The slicer is a type of software that translates the 3D models geometries into a precise pattern of motion
for the extruder to build your model. The slicer also provides various settings like print temperature, speed,
and, if necessary, generates support structures that are designed to keep overhanging parts of your model
from drooping. You’ll find a more comprehensive discussion on support structures in Chapter 11.
Most 3D printer manufacturers will either have their own slicer, or suggest a slicer to use, and we recommend
that you start with the one recommended by the manufacturer. You might get better support from the user
groups and from their consumer service if you use the one they recommend. In the instructions, you will find pro-
files provided for your printer and for the filament that comes from the manufacturer.
NOT ALL SLICERS ARE CREATED EQUAL
As with anything, some slicers are better than others. You may “slice” one model with specific settings in
one slicer and then use another slicer with the same settings and get very different end-print qualities.
Some slicers work for both FDM as well as resin printers, while some are specific to one type of printing
technology.
THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF QUALITY SLICERS FOR FDM PRINTERS:
Cura: free
Slic3r: free
PrusaSlicer: free
Repetier Host: free
KISSlicer: free and paid
Simplify3D: paid only
Unless your printer manufacturer has a proprietary slicer, you have a range of slicers to choose from. Paid
slicers sometimes have more developed features, though free slicers perform the slicing job perfectly fine
as well. Figure 5-12 shows tool path visualizations (layer patterns) from Simplify3D and Cura, comparing
how each would print the same object.
Any of the free slicers will work well as long as the 3D model you are slicing is a “good” one without errors.
While all of them can do some 3D model healing and fixing, you really want to make sure your model is good
from the start. In Chapter 11, we’ll discuss how Autodesk’s Meshmixer can be used as a tool to help evalu-
ate 3D models for potential errors.
To summarize our thoughts about slicers: it’s best to stay with the slicing method your printer manufacturer
recommends, but for a great many 3D printers, you are also able to use other slicers if you desire to have
different/more control of the settings and layer patterns.
FIGURE 512: Comparison of tool paths between Simplify3D (top) and Cura (bottom)
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FDM VISUAL TROUBLESHOOTING
This section provides a list of common problems that can occur with 3D prints, and suggestions on how to
fix them (assuming the 3D model is good). Please remember that consumer 3D printers are still relatively
new” devices, and when a print fails, the printer will probably not even know it and the extruder keeps
pumping out the filament. It has happened to quite a few people in the 3D printing community that left a 3D
print unattended overnight to come back to a huge melted ball of filament on their build platform because
the print peeled off the build plate and melted onto the hotend!
With good practices, and making sure to check on your prints fairly regularly, you will have great results!
Now, let’s look at some examples of what can go wrong, and how to fix those issues. Most all of the exam-
ples below will cause a 3D print to fail. There might be some examples that could be “ok” to let go and not
cause you to cancel a print, and those will be called out specifically.
UNDER EXTRUSION / OVER EXTRUSION
(CONSISTENTLY PRESENT THROUGHOUT
THE PRINT)
Symptom: The extruded lines of filament are either
too thin, or too thick. (Figure 5-13)
Reason:
Your filament might be out of tolerance (larger
or smaller than 1.75 or 3mm).
Your filament might need a hotter or
colder temperature in order to flow more
consistently.
You might have some settings in your slicer not properly assigned.
Solution:
Tolerance: Change your slicer’s settings to the actual diameter of your filament (changing from
1.75mm to 1.65mm for example, if that is what you measured).
Extrusion Percentage: Instead of changing your filament diameter, you can also change your
extrusion percentage away from 100% down to 95% or up to 105% (as an example). With a lesser
extrusion percentage, the printer will extrude slightly less material, thus lessening your overall
flow of material.
Temperature: 3D printers might have some variations in temperature. What one 3D printer
thinks is 200ºC might actually be 215ºC on another 3D printer. Change your temperature down
by 5ºC if your filament is oozing out of your nozzle (over-extrusion), or make the temperature
hotter by 5ºC if your filament is not coming out consistently enough.
