It’s well known how complicated 3D printers are. Not only are they incredibly complex machines, they are a relatively new technology. One that isn’t free from its share of problems. Whether you are using a home-made 3D printer, a cheaper hobbyist 3D printer or an expensive professional tier 3D printer, there are a list of common problems you are likely to run in to. This brings us to perhaps the most frustrating, this is why your 3D print layers are not aligned.
Some of the most likely reasons for some of the layers not aligning in your 3D printer are as follows: There may be an issue with the belts, some of the motors or pulleys may not be fully tightened and aligned, some rods may be bent or damaged.
These are by far the most likely culprits of any misaligned layers and layer shifting that you may be experiencing with your 3D printer. Almost all of the issues causing your problem can be fixed, although a few of them may require replacement parts. The first question to address when solving this problem is identifying the axis that the layers are failing to print on. After this we can move on checking if the axis motors/pulleys are in fully functioning condition. You should ensure that all the belts and the pulleys are fully tightened and that none of them are slipping or causing unwanted friction. Belts/pulleys that are tighter on one side than the other are often the guilty party when it comes to this particular fix. Additionally, ensure that all of the motors are correctly fastened to their mountings.
Unfortunately, if your 3D printer uses any form of rods and they are bent or scratched/damaged, your only option will be to replace them. If the damage is because of a bend, it is possible that you could fix it by bending the rod straight, though this can be incredibly difficult to do accurately and any remaining bend in the rod will continue to throw off the layer alignment. Depending on the severity of the bends and how many of the rods are bent, you could attempt to make adjustments to the printing process to try and mitigate the effects of the bent rods. This is typically only a problem for 3D printers that use lower quality smooth rods.
One last thing you could attempt to do in regard to the rods is to ensure that the print head is afforded a full range of comfortable movement along the rods. The rods should be properly lubricated to allow this to happen and you should take care to use the correct lubricant that your manufacturer recommends before attempting to diagnose this problem yourself.
How do these problems occur?
The quality of the parts used will be the main factor to take into consideration with regards to any of these problems occurring. In the case of the belts and pulleys, there are a variety of different materials that the belts or pulleys can be made from. If you have bought a cheaper 3D printer or assembled one yourself, it’s possible that you may be using rubber belts that have no reinforcement in them. This is a fairly common standard among 3D printer belts, so you should not necessarily expect that the belts you are using as stock from your manufacturer will be of the highest quality. It’s a good idea to look for belts with a fiberglass reinforcement, though if you would like a belt that will operate well under any heated conditions than consider looking for belts with a steel reinforcement.
One other important thing with regards to the belts and pulleys to watch out for is any kind of obstruction taking place in the many moving parts of the device. It’s very common for a piece of filament to become entangled in one of the pulleys or belts. When the extruder is feeding the filament through the machine, it’s possible for some to get loose and caught up somewhere. This can be avoided with regular maintenance of your 3D printer, something that it’s good to be mindful of anyway.
In the case of bent rods, it’s an unfortunate case of wear and tear. In the case of threaded rods that the 3D printer may use, part of the problem lies in the fact they are not the optimal component for the job. A good alternative to research for these if they need to be replaced are lead screws. Lead screws will be far more durable and robust for the job, made from an incredibly hard material that will be hard to bend out of shape or break in comparison to threaded rods.
Are there any other possible reasons for layer shifting?
We’ve covered some of the most common mechanical reasons that there could be layers misaligned in your 3D prints. Although they are less likely, there are a few other possible suspects that may be causing you trouble. If you still haven’t been able to diagnose your issue, then some of these may be worth a look.
Is your 3D printer overheating?
Some 3D printers have the possibility of becoming extremely hot. It’s possible that the electronics of your 3D printer are becoming too hot to function correctly. Though it would likely lead to a host of other problems making it obvious that this was an issue, it may be manifesting itself as the layer shifting issue. Try keeping the printer cool with a standalone fan to see if this solves your issue.
Is the print head bumping in to something?
If you are using a home-made or cheaper 3D printer, it’s also possible that the print head isn’t able to complete the full range of motion because it is colliding with what it is trying to print. On a less sophisticated 3D printer, you’ll receive no form of warning that this is happening, though it should be fairly clear if this is an issue, it’s still something to keep an eye on.
Is your print speed too high?
This can be an issue for a variety of reasons. Any of the electronics such as the controller that processes the steps being fed too many instructions at a time or attempting to process steps too quickly could lead to this being a problem. It could also simply be a mechanical issue such as the motors moving too quickly or being unable to keep up with the steps. It may be difficult to tell if this is the cause of the problem, so try playing with different speeds if you able to see how it affects the alignment of the layers.
Are you printing via USB?
It’s a long-shot compared to the other possible reasons, but one last possibility to explore is if you are printing to a 3D printer connected through USB. If there is any kind of issue in the connection to the 3D printer, then it can lead to the connection cutting out at the wrong time during the print, resulting in either layer shift or missing layers. If you can, attempt to print from an SD card to see if the problem still persists.