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Troubleshooting Most Common 3D Printing Issues

How to troubleshoot the most common 3D printing issues? And how to avoid them altogether with support? Discover solutions with Solid Print3D.

Neil Sewell

July 7, 2023

Oh no, how has this print failed? 3D Printing issues aren’t just a headache — they can cost you plenty of time and money and have a significant impact on your business bottom line. 

Fortunately, the most common 3D printing issues are relatively simple to resolve. You just have to know what you’re dealing with. 

In this article, we’ll tell you how to troubleshoot the most common 3D printing issues — and how to avoid them altogether with support and service packages. 

10 Common 3D Printing Issues and Solutions

3D Printing Issues -  Printer Doesn’t Print

1. Printer Doesn’t Print

You start your print job, but nothing happens. FDM and SLA printers may refuse to print for several reasons. 

FDM printers: 

  • You may be out of filament. Check your filament roll and replace it as necessary. 
  • The filament may have snapped. Remove all filament from the machine and feed it in again. 
  • The nozzle may be too close to the print bed. Lower the print platform or adjust the Z-axis offset in printer settings. 
  • The nozzle may be clogged. Try clearing it with a needle or disassembling the hot end to clear the nozzle. 

SLA printers: 

  • The resin may be too cold. Allow it to warm properly before printing and move the printer to a warmer room. 
  • The resin is underexposed. Try increasing the laser power or slowing your print speed. 
3D Printing Issues -  Warping

2. Warping

Prints that suffer from warping curl upwards at the edges, detaching from the print platform and developing undesirable curving. This problem is common due to natural shrinkage in cooling plastic. 

Try these tips to reduce warping: 

  • Use a heated print bed and set it to your filament manufacturer’s recommended temperature. 
  • Use a different filament. If your print bed doesn’t get hot enough, some filaments are simply impossible to print right. 
  • Get a 3D printer enclosure to help keep the temperature steady. 
  • Level the print platform. Even small calibration issues can cause print edges to detach. 
  • Apply glue or sticky tape to the print bed to increase grip. 
3D Printing Issues -  Delamination

3. Delamination

Delamination (or cracking) causes printed layers to detach from each other, producing large gaps and cracks. Like warping, delamination is often a result of a too-low printing temperature. 

You can increase the extruder temperature or turn the printer fan speed down to reduce heat loss. An enclosure can also help achieve steadier temperatures. Adding more supports to the print may also help, particularly with SLA prints. 

3D Printing Issues -  Layer Shifting & Z-Wobble

4. Layer Shifting & Z-Wobble

Z-wobble results in uneven surfaces on parts that are supposed to be smooth. Layer shifting is more extreme, with the print head losing its place entirely and causing parts of the print to become misaligned. 

These issues are caused by vibration. They could simply be the result of someone bumping into the printer during printing. Ensure the machine is on a stable platform and try re-printing the part. 

If the issue persists, you likely have mechanical problems with your printer’s gears, motors, or belts. Depending on your printer, you can try oiling these parts, tightening any screws, or replacing entire components. In very difficult cases, you may need manufacturer maintenance. 

3D Printing Issues -  Stringing

5. Stringing

A stringing FDM 3D printer leaves fine “hairs” of material between different locations — making your print look like it’s covered in cobwebs. This is generally the result of excess filament leaking out of the printer nozzle. 

The primary solution is to enable retraction in your 3D printer’s settings if the machine supports it. The printer will then pull the filament back into the nozzle to prevent leakage. Another solution can be to lower the print speed so the machine can empty the nozzle before moving to the next location. 

3D Printing Issues -  Under- and Over-extrusion

6. Under- and Over-extrusion

Under- and over-extrusion result in opposite problems. Under-extrusion may leave visible gaps in your part’s surfaces. Meanwhile, over-extrusion packs too much material in a single location, causing it to spill over as droopy ropes that ruin the surface quality. 

Yet, these issues have the same cause — improper flow settings. Check your printer’s extrusion multiplier and flow speed and either increase or decrease them, depending on the issue you’re experiencing. 

You may also want to check that the nozzle temperature matches the filament manufacturer’s recommendations. The filament may not melt properly if the temperature is too low, causing under-extrusion. Also, if the filament is too thick for your machine, the printer may not be able to push it through efficiently. 

