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Why is My 3D Print Not Sticking to the Bed?

Why is My 3D Print Not Sticking to the Bed?

If you are new to the world of 3D printing like me, it may feel a bit intimidating to play the part of a DIY engineer. However, with so much that could seemingly go wrong with your print, one of the most common issues many novice 3D printing enthusiasts have is more a point of frustration than a full-blown catastrophe: a print that will not stick to the bed. But why does this keep happening?

A 3D print that does not stick to the bed is likely due to one of five reasons:

  1. The bed is not level.
  2. The extruder starts too far away from the bed.
  3. The first layer is printing too fast.
  4. The print is cooling too quickly.
  5. There’s an inadequate build surface.

While there are certainly some additional, more complex reasons for your prints failing to adhere to the print surface, these five common problems—or a combination thereof—are the most likely culprits behind prints that fail to stick. As a result, the following breakdown delves into these issues and provides some simple explanations for correcting them.

The Bed Is Not Level

There is no way to achieve a perfect print if the initial layer is substandard, as the first layer is critical in forming the foundation on which the rest of the print is built. To achieve the perfect initial layer, the bed platform must be perfectly level to receive the extruded filament correctly.

When the bed is not level, some areas of the bed platform will be too close to the extruder, while others will be too far away. As the print sets, this imbalance can create just enough force to pry the print away from the bed.

If you have recently moved your 3D printer, or it has been jostled in any way, it is possible that the bed may need to be adjusted. Most printers use a series of adjustable screws and knobs to help control the bed’s position, so if these have been inadvertently manipulated, the bed level can fall out of whack.

Most 3D printer software has bed leveling features programmed into its settings, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual for how to access the bed-leveling wizard and get your 3D printer back to normal.

The Extruder Starts Too Far Away from Bed

For a print to properly stick to the bed, the filament should be slightly squashed as it leaves the extruder. If the filament retains a perfectly cylindrical appearance as it is deposited on the bed, then it is likely that insufficient force has been applied to get the print to stick properly.

Therefore, if your print is not sticking, you likely need to adjust the settings in your printer to bring the nozzle a bit closer to the bed. Process settings for the printer’s nozzle can be adjusted through most 3D printer software.

When adjusting the nozzle distance to bring it closer to the bed platform, you will want to adjust the z-axis by -.05mm. While this distance may seem minute, remember that each layer of your print is only about .2mm thick, and bringing the extruder too close to the bed creates its own set of issues and can lead to the nozzle getting jammed. 

The First Layer Is Printing Too Fast

It is crucial that the first layer of a print be properly bonded to the bed platform before adding any additional layers. As a result, it is customary to print the first layer at a slower speed than subsequent layers.

To achieve this, go into the process settings of your 3D printer. There should be a “layer” tab in the task box, with a dropdown menu with an option of “first layer speed.” Most people recommend printing the initial layer half as fast as the subsequent layers, so for the first layer speed, select 50%.

The Temperature or Cooling Settings Need to Be Adjusted

ABS plastic is the most common type of 3D printer filament used for non-commercial purposes. To get this plastic from the spool and through the extruder, it must be melted into a more malleable substance, requiring temperatures as high as 230 degrees Celsius.

As the extruded plastic cools, it also starts to shrink. If the base layer cools, shrinks, and hardens too quickly, it can actually create a force strong enough to remove the print from the bed platform altogether.

If you suspect that this is the cause of your print not sticking, check the temperature settings for your platform. Many printers intended to print ABS plastic come with a heated bed to help prevent this problem, so make sure this feature is activated during your prints. As a general rule, most ABS prints adhere well to beds between 100-120 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, if your 3D printer uses a cooling fan to expedite the print hardening, it may actually be doing more harm than good if it causes rapid cooling in the initial layers. Therefore, when checking your bed temperature, also check the fan settings and keep the fan off during the first few layers of a print.

Issues with the Build Surface

Before printing, it is important to check and ensure that the bed surface is free from foreign substances—such as dust, grease, or oil—as they will prevent a clean bond from forming between the print and bed. If you detect a dirty surface, clean the bed with some rubbing alcohol and allow the surface to dry thoroughly before printing again.

In addition, many printers construct their beds to be compatible with the type of filament they will most likely be using. For example, those printers designed to print ABS plastic will likely feature a heated treated glass bed, as this is known to adhere well with ABS. Likewise, printers using PLA are likely to feature a BuildTak surface.

If, for some reason, you are working with a filament outside of what the printer typically uses, it may have difficulty sticking to the bed. If this is the case, consider adding some tape to the bed platform. Blue painter’s tape typically works well with PLA filament, while ABS usually sticks well to Kapton tape.

Final Thoughts

A print that will not stick to the bed is one of the most frustrating issues for novice 3D printing enthusiasts. However, the cause of the problem is likely a simple fix, such as an unlevel bed, extruder that starts too far away, a first layer that prints too fast, a print that cools too quickly, or an inadequate build surface.

By quickly troubleshooting these areas, you can likely start churning out all of your creative designs without a hitch!