Unfortunately, warping is a common problem in 3D printing. When the material cools and shrinks unevenly, it curls or bends away from the bed. This is called warping.
Most 3D print warping is caused by thermal stress, which happens when heat-sensitive materials like ABS or PLA filament are cooled too quickly. Also, warping can be caused by the uneven heating of the print bed, which causes some parts of it to expand and contract more than others. Luckily, there are several ways to reduce or prevent warping in 3D prints.
In this guide, you’ll learn what causes warping in 3D printing and how to prevent it. You will also learn tips on how to fix warped parts once they occur so that you can get back to creating awesome projects. So let’s dive into the world of 3D print warpage and learn how to conquer it.
Overview of Warping in 3D Printing
Thermoplastic filaments cool unevenly, which can lead to warping.
Warping happens when the plastic or other material used for 3D printing cools down unevenly, causing it to shrink at different rates and in different directions. This makes the object warped.
This warping can cause a number of problems, such as weak spots in the model, parts that need to be reprinted to work right, and measurements that are off.
Warping can also cause the overall print to fail because it causes parts of the 3D model to separate and break away from each other.
What Causes Warping in 3D Printing
Below, we’ll discuss what causes warping in 3D printing.
Poor Bed Adhesion
Poor bed adhesion is one of the primary causes of warping in 3D printing. It means that a 3D-printed part or model doesn’t stick to the build plate. This makes the finished product look distorted or warped.
Poor print bed adhesion can be caused by a number of things, such as the wrong nozzle temperature, choosing the wrong material, or not cleaning the build plate enough.
Uncontrolled temperature is one of the most common causes of warping in 3D printing. When different parts of a printed object shrink and cool at different rates, this is called warping.
This can cause serious issues with the accuracy and consistency of printed objects, especially if they need to fit together precisely.
The main issue with uncontrolled temperature is that it causes parts of the printed model to cool at different rates, causing them to warp in the process. This can be caused by an uneven bed temperature or an unbalanced environment around the 3D printer, leading to inconsistent cooling.
Also, the thermoplastic properties of some materials make them more likely to bend than others.
Inadequate Infill Settings
Infill is the name for a 3D print’s internal structure, which gives your model support and stability as it prints. If you don’t set up your infill correctly, plastic layers that cool or shrink at different rates during the printing process can cause warped prints.
When an object is printed with too little infill material, the space inside allows heat to escape quickly and unevenly from different parts of the 3D model.
This causes some areas to cool quickly, causing them to shrink faster than other areas. It also causes tension between layers, which leads to the final product warping or being distorted.
Incorrect Extrusion Settings
Incorrect extrusion settings are another common cause of warping in 3D printing. Warping occurs when the edges or corners of a 3D-printed object start to curl up or distort during and after printing. This phenomenon is caused by uneven cooling, which causes the layers of molten plastic to shrink at different rates as they cool down.
Incorrect extrusion settings can be the cause of this uneven cooling that leads to warping. If the printer isn’t set to extrude the same amount of material every time, the layers can shrink in different ways.
Oversized Parts Design
Oversized part design can also play a role in warping in 3D printing. When the size of the part being printed is larger than the printer’s build area, it can cause sections of the part to be exposed to more heat or cooling during the printing process.
This uneven exposure can lead to parts curling or warping as the layers cool down unevenly.
How Temperature and Humidity Affect Warping
When it comes to warping 3D-printed parts, temperature and humidity are two of the most important environmental factors. Warping happens when the print layers don’t stick together properly or when the plastic shrinks in different places as it cools.
Warped parts can cause problems with 3D printing projects, such as wrong measurements, a bad surface finish, and weak structure support.
As the plastic material expands when heat is added, high temperatures can cause 3D-printed parts to warp. When a part is heated to a high temperature, the layers will expand, but when it cools, they will contract again during the 3D printing process.
If the layers cool unevenly or don’t stick together well, they might warp and make the print look bad.
High humidity can also cause warping in 3D-printed parts because the printing process absorbs moisture into the plastic. This causes the plastic to expand unevenly, resulting in warps and distortions.
The type of plastic used to print a part also affects how much moisture it can hold. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and Nylon are much more susceptible to moisture absorption than other materials, such as PLA (Polylactic Acid).
Impact of Print Bed Surface on Warping
A right print bed surface reduces the risk of warping and increase print quality
The leading cause of warping is an improper print bed surface. To make sure a print sticks well, it’s important to use the right surface and keep it in good shape.
If the surface is too smooth, this will cause the edges of plastic parts to curl up as they cool down from their molten state. This is known as “curling” or “lifting.” On the other hand, if the surface is too rough, it can cause the edges or entire print to warp inward as they cool. This is referred to as “shrinking” or “sagging.”
To avoid warping, print beds should be maintained and treated correctly. The ideal print bed surface will vary from material to material, but generally, it should be slightly textured and free from dust, grease, or other contaminants. This can easily be achieved by wiping the bed with a damp cloth after each use.
How to Prevent Warping in 3D Printing
Warping is a common problem with 3D printing, and it can be very frustrating because it stops prints from working. Warping is an unavoidable consequence of 3D printing due to the plastic material rapidly cooling and shrinking in a non-uniform manner, leading to distorted prints.
That being said, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Here are some of the best methods to help you:
Choose the Right Filament
Choosing the suitable filament material for your project is crucial to preventing warping. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) tends to warp more than PLA (Polylactic Acid). Still, its higher melting point makes it better suited for projects that require higher performance characteristics, such as heat resistance and strength.
