One of the most common issues to plague 3D printer users worldwide is the successful printing of the first layer. The successful printing of the first layer is ideally quite simple but still, new users find it quite difficult to perfect it.
Through this article, we will help you, the users, with the perfect touchpoints to look at, a guideline to make sure the first layer is printed successfully, every time.
Successfully 3D Printing the First Layer
Even before you think about how to successfully 3D print the first layer, it is important that you understand your own machine, the materials you will use and the slicing settings you can utilize to completely offset the first layer issue.
The basic starting point is to go through the machine manual and check if the machine has a heated bed/ build plate if the machine has the capability to 3D print with materials like ABS, & Nylon if the machine has an enclosure, etc. Also, learn about the slicer you will use to work with the machine. If possible, see videos and get familiar with the settings of the slicer and make sure you are not using the same default settings for all materials.
Once this basic process is completed, you can then start printing and while doing so if you face any first layer printing issues then refer to our guideline below.
Note: The words Bed & Build plate mean the same and refer to the same surface onto which the material will be deposited. They are used interchangeably in the article.
Basic Guideline to Successfully 3D Print the First Layer
Leveling the Build Plate
The first and foremost thing you can do is to level the print bed/ build plate. This is the bare minimum you should do to ensure the first layer is successfully 3D printed. However, this will not 100% guarantee a successful first layer but will tick one point off of your list to avoid a failed first layer.
Clean Build Plate
Sometimes, the build plate can gather dust or it is left uncleaned after the last printing operation. This can hamper the stickiness of the material to the build plate. And so, it is important to clean the build plate before all your prints. Clean the build plate as per the general instruction provided by the manufacturer.
Nozzle clogging is also another problem that can result in an intermittent flow of material. This blocked flow can also result in a failed first layer. Make sure the material flows completely through the nozzle. In case of nozzle clogging, kindly refer to the manual or the instructions provided by the manufacturer to unclog the nozzle.
Nozzle-Bed distance is also an important factor that affects the sticking of the material to the bed. If the nozzle-bed distance is high then the material will not stick to the surface (build plate). If the distance is low then the material will be forced on to the build plate and the nozzle itself will scrap the material off the build plate while printing thereby ruining the first layer.
Materials also play an important role in determining the success of the first layer. Materials like PLA are quite easy to deal with and thus they often always give a successful first layer. Other notorious materials like ABS and Nylon are quite stubborn and almost always pose a first layer sticking problem. With a careful understanding of the materials, their ideal printing temperatures, the bed temperatures, the optimized values can be determined to result in a successful first layer
Tips & Tricks for Successful 3D printing of First Layer
One of the most commonly used tricks is to apply glue to the print bed. This gluing agent can be anything like a regular glue stick, or the Magigoo glue, hairspray, and ABS juice. The glue will help the first layer to stick to the bed till the time the object is 3D printed.
Note: ABS Juice is a mixture of ABS material and acetone. The mixture is a liquid that sticks to the build plate and allows the prints to stick to the bed.
Print Bed Type
Another trick is to use a type of print bed that offers more adhesion to the print. Polypropylene sheets offer good adhesion directly to the surface without the need for external adhesives. Ultrabase, created by Anycubic, also offers great adhesion due to its embedded nanoparticles which cling to the print when hot and release the object when cooled.
Tweaking the base/print bed is a possible solution to constant first layer failure problems.
Build Plate Adhesion
All slicer software offer build plate adhesion settings. These are highly useful and can easily solve the first layer adhesion issues. There are three build plate adhesion features namely skirt, brim and raft. Brim and Raft are specifically useful in increasing the build plate adhesion for the print.
Skirt: A skirt is an outline printed around the model but not connected to the model. It helps in pre-checking the flow of the material ensuring the material is flowing smoothly before it actually starts printing.
Brim: A brim is a modified type of skirt. It is similar to a skirt but it is attached to the outer surface of the object on its first layer. It is similar to the brim of a hat. It serves the purpose of increasing the surface area of the print thus avoiding warping or the layers at the corners.
Raft: A raft is a thin sheet of grid printed on the build plate. The part to be 3D printed is printed on top of this grid instead of directly on the build plate. Raft helps in adding an extra surface area for the print to stick to the build plate.
By using adhesion types like skirt, brim, and raft, the first layer of the print can be held onto the bed to avoid the failure. It is recommended that build plate adhesion settings are made default and all prints necessarily have a raft or a brim.
Larger First Layer Surface Area
Larger the surface area, better is the adhesion. This simple rule explains why most prints fail and why the rest are successful. Prints with a smaller surface area for their first layer are bound to fail because it simply does not have enough material to hold on to. For example, prints like rockets or curved faces or prints with legs generally have smaller areas for their first layer and they often lead to a failed first layer.
All 3D printers have an ideal speed range within which they perform excellently and produce the best results. But for printers facing first layer problems, even the ideal speeds can be a problem. So, an important trick is to start slow. This means the first layer speeds should be kept minimum so that the material gets adequate time to stick to the print bed. Appropriate settings can be made in the slicer for the same.
Temperature and Fan Settings
Apart from the speed settings, the first layer adhesion can also be improved by setting appropriate temperatures and fan settings. The ideal temperature will help the material stick to the bed. Also, for materials like ABS & Nylon, the fan can be kept off for the initial layers to keep the material hot for as long as possible. This can be a useful trick to have a successful first layer.
- Users can also try to use blue painter’s tape over the entire bed surface. It is one of the most commonly suggested and recommended tips to help with first layer adhesion issues. Users can club the painters tape with a thin layer of glue as an added precaution.
- Glass plates are great as it leaves a glossy finish at the bottom of the print. These types of print beds can be easily cleaned and washed. Using a heated glass plate will improve the adhesion capability of the bed.
With the above guideline and the tips and tricks, you can excel at successfully 3D printing the first layer. The 3D printing technology still requires a lot of trial and error and so keep on trying until you get the perfect combination of settings to successfully print the first layer, every single time.