3d printing first layer problems

3D Printing first layer problems


3D print first layer 

The first layer represents the foundations of the print, and as they always say, those who start well are halfway through the work. Below are listed a series of measures to improve the perfection of this layer, and to achieve perfect bed adhesion.

3D printer bad first layer

I have already talked about the first layer in other articles, but now its time to analyze it furthermore! The first layer of every print is important for the overall success of the printing process. A bad first layer can lead to

  • Bad bed adhesion – When you have problems with bed adhesion most of the time you can’t rely on your printer for long prints. For who makes long prints that can last for days it is fundamental to have a proper bed adhesion so you don’t lose your print halfway
  • Bad layer consistency – If you’re bed height is not calibrated properly most certainly you’re going to have an inconsistent layer. This is an aesthetic issue as the side that lays flat on the bed will look bad.
First layer came bad
  • Elephant foot -In some cases when the extruder is too close to the bed the excess plastic is pushed outwards. As the layers increase, the imperfections will disappear but the first few layers will look over extruded.
Overextrusion from bad bed leveling

3D printer troubleshooting first layer

Perfectly calibrated bed

The first and fundamental rule to get an excellent first layer is to work with a perfectly flat build plate. Having a deformation-free and calibrated printing bed will allow us to have the first layer without errors. Getting a uniform line in height and consistency is an excellent starting point for any print.

Difference in bed leveling

If you have doubts about your bed and if you think it may be warped then you should get a glass plate to eliminate warping.

Extruder at the right distance

The second and perhaps the most important point is the printing distance between the build plate and extruder.

3D print stringy first layer

An excessive distance will be recognizable by the lines drawn by the nozzle, they will appear stringy and not connected. These lines will not match each other as they should but will present spaces between them. In addition to the aesthetic factor, we may also have problems with very low bed adhesion, which could compromise the success of the print.

stringy first layer

In the worst-case scenario, the filament will not even stick to the bed and it will get dragged all around the nozzle.

3D print first layer is rough

If your first layer seems rough on the touch then you’re bed is to close to the hotend. When the distance is too small, the first layer will result in a mass of material spread on the plate. Even if bringing the nozzle closer to the plate can in some cases reduce some adhesion problems, it can certainly create others.

3d print first layer rough

A rather common problem is the loss of steps of the extruder motor. In some cases, the motor cannot push all the filament it should with the little space available between the plate and the extruder. This could damage the whole system in the long run.

I have illustrated different types of heights and it’s not that easy to spot the difference, but with training, you will be able to recognize a perfect first layer withing seconds! It’s a skill that will never abandon us.

One easy way to eliminate this problem is by using an automatic bed leveler like the BL-touch. It is a great investment! It reduces failed prints but also it spares you lots of time manually leveling the bed!

Slow down

Slowing down the movements for the first layer reduces the forces applied to the molten material, reducing the possibility of poor adhesion. It is advisable to reduce the speed of the first layer to 50% / 60% of the normal printing speed and to avoid going below this threshold, only in cases of particular problems(Like with PETG).

No cooling

Although cooling for PLA printing is one of the essential elements for obtaining quality prints, it is strongly discouraged to ventilate the first layer. The longer the first layer remains hot, the more it binds to the plate. In fact, all slicers have the default setting to turn off cooling for the first layer of the print. However, it doesn’t hurt to repeat it, no cooling, at least for the first layer.

What I’ve described so far are the cardinal principles, and by applying them surely you will get excellent results but I wanted to give a few more tips, in order not to leave anything to chance.

Correctly calibrated extrusion

It is very important to have the amount of extrusion well set as an under-extrusion / over-extrusion could be exchanged for incorrect positioning of the plate. Obviously, in these cases, the corrective maneuvers at the level of the bed would not bring any benefit and we will see over extrusion/under extrusion within the next few layers. If even after leveling you find yourself with a first layer that does not satisfy you, before checking and re-carrying out the whole calibration process, you can spare a few minutes and test if the quantity of extruded material is correct.

First layer height 3D printing

First layer too thin

A higher layer height will provide more flow, therefore more heat, better adhering to the printer bed. A greater thickness of the first layer also has the property of increasing the tolerance of the leveling error of the build plate. It is recommended to increase the height of the first layer in combination with the nozzle diameter, e.g. with a 0.4 mm nozzle it is recommended not to exceed 0.3 mm. This is possible due to the low printing speed, so never use a 0.4 nozzle to print at 0.3 layer height if not for the first layer.

0.1 first layer vs 0.3

AS you can see a 0.1 layer height isn’t enough to compensate for the errors when manually leveling.

3D printer first layer doesn’t stick 

To increase the adhesion, the consistency, and the appearance of the first layer, it is possible to set a temperature slightly higher than normal. A 5/10 degree increase in nozzle and plate will make the plastic more viscous and helps eliminate the low adhesion.

The temperature can be set by a slicer or by hand, in the second case remember to return to the usual temperature once the first layer has been completed.

3D printer bed cleaning 

It is pretty obvious that without proper cleaning you’re going to have problems with adhesion.Wipe the bed with alcohol and in extreme cases use acetone (especially with a glass build plate).

Use some help

In some cases, we need some extra help from rafts or brim. When printing small parts we must use something to increase the volume of the print so that it won’t unstick that easily.

Mind the materials

Every material act in a different way. Some need some extra help, others may stick to much.

If you have followed this guide carefully you will be able to have the first layer like this:


The key to a perfect first layer is a perfectly flat build plate and a correct bed leveling even if this means losing some bed adhesion. Bad bed adhesion can be solved by tweaking speed and temperature. 

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First Layer Problems
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First Layer Problems
The most common print failures derive from bad bed adhesion and improper bed leveling. Learn how to achieve a perfect first layer!
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