The Global market of 3D printing was valued at approximately $14 Billion in 2020, according to Grand View Research. It’s expected to double every three years.
However, this figure is still too small compared to the huge potential of this tech. This might be explained by a recent report showing that 70% of the companies admit that they don’t have the right knowledge to use 3D printing. Moreover, around 30% don’t find it reliable as a process.
If your work involves 3D printing, it’s essential then to focus on the quality of the finished product. A good place to start is how to get rid of layer lines in 3D printing.
Why Do 3D Printers Leave Layer Lines?
In a perfect world, you can print any shape in 5 minutes with a faultless finish. In real life, things have limitations! Even the highest finish would still have some defects, and a figurine the size of an apple could take days to finish.
Layer lines are a lot like pixelation in photos or videos. If you want a file that you can process quickly and store easily, then you wouldn’t pick the 4K quality. To get a shape printed in a logical amount of time, sometimes we adjust the layer height to a setting that tends to produce visible lines. There are other factors as well that contribute to that effect.
Here are the main causes to watch out from:
- The setting for layer height is too big
- The model isn’t aligned correctly or other mechanical issues
- The nozzle is too large
- The filament quality and texture doesn’t suit the model
- There are significant temperature changes and the filament over-extrudes
How to Eliminate Layer Lines in 3D printing?
There are some idealistic suggestions and tips we hear about, but unfortunately, a lot of them don’t work. That’s why we’ll stick to the solutions that you can actually carry out and get good results.
- Find the Sweet Spot of Layer Height and Print Quality
You might be tempted to decrease the layer height to the smallest possible setting, and in theory, that should produce the best finish quality. This setting increases the printing time though, so if you can wait for that long, more power to you.
If time is an issue, then try to find a suitable layer height setting that fulfills the finish requirement within the available time.
- Check the Positioning of the Model
The printing surface should be perfectly level, and the printer needs to be free from vibrations. Otherwise, you’ll see fault lines even with a small layer height setting.
In addition, the orientation of the model matters. The amount of details in a certain axis should match the precision of the printer. This might take a bit of trial and error to optimize.
- Attach a Smaller Nozzle
The nozzle size should match both the layer height setting and the dimensions of the model.
The rule of thumb here is that the layer height shouldn’t be more than 80% of the nozzle diameter. For example, a 0.4 mm nozzle would be suitable for a layer height of 0.12 mm.
- Use Filaments with the Right Texture
There are various types of filaments in the market, so try to pick one that hides the layer lines well. Marble and wood have natural veins, and this can be a nice way to utilize the rougher layer lines.
Contrary to that, you can use softer filaments to create a smooth glossy finish.
- Control the Extrusion Rate and Temperature Variation
Fluctuations in temperature always affect the printed piece negatively. This is primarily because the filament could melt too quickly, and flow out too much. Or, it could cool off much too fast, and fail to carve out the right detail.
In both cases, you’d notice occasional layer lines that stick out from the shape or even botch some details. That’s why you should always avoid over-extrusion as well as large temperature variations.
- Fix the Layer Lines in Post: After Printing
This is a lot like editing a video after shooting it. With a few basic tools, you can sand the surface and remove any visible irregularities. After that, you can polish it and even paint it with a perfect gloss.
Also, you can paint the model and capitalize on the layer lines. By adding light and dark accents where the lines dip and rise, you can give the model a realistic feel, depth, and texture. This artistic approach should be planned from the get-go, but there’s also plenty of room for creativity.
A few days ago, a friend of mine gave me a 3D-printed figurine of a mythological hero I’d sketched a while ago. It was painted in bronze, and it looked like a million dollars!
This gesture means a lot to me. Especially, since I know the amount of talent, effort, and knowledge that goes into creating it. The good news is that you too can do stuff like that. And it starts with little tricks like how to get rid of layer lines in 3D printing.