3D Print Warping (PLA & PETG & ABS & ASA & More) – Causes & Fixes

While PLA and PETG aren’t exactly known to be types of filament that cause warping frequently, unlike ABS and ASA, which are practically notorious for this problem, using a filament considered to be low-warp doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible to experience warping regardless of the situation, as any material can end up warping when the conditions for it are satisfied.

In this guide, we will discuss the possible factors that can contribute to the issue of warping regardless of the filament you’re using, whether it’s PLA, PETG, ABS, ASA, or anything else, take you through the solutions that you can apply to fix this problem as quickly as possible, and look at some extra tips & tricks you can utilize to prevent your 3D printed parts from warping and lifting off the print bed.

3D Print Warping with PLA & PETG & ABS & ASA & More – Causes & Fixes

Technically speaking, there’s one precise reason behind the occurrence of the problem we call warping – the uneven shrinking of the material due to it undergoing a sudden and considerable drop in temperature (thermal contraction) once it exits the nozzle.

In a nutshell, whenever your 3D printer puts a layer down, it starts contracting with a certain amount of force (based on the rate of the temperature drop the material undergoes) and effectively creates a scenario where the layer is pulling away from the sides and toward the center, similar to how a stretched rubber band goes back to its original form when released.

While this is practically unavoidable due to how thermoplastics work, meaning that shrinkage will always occur to an extent, the problem starts when the force that the thermal contraction generates becomes stronger than the force of adhesion between the printed part and the print bed, whether due to the bed adhesion being too weak or due to the force of thermal contraction becoming too strong, which ends up with edges of the print warping off the bed.

petg warping example
Source: Mark @ Stack Exchange (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Unfortunately, finding out what precisely causes your 3D prints to warp and lift off the bed in the real world usually isn’t as simple as the technical explanation due to the many individual factors that can create this problem during the 3D printing process, which makes going through each of the possible culprits that can contribute to the occurrence of this problem the best way to move forward to get rid of warping as quickly as possible.

Print Bed Not Trammed Correctly

The leading cause of a 3D print warping off the bed is the print bed not being trammed correctly, which effectively creates a scenario where parts of the initial layer aren’t printed as closely to the print bed as they should be for the adhesion between the initial layer of the print and the print bed to be strong enough to keep the part attached throughout the printing process and ends up with that portion of the printed part eventually coming off the bed.

incorrect bed tramming example


While an automatic bed leveling probe, such as a BLTouch or CR Touch, should compensate for any errors regarding the tramming of the bed unless the tilt is quite severe, our recommendation would be to ensure that you physically tram the print bed as well as possible to be on the safe side, regardless of whether you have an automatic bed leveling probe installed on your 3D printer, and to generate a new bed leveling mesh afterward if you do have an ABL probe installed, which will practically ensure that you won’t have any problems regarding bed tramming and allow you to cross it off the list of possible culprits.

If you’re already familiar with the bed leveling process and have a preferred method you regularly use for the task, whether it’s utilizing the bed tramming wizard functionality (such as in the example image below) of your 3D printer’s firmware or going for a manual tram by moving the nozzle manually to the corners and using a paper or feeler gauge to adjust the tramming with the knobs, you can feel free to use it, which should make this a fairly routine process that requires no further explanation.

professional firmware bed tramming wizard


On the other hand, if you are unsure about how you can tram your 3D printer’s bed correctly, we highly recommend referring to your 3D printer manufacturer’s website for a guide that will take you through the process (such as this one for the BambuLab X1), as the optimal way to carry this task out can drastically change across distinct brands and types of 3D printers, with some 3D printers requiring you to adjust the physical knobs underneath the print bed for the process, and others allowing you to do everything through the LCD panel alone.