3D Printing Issues - Ghosting

7. Ghosting

Many new 3D printer operators ignore ghosting as it’s a relatively minor issue — but it can compromise a print’s surface quality. Ghosting or ringing appears as wave- or ripple-like patterns around a part’s details.

Like Z-wobble and layer shifting, ghosting is the result of vibrations. Check that all the printer’s components function properly and that all screws and belts are tight. Excessive print speeds can also cause unwelcome vibration, so slowing your prints down could resolve the problem.

3D Printing Issues - Prints Stick to Print Bed

8. Prints Stick to Print Bed

You want your print to stick to the print bed — but it should also come off easily. Many brands now, like Formlabs and Ultimaker, have flexible build platforms or easy-release technology. If your FDM or SLA prints seem to have become one with the print bed, you can try these solutions: 

  • Wait a while. Fresh prints can be stubborn, but once the material cools, it may pop off the bed on its own. 
  • Clean the print platform. Even small dirt particles can result in the print suctioning onto the bed too tightly. 
  • Use a scraper. A thin palette knife or even a razor blade can slide between a small gap and detach the print. 
  • Buy a new platform if your prints stick consistently or you notice dents and pits in the surface. 
3D Printing Issues - Messy Bridging or Overhangs

9. Messy Bridging or Overhangs

Bridges are stretches of plastic connecting two raised locations of your part, while overhangs are parts that have no solid structure beneath them. If your bridges or overhangs come out droopy or messy, the easiest solution is often to add more supports to your part. 

If supports don’t help, you can try angling the part differently in the slicer to get rid of long horizontal, unsupported geometries. Lowering the print speed or extrusion temperature or increasing fan speed can give the unsupported sections more time to solidify, which makes them less likely to droop. 

3D Printing Issues - Loss of Detail

10. Loss of Detail

Many 3D printing issues can result in a general loss of print detail, depending on whether you use FDM or SLA machines. Here’s how to address the most common causes of poor detail quality. 

FDM: 

  • Increase the resolution. A low printer resolution creates thicker layers, which decreases detail sharpness. 
  • Level the print bed. A poorly calibrated print bed can cause inaccuracies in detail. 
  • Reduce vibration. Tighten all screws and belts and lower the print speed to prevent vibration. 
  • Clean the nozzle. Old filament in the nozzle can affect extrusion and ruin details. 
  • Lower the hot end temperature. If your prints look melted or deformed, the filament might be coming out of the nozzle too hot. 

SLA: 

  • Check the layer resolution and exposure time. Just like with FDM printers, wrong printer settings can result in detail loss. 
  • Level the print bed. Again, a misaligned print bed makes it hard for the machine to reproduce details. 
  • Use less IPA to clean the prints. You must clean resin prints, but excessive IPA use could melt some resins and destroy details. 

Reach Success with Support and Training

A failed print is always frustrating, but they’re particularly bad if you run an additive manufacturing business. Having 3D printing issues would increase your lead times, which can ruin your reputation, while the material and productivity loss can cost your business a lot of money. 

To prevent 3D printing issues — both common and uniquely bizarre — you must ensure your printers function properly and your staff knows how to use them. Service, training, and support packages from 3D printing suppliers and Solid Print3D can help you perfect your prints. 

With ongoing service plans, you can mitigate issues stemming from poorly functioning printers. Well-maintained printers run smoothly without interruption, eliminating problems such as Z-wobble, layer shifting, or ghosting. 

Meanwhile, regular training helps your staff get the most uptime out of your printers, resulting in increased productivity. With intricate knowledge of 3D printer settings and materials, they can avoid beginner-level 3D printing issues that could result in poor surface quality, warping, delamination, or stringing. 

Yet, even the most seasoned 3D printer operator can run into unforeseen problems. That’s where reliable support from your 3D printer supplier can help you. All you have to do is to connect with an engineer who knows how to resolve your issue. 

Together, well-functioning machines and trained staff ensure your 3D printers run problem-free around the clock. Instead of wasting time puzzling over failed prints, you can focus on improving your profitability through shorter lead times and excellent part quality. 

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