3D Printing Layer Separation (9 Easy Fixes)

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Layer separation on a 3d printed bency in black filament

Layer separation is a print defect that occurs with poor layer adhesion. 3D printing layer separation, or delamination, is a disastrous defect where the layers of your print separate.

Not only does layer separation produce terrible-looking prints, but it also reduces your models’ mechanical strength and geometric accuracy.

This article covers nine easy fixes to prevent layer separation in your 3D printing.

What is 3D Printing Layer Separation?

Layer separation is a print defect caused by poor layer adhesion. When successive layers don’t bond correctly, they peel away from each other as the extruded filament cools.

As the layers cool, they warp and bend away from the previous layer, creating the appearance of separations in the finished print.

An FDM 3D printer works by building an object layer by layer. Each layer is built upon the previous one to form an object. Proper layer adhesion is essential to ensure the object looks good and retains its mechanical strength.

If the layers don’t adhere, they may separate, creating cuts, cracks, or spaces on the print’s surface.

What Causes 3D Print Layer Separation?

Layer separation in a large print during the printing process
(Source: BishopsGhost via Reddit)

Poor layer adhesion and 3D print layer separation can be caused by the following:

  1. Filament material (ABS and nylon filament have notoriously poor layer adhesion).
  2. Clogged or dirty extruder nozzle.
  3. Improper slicer settings.
  4. Printing with wet filament.

How to Prevent Layer Separation

Now that we better understand what causes layer separation, let’s see how we can tune the printer to ensure proper layer adhesion while 3d printing.

1. Dry Your Filament

Over time filaments will absorb moisture from the air, causing it to expand.

When the wet filament is heated in the hot end, the moisture turns into steam when the we4t filament passes through the hot end, causing pressure buildup in the nozzle.

The pressure has nowhere to go but the nozzle tip. The built-up pressure causes over-extrusion, where your printer will extrude more filament than necessary.

Additionally, the steam may try to escape the print head. “t c “n do so in a quick, violent “pop” that throws molten plastic onto your print.

If you are experiencing wet filament issues, you will likely notice blobs, zits, or other surface defects along with layer separation.

To prevent the filament from absorbing moisture, storing unused filament in plastic containers in a cool, dry area of your home is a good idea. You can also add desiccant packs to the container to remove airborne moisture before your filament can absorb it.

The desiccant packs I got have color indicators to let me know when the desiccant has been saturated. Once I notice the color change, I can simply throw them in the oven to dry and reuse them.

If your filament has absorbed moisture, don’t panic. You can dry the wet filament at home. Drying your filament is a great way to prevent waste. Too often, we see people throw it away wet filament, thinking it’s beyond saving.

You can purchase a filament dryer or carefully dry filament in a dehydrator or oven.

If you’re serious about getting high-quality prints, we recommend purchasing a filament dryer like the one below.

Our Pick
SUNLU Filament Dryer Box
Amazon
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2. Level Your Print Bed

As with many print quality issues, it’s always a good idea to level your print bed. In our experience, 90% of 3D printing issues can be solved by performing 3D printer bed leveling.

When you have an unlevel print bed, some print sections may be squished more than others, and some sections may have a larger offset from the build plate than others. An unlevel bed significantly impacts the overall layer adhesion. When the nozzle prints over some areas of the print bed, it may not contact the previous layer causing gaps and layer delamination.

Manual bed leveling is tedious, but spending a few extra minutes before printing to ensure your bed is perfectly level can work wonders to improve print quality.

You may want to upgrade to an auto bed leveling system (ABS) to avoid the tedious process. An ABS automatically levels your 3D printer, so you don’t have to spend hours calibrating your 3D Printer.

3. Calibrate Your E-Steps

E-steps are the distance the stepper motors for the extruder rotate, which translates to the linear movement of the filament. In other words, the E-steps determine how much filament is fed into your 3D printer.

Calibrating your E-steps is an essential step of 3D printer calibration.

Although the manufacturer sets E-steps, slight differences in components and printers can create variations. The variance between printers may produce over- or under-extrusion, which can cause layer splitting and warping.

Under-extrusion is the most likely cause of poor 3D print layer adhesion. Under extrusion provides individual layers with less material to fuse together, which offers poor bonding between layers.

4. Lower the Print Speed

A 3d print with layer separation due to warping
Source: jespoirinfinity via Imgur

Getting excited to see your new 3D printer in action and setting the print speed really high could impact your print quality and may result in the delamination of layers on your part.

A higher printing speed means that your filament must be heated and deposited quickly on the layer. In other words, your filament won’t get hot enough and will be deposited too cool.

