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3D Printing

3D Printing Resources

Failed prints

When in doubt, always ask Innovation Lab staff for assistance if the 3D printer behaves abnormally.  Here are some common problems that you may encounter.

Ultimaker 2+

  • Plastic is not extruding at the beginning of a print
    • Make sure the nozzle has been heated to the correct temperature to melt the plastic (200-220 degrees C).  Sometimes the printer won't heat the nozzle automatically, meaning the filament isn't melting and cannot come out of the nozzle.
    • The filament might be jammed, either inside the feeder (back of the machine) or inside the extruder (top of the machine).  In either case, it is best to ask staff for help.  They might need to manually push the tip of the filament through the extruder, or they might need to remove and reinsert the filament into the feeder.  
  • Plastic stops extruding during a print
    • The spool behind the machine might be tangled and jammed.  Usually the only solution is to abort the print, free the tangled filament by hand, and start the print over again.  Freeing the filament might just require rotating the spool to free up some slack, or you might need to remove the spool to untangle the filament. 
  • Plastic is not sticking to the build plate
    • Remember to apply glue to the glass build plate shortly before the print begins.  The first layer of plastic needs glue so it can stick to the glass.
    • If you have used glue and you are sure the filament is extruding properly, but the first layer still isn't sticking, You might need to re-level the build plate. The glass is too close to the nozzle and is simply blocking the hole where the plastic should be coming out.  By calibrating the build plate, you are creating a little bit of space between the nozzle and the plate, so the plastic has room to come out.  Ask staff for assistance. 
  • Model has ugly texture on downward-facing surfaces
    • The 3D model likely needs support structure.  Slice the .stl model again in Ultimaker Cura and be sure to enable supports.  The software will automatically generate structure to support overhanging surfaces.  The supports can be removed by hand or with tools after printing is complete.  
  • Support structure is problematic
    • Supports will be necessary anywhere the 3D model overhangs with nothing underneath.  This is because the 3D printer "draws" every layer of plastic on top of the previous layer from the bottom up. Highly detailed models with a lot of inner surfaces might not be right for the Ultimaker printer.  
  • Model has abnormal holes or structures
    • The digital 3D model might have holes or other surface errors that are invisible but cause problems when printing.  Import the .stl file into a mesh repair program like Meshmixer and repair the model and then slice the model again in Ultimaker Cura.  Find mesh repair resources and tutorials here

Maintenance

Here are tips for regular maintenance that should help the printing process run smoothly. 

  • Clean the build plate
    • When there are layers of old glue on the glass build plate, it will become very difficult to remove finished models from the printer.  After printing is complete, scrape the used glue with a metal spatula, then wipe the glass with a paper towel and some glass cleaner solution.  Starting every print with a clean build plate will make it much easier to remove the model.  
  • Make sure software settings are consistent with hardware settings
    • Make sure the nozzle setting in Ultimaker Cura is consistent with the nozzle that is installed in the machine.  In other words, if you slice a 3D model with the nozzle size set to 0.6mm, make sure the 0.6mm nozzle is actually installed before attempting to print that model.  
    • Likewise, make sure the material setting is consistent with the material that is installed in the machine.  If you change the type of material in the printer, make sure you change the material setting in Ultimaker Cura before slicing a 3D model.