Incorrect Z Offset / Probe Z Offset Value

Another widely encountered problem that can lead to your 3D prints warping and lifting off the bed is the usage of an incorrect Z offset (or probe Z offset) value, effectively causing the gap between the nozzle and the print bed during the printing of the initial layer to be way too large and creating a scenario where your 3D printer ends up extruding the plastic in the air rather than squishing it into the build surface, which in turn prevents the entirety of the first layer from adhering strongly enough to the bed.

incorrect z offset example


To find out whether this is the cause of the problem you’re experiencing, start by homing the axes of your printer using the auto-home function, move the nozzle close to the front-left corner of the print bed, and if the firmware automatically brings the Z-axis position to 0 after auto-homing, bring the nozzle up a bit as well.

printhead positioned on top of the bed


Next, slide a standard piece of paper underneath the nozzle and bring the Z-axis position of your 3D printer to 0.

printhead positioned close to the bed with a piece of paper in between


Now, slowly try to pull the paper off the build plate, but don’t force it. With an optimal Z offset configuration, you should feel some resistance when pulling it out, but you should still be able to move it off the print bed without the nozzle scratching or ripping it.

On the other hand, if you can move the paper without any resistance at all, this would signify that your Z offset value is way too high, which effectively creates a scenario where the gap between the nozzle and the build surface is too large for the initial layer to form bonds that are strong enough, and means that you will need to correct the probe Z offset / Z offset.

While not necessarily relevant to the warping problem, the paper getting fully stuck between the nozzle and the print bed would indicate that your Z offset value is way too low, which is also something you should correct to give the plastic enough room to come out of the nozzle.

Finally, after correcting the Z offset value and bringing it to a point where the resistance feels right when pulling the paper, repeat this test for the remaining three corners of the bed, and provided that there are no issues, the results should be the same for every corner, meaning that you don’t have problems regarding the Z offset anymore.

On the other hand, if the resistance you feel when pulling the paper differs at any of the corners, whether with it getting looser or tighter, we highly recommend re-checking the leveling of your bed and correcting the Z offset again afterward, as it’s highly likely that the print bed has a tilt in this case.

Bed Temperature Too Low

Yet another factor that can easily lead to warping issues when 3D printing is the usage of a bed temperature value that’s way too low, as this practically leads to the material undergoing a temperature drop that’s way too strong and sudden once it leaves the hotend (where it’s at its melting temperature) and makes contact with the build surface or the previous layer for the very first time.

When the material experiences such thermal stress due to the considerable temperature difference, the force of the thermal contraction taking place within can become potent enough to overcome the strength of the adhesion between the part and the build surface, which then presents itself with the printed part lifting off the bed from the edges and creates the problem we call warping.

Our first recommendation to ensure that the usage of a low bed temperature isn’t contributing to the warping problem you’re experiencing is to open up the specification sheet of the filament you’re printing with and configure your bed temperature value toward the higher end of the temperature range that the manufacturer suggests, which is an easy way to push your bed temperature value up without going way too high to the point where other issues start appearing, such as elephant’s foot.

So, for instance, if the manufacturer recommends the usage of a bed temperature value between 60 degrees Celsius and 80 degrees Celsius, you should aim to use a bed temperature value around 70 to 75 degrees Celsius (to leave some space for the initial build plate temperature that should be higher) to minimize warping as much as possible.

Next up, find the initial layer build plate temperature value you’re using in your slicer, which determines how hot the heated bed will get during the printing of the first layer, and configure it to be 5-10 degrees higher than the bed temperature you’re using at most to refrain from creating a temperature difference that’s too great between the initial layers and the rest of the print.

As an example, if you’re using a bed temperature value of 70 degrees Celsius, our recommendation would be to go for an initial layer bed temperature value of 75-80 degrees Celsius, which will both strengthen the bed adhesion and prevent the temperature drop becoming too large during the printing of the first layer, where a higher printing temperature is utilized.

Printing Temperature Too High

Similar to using a bed temperature value that’s way too low, using a printing temperature value that’s too high can also lead to your prints warping, as this effectively creates the same exact scenario where the layers end up undergoing a temperature drop that’s way too sudden once they leave the hotend, but this time, as a result of the material coming out way too hot out of the hotend instead of the print bed being too cold.