If you’re printing something minor, like a figurine or model car, then PLA may be a better choice since it’s less prone to warping. Some filaments are formulated specifically to reduce warping, such as NylonX, which contains glass fibers that help keep parts flat during cooling.
Lastly, if you want to use more than one material in one project (called “multi-filamenting”), make sure they have the same thermal properties to keep the project from warping. For example, if you’re combining PLA and ABS, you may need to experiment with different ratios or pre-heat the bed before printing.
Use a Heated Bed and Enclosure
One way to prevent warping in 3D printing is to use a heated bed and enclosure. A heated bed ensures that the bottom layer of the part is held securely against the build plate. At the same time, an enclosure helps keep temperatures stable during the printing process, which can reduce shrinking or expanding caused by changes in temperature.
When using a heated print bed, it is very important to change the temperature based on what is being printed. For example, PLA and PETG materials typically require a bed temperature of 70-80°C and a nozzle temperature of 210-250°C for optimal adhesion, while ABS materials may need higher temperatures of up to 90°C.
If you don’t have an enclosure, keep your model away from drafts and fans that could cause temperature fluctuations.
Another way to improve adhesion is to use a heated build plate, such as PEI or BuildTak. These materials are meant to make a strong bond between the bed and the part, which can make warping less likely.
Also, spraying an adhesive on your heated build plate can help it stick better and reduce the chance that it will warp.
Reduce Part Size and Increase Wall Thickness
Making minor adjustments to your model can also help reduce the risk of warping. For example, you can reduce the amount of thermal stress on your part by making it smaller or increasing the thickness of its walls.
This can be especially beneficial for larger prints that require longer print times and are more likely to warp due to thermal stress. Adding support structures to your model can also help reduce warping caused by thermal stress by giving your model more stability while it is being printed.
Increase Infill Density & Print Speed
Increasing the print speed and the amount of infill is another great way to stop warping and improve high-quality 3D prints. Increasing the infill density means adding more material at different layers of the object, which helps to keep it stable as it cools down.
This can help reduce the shrinkage that can occur as the object cools down and the warping that can happen. Similarly, increasing the printing speed of your 3D printing project will help reduce warping by decreasing the amount of time it takes for the object to cool down.
This increases the chances of keeping an even temperature throughout the entire object, which helps keep it from warping as it cools.
Optimize Your Build Plate Adhesion
The build plate is the flat print surface where your 3D printing project sits while it is being printed. If there isn’t enough adhesion between the object and the build plate, warping can occur as your object cools down.
So, the best way to keep your 3D-printed project from warping is to make sure that it sticks well to the build plate.
Among the methods for improving building plate adhesion are:
- Using a heated bed.
- Applying a thin layer of glue.
- Using something like BuildTak™ to create an extra strong bond between the object and the build plate.
Use Cooling Fans for PLA Prints
Polylactic acid, commonly called PLA, is a popular material for 3D printing projects, but it has a low melting point and can be prone to warping if not cooled properly.
Using cooling fans with your 3D printer during PLA prints can help reduce the chances of warping by keeping the object cooler as it is printed. This helps create a more even cooling process, which can help reduce the chances of warping.
Select the Best Support Structures
Support structures in 3D printing are additional materials added to the object to provide extra stability as it is printed.
Using support structures that are too large or not calibrated properly can lead to warping as the object cools down. Therefore, ensuring you use the correct type of support structure for your project will help reduce any chances of warping.
Using support structures that are designed to be easily removable will also help reduce any chances of warping since they are not adding extra material to the object during the cooling process.
Post-processing treatments are additional steps you can take after your 3D printing project is complete that can help reduce the chances of warping.
These treatments include using heat to reshape or smooth out an object, putting it in a low-temperature oven for several hours, or submerging it in a bath of Isopropyl Alcohol. All of these treatments can help reduce the chances of warping in your 3D printing project.
Combining these techniques can significantly reduce the chances of experiencing warping in your 3D-printed projects.
Frequently Asked Questions on What Causes Warping in 3D Printing
The best way to prevent warping in 3D printing is by using an enclosure around the printer and setting the temperature inside the enclosure to match the printed material. This will help keep a consistent temperature throughout the building process and reduce warping due to thermal expansion.
To prevent PLA from warping. First and foremost, ensure the print bed is level before printing. Also, you’ll want to ensure that your first layer of the print adheres properly to the bed and is not overly rough or ‘squished.’
PLA can curl for a variety of reasons. A temperature difference between the nozzle and the bed commonly causes warping. If there’s too much of a temperature difference, it can cause the object’s edges to curl upwards as the plastic cools down at different rates.
Yes, the low-quality filament can cause warping. Low-grade filaments are usually made using cheaper plastic that doesn’t adhere as well to itself or the print bed, resulting in a higher chance of warping.
In some cases, it’s possible to fix a warped 3D print. If the warping is relatively mild, you can carefully heat the affected areas with a hair dryer or hot air gun before applying gentle pressure until the edges are flattened.
The warping problem is one of the most common issues faced by 3D printer users. It can be caused by several factors, ranging from environmental conditions to filament materials, nozzle temperature, etc.
The key to preventing warping is understanding these factors and taking the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate their effects. Properly calibrated machines, quality filaments, and controlled environments ensure successful 3D prints without warping.
By knowing what causes warping and taking a few simple steps, users can make it happen much less often in their 3D-printed projects. With this information, they can get better results more quickly and easily, with less trouble.
As technology advances and materials become available to help with warping, 3D printing will continue to become more accessible and easier for everyone.