This issue is a very common one for new 3D printer owners, but thankfully, it is also very easy to resolve! If your extruder is not extruding plastic at the beginning of your print, there are four possible causes. We will walk through each one below and explain what settings can be used to solve the problem.
If the nozzle is too close to the build table surface, there will not be enough room for plastic to come out of the extruder. The hole in the top of the nozzle is essentially blocked so that no plastic can escape. An easy way to recognize this issue is if the print does not extrude plastic for the first layer or two, but begins to extrude normally around the 3rd or 4th layers as the bed continues to lower along the Z-axis. To solve this problem, you can use the very handy G-Code offsets which can be found on the G-Code tab of Simplify3D’s process settings. This allows you to make very fine adjustments to the Z-axis position without needing to change the hardware. For example, if you enter a value of 0.05mm for the Z-axis G-Code offset, this will move the nozzle 0.05mm further away from the print bed. Keep increasing this value by small increments until there is enough room between the nozzle and the build platform for the plastic to escape.
Most 3D printers use a small gear to push the filament back and forth. The teeth on this gear bite into the filament and allow it to accurately control the position of the filament. However, if you notice lots of plastic shavings or it looks like there is a section missing from your filament, then it’s possible that the drive gear has removed too much plastic. Once this happens, the drive gear won’t have anything left to grab onto when it tries to move the filament back and forth. Please see the Grinding Filament section for instructions on how to fix this issue
The filament has stripped against the drive gearMost 3D printers use a small gear to push the filament back and forth. The teeth on this gear bite into the filament and allow it to accurately control the position of the filament. However, if you notice lots of plastic shavings or it looks like there is a section missing from your filament, then it’s possible that the drive gear has removed too much plastic. Once this happens, the drive gear won’t have anything left to grab onto when it tries to move the filament back and forth. Please see the Grinding Filament section for instructions on how to fix this issue.The extruder is clogged
Nozzle starts too close to the bedIf the nozzle is too close to the build table surface, there will not be enough room for plastic to come out of the extruder. The hole in the top of the nozzle is essentially blocked so that no plastic can escape. An easy way to recognize this issue is if the print does not extrude plastic for the first layer or two, but begins to extrude normally around the 3rd or 4th layers as the bed continues to lower along the Z-axis. To solve this problem, you can use the very handy G-Code offsets which can be found on the G-Code tab of Simplify3D’s process settings. This allows you to make very fine adjustments to the Z-axis position without needing to change the hardware. For example, if you enter a value of 0.05mm for the Z-axis G-Code offset, this will move the nozzle 0.05mm further away from the print bed. Keep increasing this value by small increments until there is enough room between the nozzle and the build platform for the plastic to escape.The filament has stripped against the drive gearMost 3D printers use a small gear to push the filament back and forth. The teeth on this gear bite into the filament and allow it to accurately control the position of the filament. However, if you notice lots of plastic shavings or it looks like there is a section missing from your filament, then it’s possible that the drive gear has removed too much plastic. Once this happens, the drive gear won’t have anything left to grab onto when it tries to move the filament back and forth. Please see the Grinding Filament section for instructions on how to fix this issue.The extruder is clogged
It is very important that the first layer of your print is strongly connected to the printer’s build platform so that the remainder of your part can be built on this foundation. If the first layer is not sticking to the build platform, it will create problems later on. There are many different ways to cope with these first layer adhesion problems, so we will examine several typical causes below and explain how to address each one.
Build platform is not levelNozzle starts too far away from the bedFirst layer is printing too fastTemperature or cooling settingsThe build platform surface (tape, glues, and materials)When all else fails: Brims and RaftsSometimes you are printing a very small part that simply does not have enough surface area to stick to the build platform surface. Simplify3D includes several options that can help increase this surface area to provide a larger surface to stick to the print bed. One of these options is called a “brim.” The brim adds extra rings around the exterior of your part, similar to how a brim of a hat increases the circumference of the hat. This option can be enabled by going to the “Additions” tab end enabling the “Use Skirt/Brim” option. Simplify3D also allows users to add a raft under their part, which can also be used to provide a larger surface for bed adhesion. If you are interested in these options, please take a look at our Rafts, Skirts, and Brims tutorial which explains things in greater detail.
