Understanding the Phenomenon of 3D Print Warping: Causes and Mitigation Strategies

Addressing 3D Print Warping: Strategies for Prevention and Resolution

In the realm of fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printing, warping poses a formidable challenge, often arising from insufficient bed adhesion and temperature inconsistencies during the printing process. This issue materializes as the base of a print curling upward and corners disengaging from the build plate, resulting in compromised part quality and resource wastage. Despite the immense potential of 3D printers to fabricate intricate geometries and custom parts on demand, warping remains a persistent obstacle.

This exploration aims to dissect the root causes of 3D print warping, identify materials susceptible to this phenomenon, delineate preventive strategies, and explore potential remedies for rectifying warped prints. By comprehending these factors and deploying suitable interventions, you can elevate the success rate of your 3D prints while mitigating the incidence of warping-related complications.

Understanding the Causes of 3D Print Warping

The occurrence of warping in 3D printing is attributable to the rapid cooling and subsequent shrinkage of layers of extruded filament on the build plate of the 3D printer. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as curling, ensues as the plastic material contracts and detaches from the build plate.

To delve deeper into the intricacies of the warping issue, it proves advantageous to conduct a comprehensive examination of the FDM process. In FDM 3D printing, a heated extruder dispenses melted filament onto a print bed. This filament, composed of thermoplastic material, undergoes a phase transition from solid to liquid upon heating and vice versa upon cooling. The thermal properties of thermoplastics dictate their behavior, wherein they expand during heating and contract during cooling. Consequently, in the course of the 3D printing process, each layer of molten plastic not only solidifies upon cooling but also contracts due to thermal contraction. Although this thermal contraction is an inherent aspect of the process, it can be effectively managed through appropriate measures to regulate and mitigate warping tendencies.

Understanding the Impact of Poor Cooling Control on Warping

Warping, a prevalent issue in 3D printing, arises from inadequate control over the cooling process. In some scenarios, plastic cools excessively fast on the build platform or experiences uneven cooling, causing 3D printed layers to shrink abruptly. This rapid shrinkage exerts force on less solidified layers, potentially leading to deformation as initial layers detach from the build platform.

While warping can afflict any type of 3D printed part, it is more pronounced in larger parts or those with expansive surface areas. This heightened susceptibility to warping is attributable to the inherent uneven cooling of layers, compounded by the greater volume of plastic material involved.

Evaluating the Risks Associated with Warping

Warping poses numerous risks to the final quality and performance of 3D printed models, particularly those intended for end-use applications. Chiefly, it can substantially compromise the dimensional accuracy of 3D prints, resulting in deviations from the intended geometry. These dimensional disparities can impede fit and functionality, especially in applications necessitating precise mating or assembly. For instance, warping may cause interlocking components to fail in proper assembly or experience excessive friction and wear during operation.

Moreover, warping can compromise the structural integrity of 3D printed parts by introducing weak points and stress concentrations within the material. These localized weaknesses diminish the part’s load-bearing capacity, overall strength, and performance, rendering it more vulnerable to mechanical stress-induced failure. In critical applications, part failure due to warping can pose significant safety and reliability hazards.

Additionally, warping detracts from the aesthetic appeal of 3D printed parts, resulting in an uneven surface finish, visible layer lines, and unattractive distortions. In applications prioritizing appearance, such as consumer products or architectural models, warped parts may be deemed unsuitable for use, leading to increased costs, as well as wastage of time and materials.

Identifying Materials Prone to Warping

Within the domain of 3D printing, certain filaments demonstrate a heightened susceptibility to warping when compared to others. This phenomenon stems from a fundamental principle: materials characterized by higher printing temperatures are prone to experiencing shrinkage due to significant temperature differentials during the cooling process. In such scenarios, implementing countermeasures such as employing an enclosed build chamber or a heated print bed can assist in stabilizing cooling temperatures—an aspect we will explore further in subsequent sections. Currently, our focus centers on identifying which 3D printing materials are predisposed to warping and which exhibit inherent resistance to this phenomenon.

Understanding Materials Prone to Warping


Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) emerges as a premier thermoplastic filament in the realm of 3D printing. Despite its widespread adoption, ABS is notorious for its susceptibility to warping on the build platform, posing significant challenges for users. The primary culprit behind ABS’s propensity for warping is its elevated melting point and print temperature range, typically falling between 220 and 250 °C. The filament’s high temperature during deposition renders it vulnerable to uneven or excessively rapid cooling, especially in the absence of a heated bed or enclosed build chamber.


Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile (ASA) mirrors the toughness of ABS while offering superior mechanical properties and UV resistance, rendering it ideal for outdoor applications. However, akin to ABS, ASA exhibits a susceptibility to warping due to its similar chemical composition. Consequently, meticulous control over bed temperature, cooling settings, and the utilization of an enclosed build chamber are imperative to mitigate warping risks associated with ASA.


Nylon, also referred to as polyamide (PA), boasts remarkable strength, wear resistance, and flexibility as a synthetic polymer. Despite these advantageous attributes, Nylon poses challenges in FDM 3D printing owing to its tendency to warp. The material undergoes substantial shrinkage upon cooling, posing obstacles during the printing process. Nevertheless, stringent management of temperature settings, utilization of an enclosed bed, and application of bed adhesives can effectively regulate the cooling process and diminish warping tendencies associated with Nylon.

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonate (PC) stands out for its remarkable attributes of strength and resilience against impacts and high temperatures, making it a preferred choice for demanding engineering applications. However, achieving optimal prints with PC demands precise temperature management, given its requirement for extremely high print temperatures, typically hovering around 300°C. In the absence of meticulous temperature control, particularly within an enclosed build chamber, PC is susceptible to significant warping. This susceptibility may manifest as conspicuous curling of first layer corners from the build plate and overall deformations of the printed part.

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene (PP) is a semi-crystalline plastic lauded for its notable impact resistance and ability to withstand high temperatures. Nonetheless, thermoplastics characterized by crystalline or semi-crystalline structures tend to undergo substantial contraction upon cooling, often in an irregular manner. Therefore, when embarking on 3D printing endeavors with PP, it is imperative to incorporate a heated bed and fine-tune cooling settings to effectively manage the cooling process and mitigate tendencies toward shrinkage.

Warp-Resistant Materials for 3D Printing


Polylactic acid (PLA) is widely chosen in 3D printing due to its affordability and user-friendly nature. With a relatively low melting point, PLA exhibits resistance to warping on the print bed, making it a preferred option. While proactive steps can be taken to prevent warping, satisfactory results are often achieved without the need for a heated bed or specialized cooling system. However, it’s important to note that PLA parts may warp if exposed to heat or sunlight post-printing, owing to the material’s low glass transition temperature (60°C).


Polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified (PETG) is a modified version of PET, a widely used plastic globally. PETG filament offers exceptional strength and durability while printing at temperatures similar to ABS (220–260 °C) but with enhanced processability. This superior adhesion aids in initial layer adherence to the build platform, reducing warping as the part cools.


Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is prized for its flexibility and suitability for rubber-like applications. While TPU requires specific print settings for optimal results, it is not inherently prone to warping. Typically, TPU filaments achieve optimal print quality at a nozzle temperature around 230 °C, without necessitating a cooling system or an enclosed build chamber.

Fiber-Filled Materials

Composite thermoplastics, incorporating reinforcing fibers like carbon fiber or glass fiber into their polymer matrix, exhibit significant resistance to warping. The inclusion of these fibers helps constrain thermal expansion and contraction, minimizing overall shrinkage on the build platform. It’s important to note that these materials require specialized 3D printer hardware and settings. For instance, due to the increased abrasiveness of fiber-filled filaments, hardened nozzles are necessary. Additionally, slower print times and enhanced bed adhesion are recommended when working with composite filaments.

Effective Techniques for Preventing 3D Printer Warping

Temperature Control

Temperature regulation is crucial to mitigate the risk of 3D print warping and enhance overall print quality. The accelerated cooling of filament is a primary contributor to shrinkage and warping, emphasizing the significance of temperature control throughout the printing process. Employing various methods or a combination of approaches can effectively regulate 3D printer temperatures.

Utilizing a heated build plate is among the most effective strategies for improving bed adhesion. Each filament type has its recommended bed temperature for optimal adhesion. For example, PLA achieves enhanced adhesion with a heated bed set between 60 and 70°C, while ABS requires a higher print bed temperature ranging from 100 to 120°C.

Additionally, incorporating an enclosed print chamber helps maintain consistent ambient temperatures during printing, preventing 3D printed layers from cooling too rapidly. While certain 3D printer models come equipped with built-in enclosed chambers, those lacking such features can benefit from a DIY enclosure. Further measures to ensure temperature consistency include adjusting cooling fan speed settings, particularly for the initial layers of a print, and maintaining stable ambient room temperatures by minimizing exposure to cold air (e.g., closing windows).

Optimizing Bed Adhesion

To mitigate the risk of 3D print warping, optimizing your 3D printer’s build plate adhesion is paramount. Effective bed adhesion ensures secure attachment of your 3D printed part to the build surface, preventing the curling of initial layers during cooling.

