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EDUCATION

9 Ways to Reduce Layer Lines in 3D Prints

6 Mins read
  • 2024 Update
Visible layer lines on a 3D printed part
Visible layer lines on a 3D printed part/Source: Prusa

If you’re a 3D printing enthusiast, you’re likely familiar with the frustration of layer lines. These visible ridges on the surface of your prints are an inevitable part of your 3D print affecting its quality and appearance. Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to reduce layer lines in 3D prints and achieve a smoother, more professional finish.

In this article, we’ll look at Nine proven strategies to reduce layer lines in 3D prints and improve the quality and appeal of your 3D printed projects. Implementing these techniques will not only improve the visual sophistication of your prints, but also their structural integrity, allowing for new applications and performance. Learn how these expert tips can transform your 3D printing process, pushing the limits of what is possible with additive manufacturing.

Reduce Layer Lines in 3D Prints

Reduce layer height

The most obvious trick in order to reduce layer lines in 3D prints is to reduce the layer height as much as possible for your 3D printer. The layer height defines the vertical height of each layer. So the bigger the layer height more prominent the layer lines and thinner the layer height, subtle the layer lines.

However, adjusting layer height has other consequences, so make sure you’re using the best layer height for your printer which can be based upon decisions relating to the filament you’re using, the nozzle diameter, the design of the object, the application of the object and so on.

Note that reducing the layer height means more slices of your object which in turn means more time to print. So, your overall printing time will increase, but if reducing layer lines is your primary goal and time is not an issue, then do choose the smallest layer height possible.

Adjust nozzle diameter

Nozzle diameter can also have an impact on the amount of visible layer lines on a 3D print. It is critical to understand that, while layer height influences part quality in the vertical or Z-direction, nozzle diameter influences details in the horizontal plane.

So, regardless of the nozzle diameter, the visible layer lines are influenced by the layer height, but you can follow a general rule to ensure that the layer height and the nozzle diameter are in sync to operate at optimal settings.

As a general rule, the layer height should not be greater than 80% of the nozzle diameter. So, if you use a standard 0.4 mm diameter nozzle, the layer height should be around 0.32 mm, and if you use a 0.6 mm diameter nozzle, the layer height should be around 0.48 mm.

If you follow this rule, your 3D prints will undoubtedly improve.

Use high-quality filament

Prefer using high-quality filaments to reduce layer lines in 3D Prints
Prefer using high-quality filaments to reduce layer lines in 3D Prints/Source: Manufactur3D

Most of the time, prominent layer lines in 3D prints are caused by the filament you are using. There is a general tendency to gravitate towards a cheaper filament. But using branded filaments will result in a range of benefits including better first layer adhesion, minimal to no heating or cooling issues, etc. You would be surprised at how significant a difference a high quality filament can make to your prints.

If you haven’t tried good filaments yet due to the high cost, now is the time. Simply trying out a few branded filaments will yield much better results.

Below are some popular brands and their PLA filaments for your consideration.

BrandIn IndiaOutside India
Polymaker PolyTerra PLAAmazonAmazon
Creality Premium PLAAmazonAmazon
SUNLU PLA+AmazonAmazon
eSUN Super Tough PLAAmazonAmazon
Popular brands offering high-quality filaments

Optimise printing temperature

The printing temperature has a significant impact on the visibility of the layer lines. If you’re an experienced printer user, you’re probably aware that a fluidic (or less viscous) material flows slightly more through the nozzle during extrusion. This means that more material is deposited than desired, causing the layers to overflow, resulting in visible layer lines.

To avoid this, make sure to set an optimal printing temperature. You can determine the optimum temperature by following the manufacturer’s instructions or by conducting your own experiments. The optimal temperature ensures that the exact amount of material is extruded, that the material remains fixed to the previous layer, and that the material will not ‘misbehave’ to result in reduced layer lines.

To reduce layer lines in your 3D prints, fine-tune the settings to find the optimal printing temperature.