Each profile in Simplify3D includes settings that are used to determine how much plastic the 3D printer should extrude. However, because the 3D printer does not provide any feedback about how much plastic actually leaves the nozzle, it’s possible that there may be less plastic exiting the nozzle than what the software expects (otherwise known as under-extrusion). If this happens, you may start to notice gaps between adjacent extrusions of each layer. The most reliable way to test whether or not your printer is extruding enough plastic is to print a simple 20mm tall cube with at least 3 perimeter outlines. At the top of the cube, check to see if the 3 perimeters are strongly bonded together or not. If there are gaps between the 3 perimeters, then you are under-extruding. If the 3 perimeters are touching and do not have any gaps, then you are likely encountering a different issue. If you determine that you are under-extruding, there are several possible causes for this, which we have summarized below.
Incorrect filament diameterIncrease the extrusion multiplier
The software is constantly working together with your printer to make sure that your nozzle is extruding the correct amount of plastic. This precise extrusion is an important factor in achieving good print quality. However, most 3D printers have no way of monitoring how much plastic is actually extruded. If your extrusion settings are not configured properly, the printer may extrude more plastic than the software expects. This over-extrusion will result in excess plastic that can ruin the outer dimensions of your part. To resolve this issue, there are only a few settings you need to verify in Simplify3D. Please see the Not Extruding Enough Plastic section for a more detailed description. While those instructions are for under-extrusion, you will adjust the same settings for over-extrusion, just in the opposite direction. For example, if increasing the extrusion multiplier helps with under-extrusion, then you should decrease the extrusion multiplier for over-extrusion issues.
To save plastic, most 3D printed parts are created to have a solid shell that surrounds a porous, partially hollow interior. For example, the interior of the part may use a 30% infill percentage, which means that only 30% of the interior is solid plastic, while the rest is air. While the interior of the part may be partially hollow, we want the exterior to remain solid. To do this, Simplify3D allows you to specify how many solid layers you want on the top and bottom of your part. For example, if you were printing a simple cube with 5 top and bottom solid layers, the software would print 5 completely solid layers at the top and bottom of the print, but everything else in the middle would be printed as a partially hollow layer. This technique can save a tremendous amount of plastic and time, while still creating very strong parts thanks to Simplify3D’s great infill options. However, depending on what settings you are using, you may notice that the top solid layers of your print are not completely solid. You may see gaps or holes between the extrusions that make up these solid layers. If you have encountered this issue, here are several simple settings that you can adjust to fix it.
Not enough top solid layersInfill percentage is too lowUnder-Extrusion
Stringing (otherwise known as oozing, whiskers, or “hairy” prints) occurs when small strings of plastic are left behind on a 3D printed model. This is typically due to plastic oozing out of the nozzle while the extruder is moving to a new location. Thankfully, there are several settings within Simplify3D that can help with this issue. The most common setting that is used to combat excessive stringing is something that is known as retraction. If retraction is enabled, when the extruder is done printing one section of your model, the filament will be pulled backwards into the nozzle to act as a countermeasure against oozing. When it is time to begin printing again, the filament will be pushed back into the nozzle so that plastic once again begins extruding from the tip. To ensure retraction is enabled, click “Edit Process Settings” and click on the Extruder tab. Ensure that the retraction option is enabled for each of your extruders. In the sections below, we will discuss the important retraction settings as well as several other settings that can be used to combat stringing, such as the extruder temperature settings.
Retraction distanceRetraction speedTemperature is too highLong movements over open spacesMovement Speed
The plastic that exits your extruder may be anywhere from 190 to 240 degrees Celsius. While the plastic is still hot, it is pliable and can easily be formed into different shapes. However, as it cools, it quickly becomes solid and retains its shape. You need to achieve the correct balance between temperature and cooling so that your plastic can flow freely through the nozzle, but it can quickly solidify to maintain the exact dimensions of your 3D printed part. If this balance is not achieved, you may start to notice some print quality issues where the exterior of your part is not as precise and defined as you would like. As you can see in the image on the left, the filament extruded at the top of the pyramid was not able to cool quickly enough to retain its shape. The section below will examine several common causes for overheating and how to prevent them.
