If you’ve been watching 3D printing videos on Youtube, you probably noticed that the finished products usually look smooth and refined. And then you look at your prints and see the layer lines, haziness, roughness, and marks from support removal. While they can be smoothened and refined through 3D print post-processing, these methods still take extra time and work and sometimes, even cause deformities when done by the uninitiated, particularly sanding and vapouring.
How did those 3D printing influencers print photo-finish 3D models right out of the printer? Here are their secrets on improving print surface quality for smoother and more refined 3D prints.
1. Invest in high-quality filaments
The print surface quality and the success of your 3D printing projects depend on the filament you use. If you skimp on the filaments you use, then expect a host of 3D printing issues and subpar quality. High-quality filaments aren’t even that expensive anyway. You can find high-performing yet affordable filaments at budget-friendly prices, such as our X3D Pro filament range!
Other filament issues that can affect print quality are:
- Wrong filament diameter: Cheap filaments typically advertise the wrong specs. Just a millimetre off with the diameter width can affect the extrusion. We recommend getting filaments from trusted brands, such as X3D Pro, FormFutura, Polymaker or Eryone.
- Not taking care of filaments properly: You may have the industry’s best filaments in your arsenal and yet if you don’t practice proper filament care, they still won’t perform optimally. It is important to clean and store your filaments in a cool dry place to prevent them from getting bloated or dusty as these can affect print quality.
- Stale filaments: Filaments have a shelf-life, particularly PLA as they are made from natural materials. If you can’t remember when you bought a filament, do the snap test to ensure that it’s still fresh. Bend a piece in half. It shouldn’t break and if it does, it means it’s time to throw it out.
2. Check your 3D printer settings before printing
Adjusting the settings is another important step to improving print finish quality. Not having a well-calibrated 3D printer can also cause a lot of problems, such as oozing, sloppy layers, sponginess, layer gaps, curling, blobbing, unstable overhangs and bridges, and hard-to-remove supports. Here are settings you need to check to prevent 3D printing issues:
- Reduced layer visibility: A lower layer height means smoother prints. Recommended layer height is 30-50% nozzle diameter. Additionally, using a smaller nozzle diameter also provides more detail to your surface.
- Sloppy layers: Lowering extrusion speed can dramatically reduce sloppy layers.
- Spongy prints: This is caused by under-extrusion. To prevent this, clean your nozzle, increase your extrusion multiplier, and check if your feeder gear isn’t slipping.
- Sloppy layers: This is caused by over-extrusion. It happens when the extrusion multiplier or the printing temperature is too high.
- Layer gaps: If you find gaps in between layers, you can increase the quantity of the top layers, especially with a low infill percentage of lower than 20%. Alternatively, you can increase the infill percentage instead.
- Corner curling: If you find curling at the corners, it means that the printing temperature is too hot. You need to lower the extrusion temperature and increase the cooling.
- Hard-to-remove supports: Supports can be easily removed with the right techniques. First, you need to increase the upper vertical separation layers of your design in the slicer. Second, increase the support structure infill. Finally, lower the layer height.
- Stringing & oozing: Nozzle leakage is the cause for this issue. You need to boost the retraction first by distance and then speed. You also need to lower the extrusion temperature.
- Sloppy details in between layers: Another issue caused by overheating, it can be easily remedied by dialling down the printing speed or increasing the cooling. You should also lower the extrusion temperature. Printing slower, thinner layers, or multiple prints simultaneously can give your print more time to cool.
- Blobbing or Z scars: Blobbing can be prevented by improving retraction. You can also randomise the layer start/stop positions to prevent a Z scar from forming across layers.
Poor overhangs and bridges: To prevent poor overhangs and bridges from ruining the surface, you can decrease the layer height and print speed and increase the cooling. Overhangs and bridges are also not always necessary. You can print models with 45-degree angles without supports as long as you practice care.
To make sure that your printer is well-calibrated, you can test your 3D printer by printing out the #3DBenchy which you can find here.
Get smooth and refined print finish quality without post-processing with our 3D printing secrets!
Prevention is key to preventing surface issues on your 3D model. However, as 3D printing has a learning curve, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a smooth surface on your first or even 12th time. You can always do post-processing if you find imperfections on the print surface. For inquiries, you can contact us by phone or email.