When printing, unexpected challenges may arise that will need to be resolved in order to complete a successful print.  Often times, the appropriate response to a printing issue is not immediately apparent.  This guide outlines some of the most common issues faced by 3D printing practitioners and highlights steps that may be taken to resolve those issues.

3D Printing Troubleshooting


The guide is organized into a table with the following format.

Issue/Title - This highlights the action of a printer or print result that is not optimal or correct.  This is comparable to a medical examination where the doctor inquires about the symptoms or behavior the patient is exhibiting or experiencing while being ill.

Example Image/Graphic - This is an image or graphical representation of the issue.

Issue Details - This provides additional information on the issue from actions during printing or the results upon completion.

Cause and Suggested Solutions - This lists in order from highest to lowest probability the source or cause of the issue and suggested solutions to follow for issue resolution.

Table of Contents

Not extruding at the start of the print
Print not sticking to bed
Jammed nozzle/clogged extruder
Pillowing, e.g. incomplete top layer fills, top layer holes/gaps
Smashed first layer, aka elephant’s foot; bulging first layer
Warping or corner lifting
Layer separation or warping within the part
Shifted layers or leaning prints
Stringing / hairy prints
Overhangs or sagging sections in the print
Support material difficult to remove
Under extrusion, e.g. not extruding enough plastic or insufficient material
Grinding filament and/or extruder motor skipping
Z-wobble or lines on the side of the print
Small features not printed
Scars on top surface
Blobs and/or pimples on exterior surface
Weak infill
Stops extruding in the middle of a print
Infill showing on exterior of print

Troubleshooting Guide

Issue/Title

Not extruding at the start of the print

Example Image / Graphic

IMG_1691.png

Issue Details

Print grooves left in bed with no filament and/or flaky or intermittent lines of filament on the first and subsequent layers

Cause 1

Incorrect extruder calibration/offset

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Prime extruder

  2. Adjust nozzle height

  3. Adjust first layer height

  4. Adjust filament extrusion width

  5. Babysteping; Z offset

Cause 2

Clogged extruder/nozzle

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Hobbed gear

  2. Clear nozzle

Issue/Title

Print not sticking to bed

Example Image / Graphic

IMG_2080.jpg

Issue Details

Insufficient bed adhesion

Cause 1

Bed is not level

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Level bed

  2. Reduce print speed (first layer speed)

Cause 2

Incorrect nozzle calibration/offset

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Adjust nozzle height

  2. Adjust first layer height (Use baby-stepping to ensure proper first layer height)

Cause 3

Improper bed surface or settings for filament

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Change bed surface (glass/tape/BuildTak)

  2. Use adhesives (tape/glue/hairspray)

  3. Adjust bed temperature (for some materials)

  4. Adjust extrusion temperature

  5. Pro Tip - Use raft and brim

Issue/Title

Jammed nozzle/clogged extruder

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Extruder is unable to feed filament through nozzle and is often accompanied by a grinding or “clicking” sound from the feed motor

Cause 1

Heat creep for PLA

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Manually push filament through extruder

  2. Reload filament

  3. Cool extruder and reheat

Cause 2

Particle or carbonized filament blocking nozzle

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Clear with small diameter needle, e.g. acupuncture needle

  2. Nylon cold pull

  3. Disassemble extruder and nozzle

  4. http://forums.matterhackers.com/topic/39/unclogging-nozzles

Issue/Title

Pillowing, e.g. incomplete top layer fills, top layer holes/gaps

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Pillowing is usually PLA filament specific

Cause 1

Layer cooling too fast for PLA

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Increase the number of top layers

  2. Increase infill density

  3. Lower speed for solid top layers

Issue/Title

Smashed first layer, aka elephant’s foot; bulging first layer

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Side profile of the printed part shows a bow near the bottom or next to the surface that was adjacent to the print bed

Cause 1

Bed is not level

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Level bed

Cause 2

First layer height is too low

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Increase first layer height

  2. Balance height adjustment with first layer quality

Cause 3

Extrusion rate for the first layer is greater than 100%

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Adjust first layer extrusion rate

  2. Pro Tip - Design a chamfer into the part

Issue/Title

Warping or corner lifting

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Edge near the bottom of the print or surface adjacent to the print bed is not level or flat

Cause 1

Materials, e.g. ABS and Nylon may shrink upon cooling and/or curing

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Level bed

  2. Use glues/adhesives on borosilicate glass

  3. For ABS, use BuildTak, WolfBite, or ABS “juice”

  4. Use baby-stepping to ensure proper first layer height

  5. Pro Tip - Use Enclosure for environmental control

  6. Pro Tip - Keep printer away from air vents

Cause 2

Design of part has sharp corners or thin areas

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Level bed

  2. Use baby-stepping to ensure proper first layer height

  3. Design “lily pads” for suspected problem areas and integrate into the model

Issue/Title

Layer separation or warping within the part

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Layers do not adhere to previously printed layers and pulls from print bed

Cause 1

Print temperature is set too low

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Adjust print temperature higher

Cause 2

Too much layer cooling during and after deposition

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Disable layer cooling

Cause 3

Ambient air temperature is too cold and uneven

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Use an enclosure, e.g. cardboard box or shower curtain to control environment