In this case, the first step we recommend is referring to the specification sheet of the filament you’re using and configuring your printing temperature value toward the lower end of the range that the manufacturer recommends, as this is a surefire way to ensure that the printing temperature you’re using isn’t too high without dragging it too far down.

As an example, if you’re printing PETG, and the manufacturer recommends the usage of a temperature value between 230 and 260 degrees Celsius, our recommendation would be to stay within the 230 to 240 degrees Celsius range, where your 3D printer will still be able to print without any issues.

Once that’s done, the next step is to check the initial layer printing temperature value (printing temperature initial layer in Cura, not initial printing temperature, which is something else entirely), which is the temperature value your 3D printer will be using when printing the first layer, and ensure that it’s 5-10 degrees higher than the printing temperature value at most, as an initial layer printing temperature that’s too high can also lead to warping even when the printing temperature itself isn’t that high.

So, for instance, if you’re using a printing temperature value of 230 degrees Celsius, you should go for an initial layer printing temperature value between 235 to 240 degrees Celsius at most, which should improve bed adhesion without heating the material up to a point where it will end up warping once it contacts the build surface.

Cooling Fan Speed Too High

Another possible culprit behind the warping problem you’re experiencing when 3D printing is applying too much cooling while your 3D printer is putting the initial layers down, as this will practically create an identical effect to using a bed temperature that’s too low or a printing temperature that’s too high by causing the temperature drop the material undergoes to be way too sudden as a result of the cooling fans blowing too hard, which then increases the potency of the thermal contraction and leads to the corners of the print pulling off the bed, as we have been discussing previously.

With this in mind, our primary recommendation would be to turn the part cooling fan off for the entirety of the initial layer, both to give the material enough time to form strong bonds with the build surface, which will further improve bed adhesion and to refrain from introducing a temperature drop that’s way too sudden to the point where the thermal contraction gets strong enough to pull the layer away from the surface.

Additionally, it can also be helpful to increase the height at which the cooling fans will start operating as usual (you can do this with the Regular Fan Speed at Height/Layer parameter in Cura, as an example), and while pushing this up way too much can create other problems for your prints (such as elephant’s foot), depending on your bed temperature and the filament you’re using, minor changes can definitely come in handy to minimize warping by introducing cooling at a slower rate throughout the first few layers of the print.

Print Speed Too High

Even though it’s not directly temperature-related, one more factor that can easily lead to warping is the usage of a print speed that’s too high, as your 3D printer completing the layers way too quickly can easily lead to a scenario where new layers keep coming before the previous layers can cool down completely, which in turn causes the force of thermal contraction to become much more potent with multiple layers undergoing cooling & shrinking at the same time.

As there are a lot of variables involved in print speed configuration, ranging from the filament you’re using to the hotend installed on your 3D printer, our primary recommendation here would be to play it safe and go for a test print with a print speed value in the range of 20 to 25 mm/s, and an initial layer print speed value in the range of 15 and 20 mm/s, solely for the purposes of seeing whether printing with slower speeds is reducing warping in your case.

If slowing the print down indeed ends up helping, you can then run a few more test prints while pushing your print speed values back up incrementally, which will allow you to eventually find the highest print speed value where warping doesn’t trouble your prints.

Dirty Build Surface

If the warping problem is still troubling your prints after ensuring that you have done all the calibration and configuration correctly, the factor preventing the initial layer from adhering strongly enough to the build surface can be the dirt, dust, and residue that collects on the surface over time, which can especially become a problem if you switched from a different type of filament for the first time.

In this case, our first recommendation would be to give your build surface a thorough cleaning with the combination of some dish soap and water, which should allow you to quickly get rid of any dirt and residue stuck to the surface and considerably increase the strength of bed adhesion compared to its dirty state.

If you have never cleaned your build plate before, it’s worth mentioning that there isn’t anything special that goes into this process, as all you will need to do is cover the surface with water first, add some soap on top, and clean the surface until you get all the residue off, whether with a soft brush or sponge, wash the soap off completely, and dry the build plate with some paper towel, which should make your build plate good as new.

