When Good Printers go Bad!!

 In 3D Printing Tips and Tricks

You know that feeling. You’re excited to print. You’ve got your model design ready, you’ve performed your pre-inspection making sure everything is clean and leveled, and you’re ready to print. You click print! When you return to check on your print an hour later, your creation doesn’t resemble what you modeled. Instead it looks as if you’ve created a model of spaghetti or bubble gum, something went terribly wrong. Well we’ve been there. There are a lot of factors that can affect your 3D printing so today we will share with you some of the most-common issues and how you can help minimize the chances of you experiencing any of them.

Make sure your build plate is cleared!

It seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re using any sort of remote printing service like we offer at MyStemKits.com, it’s important to make sure you’re sending the print to the correct printer.  This will reduce the chance of having a current print interfered by a new print or residue left over from a previous print.

Make sure your printer is well-leveled.

This is by far the most-common issue with poor prints. If the build plate is too close to the printer, it may cause the printer to jam or scrape across the build plate until it gets to a level where it’s all the way off the build plate. It may then continue printing – leaving you none-the-wiser to the problem at the bottom until you remove it after it’s done printing. An unbalance printer can lead to many issues that may affect the quality of your print.

If the build plate is too far from the printer, you’ll likely end up with one of two results: bubble-gum stuck to the extruder or spaghetti all over the build plate. (Not actual food of course, but that type of filament construction.) This is because the filament isn’t close enough to get a good bond with the print bed and instead is either sticking to the extruder or just going where it will. Follow your printer’s instructions for leveling. Most printers only need to be leveled every couple of weeks. Only level them if you’re noticing print issues or if you travel with them. Otherwise, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. As a printer ages, the leveling screws will loosen and it will need to be leveled more often.

The best advice is watch the first layer print. Make sure it’s laying out a consistent-thickness of filament that’s been slightly pressed down by the extruder head. It should be binding to the build plate. Another way to help with this is to use build-plate surfaces such as painters tape or BuildTak for non-heated build plates and kapton tape for heated build plates.

Check the print speed.

Sometimes, all it takes is slowing the print down. Objects with high infill or that are tall and thin, or long and wide require slower print speeds to print successfully. Size of image can affect the way your print turns out. Make sure that you adjust the speed of the print accordingly. Sometimes you just may have to redesign the image.

Check the gantry belts.

It depends on your type of printer, but often the belts will become lose, causing prints to stair-step to one side – sometimes drastically. Sometimes the print starts printing and then the whole thing moves over to one side. This can be caused by a kink in the filament that drags the motor over or by the gantry belts. See your specific printer’s how-to guides to figure out how to tighten and maintain both.


Clean the stepper motor.

A messy stepper motor can be the cause of irrationally placed gaps in models. This can also account for air-printing, where a model just stops printing partway through. If your printer design allows you to, open up the cabinet and clean the filament from around the stepper motor. This will give you the best chance at having a good print.

Unjam the printer.

Another common issue is printer jams. When a printer jams there’s a good possibility that the process will result into air-printing. To reconcile this issue, unjam the model, clean out the stepper motor, level  the printer, and try the print again.

Although there isn’t any way to guarantee that your printer will not have a mind of its own, we are sure that this few tips will ensure that you have the best experience possible when using a 3D printer.


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