12 Troubleshooting Tips for 3D Filament Prints Going Bad


3D filament printers can produce anything from holiday ornaments to medical implants, so there’s no lack of excitement in the process. The problem is getting from your 3D model to the actual print. A lot of things can go wrong and ruin your print, especially if you’re new to this and still understand how 3D printing works.

In this article, we’ll show you how to get better results by helping you fix your 3D filament prints that have gone bad. Check out all of our troubleshooting tips, apply them step by step, and above all, be patient. FDM 3D printing can be frustrating at times, but it is rewarding because of its countless real-world applications.

Caucasian man struggling with a modern 3D printer with filament loops

It doesn’t feel like

Your 3D printer can’t print anything? Don’t worry, this is a common problem. Many issues can prevent your printer from extruding any material. Here are the most common problems and how to solve them.

1. Check the filament

You have prepared the printer and your model but nothing is happening. You might even have residual filament through the nozzle, but your model is not printed.

Your printer is out of filament. This may seem like an obvious problem, but it’s easy to miss if you don’t have a printer that alerts you when you need to add a new spool. Before looking at other possible issues, make sure your 3D printer has enough filament to print your model.

2. Check if a nozzle is clogged

If you are dealing with a clog, nothing will come out of the printer nozzle. This usually happens when you change filament or material type and there is old material stuck in the nozzle. Prevent clogs completely by performing regular maintenance and keeping the nozzle clean after each project.

That said, if you forgot to clean the nozzle, you can easily remove a clog using a needle or other thin object. Insert the needle into the nozzle to remove as much of the remaining filament as possible. You can heat the nozzle while doing this to make your job easier.

Alternatively, you can try forcing the new filament through the blockage. It might not work on its own and you will need to apply external pressure to force the old filament out. If you attempt this method, apply gentle force or you may damage your printer.

3. Adjust the nozzle

If your printer still does not work, the nozzle may be too close to the print surface. When this happens, the filament cannot properly pass through the nozzle to form layers. This issue can also lead to missing coats, clogs, or adhesion issues, so be sure to adjust the nozzle height.

Go to the printer settings and change the Z axis value. Increase the setting to what the printer manufacturer recommends in the manual or make gradual adjustments to the nozzle height until the filament flows normally.

4. Look for filament fragmentation

One of the most common 3D printing issues that go unnoticed is filament fragmentation. The filament spool seems fine, but nothing comes out the hot end. In this case, you might be dealing with fragmentation somewhere between the coil and the nozzle.

It highly depends on the type of material you are using, whether it is ABS or PLA, and how old it is. That said, the only solution is to remove the filament to check for any damaged sections. If the material is new but you have confirmed that it breaks along the way, try a different spool or try lowering the temperature and flow rate.

5. Is the print head missing the print bed?

Did you hear an awful noise when starting to print? The printhead may be trying to get out of its X or Y axis and it is completely out of the print bed. This makes printing impossible and is usually caused by a software configuration issue.

Make sure you select the correct printer in your slicer software. Each model comes with its own tuning parameters included in a configuration file. If you select the wrong model, the printhead will be misaligned. That said, you should also update the firmware as outdated configurations can also cause this problem.

The print was a complete failure

So you managed to get your 3D printer working, but printing turned out to be a complete disaster. This usually happens when the print doesn’t stick or when the supports don’t work as expected. Anyway, here are the most common 3D printing problems.

6. Fix terrible bed adhesion

One of the most common issues that cause prints to fail is lack of adhesion to the bed. The print does not stick properly to the print bed, so the whole project becomes a waste of time.

First, make sure the print bed is properly leveled and clean. Any material that does not belong to the print surface can prevent the filament from sticking. Then try using supports or a brim. Go to your slicer settings and print using these additional elements.

7. Did the supports fail and ruin your print?

As mentioned, using supports can help with print bed adhesion, but they are also a must when printing complex models. Without supports, your print may be affected by other issues such as edge warping and layer shifting. Also, using the wrong type of media or not having enough media can ruin your project.

