Watching your 3D printer build up an object’s layers and then stop abruptly can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it happens repeatedly. More than that, if your 3D prints have been continually failing at the same height, you might not be sure how to fix the issue.
When 3D prints fail at the same height repeatedly, the problem could be an overheated extruder, a poorly calibrated extruder nozzle, or a lack of filament material. Old filament spools can also cause extrusion and layering problems. Fortunately, there are several ways to fix these issues.
This troubleshooting guide will explore the most common causes behind why 3D print fails at the same height. I’ll also offer practical solutions to these issues. You can use this information to solve your printing height problems.
1. Extruder Is Getting Overheated
Most 3D printers require heat to make filament malleable. But these nozzles and their internal motors can overheat, especially when used for extended periods.
If you’re attempting to print a large object, complex item, or several pieces in a short time, your printer’s extruder can overheat and turn itself off. This automatic shut-off can be frustrating, but it’s designed to protect your printer’s internal mechanisms from melting, warping, or cracking.
An extruder can overheat for several reasons, including high temperatures.
For example, if you’re printing in a warm room, and your printer isn’t near a cooling device like a fan or AC vent, the ambient temperature can cause the internal temperature of the extruder arm to reach dangerously high levels.
Alternatively, you may be setting your filament temperature or extruder speed too high. Fortunately, adjusting these settings and waiting for your 3D printer to cool down can solve your printing height failure problem.
How To Fix
If you think your 3D printer might be overheating, the best thing to do is turn it off and let it cool down. While you’re waiting for it to cool, you can install a fan or portable air conditioner nearby to keep temperatures low.
You might also want to adjust the extruder nozzle’s temperature. You can do this in a couple of ways, depending on the printer you use.
For example, some 3D printers have small display screens and control panels that allow you to alter the set extrusion temperature in a matter of a few seconds. However, if you’re using a 3D printer that doesn’t have a direct control panel, you’ll likely need to use 3D slicer software to adjust the printer’s extrusion temperature.
There are several popular slicer software programs from which you can choose. The best option for you depends on your budget, preferences, and 3D printer model. When adjusting extrusion temperature, ensure that you’re staying within the filament’s listed range.
For example, most PLA filaments have a temperature range of 190°C-220°C (374°F-428°F), so if you’re using a PLA filament spool, you’ll want to set a temperature within this range. Conversely, setting a temperature below this range will likely result in poor, slow-moving extrusion.
Adjusting speed is similar to changing extrusion temperature settings. You can either do so using your 3D printer’s display panels and controls or via a slicer program.
Remember, the slower your extruder nozzle moves during the printing process, the less heat it’s generating. So, though it may take longer for your printing project to complete, using a slower extrusion movement speed can decrease the likelihood of extruder overheating.
2. Extruder Nozzle Isn’t Calibrated Correctly
3D printers require three axes to function: A y-axis, an x-axis, and the z-axis. These axes (often called the XYZ coordinate system) determine where the extruder nozzle moves along the base plate and how high it lifts upward.
If you haven’t calibrated your extruder nozzle, it may be unable to rise high enough to continue printing projects. A quick z-axis offset adjustment should correct this problem, allowing the extruder arm to continue riding upward during the printing process.
How To Fix
The best way to calibrate your extruder nozzle varies depending on the type of printer you’re using. For example, you may need to use a hex screwdriver to alter the z-axis offset of a simple printer like the Fabrikator Mini.
However, if you’re working with a slightly upgraded printer like the UP! Mini, you’ll need to adjust the nozzle and platform height via the included software program. In other cases, you may need to use a third-party slicer program to change the extruder nozzle’s height.
Not sure which option might be right for your printer? Check out this comprehensive breakdown covering multiple 3D printers to discover how to adjust nozzle height on your machine.
3. You’re Not Using Large Enough Filament Spools
Another reason your printing projects consistently fail at the same height is a lack of filament. So, be sure to consider the size and complexity of your printing projects.
Small filament spools are ideal for smaller, more straightforward projects that don’t require skirts, brims, or rafts. However, if you’re printing oversized, detailed items that benefit from stabilizing bed adhesions, you’ll want to use large filament spools with plenty of usable material.
How To Fix
The best way to solve this issue is to purchase longer filament spools. You can also choose to divide your printing project into two parts, though allowing half of your print to cool can reduce adhesion and increase brittleness.
4. You’re Using Old Filament
Do you know how old your current filament spools are? If they’ve been hanging around your print room for several months, you may want to consider replacing them.
Filament spools exposed to ambient temperatures for prolonged periods can grow brittle. PLA filament is particularly prone to developing a brittle structure over time.
When this happens, the filament thread may snap during the middle of the printing process or fail to melt, lowering its extrudability. As you might expect, both of these issues can contribute to sudden printing problems and failed 3D prints.
How To Fix
Luckily, this problem has a straightforward solution: purchasing new filament spools. 3D printer filament is widely available at Walmart, Office Depot, Home Depot, and Best Buy, so you won’t find yourself short of options. Alternatively, buying online may be a good option if you’re searching for particular filament materials or colors.
Some of the most reputable and highly rated online retailers that offer 3D printing filament include Amazon and MatterHackers. Just make sure to choose a filament with a suitable diameter (1.75mm/3mm or 0.06 in/0.11 in) and spool length.
The most common reasons why 3D prints fail at the same height are an overheated extruder, faulty nozzle calibration, a lack of filament, and brittle filament. Fixing this issue may be as simple as letting your 3D printer cool down or replacing your filament spool.
In some cases, you may also need to recalibrate your extruder nozzle (the z-axis) to ensure it continues moving upward past a specific point. If these fixes don’t solve your printing problem, you may want to double-check your virtual 3D print model for errors and layer gaps.