3D Print Ghosting: Effective Solutions and Prevention Tips

Mario De Lio

Last Updated:

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive compensation when you purchase via my links at no cost to you. See our disclosure for more information.

3D print ghosting on a black pla architectural model

KEY TAKEAWAYS

3D print ghosting is a common issue that creates echoes, shadows, rippling, or duplicate details.

It’s caused by vibrations and unwanted movement during printing.

You can fix ghosting by lowering print speed, using a sturdy base, and reducing the acceleration and jerk settings.

3D print ghosting is a common issue that appears as ripples or wavy exterior walls. Indentations in the wall may show remanents in areas where that should be smooth.

Ghosting is a common problem resulting from vibrations in your 3D printer. These vibrations create surface defects, and in extreme cases, they may create the appearance of echos, shadows, or duplicate details in finished prints.

The imperfections caused by ghosting not only detract from the appearance but can also affect functionality.

What is 3D Print Ghosting?

3D print ghosting on a black pla architectural model
(Source: Teaching Tech via Reddit)

3D print ghosting, ringing, echoing, or rippling is a common problem in FDM 3D printing.

Ghosting refers to an unwanted rippling effect on the exterior walls of your print caused by vibrations from the rapid changes in speed and direction of the print head.

In finished prints, you may also notice ghosting as echos, shadows, or duplicate details. These print defects may become apparent when details are etched or embossed on a flat surface.

Ghosting can negatively impact your model’s appearance by reducing its overall aesthetic quality. This issue is especially noticeable on flat vertical surfaces, where ripples can appear when there are changes in the print head movement direction.

Several reasons can contribute to ghosting in 3D printing. Some factors to consider include:

  • Print speed: Printing at high speeds may cause vibrations in the printer, leading to ghosting issues.
  • Acceleration and jerk settings: When these settings are too high, they can result in abrupt movements and vibrations in the printer, causing ghosting.
  • Belt tension: Loose belts can contribute to vibrations and ringing effects, while overly tight belts can cause similar issues.
  • Printer frame stability: A flimsy or unstable printer frame can’t adequately absorb vibrations, leading to ghosting on your prints.

By understanding and addressing these factors, you can reduce or eliminate ghosting and improve the quality and appearance of your 3D prints. Remember to run test prints and experiment with different settings to find the optimal balance for your specific printer and printing materials.

Factors Contributing to Ghosting

Ghosting caused by high acceleration and jerk settings printed in black pla filament
(Source: u/bsonderman via Reddit)

Ghosting occurs from the vibrations created during the printing process.

Vibrations resulting from a loose frame, loose belts, or slicer settings that cause the print head’s rapid deceleration and acceleration are the most common causes of ghosting.

The following are the causes of 3D print ghosting:

  • Speed: High printing speeds can cause the print head to vibrate. By reducing the print speed, the head is more stable and is less likely to cause ghosting.
  • Acceleration and Jerk Settings: These settings control how fast your printer changes its speed. If these settings are too high, your printer may not have enough time to slow down before changing direction, leading to the nozzle’s vibrations and rapid jerking motions that cause ghosting. 
  • Belt Tension: If your printer’s belts are either too loose or too tight, they can cause the print head or bed to vibrate. When the belts aren’t tensioned correctly, the gears may skip, which creates artifacts in your prints.
  • Frame Stability: If the frame of your 3D printer is not sturdy or stable, it can vibrate during printing, causing ghosting. Over time, small vibrations can loosen the bolts and screws that hold your printer together.
  • Wobbly Base: Ensure your printer is on a stable surface and all its components are securely attached. If your printer is on an unstable surface, the vibrations will cause the base to shift and create ripples.
  • Mechanical Issues: Faulty or worn-out parts like bearings, belts, or pulleys can cause unwanted movement and vibrations that lead to ghosting. Ensure you maintain your printer and replace parts no longer working correctly.

Prevention

Once you determine the cause of vibrations in your printer, preventing ghosting problems is easy. The solutions below reduce the risk of ghosting by minimizing vibrations during printing.

Below are several easy fixes to prevent ringing in your 3D prints.

Tighten Your Belts

Most FDM printers use belts to operate the moving parts, such as the extruder and print bed.

It’s essential to keep the belts at the correct tension to ensure smooth travel of the print head.

Loose belts can cause ghosting in your prints. When belts are too loose, they can introduce vibrations and inaccurate movements in the printer, leading to unwanted ripples on your model’s surface.

If the belts are too loose, the gears may skip creating ripples.

