you to heat the print bed, you can do so in the printing software.  

4) Reduce your print speed.  Within your printing software there is an option to reduce the speed of your print and doing so can improve the adhesion of material to the printing surface.

5) Adjust your nozzle height as it may not be the proper distance from the print bed and therefore material cannot extrude properly.  Each 3d printer type has a different way to accomplish this, so refer to your hardware manual or ask customer support what the best way is to adjust your nozzle height to the proper distance.

The extruder is unable to feed filament out and you're hearing a "clicking" or "grinding" sound from the motor.

clogged extruder 3d printing

Solutions:

If you're hearing a clicking or grinding noise from the motor that feeds filament through the extruder and no filament is coming out, there are a few things to try that should solve the problem.

1) Try manually pushing the filament through the extruder with your hand while the filament is attempting to load through the extruder.  Apply some good pressure on the filament from up top and see if it goes through.

2) Unload the filament using the option on your printer or software and let your extruder cool down completely.  While that's happening, cut off a small piece at the end of the filament roll, at a slight angle, and once the extruder has cooled down, use the printer or software to reload the filament by reheating and reloading.

3) Take a small needle, such as an acupuncture needle, or a thin wire and push it through the nozzle hole to push out excess material.  The needle or wire will need to be smaller than the nozzle diameter.

3D Prints Warp During the Printing Process

warped 3d prints

 

During the time it takes for your 3d print to finish, the material cools down over time and the bottom layers have a tendency to warp, causing the print to be mis-shaped.  There are some easy fixes.

Solutions:

1) Take some blue painters tape, kapton tape or a glue stick and lay down the adhesive on your print bed.  This will give the material something extra to hold onto during printing and is perfectly safe for your 3d printer.

2) Level the bed platform on your 3d printer because it may not be even and therefore the material is not laid down properly throughout the print.  Many 3d printers have a function that allows you to automatically level the bed on your 3d printer while others ask you do it manually.

3) Keep the printer away from any airflow in the room as this could put pressure on the print and force it off the print bed slightly.  You can try placing an enclosure over the printer during printing in order to keep the space free from airflow and temperature changes.

4) There are professional print surfaces you can purchase and place onto your print bed.  ThreeD Materials recommends BuildTak as an excellent option.

3D Prints Come Out With Too Much Layer Separation

3d print layer gap

Sometimes the shape of your 3d print is great but there is too much separation in the layers of the object and it just doesn't look right.  This is a fairly common issue and one of the easiest to deal with.

 

1) Increase the extrusion temperature during printing.  Most likely, the material is cooling down to quickly during the printing process and leaving openings in each layer.

2)  Decrease the speed of your print.  If the print speed is too high, the extruder can miss certain parts of the build that need material.  Within your printing software there is an option to reduce the speed of your print and doing so can improve layer adhesion.

3) Increase the temperature in the room or place an enclosure over the printer during printing in order to keep the space free from airflow and temperature changes.

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We're constantly adding to this guide.  If you have new problems, solutions or questions, reach out to us at info@threedmaterials.com, on Twitter or Instagram.