6 Ways to Eliminate 3D Printer Layer Shifting

6 Ways to Eliminate 3D Printer Layer Shifting

Layer shifting is an effect in 3d printing that occurs when multiple layers of the same print appear to move in one direction. It can appear to be a singular large displacement at a specific layer, making the entire design look distorted and uneven. Layer shifting can cause parts to come out of alignment which can ruin the overall shape and accuracy of a print.

Layer shifting during the 3D printing process can be extremely disruptive and can lead to inferior prints. It often looks as if multiple layers have moved in one direction, creating a misaligned print. Worse yet, the build may be completely ruined due to one large displacement at a specific layer. 

It’s important to figure out the source of this layer shifting before it becomes an expensive mistake; otherwise, there may be no other choice but to redo the entire project altogether. Fortunately, there are many strategies one can utilize to improve overall print quality and address any layer-shifting issues that may arise. 

 Tip 1: Overall Printer Calibration

Eliminate 3D Printer Layer Shifting

The most reliable ways to prevent layer-shifting problems with your 3D printer are to ensure the printer is properly calibrated, all parts are functioning correctly and your slicer profile is properly tuned. It is important to regularly adjust your E-steps and make sure all of the mechanical components such as screws and bolts are properly tightened. 

You also want to ensure that you have the right voltage set up when using a heated bed, and if possible it may be helpful to PID tune the heating element. Lastly, it never hurts to give your nozzle a good clean periodically. Regular testing of prints can help minimize problems with layer shifting before they occur.

After all the above steps if layer shifting still exists you can move to tip #2 below

Tip #2: Reduce Vibrations & Bumps

In order to minimize layer shifting when using a 3D printer, one should give careful attention to minimizing bumps and vibrations. These can be absorbed by the machine from the surface it is printed on, which can cause rumbling in the printhead and bed, which can lead to layer shifting.

Additionally, if the 3D printer itself is producing unfelt vibrations, these can have the same effect. To avoid this issue, choose a stable surface for your printer and use rubber vibration dampers (either purchased or 3D printed) under the machine to absorb any internal shaking.

The second thing is to regularly check that the motors are running smoothly and not jolting at any point throughout their operation.

The third important detail to look after is to ensure your machine has no extra debris floating around in the vicinity of the printhead or bed which could affect its motion.

Make sure that no foreign objects like dust or scraps of plastic should be anywhere near the printhead or print bed since this can adversely impact the system’s ability to move in a consistent way. 

Fortunately, there are also other ways you can minimize bumps and reduce the chances of layer shifting. Depending on your specific setup, it could include making sure your printer is on a sturdy table or countertop or using wrenches to tighten the bolts attaching your motors to the frame every once in a while.

Taking the time to identify and address sources of vibration and bumping can go a long way toward ensuring better final prints without the risk of costly layer shifts.

Tip #3: Tighten up the Pulleys & Belts

The second fix is that most of the FDM 3D Printers incorporate belts and pulleys to move the printhead and print bed along their designated axes. Unfortunately, this system can easily be derailed (literally!) if the belts are not kept tight enough, which manifests itself in the form of layer shifting.

If a belt has too much slack, it will create more room for movement while printing, resulting in uneven layers and poor print quality.

Most 3D printers have adjustable belt pulleys that make it easy to tighten the belt so you don’t have to worry about moving components around.

This simple step allows you to maintain consistent tension throughout your printing process, resulting in higher-quality prints every time.

maintain consistent tension throughout your printing process, resulting in higher-quality prints every time.

Tip #4: Increase the Printing Surface bond

Our fourth tip is to check your build plate or printing surface is securely attached to the print bed underframe. This prevents unwanted layer shifting during printing, which would result in an inaccurate or incomplete model. Securely placing your build plate is essential to successful 3D printing results without it, the stepper motor could move it around, resulting in the need for multiple attempts or a complete restart of your project.

There are a few practical ways to fasten the build plate of your 3D printer to the underframe. In order to do this; binder clips are a great option, as they have broad gripping surfaces and can be easily attached or removed when needed. For those using 3D printers designed specifically for this type of work, special clips can also be purchased with greater precision and easier handling. For most applications though, fastening four clips – one on each corner – will serve perfectly in securing the printing surface for a successful and problem-free print job.

Tip #5: Dissipate the Electronics Heat

Our fifth tip is to Keep your electronic components cool. Heat buildup can lead to malfunctions and cause the layers of your 3D print model to misalign and shift out of shape. Specifically the stepper motor drivers on your mainboard. Overheating stepper motor drivers can cause troubles with layer adhesion and alignment, so it’s especially important to keep them cool if you want your final product to come out just right. 

In order to solve this problem a simple solution is to allow more air to flow around the mainboard. You have two primary methods: either open up your printer’s mainboard casing to let in additional airflow or place a fan directly above it, which should be more than sufficient for cooling purposes. 

Tip #6: Avoid Nozzle Collisions With Part

Finally, In order to guarantee a successful print, it’s essential for 3D printers to avoid nozzle collisions with the part that is being printed. When the nozzle clashes with the object, it can lead to a misalignment in layers and cause the structure of the print to shift. This could lead to an imperfect build so proper maintenance is key to prevent any collisions between the nozzle and part.

Collisions generally occur when a print has small features or imperfections that easily get in the way of the nozzle. To avoid these types of collisions, focus on having a properly levelled bed as well as ensuring that your first layer is firmly attached to the print bed. This will decrease the risk of small features getting loose and hitting against the nozzle which could potentially ruin your final product.

It is also advised to check whether collisions between the nozzle and parts of your model are causing the problem. To prevent this from happening, making sure no surface is too close to your nozzle while printing is key. Additionally, lowering the travel speed of your print will help reduce the severity of any blows that may occur if filament gets in the way of a moving nozzle – meaning that even if a collision does happen there won’t be as much disruption.

Also in order to prevent collisions and layer shifting, activating Z hop is a great solution on your slicer. Not only does it help the printhead avoid colliding with the print, but by instructing the nozzle to move up on the Z-axis during travel moves, it prevents any chance of your print coming out defective or deformed.

Bheema Shankar
Author | Website

I am Bheema Shankar. I have worked on SLS, CJP, DLP, SLA and FDM technologies at Think3D. Currently working as Process and application engineer at VEER-O-METALS PRIVATE LIMITED. I am always fascinated by the process of creating things layer by layer. This fascination led me to pursue a career in 3D printing technology. I am passionate about how 3D works and enjoy exploring new ways to improve the 3D printing process.

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