How to Fix Warping in 3D Printing

If you’ve ever tried your hand at 3D printing, you’ve probably run into the frustrating issue of warping at some point. Warping happens when your freshly printed object gets all bent out of shape, curving upwards off the print bed instead of laying flat like it should. Not only does this make your print look wonky, but it can also make the final piece weaker and potentially cause it to fail if the warping is really bad. Dealing with warpage is only part of the common faults of 3D printing, but there are lots of tricks and best practices that can help prevent it from happening in the first place or fix those pesky warps after the fact.

This guide will cover all the need-to-know details on what exactly causes warping during printing, the best ways to avoid it upfront, quick fixes for minor warping issues, and some pro-level tips to get ultra flat, warp-free prints every time.

3D Printing Plastic Mold Warping

What Causes Warping in 3D Printing?

Warping is when the edges or corners of your 3D printed object start to peel up and curve away from the build plate during printing. It’s like the print is trying to lift itself off the bed.
There are a few main reasons warping occurs:

1. Material Properties

Some filament materials are just more likely to warp than others. For example, ABS plastic tends to shrink as it cools, which can cause warping.

2. Temperature Troubles

If there’s too much of a temperature difference between the hot nozzle and cold print bed, it can make the material contract and warp unpredictably.

3. Cooling Too Fast

Cooling the material too quickly after it gets extruded can cause uneven contraction, making those corners lift right off the bed.

Warping doesn’t just make prints look funky – severe warping can completely ruin functional parts. Bad warps lead to cracking, poor layer adhesion, and an overall weak structure.
Understanding what causes those pesky curves can start taking steps to prevent warping before it ruins another print.

How to Prevent Warping in 3D Printing Before You Print

Getting a warp-free print starts with the right preparation. By taking some preemptive measures, you can minimize the risks of warping before your 3D printed object even starts printing.

Choose the Right Filament

Some 3D printing filaments are just more prone to warping than others. If you’ve had issues with lots of warping, consider switching to a filament that is less likely to curl up, such as PLA which is known for its low shrinkage rate. Avoid notoriously warp-prone materials like ABS until you have more experience.

Warped plastic mold

Get That Bed Level

An unlevel print bed is just asking for warping troubles. Before every 3D print, ensure your build plate is perfectly leveled and trammed relative to the nozzle. This provides an evenly heated surface for the first layer to adhere to, minimizing warping potential.

Pre-Print Preparation

Even with the perfect material and levels, some prep work minimizes warp risks:

  • Use a Heated Bed: Keeping the build surface evenly heated helps the material stick while 3D printing.
  • Apply Adhesives: A thin layer of glue stick, hairspray, etc creates a solid base for the print.
  • Optimize Initial Layers: Slowing speeds and increasing thickness/flow for initial layers improves bed adhesion.

Taking these simple preventative steps allows you to get ahead of warping issues before the 3D print even starts. But what if warping still occurs?

How to Battle Warping During 3D Printing

Even with preventative measures, warping can sometimes still rear its ugly head mid-print. But don’t panic – there are strategies to keep it under control as your object is being printed.

Optimize Temperature Settings

Improper heating is one of the biggest contributors to warping. Make sure you have dialed in the optimal settings for your specific filament:

  • Extruder Temperature – Printing too hot can cause excessive contraction as the material cools. Refer to filament guidelines.
  • Heated Bed Temp – A heated bed helps reinforce adhesion of the first layers. Don’t let it get too cold.

Manage Print Speeds and Cooling

  • Print Speed – Printing too fast doesn’t allow enough cooling time between layers, increasing warp risk. Slow it down.
  • Layer Cooling Fans – These fans help solidify each layer quickly. Use cooling settings to find the best balance.

Design for Reduced Warping

How you actually design and orient your 3D model files can minimize forces that cause warping:

  • Increase Surface Area – Orient parts to maximize the surface stuck to the bed.
  • Add Mouse Ears – Small bump-outs on corners provide an anchoring effect.
  • Enable Sequential Printing – Print objects separately rather than all at once.

By monitoring and tweaking print settings, combined with some design optimizations, you can cut down on warping happening in the first place.

How to Fix Warping After Printing

Sometimes no matter what you do, warping still happens. But don’t trash that print just yet! There are some handy techniques to try and correct minor warping issues after the fact.

Bend It Back Into Shape

For slight corner warps, you may be able to simply bend the still-warm print back into its intended shape using heat-resistant gloves or pliers. The heated plastic can be malleable enough to coax back into position.

The Cooling Down Process

How you let the completed print cool down can impact warping too. Letting it air cool gradually is best. But if warping sets in, you can:

  • Enclose the print area to slow cooling
  • Apply streams of cool air in problem areas
  • Submerge the print in cold water to rapidly set the shape

Post-Printing Finishing

More extreme cases of warping may need some good old fashioned elbow grease:

  • Sanding/Filing down raised edges and corners
  • Using liquid filler primers to smooth out surfaces
  • Careful application of solvents to re-shape small areas

While time-consuming, these methods can restore and refine the intended shape when dealing with frustrating warps.

The key is catching issues early and taking corrective action before the print fully sets and deforms. With some effort, many warped prints can be salvaged!

Pro Tips for Warp-Free 3D Printing

If you really want to take your warp-prevention game to the next level, try implementing some of these more advanced strategies:

Use Brims, Rafts, and Skirts

These are essentially disposable print features that increase surface area and anchoring for the actual model:

  • Brims – A wide flat ring around the print perimeter
  • Rafts – A thick platebase printed underneath objects
  • Skirts – Outlining the print area with a few loop layers

While using more material, these techniques can virtually eliminate warping on complex or tall prints.
Control the Printing Environment

Ambient temperature fluctuations can also contribute to warping. An enclosure or temperature-controlled printer chamber helps regulate cooling. You may even want to add a heat source or AC to the room.

Specialty Software and Tools

There are advanced slicers and compensating software that can automatically adjust for expected warping in the G-code. Similarly, specialty tools like adhesive pens or dissolvable brim materials provide extra anchoring during printing.
Armed with this deeper knowledge, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle warping issues through every stage of the 3D printing workflow!

Kiss Warping Goodbye

Warping may be an inevitable 3D printing headache, but it’s not unbeatable. From choosing the right materials to optimizing your print settings and environment, using preventative measures upfront is key. And if warping still strikes, you’ve got an arsenal of tricks to fix those bends and restore your print’s shape after the fact. Although it takes some trial and error, mastering warp-free printing is totally achievable once you get the hang of it. For those who prefer professional results with minimal hassle, consider using our online 3D printing services.