Cause 4

Printer is printing too fast

Suggested Solutions 4

  1. Decrease print speed

Issue/Title

Shifted layers or leaning prints

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Layers shift in the z-direction as print progresses

Cause 1

Printer is printing too fast

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Lower printing speed

Cause 2

There are loose pulleys on the x-axis and/or y-axis

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Make sure there is no “play” in the pulleys and tighten

  2. Check to see if there is friction on the pulleys and adjust

  3. http://forums.matterhackers.com/topic/76/how-to-fix-shifting-layers

Cause 3

Belts are skipping teeth on the x-axis and/or y-axis

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Check for friction along the entire axis

  2. Check that belts are tight and adjust tension screw

  3. http://forums.matterhackers.com/topic/76/how-to-fix-shifting-layers

Issue/Title

Stringing / hairy prints

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Filament in the hot end of the extruder continues to ooze out of the nozzle during non-print moves

Cause 1

Slow extruder movement between sections of a part or more than one part

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Retraction calibration

  2. Increase extruder speed on non-printing movements

  3. Retraction: Just say "No" to oozing

  4. Retraction Cubes download

Cause 2

Length of filament retraction is too short

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Retraction calibration

  2. Increase length of filament retraction

  3. Retraction: Just say "No" to oozing

  4. Retraction Cubes download

Cause 3

You are printing with PET

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Use dry filament

  2. Adjust extruder temperature

Cause 4

Printer crosses gaps when moving from one place to another

Suggested Solutions 4

  1. Turn on avoid crossing perimeters

Issue/Title

Overhangs or sagging sections in the print

Example Image / Graphic

IMG_0816.jpg

Issue Details

Unsupported or protruding part faces may not print properly or not print at all

Cause 1

Design of model or positioning of part

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Add supports

  2. Reduce layer heights

  3. Slow speed

  4. Reposition model for better printing

  5. Keep overhangs typically at a 45 degree angle or less

Issue/Title

Support material difficult to remove

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Removing supports is difficult due to fused support material with the initial part layers and often results in pitted initial layers once supports are removed

Cause 1

No gap or layer height offset between support layer and initial part layer

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Increase air gap

  2. Increase the pattern spacing

  3. Decrease the support percentage

  4. Turn off create perimeter

Issue/Title

Under extrusion, e.g. not extruding enough plastic or insufficient material

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Under extrusion is identified by “silky” residue or gaps between extrusion lines or layers

Cause 1

Printer settings for filament size is incorrect

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Measure filament diameter

    1. Change filament extrusion multiplier to compensate on the fly

    2. Some machines require 2.85 mm filament instead of 3.00 mm filament (Airwolf, Ultimaker).

Cause 2

Filament extrusion temperature is too low

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Increase extruder temperature

Cause 3

Nozzle or extruder may be clogged or not properly calibrated

Suggested Solutions 3

  1. Check that the filament path is clear

  2. Clear nozzle and/or extruder

  3. Calibrate your extruder

    1. Calibrating a Makerbot

Issue/Title

Grinding filament and/or extruder motor skipping

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Noise from the feed motor makes a grinding or clicking sound

Cause 1

Heat creep from the extruder that creates a “bulb” at the end of the filament between the gear and the extruder

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Check that filament is extruding

  2. Increase extruder temperature

  3. Clear nozzle jam

  4. Check extruder motor and hobbed gear for filament residue

Issue/Title

Z-wobble or lines on the side of the print

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Most often a mechanical issue due to poorly fabricated, loosely fitted/assembled and/or worn components; Check extrusion speed first

Cause 1

Check for loose or damaged mechanical components

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Check Z axis for foreign matter or slop

  2. Tighten belts on the x and y axes

Cause 2

Replace or reprint faulty components

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Replace screw(s), ballscrew(s)

  2. Visualization of threaded rod

  3. Pro Tip: Conduct laser pen test

Issue/Title

Small features not printed

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

 

Cause 1

 

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Slicing threshold for detection related to nozzle diameter

Issue/Title

Scars on top surface

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Filament residue is “leaked” upon the top of the print surface

Cause 1

Lack of z-lift or retraction between moves

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Increase z- lift

Issue/Title

Blobs and/or pimples on exterior surface

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

 

Cause 1

 

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Clean nozzle

  2. Check connection (USB)

  3. Pauses, try printing from SD

Issue/Title

Weak infill

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

 

Cause 1

 

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Change infill pattern

  2. Lower print speed

  3. Increase infill extrusion width

Issue/Title

Stops extruding in the middle of a print

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

 

Cause 1

 

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Out of filament

  2. Filament tangle before extruder

  3. Stripped filament

  4. Nozzle jam

  5. Heat creep

Issue/Title

Infill showing on exterior of print

Example Image / Graphic

Issue Details

Infill structure is visible on the top, bottom or sides of a printed part

Cause 1

Infill shows on top or bottom surfaces due to insufficient number of top/solid bottom layers or wrong layer speeds

Suggested Solutions 1

  1. Increase number of surface layers

  2. Decrease top solid infill speed

Cause 2

Infill shows on side surfaces due to insufficient number of perimeters or too much infill overlap

Suggested Solutions 2

  1. Increase number of perimeters

  2. Decrease infill overlap