Once the build plate is clean, one thing we especially recommend paying attention to is to refrain from touching the surface with your bare hands at all costs, whether by holding it from the sides or wearing some disposable gloves when placing the build plate back on the print bed, as grease can quickly transfer from your bare hands to the surface and negatively impact the bed adhesion yet again as if you have never cleaned it.

Incorrectly Configured Automatic Bed Leveling

If you have an automatic bed leveling sensor installed on your 3D printer, such as a BLTouch, another possible factor that can lead to warping in your case is incorrectly configured automatic bed leveling parameters, as this can potentially lead to your 3D printer to position the nozzle too high above for some areas of the print bed, effectively creating the same problem as using an incorrectly trammed print bed, or a misconfigured Z offset value.

In this case, the first set of parameters we recommend looking at are the probe X and Y offsets (probe Z offset as well if you haven’t corrected it earlier, which we discussed in an earlier section), as the usage of incorrect X and Y probe offsets will effectively lead to a scenario where the actual position of the probe and where the firmware thinks the probe is are entirely different during the generation of the bed leveling mesh, which in turn will cause the Z-axis position changes applied by the bed leveling compensation to be completely wrong.

If the probe offsets seem to be configured correctly, the next step we recommend taking is to rebuild the bed leveling mesh, especially if you’ve been using the same bed leveling mesh for a while, as the tilt and the warp of the bed can change over time and effectively invalidate the mesh (which is why it’s a good idea to rebuild the bed leveling mesh every few prints), once again creating a scenario where the bed leveling Z position adjustments made by the bed leveling compensation aren’t accurate anymore.

Extra Tips & Tricks to Prevent Your 3D Printed Parts From Warping

If the problem keeps occurring even after going through all the possible causes and applying the corresponding solutions we have discussed in the previous section, there are some extra steps you can take to prevent your 3D prints from warping, which we have listed below.

Use a Brim or Raft

A brim is an extra layer that connects the edges of your 3D-printed part to the build surface, which effectively acts as a thick border around your print to hold its edges down and prevents them from lifting off the bed due to warping while also strengthening the overall bed adhesion by increasing the surface area.

cura brim example


On the other hand, a raft, unlike a brim, can consist of multiple layers, and additionally, instead of only connecting to the printed part from the edges, covers the entirety of the base of the print, including the edges, practically acting as both a border and a bridge that connects the part you’re printing to the build surface to increase the strength of bed adhesion, which, as a result, drastically strengthens bed adhesion while also preventing warping.

cura raft example


When it comes to comparing the two, while we can say that the impact of a raft will naturally be much higher for the purposes of strengthening bed adhesion due to its larger surface area that spans the entirety of the printed part, both brims and rafts should be more than capable of preventing your print from warping in cases where the conventional methods are unable to resolve the issue you’re experiencing.

Additionally, as a raft can become pretty challenging to remove, especially when dealing with thin prints, our primary recommendation would be to start with a brim first and only move toward using a raft if you seem to be running out of options, especially considering that a brim should get the job done cleanly in the majority of warping cases.

You can find the Brim and Raft options in the Build Plate Adhesion Type dropdown menu in the Print Settings of Cura.

Print in an Enclosure (ABS & ASA)

An enclosure is a sealed container that you can place your 3D printer into for the purposes of keeping the ambient temperature around the 3D printer stable at a certain level higher than the room temperature and protecting the print from sudden temperature changes that can occur due to drafts.

Source: Greenonline @ Stack Exchange (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

This way, with the ambient temperature around the 3D printer becoming much higher as the enclosure traps the heat inside, the temperature difference that the material undergoes once it exits the nozzle decreases considerably, leading to the material shrinking less and the force of the thermal contraction not being strong enough to pull the edges of the part off the build surface as a result.

Since the part will only start fully cooling down once the heaters turn off as a result of the printing process coming to a close, which effectively means the entirety of the printed part will be at the same temperature and cool down evenly once the print ends, the shrinking that the material undergoes will be uniform and not create stress that can lead to the edges of the printed part to pull away from the build surface after your 3D printer finishes the print either.