If you’ve bumped up the print speed beyond the recommendations of the printer or filament manufacturer, your print speed may be the source of your layer separation.

If your nozzle temperature isn’t hot enough to keep up to high print speed, the filament won’t have time to heat to the required temperature. When the filament is extruded at cooler temperatures, it cannot fuse to the previous layer, resulting in poor adhesion between layers.

An excellent way to see if this impacts your layer adhesion is to print several calibration models, each at a different print speed, and try to break the part in the direction of the layers.

The manufacturer recommendations are a good starting point for setting your print speed. I recommend adjusting the print speed in 5-10mm/s increments until you reach a third of the speed you previously printed with. If you don’t notice any change, print speed isn’t your issue.

5. Raise the Print Temperature

Many layer adhesion issues are caused by under-extrusion. Raising the print temperature produces more molten filament, reducing gaps during printing. And hotter filament results in better layer adhesion.

When the nozzle temperature is too low, the filament won’t melt fast enough, which causes under-extrusion. Additionally, hotter print temperatures promote a strong bond between layers.

But be careful not to raise the temperature too high. If you set the heated nozzle to a high temperature, the molten filament can ooze, creating zits and blobs.

Check the filament manufacturer’s recommended print temperature as a starting point and adjust as needed in 5-10°C increments.

6. Clean the Print Nozzle

Close up of the extruder nozzle on an Ender 3 V2 Pro after bed leveling

After extended use, the nozzle can get dirty and even become clogged.

Dirt and debris can reduce the amount of filament that passes through your 3D printer nozzle. At best, a dirty nozzle causes under-extrusion. But a clogged nozzle can cause permanent damage to your machine as molten plaprinter’s in the print head without anywhere to go. 

Cleaning your printer’s hot end is essential to 3D printer maintenance.

It’s a good idea to regularly clean your printer’s hot end to prevent print defects proactively.

To clean your nozzle, heat the hot end to your regular printing temperature and remove any buildup inside the nozzle. You can gently clean the nozzle with a metal pick or wire brush.

Note: Be very careful while cleaning the print head. The hot nozzle can cause burns. It’s best to wear heat-resistant gloves when working close to a heated nozzle.

7. Adjust Cooling

If the extruded filament cools too quickly, it may not have time to properly adhere to the previous layer. Heat is essential to fuse layers, and filaments that cool too quickly may warp before bonding to the last layer.

You can adjust cooling by reducing the cooling fan’s speed in 10% increments. And don’t worry about dropping the cooling fan speed to 0%. Some materials may not need any cooling, especially ABS and PETG.

8. Print in an Enclosure

An ender 3 v2 3d printer in a Creality enclosure

If shutting off the cooling fan doesn’t do the trick, you can try printing in an enclosure. Enclosures help regulate ambient air temperature, providing more consistent cooling across layers.

Printing in an enclosure is one of the most reliable ways to prevent layer separation and fix warping.

Enclosures allow filaments to maintain higher temperatures for longer periods of time, giving layers more time to bond. The higher air temperature also redistributes thermal stress, which reduces warping.

Some 3D printing filaments, like ABS, require an enclosure to produce high-quality prints.

Other filaments, like PLA, don’t require an enclosure. But if you’re printer is running in a cold area of the house or a room with a draft, printing in an enclosure is an excellent solution to avoid layer separation.

Our Pick
Creality Fireproof and Dustproof Enclosure

Creality's 3D printing enclosure provides consistent ambient temperature during printing for greater consistency and improved print quality. The enclosure provides a layer of fire safety with its fire-resistant coating, so you can print with peace of mind.

Pros:
  • Consistent temperature control
  • Noise reduction
  • Flame retardant material
Cons:
  • May not fit all printers
Amazon Creality
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9. Use a Wider Nozzle

Two 0.6mm diameter nozzles

If all else fails, use a wider nozzle. Wider nozzles produce a wider filament line, providing a greater surface area for layers to adhere. 

Most 3D printers use a 0.4mm diameter nozzle, but you can upgrade larger nozzle size of 0.6mm to decrease delamination.

We only recommend increasing the nozzle size as a last resort.

Wider nozzles are less precise and produce lower-quality prints.

If you decide to use a wider nozzle, adjust your print temperature and print speed settings to account for the increase in extrusion.

Marcello De Lio
Marcello De Lio

Marcello co-founded 3D Print Mentor to share his love of 3D printing. Marcello used to own an online 3D printing company, where he sold unique designs and customized novelty gifts. After closing the business, Marcello’s new passion is 3D printing replica movie props and cosplay items.

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