Insufficient CoolingPrinting at too high of a temperaturePrinting too fastWhen all else fails: Try printing multiple parts at once
Most 3D printers use an open-loop control system, which is a fancy way to say that they have no feedback about the actual location of the toolhead. The printer simply attempts to move the toolhead to a specific location, and hopes that it gets there. In most cases, this works fine because the stepper motors that drive the printer are quite powerful, and there are no significant loads to prevent the toolhead from moving. However, if something does go wrong, the printer would have no way to detect this. For example, if you happened to bump into your printer while it was printing, you might cause the toolhead to move to a new position. The machine has no feedback to detect this, so it would just keep printing as if nothing had happened. If you notice misaligned layers in your print, it is usually due to one of the causes below. Unfortunately, once these errors occur, the printer has no way to detect and fix the problem, so we will explain how to resolve these issues below.
Toolhead is moving too fastMechanical or Electrical Issues
3D printing works by building the object one layer at a time. Each successive layer is printed on top of the previous layer, and in the end this creates the desired 3D shape. However, for the final part to be strong and reliable, you need to make sure that each layer adequately bonds to the layer below it. If the layers do not bond together well enough, the final part may split or separate. We will examine several typical causes for this below and provide suggestions for resolving each one.
Layer height is too largePrint temperature is too low
Most 3D printers use a small drive gear that grabs the filament and sandwiches it against another bearing. The drive gear has sharp teeth that allow it to bite into the filament and push it forward or backward, depending on which direction the drive gear spins. If the filament is unable to move, yet the drive gear keeps spinning, it can grind away enough plastic from the filament so that there is nothing left for the gear teeth to grab on to. Many people refer to this situation as the filament being “stripped,” because too much plastic has been stripped away for the extruder to function correctly. If this is happening on your printer, you will typically see lots of small plastic shavings from the plastic that has been ground away. You may also notice that the extruder motor is spinning, but the filament is not being pulled into the extruder body. We will explain the easiest way to resolve this issue below.
Aggressive Retraction SettingsIncrease the extruder temperaturePrinting too fastCheck for a nozzle clog
Your 3D printer must melt and extrude many kilograms of plastic over its lifetime. To make things more complicated, all of this plastic must exit the extruder through a tiny hole that is only as big as a single grain of sand. Inevitably, there may come a time where something goes wrong with this process and the extruder is no longer able to push plastic through the nozzle. These jams or clogs are usually due to something inside the nozzle that is blocking the plastic from freely extruding. While this may be daunting the first time it happens, but we will walk through several easy troubleshooting steps that can be used to fix a jammed nozzle.
Manually push the filament into the extruderReload the filamentClean out the nozzle
If your printer was extruding properly at the beginning of your print, but suddenly stopped extruding later on, there are typically only a few things that could have caused this problem. We will explain each common cause below and provide suggestions for fixing the issue. If your printer was having trouble extruding at the very beginning of the print, please see the Not Extruding at Start of Printsection.
Out of filamentThe filament has stripped against the drive gearThe extruder is cloggedOverheated extruder motor driver
The infill inside your 3D printed part plays a very important role in the overall strength of your model. The infill is responsible for connecting the outer shells of your 3D print, and must also support the upper surfaces that will be printed on top of the infill. If your infill appears to be weak or stringy, you may want to adjust a few settings within the software to add additional strength to this section of your print.
Try alternate infill patternsLower the print speedIncrease the infill extrusion width
During your 3D print, the extruder must constantly stop and start extruding as it moves to different portions of the build platform. Most extruders are very good at producing a uniform extrusion while they are running, however, each time the extruder is turned off and on again, it can create extra variation. For example, if you look at the outer shell of your 3D print, you may notice a small mark on the surface that represents the location where the extruder started printing that section of plastic. The extruder had to start printing the outer shell of your 3D model at that specific location, and then it eventually returned to that location when the entire shell had been printed. These marks are commonly referred to as blobs or zits. As you can imagine, it is difficult to join two pieces of plastic together without leaving any mark whatsoever, but there are several tools in Simplify3D that can be used to minimize the appearance of these surface blemishes.
Retraction and coasting settingsAvoid unnecessary retractionsNon-stationary retractionsChoose the location of your start points
Each layer of your 3D printed part is created using a combination of outline perimeters and infill. The perimeters trace the outline of your part creating a strong and accurate exterior. The infill is printed inside of these perimeters to make up the remainder of the layer. The infill typically uses a fast back-and-forth pattern to allow for quick printing speeds. Because the infill uses a different pattern than the outline of your part, it is important that these two sections merge together to form a solid bond. If you notice small gaps between the edges of your infill, then there are several settings you may want to check.
