Troubleshooting problems that are prevalent with 3D printing


This is a quick Troubleshooting Guide for common 3D printing problems. Each 3D printing problem will suggest a general potential cause and solution, as well as link to a more in depth Key Technique for how to avoid and/or resolve the problem if needed.

Long Print Times

It is important to reduce your printing time to also save on cost and material. It is good practice to learn how to best optimise your geometry according to your unique Design Approach.

<insert GIF of a slow print>


Possible Solutions

Poorly optimised /

Incorrect Design Approach

Reducing 3D Print Times by:

  • Scaling Down Prints / Choosing the correct scale and Design Approach

  • Optimising Geometry by following the Design Guidelines

  • Optimising Print Settings

Need more help? Check out the following page:

Large Prints

Sometimes your geometry will be too large to print within the constraints of the print bed or is causing unnecessarily long prints times and support material. Scale down, select a portion, or split your print according to the focus and intent of your project.


Possible Solutions

Poorly optimised/

Incorrect Design Approach

Scaling down 3D prints by:

  • Firstly, ensure you are working at the correct scale and Design Approach

  • Where possible, scale down your geometry, whilst keeping the intent of your Design Approach

  • Where possible, select a portion of your geometry, whilst keeping the intent of your Design Approach

  • Try slicing up your model

  • Use the Replicator Z18 if all of the above solutions have been addressed and it is critical to the Design Approach

Need more help? Check out the following page:

pageSplit Models & Joints

Open Geometry

This is a very common error that may occur while creating a digital object. This is because during the creation of a 3D model some operations may create unattached surfaces, or holes within a scanned mesh.


Possible Solution

Poor Modelling

(Non-Solid / Naked edges)

/ Holes in Mesh/Non-manifold edges

  • Resolve Naked edges, ensure geometry is closed

  • Repair Meshes if scanned

Need more help? Check out the following pages:

pageHollowing ModelspageRepairing Meshes

Failing Supports

Failing supports are not what anyone needs when using supports. Unfortunately, it happens, and can even happen to several independently failed supports like in the image displayed.

Need more help? Check out the following page:

Poor Bridging

Bridging, i.e. printing (more or less) long distances unsupported over thin air is tricky business. It requires different settings than regular printing, usually speed and cooling is key to the success.

Need more help? Check out the following page:

Stringy & Droopy Overhang

Overhangs are where you’re printing a slanted surface without any support beneath. This is asking quite a lot of your printing, especially if you’re thinking of exceeding the 45° rule.

Need more help? Check out the following page:


Edges are lifting at corners of print surfaces, sometimes inevitable due to the geometry and how the print cools.


Possible Solutions

Print poorly set up

  • Anti-warp helper discs can be placed around the print to act as sacrificial warping material

  • Avoid large flat surfaces

  • Split up your model

  • Add rounded corners to your 3D models

  • Increase Raft size

Need more help? Check out the following page:

pageCombating Warping

Elephant's Foot Effect

The elephant foot effect arises from the first few layers expanding in the XY direction. This could be due to plastic expansion, first layers that are too close to the bed or uneven cooling. Besides being unsightly, it can cause fitting and tolerances issues, particularly for holes.

Need more help? Check out the following page:

pageFillets & Chamfers

Tolerances & Dimensional Accuracy

Understanding the tolerances of our printers is important if you are wanting several printed parts to work together, or if you want a 3d Printed part to be integrated with a larger model fabricated using other methods.

Need more help? Check out the following page:

pageAccuracy, Precision & Tolerancing

Poor Surface Above Supports

Supports can leave an ugly scarring of the surface above it after removal.


Possible Solutions

Poor support settings

  • Playing with the support angle in Makerbot Print. Overhangs are more likely to leave ugly scars compared to completely flat, 90° supported surface which can bridge.

  • Design to reduce supports.

  • Use the Makerbot Method which uses water soluble materials as supports. This is a special use case and we recommend contacting us first.

Need more help? Check out the following page:

pageMakerbot Print

Curling & Rough Corners

Similar to warping, corners can curl up due to uneven shrinkage of the plastic. This problem is also caused by insufficient cooling where the plastic overheats and attains a rough and curly finish.


Possible Solution

Warping and insufficient cooling

  • Introduce chamfers and fillets at corners that have less visible defects compared to sharp corners when they fail.

Need more help? Check out the following page:

pageFillets & Chamfers

Gaps & Holes

Gaps and holes are visible in the model, especially between the top solid infil and shells/perimeters. Unfortunately, this is usually an issue with the printer. Contact us if you notice such prints.

Small Parts & Details Not Printing

Small parts and details fail to appear in slicer and are not printed. Detail and resolution is heavily determined by the nozzle diameter size. The smaller your nozzle diameter, the more detail and resolution you can achieve. Because of this, bear in mind that any details in your model that have a dimension smaller than the nozzle diameter will not be recognised by the slicer and will be absent from your sliced model (for an 0.4mm nozzle diameter, any details smaller than that will be ignored).

<an image showing a very fine detail model and how all that detail is lost when slicing at a resolution that doesn't suit it>

Need more help? Check out the following page:

page3D Printing Mesh Preparation

FAQ: General 3D Printing Questions

How small can I print my model?

Printing parts of a model smaller than 2mm is difficult and can't be guaranteed by us. Downloadable settings for thinner walls are available in our guide.

Can any model from Rhino just be printed?

There are inherent limitations in regards to scale (detail) that can be printed as well as the actual shape of the model. FDM printers cannot print in thin air and therefore support structures must be placed under unsupported parts of the structure. These can be tricky to remove in certain locations. It is therefore suggest to think about which orientation of the print will result in the least amount of supports needed. This can be experimented with in Makerbot Print by rotating your model and then previewing the new orientation.

Can I print multiple colours in one print?

We don't have those capabilities at the moment for plastic 3D printing but FabLab offers a full colour powder print option.

How long will it take for my print to get done?

Our normal processing time is 2 business days after the file has been approved. Please ensure you check your emails regularly after submission in case we need to contact you regarding any issues with your files before we print the job.

What types of files do I have to submit?

We require you to upload the .stl, .print and .makerbot file for each build plate. All these files are needed for us to check that the file is suitable and ready to print. We will not be able to process your job until all 3 files have been submitted.

Where do I submit my job?

We use the MSD Innovation Center website for job submissions. The site can be found at:

To make an account you will need a unimelb email address. If you do not have a unimelb email address you can send a copy of your request to

Please note that commercial rates will apply for non-unimelb jobs.

Can I bring my own filament?

Yes we have that option available. You pay a flat processing fee of $10 for us to swap over and install your filament on one of our machines.

What finishes can be achieved on 3D printed parts? Painting? Gluing?

To achieve a smooth surface finish without 3D printing ridges, a fair amount of sanding is required. Prints can be both dry-sanded as well as wet-sanded. Additionally there are some ways to achieve fairly good finishes without sanding. See the Basics of Post-Processing for more info.

pagePost-Processing & Finishing

My Mesh is not closed. What can I do?

There are several tools with varying degrees of help for meshes, ranging from automatic mesh repair to a more manual approach. Follow the guidelines on how to repair your meshes:

pageRepairing Meshes

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