Mar 7, 2019

3D Printing First Layer Problems – How to Make it Perfect

The first layer of every 3D print plays an immense role in dictating print success. With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you'll become a master at getting it right.

3D Printing First Layer Problems Nailing the First Layer

A visual guide showing the different effects of z-axis calibration. Source: Prusa Research

3D printing the first layer is essential for every FDM 3D print, as it forms the foundation on which more plastic is to be laid. If the first layer adheres poorly to the print surface, the print may dislodge before it is completed, leading to a failure. Over-adhesion should also be avoided, as prints will become difficult to remove. Every first layer is about striking the balance between print stability and ease of removal.

To start off, level your print surface properly. Many newer printers have automatic leveling, so if this is you, just make sure that you’ve run the leveling sequence already. For 3D printers without automatic leveling, we have a handy guide on how to get your bed level.

Once you’re done leveling, follow along to find some excellent tips for addressing 3D printing first layer problems!

3D Printing First Layer Problems Tip #1: Set First Layer Settings

3D printer extruding the first layer onto a print bed. Source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube

The key step in guaranteeing a successful first layer is to optimize your print settings. By tuning the first layer settings in your slicer, you can ensure that the first layer succeeds without changing how the rest of the print will look. Here are some of the most useful settings:

  • First Layer Print Temperature and First Layer Bed Temperature: These settings change the temperature at which your 3D printer prints the first layer. A higher temperature will allow the plastic to melt better and adhere to the bed, so try bumping up the nozzle and bed by around 5 °C each.
  • First Layer Line Width: This setting changes the width of the lines extruded from your 3D printer. A higher line width setting will allow your layers to squish into the bed and get a nice hold, decreasing the odds of failure. You can typically push this setting to twice your 3D printer’s nozzle bore size (which is usually 0.4 mm).
  • First Layer Height: This setting changes the height of your first layer. A higher value here will mitigate the effects of slight errors in leveling, effectively increasing reliability. You can typically go up to around 0.3 mm with a standard 0.4 mm nozzle.
  • First Layer Print Speed: This setting changes the speed at which the first layer is extruded. Printing slower will allow more time for the plastic to melt, having an effect similar to raising the print temperature. You may want to try this if you’ve increased the layer height or line width.
  • First Layer Helpers: These include rafts, skirts, and brims, and help with adhesion by priming the nozzle to ensure a smooth flow of plastic. In the case of rafts and brims, they also provide surface area for better adhesion.

With that, your first layer settings should be ready to go! Next, we’ll dive into maintaining the print surface.

3D Printing First Layer Problems Tip #2: Clean Your Print Surface

A user cleaning the print bed of a 3D printer. Source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube

If your print surface is dirty and greasy, your freshly-tuned first layer settings won’t do much. The first layer will most likely fail to adhere, and your print will fail.

To avoid this, wipe down your print bed before every print, or at least between every few. This can be done with isopropyl alcohol (normal rubbing alcohol, or IPA) and a paper towel. It only takes a couple seconds, but will prove to be a great saver. It may also be helpful to keep a bottle of IPA stored in a drawer nearby.

3D Printing First Layer Problems Tip #3: Consider the Materials

A defect in the first layer of a 3D printer object. Source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube

Finally, make sure that you consider the materials at hand. This goes for both the filament you’re printing with, as well as your printer’s print surface. Try following these tips to avoid mishaps.

Apply an adhesion helper to the bed. This includes hairspray, blue painter’s tape, and standard household gluestick. These will help stubborn materials stick, and will also serve as release agents for materials that stick too well, preventing damage to your print surface. A thin layer should do the trick.

Avoid printing directly onto the bed with TPE’s and PETG’s. This goes with the previous tip but deserves its own mention. TPE and PETG’s are notorious for sticking too well to print surfaces, and will quite possibly tear out pieces of any surface you have, including PEI, Kapton tape, and even glass. Always use a release agent for these materials.

And with that, you’re ready to tackle the first layer for a wider range of materials!

3D Printing First Layer Problems Off You Go!

A finished 3D printed first layer. Source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube

There! Now, you’re ready to nail the first layer of each 3D print, building solid foundations for successful printing. Keep these tips in mind whenever you encounter first layer issues, and troubleshoot accordingly!

For more tips and tricks, check out our breakdown of how to quickly improve print quality. For general troubleshooting, refer to our thorough Troubleshooting Guide.

Happy printing!

Feature image source: Daniel Mietchen / Wikimedia Commons

License: The text of "3D Printing First Layer Problems – How to Make it Perfect" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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