Reduce temperature fluctuations

This is obviously a continuation of the previous method of ensuring there are no temperature fluctuations in all of the heating elements like the nozzle, bed, and enclosure. Any variation in any of these elements can affect print quality and, ultimately, layer lines.

While PLA may not be affected, sensitive filaments such as ABS, Nylon, and others will see drastic results as the filament will immediately react to temperature fluctuations by expanding or shrinking, affecting print quality and increasing the visibility of layer lines.

Adjust print orientation

Adjusting print orientation in slicing software
Adjusting print orientation in slicing software/Source: Manufactur3D

Print orientation refers to the way in which your 3D model is positioned on the print bed. This can have a significant impact on the appearance of layer lines in your final print. In general, the orientation that produces the fewest visible layer lines is one where the layers are printed in a way that minimises the visible lines between them.

When you 3D print an object, the way it’s positioned on the printer bed can affect how visible the lines between each layer are in the final product. If you don’t position the object in the optimal way, you might see more visible lines.

Reducing the layer height and nozzle diameter can help to reduce the appearance of these lines, but positioning the object in the best way can give your print that extra boost to look even better.

It’s important to know that the resolution of your print differs in the XY plane (horizontal) and Z axis (vertical). The XY plane resolution is determined by the diameter of the nozzle, while the Z-axis resolution is determined by the layer height.

So, if you want to make sure that your 3D print has the least visible layer lines, you want to position the model in a way that the finer details are printed along the Z-axis. This way, the layers are built up in a way that creates a smoother surface, resulting in fewer visible layer lines.

Use post-processing techniques

In addition to the above solutions where you try to avoid or reduce the layer lines before an object is 3D printed, we present an alternative solution. Reducing the layer lines after you have the print by using post-processing techniques. Below are some of the post-processing techniques that you can follow to reduce layer lines on your prints.

Sanding and polishing: Sanding and polishing the surface of your 3D print after printing can help to eliminate visible layer lines. Depending on the size and complexity of the print, this can be done manually or with an electric sander or polisher.

Chemical Smoothing: A chemical smoothing process is another option for removing layer lines. This involves applying a chemical solution to the print’s surface, which melts the outer layer, resulting in a smoother finish. Acetone and MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) are two chemical smoothing solutions that are widely available.

Using filler material: Using a filler material to smooth out any remaining layer lines on the surface of your 3D print can help. This entails filling any gaps or imperfections in the surface with a filler such as epoxy putty, then sanding and polishing the surface to create a smooth finish.

Resolve Over Extrusion

Problems in 3D Printing
Over extrusion/Source: 3DBenchy

Over-extrusion simply means that your 3D printer pushes out more filament than ideal. It causes your filament to be extruded faster and this is bad for part quality and, in particular, causes layer lines.

Over-extrusion occurs when the filament temperature is too high and the filament melts more than usual. Another cause is that your extrusion multiplier or flow rate has been changed to a higher value than usual. This over-extrusion will begin to deposit more filament on the print surface.

Simple ways to avoid over-extrusion include lowering the extruder temperature, turning on cooling fans, and adjusting the speed of your print, which can also affect over-extrusion.

Check for Mechanical Issues

Mechanical issues affect the 3D printer hardware, and the hardware itself may be faulty. It may include factors such as the print bed, any slack in the moving parts, and so on. Many imperfections and defects in 3D prints result from this factor, particularly vibrations caused by your printer’s movements.

Tricks to Hide Layer Lines

You can also use a variety of tricks to conceal layer lines in 3D prints. If you’re interested in learning more about these techniques, check out our dedicated article on useful tricks to hide layer lines in 3D prints.

Conclusion

You must have understood by now that completely eliminating layer lines is next to impossible for now, and at least in desktop FDM printing. But you can certainly follow good printing practices to reduce layer lines in 3D prints. prominent and visible layer lines. In case you are also facing other issues, you can check out our detailed articles on Common Problems in 3D Printing & How to Resolve Them – Part I and Common Problems in 3D Printing – Part II and get better at 3D printing.

Try out the above mentioned ways and let us know which ones worked for you and now you follow them rigorously.  


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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