While an enclosure is highly recommended and could even be considered a necessity for obtaining high-quality results with no warping when printing high-temperature filaments such as ABS, ASA, and Nylon, the fact that it can get way too hot inside for a low-temperature filament, such as PLA, also means that it’s capable of doing more harm than good for the quality of your prints (unless it has ventilation to bring the ambient temperature down), which is something to keep in mind when going down this route.

Change the Build Surface or Apply Adhesives

In some cases, it’s possible for the filament and the build surface you’re using together not to play well and create a scenario where the strength of the bed adhesion is naturally way too weak due to these two materials being incapable of sticking to each other strongly enough by default.

One such example of a filament type and build surface combination that doesn’t really work well is ABS and glass, and even though ABS will technically stick to the glass bed, the bonds that the initial layer of your print forms with the build surface will be pretty weak to the point that any shrinkage will easily be able to lift the edges of your print off the print bed.

In such cases, our primary recommendation would be to replace the build surface with one that is known to work well with the filament you’re printing, whether it’s a textured PEI sheet for PETG, smooth PEI sheet for PLA, or satin sheet for ABS and ASA, as this will produce the best results in the most convenient way possible.

On the other hand, if you don’t have access to different build surfaces, alternative methods you can utilize to strengthen bed adhesion are to coat your build surface with a material that the filament you’re printing can adhere to strongly enough or to apply an adhesive that will form a layer on top of the build surface for your print to stick to.

For instance, Kapton tape is a fantastic coating you can use whenever you would like to print ABS, as it will allow you to increase bed adhesion considerably by getting the glass out of the way and replacing it with a build surface that ABS can adhere to strongly enough without any problems.

On the other hand, an example of an adhesive that would allow ABS to adhere very well to your glass print bed would be ABS juice, which, even though it isn’t anything more than standard ABS filament melted in acetone, is the go-to adhesive to make it possible to print ABS on a glass bed without bed adhesion problems.

Below, you can find a short list of the coating materials and adhesives we recommend using for different types of filaments, which we believe will be helpful in solving your warping problems:

  • PLA – Painter’s tape / Kapton tape / PVA Glue stick
  • PETG – Painter’s tape / Kapton tape / PVA Glue stick
  • ABS – Kapton tape / PET film / ABS Juice / PVA Glue stick
  • ASA – Kapton tape / PET film / ASA Juice / PVA Glue stick

Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive, as it should be possible to find many other options that will help you increase the strength of bed adhesion.

Decrease Infill Density and Wall Thickness

Finally, one last method you can leverage to reduce warping on your 3D prints is to decrease the infill density and the wall thickness, as using less material for your print will help the layers cool down more evenly and reduce the force of the thermal contraction that takes place as the layers are cooling down, which in turn will less likely for the edges of the part to pull off from the print bed.

While there’s no cut-and-dried way to configure these parameters in a way that will minimize warping, our recommendation would be to remove a single wall line, such as using a wall line count of 3 instead of 4, reduce the infill density by 15-20%, run a test print, and keep running tests with minor changes until you find the balanced values where warping doesn’t occur the printed part is still able to fulfill its purpose.

That being said, as it shouldn’t really become necessary to modify the infill density of the part you’re printing only for the purposes of minimizing warping, we only recommend using this method as a last resort in cases where you have tried everything else and require a quick fix that will solve things temporarily.

Conclusion

While finding the culprit behind the warping problem you’re experiencing with your 3D printed parts will most likely take some time due to the many different factors to go through – solving the problem is usually pretty straightforward once you locate the root cause, as most of the solution steps are regular calibration tasks on the software side.

On the other hand, if it seems like there are no issues with how your 3D printer is configured, there are always more things you can try to reduce warping, whether it’s printing a brim/raft or changing the build surface to one that will work better with the filament you’re using, which will surely fix things and allow you to enjoy 3D printing with no warping in sight.