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3d Printing Troubleshooting Guide- More Quality Issue Troubleshooting

3d Printing Troubleshooting Guide- More Quality Issue Troubleshooting

What’s the problem?

As the print forms, it begins to lean. Vertical edges are printed at an inconsistent angle. The severity may be increasing and decreasing at different stages.

Why is it happening?

The cause of the issue is generally simple: one of the pulleys attached to a stepper motor is slightly loose, or one of the belts is rubbing against something and restricting head movement.


Check X- and Y-axis

If your print is leaning to the left or right, you have an X-axis issue. If it is leaning from back to front, you have a Y-axis problem. Once the type of leaning has been diagnosed, check the belts and pulleys.

With printers such as the PRUSA i3, the process is pretty straightforward as the steppers are directly connected to the main drive belt. For the Ultimaker and similar printers, the process can be a little trickier. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding disassembly and belt checking.

Check the Belts aren’t Rubbing

Check each belt to ensure they are not rubbing against the side of the machine or any other components. Then, check their alignment. Belts running at even a slight angle can cause serious print problems.

Tighten the Stepper Motor Coupler Grub Screw

Once you diagnose which axis is causing the issue, use an Allen key to tighten the corresponding coupler’s grub screw that attaches to the stepper motor.

Check Rod Pulleys

More complex machines such as the Ultimaker 2 have a series of belts and pulleys. The main X and Y rods at the top of the machine feature multiple pulleys. Tighten the grub screws for each that sit along the affected axis.

Messy/Inconsistent Overhangs

What’s the problem?

Portions of the print are stringy and inconsistent compared to the rest of the print.

Why is it happening?

The most frequent problem is that there are not adequate supports for overhangs or extruding portions of the print, leading to stringy material that is printed onto thin air.


Add Supports

The easiest solution is added supports. Most slicing software will enable you to do this quickly.

In Simplify 3D, select Edit Process Settings > Support > Generate support material; in this setting, you can the adjust the amount, pattern, and settings of the support structure. In Cura, select the desired support type from the Basic settings.

Create In-model Supports

Supports generated by software can sometimes be intrusive and result in support material getting stuck in impossible to remove places. Though it takes more skill, you are likely to get a better final product by modifying the print’s original design in a modeling software before sending it to the printer.

Create a Support Platform

When printing a figure, arms and other extrusions are the most common areas that cause problems. Supports extending from bed can also cause issues as they often have to span large vertical distances, resulting in problematic or unsteady support.

Creating a solid block or wall under arms or similar extrusions with a smaller support between the arm and block is typically the best way to address this issue.

Angle Walls

For shelf-style overhangs, slope the wall at 45º so that the wall supports itself and removes the need for any other type of support.

Separate the Model

Separating the model into two distinct prints that can then be joined can reduce or remove the need for complicated supports. With some models, this enables you to flip what would be an overhang and instead make it a base.

Rough Surface Areas Beneath Supports

What’s the problem?

When removing slicer-added supports from the print, small pieces of material remain on the surface. Sanding and removing the remaining material ruins the overall surface quality of the model.

Why is it happening?

Many models are designed to avoid the need for supports with minor adjustments or in-model support structures. Some printers are even able to bridge 50 mm gaps and print angles of 50º without any support at all.

Software solutions such as those provided by Cura and Simplify3D are capable of producing outstanding support structures, and most generated supports are better than those developed by users. Although auto-generated supports are effective, they can be difficult to remove. All support structures leave trace marks that can be more or less intrusive to the overall print.


Dual Extrusion & Soluble Support Materials

If you often print complex models requiring many supports, investing in a dual extrusion printer is your best bet (albeit a somewhat expensive one). Water-soluble support materials such as PVA have increased in popularity and utility, providing a convenient way to achieve complex prints without sacrificing surface finish.

Check Support Placement

Most slicing software will allow you choose whether your support structure is touching the build plate or “everywhere.” For most models, touching the build plate is sufficient. Choosing “everywhere” will result in supports all over the print, leading to more required post-processing effort and a rough surface finish.

Check printer Capability

Most printers are capable of bridging gaps up to 50 mm and printing angles of 50º without error. Create or download a test print to familiarize yourself with the types of models or parts your printer can produce without supports.

Adjust the Support Pattern

Depending on the model type, a change in the support pattern may improve the support-model interface. Try switching from “Grid” to “Zig Zag.”

Reduce Support Density

In your slicer software, switch the view to “Layers” and examine the support structure. Default software will typically apply a dense support structure. Reduce the support density slightly, checking that the reduced density does not weaken the supports too much. In Cura, a support density of 5 can be used successfully, vastly reducing the effect of the supports on the model’s surface.

Reduce Print Temperature

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 make it easier to remove the support structure.

What’s the problem?

Some portions of the print are missing or damaged. Sections of the print look completely different from the print preview, or the final print has geometry errors that make no sense.

Why is it happening?

Non-manifold edges are a common cause of misshapen or odd prints. Non-manifold edges are the edges of models that can only exist in digital 3D space but not the physical world.

For example, two cubes in the real world cannot overlap directly, as the solid outer walls prevent the two objects from intersecting. In the digital 3D world, the two can intersect; the software we use distinguishes them and attempts to print them individually in the same position although we cannot visually identify them as separate.

Another common cause of this issue is a “hole” being included in the design. For instance, if you delete the surfaces from an object such as a cube, you create a hole. It might look like a shape with five sides, but this shape only exists in digital 3D space and has no physical form.

Although the shape’s walls are visible in the software, the walls surrounding the hole only have dimensions on two axes. The third dimension (the thickness of the wall) is only illustrative. When it comes to slicing the model, the software can sometimes repair the hole, but this is not always productive in highly complex prints.


Use Latest Slicer Software

Many slicer engines support the automatic fixing of non-manifold edges, but you should still ensure that your models are correctly formed and print-ready prior to beginning the printing process.

Merge Objects

Any errors in your 3D models should be addressed prior to importing them into your slicing software whenever you are able. When you have two objects that intersect or overlap, choose the appropriate Boolean function to intersect, merge, or subtract them.

Fix Horrible in Cura

In Cura, open Expert Settings and select “Combine Everything” (Type-A) under “Fix Horrible.”

Fix ‘Non-manifold’ in Simplify3D

Navigate to Process settings > Advanced and select “Heal” next to “Non-manifold segments.

Use the Layer View

In your slicer software, use the layer view to check through the model, which can help identify unnecessary structures.

Use Modeling Software to Fix Issues

One of the easiest ways to fix models with non-manifold edges is to use software such as Blender and Meshmixer, which have features intended to enable you to identify model problems and fix them prior to slicing.

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