3D Printer Troubleshooting
What is wrong with my 3D printer?! The primary issues we list below tend to be due to bad temperature setting, blockage in the nozzle, wrong setting from the Slicer program, or the 3D printer is not calibrated right. After I began 3D printing I ran into a handful of issues causing failed prints. So, I decided to do some research on the most common problems 3D printer owners run into. Many common issues I have uncovered came from research  and verify by seeing conversations in many 3D printing communities.
To save yourself from running into many of these issues follow our recommendations throughout the article. You will be happier to have saved yourself from the hassle and the wasted material.
1.) NO FILAMENT DESPENSING
Printer is running, but no material is being dispensed. Either because the filament ran out, filament snapped, or in some cases, the nozzle is too close to the print bed thus causing the nozzle to jam.
Pause the print and add filament. If your nozzle does not already have an automatic runout sensor we recommend upgrading your 3D printer with Filament Runout Sensor. Check if it is compatible with your 3D printer. A Filament Runout Sensor detects whether your filament runs out during the printing process and automatically stops. Once you replace the filament spool and thread the filament through the nozzle you can continue the print. The 3D printer should then pick up right where it left off.
2.) FILAMENT HAS SNAPPED
If you see nothing dispensing out of the nozzle, yet filament is still on the spool then more than likely your filament has snapped. This is more common with Bowden Extruders as opposed to Direct Drive Extruders.
Your filament most likely snapped because it is old or cheap filament. While it is true that most ABS and PLA filaments have a long lifespan, the material can also become brittle if kept in bad weather conditions. The best thing to do is to move on to a new filament. Your next print will let you know if the brittle filament was actually the cause of the problem.
Also, check your 3D printer’s temperature and flow rate. This simply means that if the problem persists, check to see if the hot end is at the right temperature and getting hot like it is supposed to. You should also check to see the filament’s flow rate is not higher than a hundred percent.
3.) MESSY FIRST LAYER
If your print’s first layer is messy, has unwanted lines or blurry smudges, then the temperature on your print bed is likely set too high. Or, your nozzle is too close or too far apart from the print bed.
A non-sticky area could be due to the print bed not being hot enough or the print bed is not leveled properly. Therefore, simply adjust the temperature on the print bed. We suggest adjusting the temperature a little at a time, by 5 degrees, using a test print until you get the desired adhesion results.
4.) PRINT IS WARPING
If the print is warping during the print job this is due to material cooling too quickly. To prevent this from happening use a heated platform. If the right temperature is set to heat the print bed then the first layer will remain flat on the platform. Also make sure the print bed is calibrated to ensure the print is printing accurately.
Warping, or bending, will naturally happen over time with plastic material. This occurs because high and low temperatures cause material to expand and contract. To prevent warping overtime use fillets and chamfers along the edges and increase the infill density.
5.) NOZZLE TOO CLOSE TO PRINT BED
If no material is being printed, or the material looks smooshed on the print bed then the nozzle is too close. The 3D printer may be dispensing excess material onto the print bed creating a jagged mess. If no material is extruding out this means there could be buildup, or blockage, in the nozzle. It is also possible the print bed may have been nudged or no longer calibrated (perfectly flat) properly.
You will need to adjust the nozzle and/or bed. Raise the nozzle or lower the print bed. Consider replacing parts with upgrades or add a BL Touch for auto calibration of the print bed. Or get the full kit with the bracket. Add chamfers to the edge of the 3D model to also prevent the Elephant effect, excess material, along the edges.
6.) DROOPY OR STRINGY MESS
If your 3D print looks droopy or stringy this is due to the extra amount of material extruding from the nozzle or could be a partial block in the nozzle not extruding the proper amount. To prevent excess material extruding out of the nozzle you will need to reduce your flow setting, or extrusion multiplier setting in the Slicer program as it is likely set too high. Or, the flow setting to speed ratio needs adjustment.
However, other reasons that may cause a droopy or stringy mess is partial blockage in the nozzle, print bed is not flat, or support structures needs to be added or modified. If you think the CAD model design is the cause of your droopy mess consider our CAD Modeling Guidelines to prevent a failed print.
7.) DEFORMED INFILL
If your prints internal structure is either messed up, broken, or missing it is most likely due to a partially blocked nozzle or there is an incorrect setting in the slicing program.If the inside of your print, your infill, is deformed your print will most likely fail or be badly deformed. Check the infill density setting on your Slider program. Your infill should be a least 20% for 50% strength and at least 75% to ensure model strength and durability.
8.) ELEPHANT’S FOOT
The elephant foot effect typically occurs when the weight of the print presses down on the model before it cools down to a solid. Elephant is a term used for when the printed material creates an outward bulge at the base of the printed model.
The print bed could also be too hot, not allowing the print to cool down. But, a print bed too cold may cause the print to warp at the bottom. We suggest designing some chamfers on the bottom edge of the print. You may also want to test adjusting the temperature of the print bed by a few degrees to see what works best for your 3D printer and filament type.
9.) PRINT LOOKS DEFORMED AND MELTED
If the nozzle is too hot this will cause the print to be more liquidy than should be causing the print to look like melted wax on a candle. This is one of the most common and asked about questions. It is hard to tell just by looking at the print job because each filament has different material properties and texture.
Check if the material setting is at the recommended level based on the type of filament used. Most filament generally suggests between 356 to 500°F (180 to 260°C).
10.) GETTING CRACKS BETWEEN LAYERS
If you are getting cracks in your print it is mostly due to something on your 3D printer with temperature set too cold or the print bed is not calibrated properly. This will typically happen on higher layers.
Take a look at your 3D printer user guide for recommended temperature of the nozzle and print bed. Also check the recommended temperature for your specific filament type. We suggest increasing the temperature of the nozzle by 50°F (10°C) after many layers have been printed and the layers are a few inches away from the print bed.
As you have read, or scanned, through the most common things to troubleshoot your 3D printer you may have realized the issues are really just summed up to whether the 3D printer has a bad temperature setting, print bed is not flat, blockage in the nozzle, or a bad setting in the Slicer program. Of course anything else can go wrong and I will continue to do my best to identify and discuss more and more issues as they become known to me. To learn more about troubleshooting your 3D prints based on issues with the CAD model alone check out our CAD Modeling Errors You Need to Fix Before 3D Printing article.