Not enough outline overlapPrinting too fast
If you are seeing curling issues later on in your print, it typically points to overheating issues. The plastic is extruded at a very hot temperature, and if it does not cool quickly, it may change shape over time. Curling can be prevented by rapidly cooling each layer so that it does not have time to deform before it has solidified. Please read the Overheating section for a more detailed description of this issue and how to resolve it. If you are noticing the curling at the very beginning of your print, please see the Print Not Sticking to the Bed section to address first layer issues.
One of the benefits of 3D printing is that each part is constructed one layer at a time. This means that for each individual layer, the nozzle can freely move to any portion of your print bed, since the part is still being constructed down below. While this provides for very fast printing times, you may notice that the nozzle leaves a mark when it travels on top of a previously printed layer. This is typically most visible on the top solid layers of your part. These scars and marks occur when the nozzle tries to move to a new location, but ends up dragging across previously printed plastic. The section below will explore several possible causes for this and provide recommendations for what settings can be adjusted to prevent it from happening.
Extruding too much plasticVertical lift (Z-hop)
When building a 3D printed part, each layer relies on the foundation from the layer below. However, the amount of plastic that is used for the print is also a concern, so a balance must be achieved between the strength of the foundation and the amount of plastic that is used. If the foundation is not strong enough, you will start to see holes and gaps between the layers. This is typically most obvious in the corners, where the size of the part is changing (for example, if you were printing a 20mm cube on top of a 40mm cube). When you transition to the smaller size, you need to make sure that you have a sufficient foundation to support the sidewalls of the 20mm cube. There are several typical causes for these weak foundations. We will discuss each one below and present the settings that can be used in Simplify3D to improve the print.
Not enough perimetersNot enough top solid layersInfill percentage is too low
The sides of your 3D printed part are composed of hundreds of individual layers. If things are working properly, these layers will appear to be a single, smooth surface. However, if something goes wrong with just one of these layers, it is usually clearly visible from the outside of the print. These improper layers may appear to look like lines or ridges on the sides of your part. Many times the defects will appear to be cyclical, meaning that the lines appear in a repeating pattern (i.e. once every 15 layers). The section below will look at several common causes for these issues.
Inconsistent extrusionTemperature variationMechanical issues
Ringing is a wavy pattern that may appear on the surface of your print due to printer vibrations or wobbling. Typically, you will notice this pattern when the extruder is making a sudden direction change, such as near a sharp corner. For example, if you were printing a 20mm cube, each time the extruder changes to printing a different face of the cube, it would need to change directions. The inertia of the extruder can create vibrations when these sudden direction changes occur, which will be visible of the print itself. We will look at the most common ways to address ringing, by examining each cause in the list below.
Printing too fastFirmware accelerationMechanical issues
Because your 3D printer includes a fixed size nozzle, you may encounter issues when printing very thin walls that are only a few times larger than the nozzle diameter. For example, if you were trying to print a 1.0mm thick wall with a 0.4mm extrusion width, you may need to make some adjustments to ensure your printer creates a completely solid wall and does not leave a gap in the middle. Simplify3D already includes several dedicated settings to help with thin wall printing, so we will describe the relevant settings below.
Adjust the thin wall behaviorChange the extrusion width to fit better
Most 3D printers have a fixed nozzle size that determines the part resolution in the XY direction. Popular nozzle sizes are 0.4mm or 0.5mm in diameter. While this works well for most parts, you may start to encounter issues when trying to print extremely thin features that are smaller than the nozzle size. For example, if you were trying to print a 0.2mm thick wall with a 0.4mm diameter nozzle, you may notice that this thin wall does not show up in the Simplify3D preview. If you frequently need to print extremely thin features, we will explain the best options to consider for these micro-sized prints.
Enable single extrusion wallsRedesign the part to have thicker featuresInstall a nozzle with a smaller tip size
For your printer to be able to create accurate parts, it needs to be capable of extruding a very consistent amount of plastic. If this extrusion varies across different parts of your print, it is going to affect the final print quality. Inconsistent extrusion can usually be identified by watching your printer closely as it prints. For example, if the printer is printing a straight line that is 20mm long, but you notice that the extrusion seems rather bumpy or seems to vary in size, then you are likely experiencing this issue. We have summarize the most common causes for inconsistent extrusion, and explained how each one can be addressed.