Ensure your belts have the proper tension by adjusting the tension screws or springs and avoid making them too tight, which can affect print quality and damage the components.

Some 3D printers use a hex key to tighten the belts, while others use built-in belt tensioners. No matter which system your machine uses, inspecting the belts regularly as part of your 3D printer maintenance is essential.

As a rule of thumb, the belts should be around the tightness of a guitar string. Ensure you don’t over-tighten the belts, which can also cause ghosting.

Tighten Loose Bolts and Screws

Loose bolts and screws on a 3D printer can contribute to ghosting due to instability during printing. When your printer’s frame is loose, the vibrations can cause the printhead to lose control.

Ghosting occurs because the loose components can allow undesired movements, especially when the print head changes direction quickly or when printing at high speeds. These unnecessary movements translate into the print, creating ghosting or echoing patterns.

When you tighten loose bolts and screws, you’re essentially increasing the structural rigidity of your printer. A more rigid frame can help reduce the extent of these vibrations and hence, the amount of ghosting in your prints.

Note: Be careful not to over-tighten bolts or screws, as they can break or strip the threading.

Reduce Print Speed

Faster print speeds can increase the chances of ghosting, as the nozzle and print bed’s rapid movements create more vibrations. Slowing down the print speed allows for better control over printing and provides a cleaner finish on your models.

By reducing the print speed, the head is more stable during printing, and there’s less jerking during changes in direction. Slower print speeds produce fewer vibrations, and it’s an easy way to improve print quality and fix ghosting.

Experiment with different speeds in your print speed settings to find a balance between speed and quality that suits your needs.

Find a Solid Base

Placing your 3D printer on a sturdy, stable surface reduces vibrations and improves print quality.

Finding a sturdy base for your 3D printer is an easy way to reduce vibrations and solve ghosting.

Using a sturdy surface that doesn’t wobble while the printer operates is best. Ensure the surface is even so the printer sits flat and doesn’t rock.

Most printers have rubber feet to absorb vibrations. If your machine doesn’t have rubber legs, purchase them separately or use an anti-vibration pad (Amazon) beneath your device for increased stability.

Adjust your Acceleration and Jerk Settings

Adjusting your 3D printer’s acceleration and jerk settings can significantly impact the ghosting effect. Jerk and acceleration settings determine how quickly the print head changes directions and how it behaves during printing.

Consider these adjustments:

  • Reduce acceleration – Acceleration is the rate at which your printer increases speed. Reducing the acceleration setting can help minimize sudden direction changes, reducing ghosting.
  • Lower jerk settings – Jerk is the instantaneous change in speed when the printer changes direction. Decreasing the jerk will make the print head movement smoother during direction changes, reducing potential vibrations.

Acceleration and jerk settings are essential factors that affect ghosting. High acceleration can cause inertia, ringing, and rippling on your prints.

The ideal print settings depend on your printer, but we generally recommend an acceleration of 60mm/s and a jerk setting of 10mm/s.

You can adjust these settings in most slicing software like Cura.

By adjusting the acceleration settings of your printer, you can achieve a smoother printing process and minimize the chances of ghosting. Similarly, tweaking the jerk settings can reduce abrupt changes in the print head’s direction, providing smoother movements and a cleaner finish on your models.

Reduce Printhead Weight

A lighter printhead can reduce ghosting by lowering the amount of inertia generated during rapid movements.

Reducing the weight of the printhead isn’t always possible, depending on your 3D printer’s make and model.

But if you’ve added decorations and attachments to your print head, consider removing them to reduce the overall weight.

Many 3D printers mount the filament spool to the top of the machine. This added weight can make the printer unsteady, as the weight of the spool raises the machine’s center of gravity.

Using a separate filament spool holder can reduce unwanted movement. We recommend applying the other changes on this list and considering weight as a last resort. Adjusting the print settings, tightening the moving parts, and finding a sturdy base significantly impact print quality.

Testing for Ghosting

A test print designed to check for ghosting in 3d prints
(Source: orcinus via Thingiverse)

If you want to check for ringing in your 3D print, you can print the ghosting test print from Thingiverse.

The lines and edges of the print should be crisp and clear. If you notice ringing or rippling on the surface of your 3D print, you know you have a ghosting problem.

Use the solutions for ghosting above to fix the issue and optimize your printing.

Article by

Mario De Lio

Ready to Improve Your Results?

Dive deep into the world of 3D printing with our exclusive newsletter. Get insider tips, hands-on reviews, and the latest news to improve your 3D printing.