Beginner Guide Part 5: Troubleshooting Guide To 10 Common 3D Printing Problems

It’s amazing what your 3D printer can produce. However, we’ve all had those infuriating moments when, despite everything, a seemingly simple model just refuses to print successfully.

Use the appropriate solutions below to jump to your particular situation.

1. Out Of Filament

Solution: Look at the filament reel and see if there’s any filament left. If not load a new reel. Easy.

Checklist: Check the filament reel

2. Nozzle Too Close To Print Bed

Solution: Just raising the height of the nozzle slightly can often help. Most 3D printers in their system settings will allow you to set a Z-axis offset. To raise your nozzle away from the print bed you’ll need to increase the offset into the positive value. This also works for the reverse, with a negative offset helping to address your prints not sticking to your bed.

Be careful though, too high of an offset and it won’t stick to the platform.

Checklist: Z-Axis Offset, Lower Print Bed

3. Blocked Nozzle

Solution: If you’re lucky then unblocking can be a quick and easy process. Start by removing the filament. Then using your printer’s control panel (if it has one) select the “heat up nozzle” setting and increase to the melting point of the stuck filament. Alternatively, hook your printer up to a computer running compatible control software and heat the nozzle using that. For PLA set the temperature to 220 C. Once the nozzle reaches the correct temperature, use a small pin to clear the hole (being careful not to burn your fingers). If your nozzle is 0.4mm then you need a pin that is smaller; an airbrush cleaning kit works perfectly.

Checklist: Heat the nozzle and clean with a needle, Remove the feeder tube and try pushing the filament through with another piece of filament, Dismantle the hot end and see if you can extract the filament blockage, Try an Atomic Pull (Cold Pull)

4. Print Head Misses The Bed

Solution: Before trying anything else make sure that you have the correct printer selected in your printing software. All printers are different so even if the print bed of two printers are the same it’s highly unlikely the other dimensions and settings will match exactly.

Cause: Check slicer for correct printer, Update firmware, Check end stops

5. Snapped Filament

Solution: The first thing to do is to remove the filament from the printer in the usual way. In the case of the Ultimaker select Maintenance and Change Material. As the filament will usually have snapped inside the tube you’ll need to remove the tube from both the extruder and hotend. Then heat the nozzle and pull out the filament.

Checklist: Check the filament isn’t past its best, Check the filament diameter, Adjust the idler tension, Check that the hot end is clear and reaches the correct temperature, Set the flow rate to 100%

6. Stripped Filament

Solution: If the filament has just started to slip, you can usually tell by the noise and the appearance of plastic shavings, then apply some gentle pressure to the filament to help it through the system. This will often help to get the machine printing smoothly again.
Checklist: Help feed the system, Adjust the idler tension, Remove the filament, Check the hot end temperature

7. Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting Common 3D Printing Problems: Extrusion Stopped Mid-Print

Solution: A little obvious, but even the best of us have momentary lapses in concentration. Many slicers now give a material estimation for your prints, and judging that against the weight of your spool of filament and how much is left on it can give you a feeling for if there’s enough filament to complete your print.

Checklist: Check You Have Enough Filament, Check for Stripped Filament, Check for Clogged Nozzle, Check for Snapped Filament

8. Print Doesn’t Stick To Print Bed

Solution: To increase the chances that filament will bond to the platform you need to add another material to add texture. The most common solution is to apply a thin layer of stick glue to the print platform, which can then be easily washed away with hot water. Another alternative for PLA is to add decorators tape. For filaments that require a heated platform of 40º and above, there are a variety of special tapes now available which are a little more heat resistant.

Checklist: Add Texture, Level the Print Bed, Adjust the Nozzle Height, Clean the Print Platform, Apply Build Plate Adhesion, Add Supports


9. Supports Fell Apart

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting Common 3D Printing Problems: Supports Fell Apart

Solution: Look at the type of model you’re about to print. If there are large overhangs that connect sections of the model and these have good contact with the platform, try using lines or zig zag supports. If the model has less bed contact or needs much stronger supports, use grid or triangle supports.

Checklist: Use Correct Support Type, Add Platform Adhesion, Increase Support Density, Create In-Model supports, Use New Filament, Check everything is tight

10. First Layer is Messy

Image of 3D Printing Troubleshooting Common 3D Printing Problems: First Layer is Messy

Solution: Every printer has a different process for print platform leveling. The latest Prusa models feature an extremely reliable auto leveling system, while others such as the Ultimaker have a handy step-by-step approach that guide you through the adjustment process.

Checklist: Level the print platform, Lower bed temperature


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