Filament is getting stuck or tangledClogged extruderVery low layer heightIncorrect extrusion widthPoor quality filamentMechanical extruder issues
As you start printing larger models, you may start to notice that even though the first few layers of your part successfully adhered to the bed, later on the part begins to curl and deform. This curling can be so severe that it actually causes part of your model to separate from the bed, and may cause the entire print to eventually fail. This behavior is particular common when printing very large or very long parts with high temperature materials such as ABS. The main reason for this problem is the fact that plastic tends to shrink as it cools. For example, if you printed an ABS part at 230C and then allowed it to cool to room temperature, it will shrink by almost 1.5%. For many large parts, this could equate to several millimeters of shrinkage! As the print progresses, each successive layer will deform a bit more until the entire part curls and separates from the bed. This can be a challenging issue to solve, but we have several helpful suggestions to get you started.
Use a Heated BedDisable Fan CoolingUse a Heated EnclosureBrims and Rafts
One of the major benefits of Simplify3D is the ability to create innovative support structures which allow you to create incredibly complex parts that would be hard to manufacture otherwise. For example, if you have a steep overhang or part of your model with nothing below it, then a support structure can provide a foundation for these layers. The support structures created by Simplify3D are disposable and can be easily separated from the final part. However, depending on your settings, you may find that some adjustments are needed to perfect the surface quality on the underside of your parts, right above the support structure foundation. We will explain the key settings below and how they can affect your prints.
Lower Your Layer HeightSupport Infill PercentageVertical Separation LayersHorizontal Part OffsetUse a Second Extruder
The dimensional accuracy of your 3D printed parts can be extremely important if you are creating large assemblies or parts that need to precisely fit together. There are many common factors that can affect this accuracy such as under or over-extrusion, thermal contraction, filament quality, and even the first layer nozzle alignment. Simplify3D includes several tools to help cope with these common issues, so we will explain each one in more detail below.
First Layer ImpactUnder or Over-ExtrusionConstant Dimensional ErrorIncreasing Dimensional Error
Bridging is a term that refers to plastic that needs to be extruded between two points without any support from below. For larger bridges, you may need to add support structures, but short bridges can typically be printed without any supports to save material and print time. When you are bridging between two points, the plastic will be extruded across the gap and then quickly cooled to create a solid connection. To get the best bridging results, you will need to make sure that your printer is properly calibrated with the best settings for these special segments. If you notice sagging, drooping, or gaps between the extruded segments, you may need to adjust your settings for the best results. We will cover each of the areas that you want to address to make sure your can print the best bridges possible on your 3D printer.
Verify bridging settings are being usedBridging segments are identified with a special color in the Simplify3D preview. Click “Prepare to Print” to enter the Preview Mode and then change the coloring mode on the left-hand side to “Feature Type”. This will use a different color for each feature type, with bridging regions shown in yellow. Use the sliders at the bottom of the preview to scroll to the layer where you expect to see bridging extrusions and verify that these lines are shown in yellow. If the bridging area is not shown in yellow, there are a two settings you will want to check. Exit the preview, click “Edit Process Settings”, and go to the Other tab to view your Bridging settings. The first option in this section is the “Unsupported area threshold”. This allows the software to ignore very small bridging areas and focus on the larger bridging regions that may need special settings. If you think your bridging area is not being included, make sure that the area of your bridging region is larger than this threshold value. The second setting to check is towards the bottom of this list. By default, Simplify3D uses special perimeter settings for any perimeters that are printed as part of a bridging region, but you can also choose to use bridging settings for these regions if you wish. To do this, enable the “Apply bridging settings to perimeters” option, save your settings, and then return to the Simplify3D preview to verify your changes.Check the angle used for the bridging infillAdjust settings for optimal performanceUse supports for longer bridges
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of our list for the most common print quality issues that you are likely to encounter with 3D printing. If you are experiencing an issue that was not mentioned in this guide, there are still plenty of ways that you can get help and advice. A great place to start is the Simplify3D User Community. You can search for posts from others users with the same issue, or post pictures of your prints and receive suggestions from other experienced users. If you would rather speak with our team directly, you can also Contact Our Support Staff and we would be happy to assist you.Copyright © 2019 Simplify3D, All rights reserved.