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Common 3D Printing Questions

We answer some of the most common 3D printing questions to educate and inform the 3d printing community. If you have any questions that you need to be answered and do not find it here then please contact us directly.

General 3D printing question

  1. What is 3D printing? 3D printing is turning 3D digital models into physical objects. This process is most commonly done by rapidly laying thin layers of material down one after another until you have a solid 3D object. For more information, check out our ‘What is 3D Printing?’ page.
  2. What is support and when should I use it? Supports are structures built under overhangs or bridges in 3D prints that are designed to give support to an area but also be removed or dissolved when post processing a print. You should use supports when you notice any overhangs or bridges that may have issues printing. Some online designs may include if the model requires support or not. To learn more about supports, check out our 3D Printing Support page.
  3. What support density % should I use? An average support density is between 15%-20%. You may want to increase or decrease this amount when factoring in the purpose of the support, the complexity of the model and the amount of post-processing clean-up you are willing to do.
  4. What is retraction? Retraction is a term to describe filament getting temporarily pulled back into the nozzle. Retraction can prevent filament from oozing or stringing while the extruder moves to its next spot.
  5. What are rafts? Rafts are sacrificial horizontal platforms printed on the build plate to which the actual print will be printed. A major advantage of rafts is an increased surface area; using rafts can mitigate issues such as warping and print stabilization.
  6. What is infill? Infill is the internal lattice structure of a 3D print. It is used to provide strength without wasting materials or print time.
  7. How much infill (%) should I use? 100% infill is a solid object and 0% infill is a hollow object. Most commonly, individuals print with infill between 10%-30%. However, this can be adjusted to produce the desired outcome.
  8. What are the different infill patterns? The most common infill pattern seen is rectangular infill (which is often a default setting). It is adequate and viable. Other infill patterns, such as hexagonal, are a good option for conserving material and time while producing strong and sturdy prints.
  9. How do I find proper slicer settings? Slicer settings vary from printer, filament and environment. Getting these settings dialed in is essential to producing quality prints. Before changing too many settings, it is always best to start with a torture test and dial the slicer settings in from there.
  10. What speed should I print at? Various 3D printers and materials suggest a wide variety of print speeds. We provide recommended print speeds for all of our materials, which can be found on each filament page. Finding a speed adequate for your printer is essential. Use our recommendations as a base and fine tune your setting from there. We recommend printing torture tests at different speeds and comparing them to get an idea of what the printer and material can handle.
  11. What are shells and how many shell layers should I use? Shells are the outer most layers or perimeter of a print. When you look at a print, you are seeing the shell. Adding more shells or increasing shell thickness will add layers horizontally, making the shell thicker and your print stronger. Typically, most individuals use 2-3 shell layers on a print, but you can add as many as you see necessary.

Troubleshooting questions

  1. Why’s my first layer not sticking? The most common cause is the build plate isn’t properly leveled. If after leveling it still won’t stick, try increasing or decreasing the temperature. If you still have problems, using a raft or brim may just do the trick.
  2. Why are the layers on my prints shifting? Printing at speeds too fast for your printer may cause the motors to stop working properly and cause layer shifts. Try slowing down the print speed and checking belt tension.
  3. Why are my layers separating? Printing temperature may be too low to properly bond the layers. Increasing temperature may help tremendously.
  4. Why did extrusion stop mid-print? This happens often from running out of filament or the spool getting tangled. A good way to prevent this is to make sure the spool has enough filament and it isn’t a tangled mess. A jammed extruder could also lead to mid-print failures.
  5. Why are my prints warping on the bottom? Using a heated build plate will help to keep the bottom of the print at the proper temperature to prevent warping. Disabling fan cooling can help to allow the print to maintain the temperature it needs. Brims and rafts will also help greatly when dealing with slight warping.
  6. Why is my first layer not printing? The nozzle maybe too close to the build plate. The nozzle gets blocked by the build plate and as it tries to extrude, nothing comes out. You also may have a clogged extruder. Refer to the next question if you suspect a clogged extruder.
  7. What do I do if my extruder is clogged? There are a few ways to unjam an extruder. Usually the jam would be in the nozzle. You can try to get it out with pliers, but odds are it’s too small. A common thing people do is blowtorch the nozzle to burn away any plastic; any leftover residue is easier to clean out. Another common technique is fishing out the jam with more filament. Preheat your extruder to a high temp and get your filament ready. Once your extruder is at the proper temp, insert the filament into the extruder and quickly pull it out once you feel it touch the molten plastic in the nozzle. Ideally the jam comes out with the filament on your first try, but it may take multiple attempts until you get it.
  8. Why are my prints stringy? Stringy prints mainly come from the print temperature being too high. As the extruder moves to different parts, filament is being pulled out from the nozzle in tiny hair-like strings. Increased retraction can help prevent stringing, but it would be ideal to get the proper temperature before increasing retraction.
  9. What is over extrusion? When too much filament is being extruded it’s called over extrusion. This can cause prints to become rough on edges and layer lines being overly noticeable. Adjusting the flow rate usually solves this problem.
  10. What is under extrusion? When not enough filament is being extruded it’s called under extrusion. This can lead to pillowing and layer adhesion problems. Adjusting the flow rate will usually solve this.
  11. Why is my nozzle leaving marks on my print? Adding Z hop can fix this issue. Z hop allows the extruder to move up a few millimeters while moving from position to position.
  12. What does my print have blogs or boogers? These usually occur from the nozzle grazing over the print and leaving behind a blob of plastic. An easy fix is increased retraction and a little added Z hop.
  13. Why is my filament grinding? Too much retraction can cause your drive gear to grind away at the filament. Decrease the retraction and decreasing print speed should help.
  14. Why do my prints have wavy patterns in the outer layers? Vibrations in the printer can cause these, usually after a sharp turn or sudden direction change. It can also be caused by loose belts.
  15. Why are my layer lines so prominent? Layer lines are the lines you would see from each layer that’s been printed. You can reduce the visibility of these by reducing layer height. You can also adjust the flow rate which is the amount of filament that gets extruded.
  16. What is pillowing? This is when the top surface of the print has gaps or bumps. Increasing filament diameter and layer height can help.
  17. Why are the tops of my prints melting? This is due to overheating. Overheating is caused by printing too hot/fast or having an insufficient cooling fan. I’ve noticed this happens more often in smaller parts with higher infill. Without air in between, it’s easier for heat to be retained in the print.
  18. Why are there burn marks on my print? This is from hairs (strings/stringing) and over extruded plastic getting stuck to the nozzle until it drips onto your print in a black ugly goop. Added Z hop can help to eliminate black goop. The best option is to eliminate the stringing and over extrusion all together by adjusting the temperature.
  19. Why is the surface so rough under the supports? Try increasing support density. If there’s not enough density, the first layer above the supports won’t be able to be properly placed.
  20. Why are my prints turning into giant blobs of plastic? The cause is likely an improperly leveled build plate. This happens when a print doesn’t stick to the build plate and instead sticks to the nozzle. As the print is stuck to the nozzle, it gets dragged and will slowly grow into a blob as the nozzle extrudes more plastic. The best way to prevent this is to always watch the first layer being printed and make sure your bed is properly leveled.