Several methods can be employed to achieve bed adhesion. Dedicated 3D printer adhesives, applied to the build plate prior to printing, offer a reliable solution. Alternatively, DIY options like glue sticks or hairspray are popular among users. Tape, such as painter’s tape, is also favored for its porous texture aiding in filament adhesion, with Kapton tape being another commonly used option.

When using adhesives, maintaining a clean print surface before and after printing is crucial. Residue from adhesives can lead to surface irregularities, potentially affecting calibration and future print quality. Additionally, conducting a test print with a new adhesive is advisable to confirm its efficacy in securing the bottom layer of the print while allowing for easy removal post-printing.

Enclosed Build Chamber

An enclosed build chamber significantly reduces the risk of warping by maintaining a stable print temperature.

Bed Leveling

Warping and insufficient first-layer adhesion can also result from an uneven print bed. Even slight deviations in bed leveling can cause inconsistent adhesion across initial layers. Ensuring proper bed leveling before printing is crucial to prevent warping.

Enhancing Bed Adhesion with Brims and Rafts

Brims and rafts serve as established methodologies for fortifying bed adhesion, particularly advantageous for high-temperature filaments such as ABS. These functionalities, integrated into slicer software just prior to printing, offer multifaceted benefits.

The brim, notably, establishes a perimeter along the edges of a 3D printed component, augmenting its footprint by a few millimeters and typically comprising 1-2 layers. This encircling border binds to the part, affixing its edges firmly to the build platform. Conversely, the raft, akin to a brim, extends beneath the 3D printed component, functioning as a supportive foundation.

These features are particularly advantageous for 3D printed components with irregular geometries or minimal footprints, imparting stability during the printing process and securing the component to the build surface. However, both brims and rafts necessitate post-printing removal, either manually through peeling or with the assistance of a tool. Moreover, components printed with brims or rafts may require additional post-processing to achieve a smooth initial layer.

Optimizing Slicer Settings

Mitigating the risk of warping begins with implementing appropriate print settings for the initial layers of a printed object. Most slicer software packages provide the flexibility to specifically adjust print speed and layer height for these crucial layers.

Reducing the print speed for the initial layers is paramount to ensure proper filament adhesion to the build surface and prevent nozzle-induced pulling during movement. Additionally, selecting a slightly thicker layer height for the initial layer can bolster bed adhesion and alleviate any leveling inconsistencies.

Fan speed represents another pivotal print setting influencing warping. Built-in fans in certain FDM 3D printers regulate the build space temperature. Fine-tuning fan speeds allows for precise control over print cooling. For instance, activating fans only after the initial layers have been deposited facilitates a gradual and uniform cooling process for the first layers on the print bed.

Designing with Warping in Mind

The impact of 3D model design on warping risk might not be immediately evident, but it’s crucial for achieving successful prints. To address warping concerns, conducting test prints with varying geometries can provide valuable insights. Sharp-cornered base models are more susceptible to warping compared to those with curved or rounded features, as stress tends to accumulate in sharp corners while rounded curves distribute stress more evenly.

For models with sharp rectangular bases, incorporating a brim with rounded edges can enhance bed adhesion. Another effective technique involves using “mouse ears” – adding circles around sharp corners during initial printing layers. When employing this method, adjusting slicer settings is essential to ensure a slight gap between the actual print edges and the mouse ear edges, safeguarding the print geometry’s integrity while minimizing warping.


In conclusion, warping is a common challenge encountered in 3D printing, primarily caused by temperature differentials leading to uneven cooling. Given its prevalence, proactive prevention measures are imperative. This discussion has addressed the causes, solutions, and preventive measures for 3D print warping.

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Q: What is “3D print elephant foot” and how can it be prevented?

A: “3D print elephant foot” refers to a common issue in 3D printing where the bottom layers of a print exhibit a slight bulging or squashing effect, resembling an elephant’s foot. This phenomenon typically occurs due to excessive heat or pressure during the initial layers of printing. To prevent elephant foot, it is recommended to adjust the printer settings such as reducing the printing temperature, ensuring proper bed leveling, and optimizing the first layer adhesion.

Q: How can I prevent my 3D print from lifting off the bed during printing?

A: 3D print lifting off the bed, also known as warping, is a frustrating issue that occurs when the corners or edges of a print detach from the print bed during printing. This issue often arises due to temperature differentials causing uneven cooling or inadequate bed adhesion. To prevent lifting off the bed, it is essential to ensure proper bed leveling, use a heated bed if available, apply appropriate adhesion aids such as glue or tape, and implement strategies to minimize temperature variations throughout the printing process. Additionally, optimizing print settings such as increasing the printing temperature and reducing cooling fan speed can help mitigate this problem.

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