FIGURE 513: Extrusion issues shown by a wavy surface pattern.
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UNDER EXTRUSION / OVER EXTRUSION (TRANSIENT / SOMETIMES HAPPENS)
Symptom: Certain layers on your print have noticeable gaps or completely fail, but other layers are OK,
(Figure 5-14)
Reason: Not enough filament is coming out in those areas, but enough is coming out later on.
Solution:
Barring a hardware issue with your printer like a loose connection, the filament is “out of tol-
erance” in just those areas, being smaller in diameter, and thus starving the print of material in
those places. Consider buying filament from a manufacturer who is known for consistent fila-
ment diameter and quality.
These problems can also happen if your filament has absorbed too much water during storage
of the filament spool. Evaporation of that water during the print process can also cause inconsis-
tent extrusion as the outer spool layers might have absorbed more moisture than the inner ones.
FIGURE 514: Transient extrusion issues over some areas of the failed print
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FIRST LAYER ADHESION ISSUES
Symptom: Your print is peeling off of the build plate (Figure 5-15)
Reason: Somehow, the adhesion between your print and the build plate failed, or failed over time.
Solution: There are many reasons why this can happen. Here is a list of things to check:
Make sure your build plate has been cleaned with isopropyl alcohol or acetone before each print
run.
Make sure that your bed is levelled, and the Z-height is properly calibrated.
Make sure your adhesion method is reapplied (put new glue stick material or painter’s tape on).
If you have a heated bed, make sure that is at an appropriate temperature.
Some slicers allow you to print the first layer at a hotter temperature (10-15 degrees hotter) and
at a slower speed. Consider enabling those settings.
Check to make sure that there are no cold air currents blowing down onto your printer from an
open window or an over zealous air conditioner. Environmental issues like that can cause one
side of prints to fail, and might be hard to track down. Some people place wind barriers around
their printer to help prevent this.
FIGURE 515: The First Layer is peeling off of the build plate. The inner rings are properly aligned, the outer rings did not adhere due to
Z-height being too far from bed.
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FIRST LAYER ADHESION ISSUES
Symptom: Your print is peeling off of the build plate (Figure 5-15)
Reason: Somehow, the adhesion between your print and the build plate failed, or failed over time.
Solution: There are many reasons why this can happen. Here is a list of things to check:
Make sure your build plate has been cleaned with isopropyl alcohol or acetone before each print
run.
Make sure that your bed is levelled, and the Z-height is properly calibrated.
Make sure your adhesion method is reapplied (put new glue stick material or painter’s tape on).
If you have a heated bed, make sure that is at an appropriate temperature.
Some slicers allow you to print the first layer at a hotter temperature (10-15 degrees hotter) and
at a slower speed. Consider enabling those settings.
Check to make sure that there are no cold air currents blowing down onto your printer from an
open window or an over zealous air conditioner. Environmental issues like that can cause one
side of prints to fail, and might be hard to track down. Some people place wind barriers around
their printer to help prevent this.
FILAMENT STOPS EXTRUDING COMPLETELY
Symptom: Your filament has stopped feeding completely. (Figure 5-16)
Reason: There can be many causes.
The pinchwheel might have spun in one area of your filament “biting” a channel into it.
The picture above shows low-quality filament with a bulge in one area. This filament will not feed
through the tightly-toleranced channels in your extruder.
Having too low a temperature can also cause a jam, as the filament is not melting enough to feed
through cleanly.
Solution:
Ensure you are using high-quality filament from a manufacturer that has good reviews online.
Make sure you are using the proper temperature for your filament. The “proper” temperature
can be machine-specific, so some trial and error for a new filament is sometimes necessary.
Take into consideration that if you are printing at faster speeds, you will need to raise your
extruder temperature to handle the higher flow (usually by 5 degrees Celsius or so).
FIGURE 515: The First Layer is peeling off of the build plate. The inner rings are properly aligned, the outer rings did not adhere due to
Z-height being too far from bed.
FIGURE 516: A sample of filament with an inconsistent diameter
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