Fortunately, your slicer software should automatically generate the supports you need. Then you manually add more supports if you think your print might be marred by overhangs, warps, and other issues. That said, you will need to experiment with supports depending on your project. There is no way around this.

8. Extrusion Gone Wrong

Sometimes, when you think you have it all figured out, the hot end of your printer stops extruding filament halfway through the printing process. It will definitely ruin your whole project, but it’s easily avoidable.

Make sure you have enough filament. Slicing software like Cura should give you a rough estimate of how much filament you’ll need for your project. Remember that material types also make a difference when it comes to rating, so PLA requirements may not be the same as ABS requirements. Check the roller before you start.

Next, check if your printer nozzle is clogged. It can also stop the extrusion suddenly during printing. In this case, refer to our solutions above for clogged nozzles.

Your print looks bad

Despite your best efforts, something went wrong and your print isn’t as nice and smooth as it should be. Many things will influence the 3D printing process and lead to warping, stringing, messy layers, random dripping, oozing, poor infill, and ugly side effects that will ruin your project. Here’s what you can do.

9. Correction of distortion

One of the most common issues with 3D printing with filaments like PLA and ABS is warping. Your model warps its base upwards and detaches from the print bed. It can also lead to cracks, further rendering your print unusable. Fortunately, there are several possible fixes:

  • Heat the printing platform. By bringing the temperature of the print bed closer to the melting point of the material, you can force the first layers to stay perfectly flat. Adjust the temperature through the slicing software according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Recalibrate. Go through the calibration process and level the print bed. You also need to adjust the height of the nozzle and make sure it is neither too close nor too far from the platform.
  • Use rafts. If there is a grip or contact problem, try adding rafts through your slicer software.

10. Get the right first layer

If something goes wrong with the first coat, chances are you’ll have an ugly print. Before you start printing, make sure the print bed is properly leveled. An uneven bed is the cause of most print failures. Then adjust the nozzle height and flow rate.

11. Prevent cracking

There is nothing uglier and more useless than a cracked print. If the molten plastic cools too quickly, you’ll likely get cracks, especially in the top layers. Going from such a high temperature to a low temperature will cause the material to shrink, which will lead to cracks. This is usually a problem with larger models.

There are two things you can try:

  • Adjust extruder temperature. Increase it in small increments without exceeding the values ​​recommended by the manufacturer of the filament.
  • Adjust fan speed. If the cooling fan is blowing too hard on your model, it may be cooling it too quickly. Adjust it in increments until you find the sweet spot. Keep in mind that you still need a high enough fan speed to avoid warping and other warping.

12. Prevent stringing

Also known as oozing, stringing is one of the most common issues that ruin FDM 3D prints. Thin, stringy pieces of plastic form on the model as the extruder moves from point to point.

There are several factors you need to check to resolve this issue:

  • Is the temperature too high? An overheated extruder will cause the filament to ooze out too quickly. Lower the temperature a few degrees so it doesn’t escape too quickly.
  • Increase movement speed. If the printer does not move fast enough on its X or Y axis, the extruder may leave behind thin strings of plastic. Go to your slicing software settings and adjust the travel speed settings.
  • Adjust retraction speed setting. A slow retraction speed will cause the filament to ooze through the nozzle before the extruder can reach its new position. This will spread the plastic from point A to point B like a spider’s web. Try your slicer’s software presets and keep the filament material in mind when choosing.

3D printing can be tricky

Creating a 3D model is very satisfying, but a lot can go wrong and it’s impossible to cover everything in one article. There are many variables to keep in mind when using an FDM printer, so don’t panic if your 3D printing isn’t going as well as you hoped. Make sure your printer is properly calibrated and you are using high quality filament. Once done, go through each troubleshooting step.

If nothing helps, tell us more about your 3D printing issues in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to help.

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