Jan 1, 2019

Elephant’s Foot (3D Printing Problem) – Easy Fixes

Countless problems emerge while 3D printing. Elephant's foot may not be as well known as others, but it can be a huge issue for functional or multi-part prints. Let's look at what causes it and how to fix it.

Elephant's Foot (3D Printing Problem) What is Elephant's Foot?

This small bulge could ruin a functional print. Source: MatterHackers

Sometimes when printing without a raft, you may notice that the first layer is slightly larger than the rest; this is elephant’s foot.

While most of the time it is unnoticeable and unimportant, it can pose a large problem when printing objects for practical applications. It drastically decreases tolerances, making it much harder to fit pieces together.  

This defect often arises in larger prints, as it is caused by the weight of the object pushing down on the first layer. If it is not fully cooled, this weight results in the bulging first layer.

Elephant's Foot (3D Printing Problem) The Cure

Elephant's foot will be a large issue for any parts with specific dimensions. Source: 3D Verkstan

Elephant’s foot most often occurs as the result of an uncooled first layer. If the temperature of the print bed is too high, or if there is insufficient cooling, the first layer may not cool properly, causing elephant’s foot.

  • Level the print bed and adjust your nozzle. Before trying anything else, make sure your printing conditions are ideal. Sometimes elephant’s foot is simply the result of an unleveled build plate or an incorrect nozzle height. These issues both cause the first layer to be squished too far down, forcing it to bulge out. Fortunately, they’re easy to fix, as both leveling the build plate and slightly increasing the nozzle height (in your slicer) are simple and quick.
  • Lower bed temperature. Incrementally lower the temperature of your bed by 5 °C until it successfully prints without any bulging. If you lower it by more than 20 °C outside the recommended temperature and the problem is no better, the elephant’s foot may be caused by something else.
  • Print with a raft. Because the problem exists between the first layer and the bed, a raft can take the hit for you. This is less of a solution and more of a workaround, but it can be very helpful if, for example, you really need one piece to slot into another.
  • Add chamfers to your model. In some rare cases, elephant’s foot can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Instead of tweaking your printer, it may be easier to simply alter the model. By putting a small 45° chamfer on the bottom edge of the print, the effects of the elephant’s foot can be mitigated.

License: The text of "Elephant’s Foot (3D Printing Problem) – Easy Fixes" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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